Author Archives: James A. Bacon

Bacon Meme of the Week

Fear and Loathing of Youngkin’s Higher Ed Policy

by James A. Bacon

In early October Governor Glenn Youngkin asked Attorney General Jason Miyares for a formal opinion on a seemingly innocuous question: Whose interests are members of Virginia’s public university governing boards supposed to represent? Miyares responded that the “primary duty” of the boards of visitors is to the commonwealth, not to the institutions themselves. The conclusion would seem to be so obvious, so clearly the intent of the state code, that it doesn’t warrant discussion.

But some people espy a vague but malign intent behind the finding.

Speaking to the higher-ed trade journal, Inside Higher Ed, Claire Gastañaga, former director of Virginia’s ACLU and a former deputy attorney general overseeing Virginia’s public colleges and universities, said Miyares’ opinion is a threat to the autonomy of public institutions. In the publication’s words, she “fears it signals an attempt by the governor to justify the removal of board members whose actions don’t align with his priorities” and replace them with appointees who share his priorities. Gastañaga pointed to the Bert Ellis bogeyman as evidence that Youngkin is scheming something nefarious. Continue reading

Everyone Loves Free Speech… In Theory

Governor Glenn Youngkin at the higher-ed summit at the University of Virginia. Photo credit: The Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

Governor Glenn Youngkin outlined yesterday his vision for colleges and universities in Virginia as bastions of free speech and intellectual diversity where people come together to devise solutions to society’s most pressing problems.

“How do we ask serious questions and foster informed debate so we can get to answers?” he asked in a pragmatic defense of free speech in a keynote speech of a statewide higher-ed conclave held at the University of Virginia. The answer was implicit in the title of the event: the Higher Education Summit on Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity.

The summit was attended by representatives, including many presidents, of every public university in Virginia and more than half of the state’s private higher-ed institutions. The end goal of the event, said Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera in introductory remarks, was for every institution to create an “action plan” to advance the goals of free speech and intellectual diversity.

Youngkin began laying the groundwork a year ago when he addressed the Council of Presidents and pushed them toward the same goals. The Council, comprised of Virginia college and university presidents, adopted a statement endorsing free speech and intellectual diversity in the abstract. But as discussions at Wednesday’s summit made clear, there is considerable gray area in applying free speech principles in the real world. The next step is to move beyond the expression of abstract principles to putting those principles into action. Continue reading

“Who Exactly Is the University of Virginia Protecting?”

Rector Robert D. Hardie

by James A. Bacon

A week ago The Jefferson Council publicly questioned the decision to withhold publication of the investigation into the University’s failure to prevent the Nov. 13, 2022, mass shooting. We were particularly perplexed by who made the decision to delay release of the report until after the trial of the defendant, Christopher Jones. The decision, announced by Rector Robert D. Hardie and President Jim Ryan, apparently was made without the approval of the Board of Visitors. (See “Will the Public Ever Get to See the Mass Shooting Report?”)

Now, as reported by The Daily Progress, others are asking questions.

The Daily Progress leads with the question, “Who exactly is the University of Virginia protecting?” Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

From the Bull Elephant

Bacon Meme of the Week

A Life of Low-Level Crime

Chelsea Eileen Steiniger

by James A. Bacon

Meet Chelsea Eileen Steiniger, a 31-year-old Buckingham County woman who, according to The Daily Progress, may have accomplished the feat of having been arrested more often — 63 times — than anyone else in Central Virginia.

One reason she has been arrested so frequently, it appears, is the leniency of judges who are reluctant to sentence her to jail time.

“It’s become a philosophy that you don’t want to put someone in prison for a low-level, low-dollar-amount crime,” Charlottesville lawyer Scott Goodman told the newspaper. “It’s basically treated as a sickness as much as it is a crime these days. If you show any kind of an effort that you’re trying to overcome your addiction, that goes a long way with the courts.” Continue reading

Tuition as Engine of Wealth Redistribution

Source: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV)

by James A. Bacon

When Congress adjusts the tax code to promote income redistribution between the rich and poor, a debate plays out in the national media. When universities adjust their tuition to promote income redistribution, by contrast, the process is so shrouded in secrecy that the public has no idea it’s occurring.

That process is less invisible in Virginia than it once was, thanks to a Youngkin administration initiative to post the most comprehensive higher-ed data analysis ever compiled on the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) website. But the data will sit there — as good as invisible — until someone looks at it. And even publicizing the data is next to worthless if key decision makers — university administrations, activist groups, Boards of Visitors — don’t use it to inform their discussions.

The report, compiled over a six-month process with guidance from the Boston Consulting Group, explores three broad themes: enrollment trends, labor market trends, and financial effectiveness & sustainability. SCHEV looks at industry-wide trends for Virginia’s system of public education as well as detailed breakdowns by institution.

There is an immense amount of data to explore, some of which will prove familiar to readers of Bacon’s Rebellion and some of it not. For this post I am focusing on tuition as a tool for wealth redistribution because that is data we have never seen before. Continue reading

Will the Public Ever Get to See the Mass-Shooting Report?

Christopher Darnell Jones Jr.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia will delay the release of an external investigation into the Nov. 13, 2022, mass shooting that resulted in three deaths and two woundings until after the trial of Christopher Jones, the UVa student charged with the crime.

“After conferring with counselors and Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley, we have decided that we need to wait until after the criminal proceedings to release further information,” President James Ryan said in a statement appearing Friday on UVa Today. “Making the reports public at this time, or even releasing a summary of their findings and recommendations, could have an impact on the criminal trial of the accused, either by disrupting the case being prepared by the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney, or by interfering with the defendant’s right to a fair trial before an impartial jury.”

Rector Robert Hardie supported the delay. Speaking for the Board of Visitors, he said, “We agree that we should postpone the release of further information until the criminal prosecution is complete to avoid interfering with or complicating the proceedings.”

“This development is disappointing,” responded Tom Neale, president of The Jefferson Council. “The quintuple shooting is one of the most traumatic events to ever occur at UVa, and the university community has a right to know what went wrong. What assurance do we have that the actions the University has taken to improve safety actually address the problems identified in the report? How do we know a similar breakdown won’t occur again?” Continue reading

Miyares Calls for Moral Clarity Regarding Pro-Hamas Demonstrators

Jason Miyares. Photo credit: Washington Post

by James A. Bacon

On the evening of Aug. 11, 2017, more than 300 torch-bearing white supremacists marched down the Lawn at the University of Virginia chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” The phrase is not self-explanatory, but the marchers were widely thought to be proclaiming that Jews would not displace Christian Whites as the dominant element of society. The white supremacists were not calling for the slaughter of Jews. Rather, embracing the rhetoric of victimhood and grievance that has so saturated 21st-century America, they were expressing a yearning for the good-old-days when Christian Whites ran the show.

Fast forward to Oct. 24, 2023. Hundreds of demonstrators marched down the Lawn waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea.” Their meaning was crystal clear. They weren’t merely vilifying Jews. Just days after the horrific Hamas attacks on Israel, the protesters were demanding the eradication of the Israeli state, and they were endorsing terror against Jewish civilians as a means of achieving it. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, they were advocating genocide.  

In 2017 University officials quickly, forcefully, and quite correctly condemned the antisemitism of the Unite the Right rally. In 2023, the response to the Palestinians has been muted. Continue reading

Wokeness As Social Disease: Charlottesville Schools Edition

by James A. Bacon

If you have any doubt that wokeness is the primary force responsible for collapsing discipline in Virginia public schools, eroding teacher morale, deteriorating learning conditions, and the educational impairment of tens of thousands of students, consider this story from Charlottesville.

After incessant student brawls this school year, 27 teachers at Charlottesville High School called a walk-out, effectively closing school for the day. Following an emergency meeting of the School Board, Chair James Bryant announced that classes would be cancelled Monday and Tuesday while students, teachers and staff planned a “reset.” Summarizes the Daily Progress:

That “reset” will be addressing a high school culture that many say has gotten out of control, with students roaming the halls during class time, instigating fights, disobeying administrators and even letting intruders into the school with the sole purpose of perpetrating violence.

The purpose of the “reset,” according to Bryant, is for staff to “return to our core purpose — offering a safe learning environment in which our students will grow and thrive.” Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

From The Bull Elephant

Bacon Meme of the Week

Three Ideas for Protecting Civil Dialogue at UVa

by James A. Bacon

On Oct. 11, 2023, journalist Abigail Shrier engaged in a Q&A session at the University of Virginia discussing the transgender movement in the United States. Offended by her views, transgender militants and their allies sabotaged attendance of the event, abrogated an agreement with university authorities restricting where to hold their protest, crowded the entrance to the venue at Minor Hall, berated attendees entering the event, and harassed attendees leaving the event.

Responding to a letter from Jefferson Council President Tom Neale, the administration characterized some of the behavior as “disappointing,” but noted that there were “no arrests or injuries, and no property damage.” The administration found no grounds for follow-up action.

The Jefferson Council vigorously takes issue with the administration’s spin. We believe that protesters should be held to a higher standard than not causing injury or property damage. We have published a report detailing the events surrounding the Shrier event and offer three tangible recommendations for upholding the right of members of the UVa community to hear speakers free from disruption and intimidation. Continue reading

Rising Costs Pushing UVa Tuition Higher

The Jefferson Council released the following press release this morning (Nov. 9, 2023):

CHARLOTTESVILLE—Rising costs, not cutbacks in state aid, are primarily responsible for pushing tuition higher at the University of Virginia. State appropriations for UVa have declined sharply between 2002 and 2022 when adjusted for inflation and enrollment. But tuition has exploded over the same time. Only one-third of the increased tuition revenue was needed to offset state cuts. The other two-thirds represented spending increases, primarily in payroll.

Those are the major conclusions of a report, “Rising Costs: The Driving Force Behind Tuition Increases at UVa,” released today by The Jefferson Council, an organization dedicated to upholding free speech, viewpoint diversity, and Thomas Jefferson’s legacy at UVa.

The UVa Board of Visitors is working this fall on how much to increase tuition in the next two academic years. The Finance Committee has scheduled a public hearing November 17 in which students and other members of the public can address undergraduate tuition & fees. The Board is expected to approve a new tuition structure in December. Continue reading