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Free Speech, Decency And Common Sense All Dead At University Of Mary Washington.

UMW-Rugby-ROH Editor’s Note: This story contains anguage which some may find objectionable and NSFW. Omitting the language removes a key element of the article and so we have chosen to use the language.

The University of Mary Washington is a liberal arts college located in Fredericksburg, Virginia whose slogan is “where great minds go to work.” From what we can discern, those “great minds” are like a 1965 Mustang with a slipping clutch – you may say you’re great, but you aren’t going anywhere fast.

The story begins in November 2014 at an off campus house rented by two players on the University student / “club” rugby team (Mother’s Rugby Club) and a female student. By all accounts, a few dozen men and women were there including eight of the 46 members of the rugby team as the rest of the team was in Maryland playing. There is no indication that the party was an “official” rugby team party that was sanctioned by the team itself. The party was loud and raucous partly in celebration of a win by the team. People at the party began to chant a version of a 1920’s song “Walking Down Canal Street.” The lyrics at the party went like this:

(LANGUAGE WARNING!)

Finally found a whore (Finally found a whore!)
She was right and dead. (She was right and dead!)
Well god damn son of a bitch we’re gonna get it in! (God damn son of a bitch we’re gonna get it in!)

Finally got it in (Finally got it in!)
Wiggle it all about (Wiggle it all about!)
God damn son of a bitch I couldn’t get it out (God damn son of a bitch we couldn’t get it out!)

Finally got it out (Finally got it out!)
It was red and sore (It was red and sore!)
Moral of the story is never fuck a whore!

With themes of necrophilia, prostitution, and rape, our opinion is that at least at this particular party, decency was dead at the house. Of course, because nothing ever happens without being recorded by a cell phone, a student recorded the incident and showed the video of both men and women chanting and laughing at the party to Paige McKinsey, President of UMW’s Feminists United on Campus (FUC). McKinsey encouraged the student to show the video to the administration of the school.

The administration launched an investigation into the party and the chant.

While the investigation was taking place, McKinsey and other members of FUC met with the administration who assured them in Decembers that the issue would be “handled to [FUC’s] satisfaction.

(We have no idea how the administration could make that claim. FUC wanted the students to be disciplined and if the school found there was nothing they could do because of laws, lack of proof, or any other reason, would the members of FUC be satisfied with the way the incident was handled? We may be cynical, but it seems as if the administration was saying “don’t worry – people will pay no matter what.”)

The meeting with FUC and the administration resulted in other students voicing their opinions via YikYak, a social media platform. In doing so, not only did the students confirm that decency was dead, but they decided to dance on its grave as McKinsey reported that she received “hundreds” of messages similar to the ones below:

(Image courtesy of jezebel.com)

(Image courtesy of jezebel.com)

Mother’s Ruby Club was not sitting back on the issue and did some investigating on its own. A senior member of the club sent a letter to the school administration which read:

I know that my teammates sincerely regret that this incident took place, and that they had no desire to offend or denigrate anyone, despite how the song sounds. I know that as a longstanding member of this club, this kind of conduct does not reflect our usual behavior in any way. I have spoken with the members present at the party and to the best of my knowledge there were about nine female and four male varsity athletes, six female and two male club athletes, ten male rugby players, and ten female and six male non-sport affiliated students so I would not consider this a rugby party, as more of the team would have been there if it were. As far as the singing is concerned, I am told about eight to rugby players participated and about twenty other students including both men and women participated in singing the songs in question.

I think it is worth noting that we have 47 members in our club and only ten of those were in attendance and not even all of those members were participating in the singing the songs in question. I am not arguing that this excuses us from our actions, but this certainly does not reflect how we behave as a rugby team, or even as individuals. That being said, I also don’t believe that anyone intended harm or offense through singing. I think it is safe to consider this an isolated incident and that our club will not tolerate behavior of this kind or similar in the future by our members in any venue-as a group or individually.

We have already met as a team and discussed the events amongst ourselves. The leaders in our club made it very clear that this is not the kind of behavior or singing we want associated with our team or the University. It was also expressed that this is not the kind of behavior or singing our team has exhibited in the past and we are going to insure it never happens in the future.

Mother’s Rugby Club tried to raise decency from the dead but alas, it never made it out of its grave:

Although FUC and the men’s rugby team were pitted against each other, the two groups never met formally and continued to have little contact until February 20, when McKinsey says that the president of the rugby club and several of his teammates approached her in the dining hall. Paige says that the president extended his hand to her and said, “We’re open to chat whenever you want to.” She responded that she wasn’t interested in meeting, and the men left.

She later reported the incident to Lisa Cox, the school’s Title IX coordinator.

“An entire group of men approached me,” she says now. “It made me feel very unsafe.”

Three men approaching you in an open and public area to make an offer of reconciliation and dialogue results in the encounter being reported to the school? Doing the decent thing of meeting and discussing the incident made McKinsey feel “unsafe?” Unbelievable.

The Administration lived up to their promise to FUC that the incident would be “handled correctly.” This March they announced the student rugby club would be disbanded for a year and all of the members of the team would have to attend training on “sexual assault and violence” even though no sexual assault or violence had taken place at the party.

In announcing the punishment, UMW President released this statement:

At an off-campus party at the close of the fall 2014 semester, several members of theUMW men’s rugby club engaged in a chant that contained sexually explicit, derogatory, and violent language. Some students have now been exposed to those offensive and lurid lyrics due to posting by others on social media.

No student on this campus should feel unsafe, ostracized, or threatened. Understanding that the offensive chant is antithetical to UMW values, and will not be tolerated, the University pursued action against the men’s rugby club. At the beginning of the current semester, sanctions were imposed on the rugby club for willful violations of UMW’s code of conduct for club sports.

After an appeal by the accused, the disciplinary process concluded on March 18 with this ruling: All rugby club activities have been suspended indefinitely. Further, each member of the men’s rugby club is required to participate in education and training sessions regarding sexual assault and violence. UMW’s Statement of Community Values informed the process and response to this situation.

As I stated yesterday, the University will not stand for such behavior. It not only violates our community values, it is not how members of this collegial campus live, and it is not reflective of the Mary Washington we all know and love.

University policies prohibit discrimination, harassment, threats, and derogatory statements of any form. We pride ourselves on being a diverse, accepting, caring community, and we must live up to that ideal.

I urge anyone on campus who feels unsafe, ostracized or threatened to immediately contact campus police or Dr. Leah Cox, Special Assistant to thePresident for Diversity and Inclusion. She may be reached at lcox@umw.edu or 540-654-2119.

Richard V. Hurley

President

With President Hurley’s announcement, free speech at the University of Mary Washington died. (NOTE: The University of Mary Washington is a public university and subject to the laws of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc.)

Robby Soave of Reason.com points out the problem with the school’s actions:

I fail to see how the chanting could be deemed discriminatory, harassing, or threatening. And the university has no right to outlaw derogatory statements, if the First Amendment means anything on campus.

Erin Gloria Ryan over at Jezebel.com expands the point even further:

But in avoiding one kind of legal trouble, University of Mary Washington administrators may have gotten themselves in another. Rugby chants about sexually violating dead prostitutes likely aren’t what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Constitution, but the way the University of Mary Washington punished its rugby program for speech at an off-campus, private residence is the sort of thing that raises flags for organizations like The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

“The University of Mary Washington is a public institution and is therefore legally bound to respect the First Amendment rights of its students and faculty members,” FIRE attorney Will Creeley told me last week. “Exceptions to the First Amendment are limited to a narrow subset of precisely defined categories, and the Supreme Court has made clear that there’s no First Amendment exception for speech that is simply offensive, even if it repels many, most, or even all who encounter it.”

Creeley further explained that not every instance of “speech” is protected for all classes of students. Student-athletes, for example, can be punished for yelling expletives at their coaches during practice or be held to a higher standard of behavior from non-athletes without having their free speech rights violated. “But discipline that goes beyond athletics—for example, a suspension from not just the team, but the school itself—would have to pass muster under the First Amendment at a public institution,” added Creeley.

As the First Amendment doesn’t matter to the school administration, it is not a surprise that common sense died as well. Instead of (illegally) just punishing the eight rugby team members in attendance at the party, and without ever proving that all eight were chanting, the school punished the entire rugby team – even those members that were miles away in another state when the incident took place.

It did not matter to the school that 38 players did not take part in the chanting because they weren’t at the party, but those same players could do nothing to stop it, or even leave the party. Yet those players must be “guilty” of something as the school punished them for…..for…..for what?

Just what exactly did those 38 men do wrong?

Moreover, if the idea of a punishment is to punish for past behavior and act as a deterrent to the same behavior in the future, what could the 38 players who were not in attendance at the party do differently?

It has become impossible for us to understand what is happening on college campuses these days. We cannot imagine ever seeing or hearing such a song / chant being made when we were in school. We can’t imagine groups not working to reconcile differences. We can’t imagine saying some of the vile things that are apparently commonplace on campuses today. We can’t imagine a school administration being so willing to violate students rights as well as punish people for things they did not do.

We just cannot understand what is going on.

In the end, decency, common sense and free speech were killed at the University of Mary Washington. What is sad is not only are those virtues and rights dead, too many people don’t seem to even care.



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