How Does Virginia’s Most Diverse, Liberal University Manage to Alienate African-Americans?


by James A. Bacon

Following up on our conversation about the demands made by black Virginia Commonwealth University students, I stumbled across this data compiled by the college ranking website. I was startled to find that the VCU student body ranked itself as the most liberal of any college or university in Virginia — and the 88th most liberal among the 880 colleges surveyed. VCU also got the highest score for diversity of any Virginia institution (tied with Marymount University).

African-American students invaded the VCU president’s office Thursday and issued demands for more African-American professors, more funding for African-American cultural programs, and implementation of a “cultural competency” course for all students. VCU President Michael Rao engaged in a respectful, two-hour dialogue with the protesters.

I find it fascinating that this surge of unrest by African-American students — fueled, they say, by their alienation from campus life — occurred on the campus that is the most diverse and the most liberal of any university in Virginia. (Read here the methodology behind’s survey, and how it included only those institutions with statistically meaningful results.)

One is prompted by these numbers to ask where the feelings of alienation come from.

Can VCU be said, by any objective measure, to be a hostile or even an indifferent place for minority students when the university rates an “A” for diversity? That is hard to swallow.’s diversity rating gives 20% weight to the percentage of international students, 20% to racial diversity of the student body, 20% to student survey characterizations of the institution, 15% to the percentage of out-of-state students, 10% to faculty diversity, and smaller percentages to gender and socio-economic diversity. (See the methodology here.) Whatever flaws VCU may have, it cannot be said that the university administration lacks a commitment to diversity.

Can it be said that African-American students feel excluded by other members of the student body — that they are marginalized by other students’ racist attitudes? One reason to suspect otherwise is the fact that only half the student body (51%) is white and nearly one-fifth (18%) of the student body is African-American, with significant percentages of Asians and Hispanics. Not only are whites less predominant than at other college campuses, those whites likely are more liberal minded than white students generally. Unless we accept the proposition that self-professed white liberals are closet racists, this explanation does not hold water. (Caveat: We have to be careful drawing hard-and-fast conclusions about student attitudes given the modest size of the survey samples and the inevitable margin for error.)

I would propose a different explanation: that the alienation expressed by a relatively small number of African-American students at VCU — about 30, who may or may not be representative of the larger African-American student body — stems not from VCU’s insufficient commitment to diversity or the racist attitudes of a non-dominant white student body, but the ideology of victimization and grievance that is intrinsic to liberalism in the ivory tower. African-American students at VCU — or at least the students participating in the protest — feel alienated because the peculiar form of liberalism that prevails on college campuses fosters alienation. Fifty years of failed liberal policies have done nothing to lessen the breadth or intensity of African-American poverty in America, but rather than admit the unintended consequences of social engineering, liberals in academia have doubled down on the racism paradigm. Thus, they seize upon ever more subtle manifestations of racism, as evidenced by the recent distress over “micro-aggressions” on college campuses.

Of course, liberals will take issue with my analysis. If past is prologue, some will insinuate that I am racist for criticizing the liberal paradigm — in other words, I’ll be tarred with the “R” word not because I am antagonistic in any way toward African-Americans but because I entertain different ideas of how to bring them into the mainstream of American society. My deeply held hope is that America one day can become a country where racism disappears, where the historic legacy of slavery and Jim Crow are overcome, and where every child has an opportunity to succeed regardless of the color of his or her skin. I just don’t think we get closer to those goals by cultivating victimization and grievance. As long as universities continue to do so, they will remain reservoirs of African-American discontent.

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17 responses to “How Does Virginia’s Most Diverse, Liberal University Manage to Alienate African-Americans?

  1. Thanks for this follow-up and the tabular data. Remarkably, the comments are still coming in on your earlier post three days ago — — and perhaps we can fold that dialog into this one.

  2. When it comes to diversity and culture – Jim is bound and determined to make stereotype sausage!


    next thing you know he’s gonna be graphing “Black lives Matter” according to whether the city is Blue or Red!


  3. re: ” My deeply held hope is that America one day can become a country where racism disappears, where the historic legacy of slavery and Jim Crow are overcome, and where every child has an opportunity to succeed regardless of the color of his or her skin. I just don’t we get closer to those goals by cultivating victimization and grievance. As long as universities continue to do so, they will remain reservoirs of African-American discontent.”

    so now you’ve talked the talk –

    what’s the walk?

    how do we do it?

    my view is you do it by educating and training so they have jobs when the graduate high school – whatever it takes to do it.

    your turn.

    what say others?

  4. Dear LarrytheG,

    End the one-sided trade deals that sent the jobs overseas and severely curtail immigration so as to raise wages for Americans working in the service economy. That tide will lift all American boats, be they Black, White, Hispanic, Asian. It also will put money back in government coffers by expanding the tax base. This will abate the class- and race-warfare rhetoric by helping people out, together, not an us vs. them politics. But the 1% are the biggest obstacle to this. _Unstoppable_ That is what Ralph Nader thinks of this alliance of “right” and “left.” Let’s get going. And get these “identity” people to find a new line of work. Maybe we can find work for their “industry” overseas! ;-)<



    • Andrew – you have to train our workforce for the jobs that ARE available and they ARE available… and stop getting distracted to other issues.

      the problem is we do not adequately train our non-4yr-college workforce which over half our grads and we especially don’t train the economically disadvantaged in grade school so that when they get to high they are so illiterate than they can not even be trained for non-college trade and technical jobs.

      we’ve turned our schools into de-facto college prep schools for those headed to 4yr – and those not headed there – don’t get what they need to be employable in the local economy.

      no matter how much economic development you do – you’re going to have an entitlement underclass dragging down the economy …

      we’re not dealing with that reality.

  5. Larry

    You ask how do we do it. I think Jim has neatly proposed the answer. You don’t continue to follow the failed liberal policies of giving fish to the poor instead of teaching them how to fish. Education and training: you have that part right. So I can’t understand why the left continues to go along with a public education system that has failed the poor (not the kids who go to New Trier, that’s for sure) for the last half century.

  6. Crazy – I support other non-public approaches as long as they are held to the same accountability standards.

    the truth here is that the current public education system essentially caters to a certain clientele to the expense of others not headed to 4-year college.. they do that BOTH to ED and to non-ED not headed to 4 year.

    Virtually ALL of the money from the local jurisdictions does not go towards the required SOQ match but instead things beyond what Virginia requires for core academic.

    where is that money spent on if not core academic or vocational ED or for remedial ED help?

  7. Dear All,

    I am enclosing this for “informational purposes.” Dr Walter Williams of GMU,



    • Andrew – you’re on the right track.

      now ask yourself WHY it’s the GOVERNMENT that runs all the other nations schools that beat us in education?

      why is that?

      how come all the rest of the world that outscores us is schools run by the govt?

      • Dear Larry,

        You know, “public school” means government school. You mean schools run from D.C.? Surely, you have heard the joke “that the scariest words in the English language are,” and I quote, “Hi, I’m with the government, and I’m here to help!” ;-)< Seriously, I don't think you'll get much different results as long as you are relying on flawed pedagogy and the apathy and other attributes of the students we have in America. Starting with an unquestionable premise of absolute equality, but coming up with inequality of outcomes, you are then forced to find out why the results are so unequal. Good luck! I salute all students and teachers and parents and administrators are able to make improvements, but seriously doubt that it will be dramatic. Whether this is nature or nurture, or some combination thereof, I don't know, but "putting society on trial"; might make some feel good, but it won't change the "big picture" much. It will increase tensions and mistrust quite a bit. Those of us who have better things to do will either patiently endure it, tune out, and/or put our own kids in private schools or homeschool, rather than "brawl it out" in the PTA meetings.



        • Andrew – how come all the schools in Europe and Asia and Australia and Canada are also govt-run and they all beat the socks off our version of govt-run schools?

          how does that work?

          and again – I totally support non-public schools as long as they are also held to the same accountability standards.

          I also wonder why the Conservative institutions that attack public schools – don’t set up their own pilot schools to demonstrate how it should be done.

          Surely if they know the problems – they can show us the right way to run schools – right?

      • Larry, FYI, the government does not “run all the other nations schools that beat us in education.” All countries I’m familiar with (and I have in-laws on multiple continents) have private schools as well as public.

  8. I’m glad to see ODU made a good grade. The rate of graduation and time to graduation for AA’s is higher than NSU’s. They specifically targeted the group to provide support needed to make those students successful.

  9. That’s right! They should be grateful for what they got! So if those African American students need to know how they should feel, they should ask Jim Bacon!

  10. LarrytheG makes valid points that students need to be educated and trained for jobs. He also n0tes that non-college bound students are not treated as well as college-bound.
    I hope Larrythe G will join me in opposing Obama when the Pres keeps proclaiming that all children should go to college. Forcing people to go to college who would be doing much better financially and socially by learning a trade or other employable skills is causing much of the problem.
    For too many students of all colors and races, college has become a very expensive extension of high school or day care–with very few prospects when they are done.
    Many colleges and universities have benefitted financially from this push to send everyone to college. Many students have not.

    • “Many colleges and universities have benefited financially from this push to send everyone to college. Many students have not.” HEAR, HEAR. But we need a mix, public and private, residential and MOOCs, to keep both honest and give consumers a reasonable choice.

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