Earlier this week University of Virginia student Andrew Wells published an article in The Cavalier Daily, the university’s newspaper, condemning the use of the phrase “not gay” during the singing of “The Good Ol’ Song”. The song, which is performed at athletic events, has garnered controversy ever since the 1970s when students began inserting the word “not” before the last word of the line “We come from old Virginia, where all is bright and gay”. The chant is sung in front of opposing teams by UVa students, alumni, and fans alike. Wells, who is straight, says that this, “goes beyond the issue of straight and gay…(dealing) with honor and respect, two values that this university was founded on and two values that keep students coming here.”
Andrew Wells is part of a changing culture at The University of Virginia. However, this is not the first time that students at UVa have brought their dislike of the anti-gay nature of the “not gay” chant to the attention of fellow peers and university administration. In 2012 the university’s student council unanimously voted to condemn the insertion of the “not gay” chant into the song. The Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, Allen Groves, also verbally condemned the use of the words “not gay”, calling them embarrassing.
GLAAD reached out to The University of Virginia’s Director of Athletics Craig Littlepage who personally supported ending the “not gay” chant as well as the university’s efforts to end the chant. He also made sure to note how Dean of Students Allen Groves has met with first year class members several times in the past to discuss this issue. It has also been noted in the past that many of the students have stopped inserting “not” into the song as awareness of the anti-gay chant has increased. At a recent UVa Pride meeting many students noticed that alumni may actually be the primary chanters. Yet, these measures by The University of Virginia to ensure and promote LGBT inclusion and equality are clearly not working. A verbal condemnation does not effectively ensure that students will abstain from using the “not gay” chant in the future as it does not place any penalty on the students for doing so. It also fails to effectively showcase the ignorance and hurtfulness that the “not gay” chant places upon LGBT members of the university.
Though the chant endures for now, it has lost steam thanks to the efforts of school administrators, LGBT groups, and allies like Wells. Each of these efforts strengthens the others, and makes it easier for all of us to take a stand against casual homophobia being accepted as part of the culture of sports.