Illuminating the Shadows

ON APRIL 13, 2007, I participated in a direct action against the Society of the Purple Shadows during their annual dawn march on Founders Day. During the march, a member of the Purple Shadows assaulted me. That afternoon, I filed University Judiciary Committee charges against the Society. I was unable to file charges against the specific member of the group who committed these crimes against me because Purple Shadows disguise themselves in purple robes that make it impossible to identify specific members of their clan.

Since I filed the charges against the Purple Shadows, the Committee worked tirelessly to ensure that this case would go to trial, but the Purple Shadows have refused to acknowledge the case and the trial has been suspended indefinitely, so I subsequently dropped the charges. It is possible to contact the Purple Shadows as they keep a PO Box in Charlottesville, yet all attempts to communicate with the Purple Shadows have been met with silence.

But this is not the first time when justice called and the Purple Shadows did not answer. After breaking into former Dean of Students Robert Canevari's office in 1982 in retaliation for a proposal to cancel the annual Easters celebration, the Purple Shadows left a letter and a dagger expressing their anger with the proposal. Dean Canevari brought up UJC charges against the Purple Shadows and met the same brick wall that my case has hit -- cold, cowardly silence.

What happened 25 years ago is repeating itself today. The Purple Shadows were founded for three reasons -- to stop the integration of women into the University, to uphold a dress code, and to maintain the honor system's single sanction. Since it lost the battle to stop women from entering the University and to keep the archaic coat and tie dress code, the Purple Shadows have worked vigorously to uphold the single sanction. The Purple Shadows have attempted to stuff first-year mail boxes illegally and have been reported to donate thousands of dollars to pro-single sanction activities.

I find it ironic that a group that supposedly represents honor and integrity at the University refuses to do the honorable thing and acknowledge the crimes they perpetrate and stand trial for these crimes. Some argue that since the Purple Shadows are not an official group at the University or that the Purple Shadows may not be official students of the University, UJC has no jurisdiction over this crime, however, these arguments are groundless because, presumably, many Purple Shadows are University students.

Additionally, if the Purple Shadows want to have a voice in student self-governance, then they must abide by the same rules that by which we, as students, must live. Not to be held accountable to the same standard is an insult to the principles that the founder of our University lived by -- that all men and women are created equal.

So I ask the Honor Committee to publicly disavow any relationship with the Society of Purple Shadows immediately. Not to follow this logical course of action runs counter to what the Honor Committee supposedly represents on Grounds. How can the Committee acknowledge a group that dresses up in costumes reminiscent of white supremacists and assault their fellow students through physical intimidation?

For years the Purple Shadows have terrorized the University community, and the time is now for students to rally behind the values of openness and student democracy.

The Purple Shadow's "Book of History and Established Procedure," actively encourages the Purple Shadows to break into University buildings. They have consistently violated the spirit of what student self-governance means by hiding behind their purple robes and influencing student discourse on the single sanction.

The choice is clear: The University community needs to disavow this secret society. This is not a society that merely gives money to the University for worthy causes and awards students for worthy accomplishments. This is a society whose founding is based on defending traditions that represent the elitist, white, male, homogenous University, rather than the multicultural and integrated University of today. It is an insult to the thriving and tolerant population of female and minority students of the current University that such blatant and reactionary action be tolerated with impunity.

Finally, to the Purple Shadows: I challenge you to do the right thing. Step forward and admit guilt. If you claim to be an honorable and respectable group, then start acting like one. Instead of being men of honor, you have shown yourselves to be a group of thugs who wear purple robes.

Patrick Lee is a fourth year in the Architecture School. He is a co-chair of the Minority Rights Coalition.

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