UVA forms committee to address ‘problematic' 'party culture' mural

The University of Virginia has created a committee to consider repainting or hiding a mural that depicts student revelers and what some professors perceive as an image implying a student-professor sexual relationship.

The painting “depicts a certain kind of party culture in which women are depicted in ways that look problematic to me,” music professor Bonnie Gordon told Newsplex. “It has a picture of a professor and a student who obviously have been doing something that would be a Title IX violation.”

UVA formed a committee to address the mural after Rolling Stone published its now-retracted “A Rape on Campus” article in November of 2014, and Gordon’s criticism of the mural began with a Slate article in which she described the now-disproven allegations as “awful, horrifying, and not shocking at all,” stating that “UVA has a rape culture problem.”

Gordon also noted that “nothing in the Rolling Stone article about University culture is new,” a statement which probably didn’t refer to the story’s inclusion in a pattern of debunked or unproven high-profile rape allegations at elite institutions, such as the ones involving the Duke lacrosse team and the Columbia University “mattress girl.”

With no actions on the mural taken since her article, Gordon wondered “could we ask the artist if he’d be interested in redoing this panel? Could we move the panels? Could we have a contest and put student art in this section?”

The mural, which was painted by Lincoln Perry and consists of several panels painted between 1996 and 2012, is titled “The Student’s Progress” and portrays the fictional journey of a University student named Shannon, who both attends and teaches at the school.

Mason agreed with Gordon’s analysis, stating “I can also see why some people believe that the artwork makes a joke out of what might be called sexual harassment. I know for certain that it makes some people uncomfortable when they see it.”

Another faculty member, Associate Nursing professor Kathryn Laughon, critiqued this part of the panel:

“We could use that shot in a Green Dot training video around when we can recognize when someone is too incapacitated to consent,” she remarked, referring to the Green Dot program which aims to reduce violence and sexual assault by making “a cultural shift.” “[The female’s] head is lulled back, her eyes are closed, and she looks like she is being held up by the guy.”

Laughon continued, saying that the painting contained negative gender and racial stereotypes and that “as far as I’m concerned there’s not really a lot of value in this painting except maybe a living example of a red dot,” referring to hurtful expression and actions. “We can almost think of it as part of the Green Dot campaign. We can use it as ‘where do we need to put green dots over these red dots?’”

Almost all of the comments on the school paper’s article concerning the mural ridiculed the faculty opposed to the painting and/or rejected any changes to the mural. Op-eds by University students supporting political correctness or social justice initiatives receive similar comments, a trend which may reflect a distancing of opinion between academia and the general public.

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