First a disclaimer, I am the President of the Friends of the Virginia Pep Band, so this story hits home. Five years ago, the Virginia Pep Band was removed from all official Athletic Department events (i.e., games) in favor of a new Marching Band. There was some understandable bitterness, as this was the culmination of a decade of planning to get rid of the Band by some more conservative Virginia alumni and administrators. On April 24th, the Band performed an impromptu show at UVA's amphitheater in honor of the 5th anniversary of its canning. This precipitated a call to evict the band from the Amphitheater by University authorities. After all, the Pep Band was supposed to be dead, and its persistence in sticking around and making fun of anyone and everyone was unseemly.
On the fifth anniversary of the band’s boot from the university, a UVa official stopped by the pep band’s performance Thursday and told the band to stop playing and leave.Creeping free speech zones have made their way to the Grounds of UVA. You can bet that if this had been the Virginia Gentlemen giving an impromptu concert at the Amphitheater with a loudspeaker, they would have been allowed to finish, who doesn't like the VeeGees? But an organization which perhaps has a thing or two to say that doesn't sit well with some members of the University community? Well, they're interfering with the University's Academic Mission. And what is that mission?
“You can’t be playing instruments and using amplifiers,” said the UVa official, who declined to identify himself. “It’s too loud. Sorry, but you’re interfering with the academic mission of the university.”
The pep band was disappointed yet again.
“It’s kind of ironic,” said David Leon, one of the pep band’s snare drum players. “We were once again shut down by the man. It’s a tragic comedy.” - The Daily Progress
Purpose: The central purpose of the University of Virginia is to enrich the mind by stimulating and sustaining a spirit of free inquiry directed to understanding the nature of the universe and the role of mankind in it. Activities designed to quicken, discipline, and enlarge the intellectual and creative capacities, as well as the aesthetic and ethical awareness, of the members of the University and to record, preserve, and disseminate the results of intellectual discovery and creative endeavor serve this purpose. In fulfilling it, the University places the highest priority on achieving eminence as a center of higher learning. - UVA Statement of PurposeWhat's more stimulating and enriching the mind than challenging, humorous questions punctuated by music? How difficult is it for instructors to use such a performance as a "teachable moment" and bring the relevance of their material to the fore?
But perhaps most pernicious of all in this act is the grounds on which it occurred. In the land of Mr. Jefferson, at the institution which shares resources with the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression, students at Mr. Jefferson's university were unceremoniously shooed away for this:
University of Virginia student Kevin Binswanger dropped his trumpet and picked up the microphone.Today, at Mr. Jefferson's university you can be reprimanded for exhorting people to learn and live Mr. Jefferson's ideals.
“You sir, in the front. Have you accepted Jefferson into your heart?” he preached. “You cannot be saved by blind obedience to authority; this leads you to the fiery pits of hell!
“Only by embracing the word of Jefferson and by practicing student self-governance and rebellion can you find salvation in the world to come,” he continued. “Accept Jefferson into your heart and you will be saved from eternal torment in the fires of hell!” - The Daily Progess
Maybe someday, if I stay involved in Democratic politics, and give enough money to someone who becomes Governor, I can get on the UVA Board of Visitors, and then we'll see what we can do about these policies. Until then, however, we can just be proud that the Pep Band is still there to see the irony in their situation, and make fun of it at the next opportunity.
[update] Democratic Central also has a thing or two to say on the subject.