Student, lawsuit

Settlement Reached In Lawsuit By White College Student Over Expulsion Related To Black Women Matter Protest; Student Allegedly Said Protesters Would Make ‘Good Speed Bumps’

It was a four-year legal battle during which Bettinger claimed she was discriminated against because she is white.

Morgan Bettinger, a graduate of the University of Virginia, has settled her case after a four-year battle over what she characterized as false allegations that ruined her life. The white student filed a lawsuit against the university following her expulsion related to a conflict at a Black Women Matter protest in 2020.

Bettinger faced expulsion after being found guilty by the student-run University Judiciary Committee of threatening fellow students. Despite being cleared of wrongdoing by the UVA Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights, the expulsion remained on her record. She alleged that university officials failed to adequately ensure her safety following accusations of threatening participants at a Black Women Matter protest in downtown Charlottesville in July 2020.

As the Daily Progress reports, Bettinger settled the lawsuit after suing the university’s governing Board of Visitors, University of Virginia President Jim Ryan, and the former Dean of Students Allen Groves in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in July 2023. As University of Virginia spokesman Brian Coy told the outlet, “The case was resolved by a mutual and amicable agreement and dismissed following a joint motion by both parties.”

As the Jefferson Council reports, Brown & Gavalier, the Charlottesville law firm that represented Bettinger during her lawsuit, did not disclose the terms of the settlement and did not make their client available for any follow-up questions from the outlet.

In August 2023, Bettinger’s lawsuit stemmed from actions the university took after she was alleged to have said that protesters gathered at a 2020 protest would have made “good speed bumps” by Zyanha Bryant, a rising activist who attended the University of Virginia. As Reason reported, Bettinger denied that she made her statement with malice.

The student told the outlet, “It was simply a comment made to a [dump] truck driver who was sitting and blocking the road, and just saying, like, ‘It’s good you’re here.’”

Her lawsuit described the statement in this way, “The words are entirely innocuous and innocent, and no reasonable, objective person could ever conclude otherwise. The words do not constitute a ‘true threat’ as that term is defined by applicable Supreme Court precedent.”

Her lawsuit contained explosive allegations against Groves and Ryan, saying of the latter, “[University of Virginia] President Jim Ryan knew, unequivocally, that Morgan Bettinger’s speech was free and protected under the First Amendment, that Morgan had been wronged, and that he was intentionally committing the University to violate those sacred rights,” and referring to the former, “Groves purposefully tampered with at least two of the ‘proceedings.'”

Of Groves, the lawsuit stated, “The Dean of Students for the University of Virginia did not simply put his proverbial thumb on the scales of justice. He put his entire weight on it.”

Bettinger’s experience gained attention from several conservative and conservative-leaning outlets, such as Reason and Daily Mail, who called it a case of cancel culture gone awry within college campuses. The lawsuit, likewise, is filled with references to Bettinger being discriminated against or judged to be in the wrong largely because she is white, presenting a legal argument rooted in the concept of reverse racism.

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