A massive mural in a central academic building at the University of Virginia appears to depict a male professor’s affair with a female student — a taboo subject that feels even more out of place given the recent sexual assault scandal that has rocked the university.
Multiple UVA students were allegedly gang raped at a prominent campus fraternity — Phi Kappa Psi — although no students have ever been expelled from the school for sexual assault.
With all the added attention to UVA’s culture this past week, other questionable elements of campus have come to light, such as the mural in Old Cabell Hall — a building on UVA’s quad and home to a prominent auditorium. We first learned about this mural in a Slate article written by UVA music professor Bonnie Gordon on the university’s rape allegations.
As Gordon writes:
A very expensive mural called “The Student’s Progress” covers the entire foyer and stairwell of Old Cabell Hall, which is also the University’s premier auditorium and the favoured space for visiting dignitaries. The mural depicts, among other scenes of daily life at the University of Virginia, a male faculty member standing on a porch and tossing a mostly naked student her bra as his beleaguered wife comes up the stairs. My students and I have pointed out that wildly inappropriate section of the mural to faculty, administrators, students, parents, and donors, but so far, no one has been particularly horrified. The mural is proudly displayed and is prominently featured on UVA tours.
In a press release written after renovations to the mural were completed by original artist Lincoln Perry, a UVA spokesperson wrote that “The narrative depicts a student, ‘Shannon,’ as she enters the University, follows her through a journey of self-discovery in her pursuit of knowledge and concludes with her graduation.”
According to the press release, Perry said he chose to center his mural around a woman because “I wanted someone who was not breezing through life, and it seems to me that women have more of an uphill battle than men. I wanted her to be having a hard time. Life is hard, and certainly school is hard.”
Below, you can see a close-up of the professor handing the unclothed student — we are uncertain if it is “Shannon” — her bra:
In a larger portion of the mural, you can see the professor’s wife coming up the stairs to the left of the pair:
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