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The University of Virginia has been forced to reconsider its removal of the 21-gun salute from its Veterans Day ceremony after massive backlash from locals, veterans, and even the students the decision was supposed to ‘protect.’
UVA ditched the salute, citing concerns it would panic students associating the sound with “gun violence.” Faced with a towering backlash, however, university president Jim Ryan has pledged to reconsider the move – for next year.
The decade-old tradition was dropped after what Ryan insists was careful consideration by the university Air Force ROTC commander and the Provost’s Office “to minimize disruptions to classes” and “recognizing concerns related to firing weapons on the Grounds in light of gun violence that has happened across our nation, especially on school and university campuses,” he stated in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Taking note of the outrage, however, Ryan promised to “work with our ROTC officers and cadets to take a closer look at options for our Veterans Day events, including those that would enable us to re-introduce the 21-gun salute to the program.” Monday’s ceremony, however – which starts with a 24-hour vigil by ROTC cadets – would not include the salute.
“Doesn’t matter why you made the decision, it was a stupid one,” one veteran’s daughter posted in response to Ryan’s Facebook statement. Most of the replies – many by veterans and UVA alumni – echoed the sentiment, reminding Ryan that soldiers had laid down their lives for his right to virtue-signal.
Others pointed to the slippery slope of eliminating things just because a few students might be offended. “I think it’s pretty dishonest and offensive likening a meaningful military tradition to ‘gun violence.’ What’s the next step? Making the cadets and midshipmen march with broomsticks while on grounds because guns!? (I shouldn’t joke),” another user snarked.
The school has also removed amplified music from the ceremony, so the worries (and jokes) are not entirely unfounded. A few respondents suggested the university might follow Oxford University’s lead and ban clapping.
Local papers printed angry letters from readers in the days leading up to the ceremony. The decision to remove the salute “sends an unfortunate message about students: That they are too fragile, too delicate, too distractible to deal with the ‘interruption’ of the salute,” one letter-writer pointed out. ‘Protecting’ students from the sound of gunshots suggests “that they must be protected from the reality that exists outside academia.”
But some applauded the move, pointing out that “rampant mass shootings are commonplace now, so it makes sense not to be firing off guns near classrooms” – even when the guns are shooting blanks, apparently.