Alumni to UVa: Enough Is Enough

by James A. Bacon

The debate over “contextualizing” the Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia itself needs some context. Viewed in isolation, the idea of adding a plaque to the Jefferson statue alluding to his flaws as a slaveholder as well as to his political and intellectual achievements should not be a cause of great consternation. Jefferson was not a saint. To my mind, acknowledging his human frailties makes his accomplishments all the more vivid.

But the Board of Visitors’ resolution earlier this month to contextualize the statue was not an isolated incident. The vote followed a long train of developments in which the university has sunk ever deeper into the quicksand of the left-wing interpretation of race, race relations, and the legitimacy of this country’s institutions. For many alumni, I suspect, the statue issue is simply the last straw.

After supinely tolerating the destructive, leftward drift in rhetoric and burgeoning signs of the cancel culture while dutifully handing over their money like good little alumni, many UVa grads have run out of patience. As Thomas M. Neale wrote in a letter to university authorities, “Enough is enough. Where does this end?”

The answer is that the leftward drift does not end until it meets resistance. For years, university leadership has responded mainly to internal constituencies, which are overwhelmingly left wing and steeped in social-justice ideology. The parents who pay the ever-escalating bills are not organized and have no power. Alumni are equally unorganized. Like a company union, UVa’s alumni association is a captive organization that functions as the administration’s alumni-propaganda arm. But the appearance of “Fuck UVA” signs on the Lawn and the decision to contextualize the statue — verbiage to be determined — were the sparks that lit the accumulated detritus that exploded into a forest fire.

It has been evident for some time that university leadership is interested in three things: (1) furthering its social-justice ideology, (2) pursuing institutional prestige in the eyes of other elite, left-leaning institutions, and (3) feathering its own nest. To advance these goals, the university has relentlessly increased tuition and fees, subject only to political pushback from the General Assembly, and has wined, dined, flattered and bamboozled wealthy alumni to bequeath as much of their fortunes as possible.

Bacon’s Rebellion has chronicled this cynical process for more than a decade now. Here are some recent headlines to blog posts we have written (in reverse chronological order), which give a flavor of what has been happening:

UVa Leadership Justifies Contextualizing Jefferson Statue

End Self-Flagellation, Urge UVa Alumni

A Backlash at Last (about the “Fuck UVa” signs on the Lawn)

UVa Task Force Doubles Down on “Anti-Racism”

Look, Over There, a Squirrel (about changing the V-Sabre logo)

Hijacking George Floyd: UVa Edition

The Brewing Revolution in College Admissions

Cultivating the Next Generation of Fragile Weaklings

Despite Five Years of Programs, Campus “Rapes” Surged at UVa in 2018

UVa Gearing Up for Another Hike in Tuition & Fees

Our Little Five Billion (about UVa’s latest fund-raising campaign)

More Race Obsession: “Corks and Curls”

UVa Doubles Down on Its Obsession with Race

More Identity Aggrievement at UVa

UVa as “Unfinished Project” (Jim Ryan’s inaugural address)

(Some of the extended comments on these posts are worth reading in their own right.)

Ryan took office about two years ago. The fixation on race precedes him by many years. The irony is, as much as successive administrations have apologized for the misdeeds of their predecessors and tried to rectify past injustices, there is no sign that race relations are improving. To the contrary, my sense is that African-Americans at UVa feel more victimized, aggrieved and dissatisfied than ever. Now we have reached the point where students (I don’t know if they are minority students are not) are posting “Fuck UVA” signs on their Lawn doors and decrying Thomas Jefferson, in the words of one young woman, as “a degenerate who owned and raped his slaves and then stole this property to build this institution for rich white people with slave labor.”

Of course, the social-justice wars really aren’t about improving race relations, they’re about fomenting discontent. The deeper purpose is to delegitimize the founding institutions of this country and create a revolution. University leaders like Jim Ryan are caught between the social-justice rhetoric they believe in and the very obvious fact that they are the stewards of a bloated, bureaucratic, and costly structure from which they personally benefit and which, through its excessive charges, aggravates the very inequality and social injustice they see in everyone but themselves.

The great challenge of blacklashing alumni is not simply to resist the excesses of the current administration, which risks positioning them as rich, fuddy-duddy reactionaries, but to articulate what kind of vision UVa should embrace in place of social-justice leftism. What does a forward-looking flagship state university look like? How should UVa balance the competing demands of inclusion, affordability, and academic excellence? Bacon’s Rebellion will explore those issues in the months to come.

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56 responses to “Alumni to UVa: Enough Is Enough

  1. Baconator with extra cheese

    I think it’s simple for alumni. If the institution doesn’t meet your morals or ethics don’t give them time or money.
    For example: I used to give time and money to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. They decided to wholesale hold up Black Lives Matter so I have stopped giving time or money. If CBF would have said ” we support our black friends and families during these trying times”, or something similar, I would have supported that. But instead, without context, began “chanting” Black Lives Matter which is a political movement at it’s core, which I don’t support. CBF can support anything they want, they just won’t get anymore of my time or money.
    It’s as easy as don’t give money or time to any group that supports something you don’t support.

  2. I don’t perceive the BOV to be a wild-eyed group of radical left zealots.

    But perhaps I’m wrong and they really are?

    I would have expected the BOV to not go along with what is being characterized as the radical left and if they felt UVA was going in a radical left direction – they’d replace Ryan like they did Sullivan.

    Is there any opposition on the BOV? Are the votes split? Are there descenting views?

    What percentage of ALL the alumni are strongly opposed to what UVA is doing now?

    How many parents now refuse to pay their kids tuition to UVA because of this? There has to be some, I would think.

    I just don’t see much opposition from the BOV, students, parents and even the alumni save for this small group.

    UVA leadership thinks they are doing the right thing. Would they be doing that if they thought it would cause students to not attend and go elsewhere? They’re all about full enrollment from people willing to pay top dollar over other “brands”.

    • I see the BOV as largely a cocktail party among highbrow appointees. The last time the BOV tried to take the kind of concrete action that one would expect of a well run Board of Directors they were cut off at the knees by none other than Bob McDonnell. McDonnell knew that appointments to BOVs are meant as thank you notes to political donors and not meant to be a legitimate part of governance.

      I know some of the BOV members. I’d be happy to read their perspectives on this blog or elsewhere. However, until some of the BS going on at UVA stops I’m going to assume that the BOV is not an effective governance organization.

      UVA leadership runs largely un-managed and un-checked over at the old Academical Village. The BOV rubber stamps the leadership and the General Assembly washes its hands of a multi-billion dollar state asset.

  3. No more compromises. End contextualism. The left keeps moving the goal posts. They will never be satisfied. Look at all the ground that has been given up so far. A compromise is a defensive posture.

    “The logical end to defensive warfare is surrender.” Napoleon

    • Unless Jefferson was drunk or a fool when he penned all men are equal as a self-evident truth, then some contexualization of something is in order someplace.

      Then, there is Massada. Jonestown by any other name.

      • Jefferson has been portrayed in a lot of K-12 history as a hero not a flawed human that he was. Many textbooks also portrayed slaves as “happy”. Those textbooks were the very definition of revisionist history!

        What “context” really is – is tellilng the whole truth and not hiding some of it.

        And , now, today when we tell the truth about Jefferson and Washington, it spaws outrage and cries of “revisionist history”.

        i.e. – Jefferson abhored slavery but he had a slave mistress?

        Washington set his slave free when he died – nope – he gave all but one of them to Martha who was supposed to set them free when she died.

        When we do these things – and we admit African Americans into institutions that still don’t present the whole truth – that they know and/or will find out?

        I just don’t see a “range” to providing context. Just the truth.
        It’s wrong to tell the truth?

        • Uh, Larry, I was there. The only thing Jefferson lacked in the teaching of Virginia History from 1776 to 1976 was a phone booth into which to dash.

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          Mr. Larry all that is taught in public schools now is that Jefferson was a slave owner, did mean things to Sally, and this is more important than anything written on his tombstone. It has been this way for a number of years now.

          • Correct James. But we still have schools and highways and military bases and Universities that depict slaveowners as “heroes”.

            Should we continue to do that? Is it wrong to address that also?

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            No more Mr. Larry. I have had it up to my eardrums with this nonsense. Who are your heroes Mr. Larry? Name them. I am certain I can apply the ideology of the left to cast your heroes down the slippery slope as well.

          • All of my heroes are real people most of whom who have flaws. I gave up heroes a long time ago. It was not hard. John F Kennedy lack morals, .. and it looked like Eisenhower had issues also. Hoover was a racist as was the guy who did Mount Rushmore. On and on.

            I do not feel that these flaws “cancel” them – at all , but it’s just a lie to be in denial about it.

            Actually – when we accept these realities, we KNOW that ordinary people can and do make extroidnary contributions and our Country can and does go foward without the need for “heroes”.

            That’s what our country is really about for me.

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            I can’t resist Mr. Larry. Cancelling JFK for his zipper. Ike for not sticking up for George Marshall when McCarthy came knocking. Ahhh that feels better now.

          • Well no James. I don’t cancel any of them for their flaws if they made other contributions. I just accept it as a reality about humans. Very , very few, if any of our Presidents were without flaws.

            Further, even folks like Hitler and Pol Pot , etc… still will always live in history – never “cancelled”, – we just don’t memorialize them and we certainly don’t consider them “heroes”.

            We are not “cancellilng” people that we no longer memorialize.

            Everything about them is still codified forever in history.

            What we cannot do is force all people/everyone to continue to hold Rober E Lee in high esteem. (for example).

            That’s the issue. Your heroes are not mine necessarily and I no more want to see your heroes in public spaces than you might want to see mine especially if I admire Hitler or Jefferson Davis, etc..

            Public display of “heroes” is never guaranteed. They literally have to stand the test of time and we happen to be living in a time – where a bunch of folks are telling us that our heroes are not theirs – and really – never were… they just had to put up with them because we controlled.

            Surely you can see that we cannot force these things on others by claiming the public squares and Universities belong to us and not them?

            If I said anything that rubs you the wrong way – I apologize.

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            No one is forcing you to hold R.E. Lee in high esteem Mr. Larry. So by your argument I can call for the auction of the Bill Clinton Birthplace National Historic Monument in Hope, Arkansas. I have found his conduct offensive and unbearable. I can probably get a million signatures on a petition to support this. Since Clinton is offensive we should not have a publicly owned national monument to his birth.

            You didn’t offend me Mr. Larry. I would be the first guy to pull over on I 95 and help you change your busted tired. I do understand your point of view. I just don’t agree with it. I don’t like the slippery slope it is not a level playing field for an honest debate. I like Jefferson. I am going to stick up for him.

          • Hey James, If Clinton had a statue in a lot of towns, I’d sign that petition also.

            POTUS are allowed to have a place for their stuff after they retire and even after they were philanderers and no one is forced to go there.

            That’s different than plastering his likeness all over creation where a lot of folks go in their everyday life.

            If you were a descendent of a slave, or Jim Crow victims, isn’t it understandable they don’t see these symbols as “heroes”?

            African Americans have asked for decades for some consideration and they finally realized that it was never going to happen unless they took matters into their own hands more than 100 years after.

            I think we have to listen to them and now, the folks who do want to listen to them are castigated as “woke” which I have to tell you reminds me a LOT of the type of talk I heard from some folks when desegregation was ordered. IF you were white and you supported desegregation the other white had a name for you.

        • “Washington set his slave free when he died – nope – he gave all but one of them to Martha who was supposed to set them free when she died.”

          No. Washington did stipulate in his will that his slaves (he did not control the fate of Martha’s dower slaves from her first marriage) be freed upon Martha’s death. She could free them while she was alive, which she did about a year before she died. She could not have controlled their fate by selling them or through her estate when she died.

          • ” Washington’s slaves were the subjects of the longest provisions in the 29-page will, taking three pages in which his instructions were more forceful than in the rest of the document. His valet, William Lee, was freed immediately and his remaining 123 slaves were to be emancipated on the death of Martha.[277][278]”


            277 – Wiencek 2003 p. 5
            278 – Morgan 2005 p. 404

            ” Washington’s “domestics” were enslaved workers. And though he promised in his will to free all of his workers when he died, only one of them immediately went free and nearly half of the enslaved people at Mount Vernon remained in bondage for decades. The reason why has to do with law, marriage and a family that disagreed with their patriarch’s evolving views on slavery.”


            I think – at the very least – we see conflicting accounts but the two I have provided seem to be authoritative, i.e. they provide supporting references.

          • The article is incorrect on the Will’s provisions, as you can readily see below, and it is unfair of them to cite that slaves that he did not control were not freed by his Will. Since it is a Last Will and Testament, you can read it as part of the public record. The only point you were correct on was he immediately freed William Lee. Everything else you said was wrong. The Will lays out his reasoning:

            Upon the decease ⟨of⟩ my wife, it is my Will & desire th⟨at⟩ all the Slaves which I hold in ⟨my⟩ own right, shall receive their free⟨dom⟩. To emancipate them during ⟨her⟩ life, would, tho’ earnestly wish⟨ed by⟩ me, be attended with such insu⟨pera⟩ble difficulties on account of thei⟨r interm⟩ixture by Marriages with the ⟨dow⟩er Negroes, as to excite the most pa⟨in⟩ful sensations, if not disagreeabl⟨e c⟩onsequences from the latter, while ⟨both⟩ descriptions are in the occupancy ⟨of⟩ the same Proprietor; it not being ⟨in⟩ my power, under the tenure by which ⟨th⟩e Dower Negroes are held, to man⟨umi⟩t them. And whereas among ⟨thos⟩e who will recieve freedom ac⟨cor⟩ding to this devise, there may b⟨e so⟩me, who from old age or bodily infi⟨rm⟩ities, and others who on account of ⟨the⟩ir infancy, that will be unable to ⟨su⟩pport themselves; it is m⟨y Will and de⟩sire that all who ⟨come under the first⟩ & second descrip⟨tion shall be comfor⟩tably cloathed & ⟨fed by my heirs while⟩ they live; and that such of the latter description as have no parents living, or if living are unable, or unwilling to provide for them, shall be bound by the Court until they shall arrive at the ag⟨e⟩ of twenty five years; and in cases where no record can be produced, whereby their ages can be ascertained, the judgment of the Court, upon its own view of the subject, shall be adequate and final. The Negros thus bound, are (by their Masters or Mistresses) to be taught to read & write; and to be brought up to some useful occupation, agreeably to the Laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, providing for the support of Orphan and other poor Children. and I do hereby expressly forbid the Sale, or transportation out of the said Commonwealth, of any Slave I may die possessed of, under any pretence whatsoever. And I do moreover most pointedly, and most solemnly enjoin it upon my Executors hereafter named, or the Survivors of them, to see that th⟨is cla⟩use respecting Slaves, and every part thereof be religiously fulfilled at the Epoch at which it is directed to take place; without evasion, neglect or delay, after the Crops which may then be on the ground are harvested, particularly as it respects the aged and infirm; seeing that a regular and permanent fund be established for their support so long as there are subjects requiring it; not trusting to the ⟨u⟩ncertain provision to be made by individuals.

            Martha Washington’s family did not free the dower slaves, as Washington had wished. Marriages between slaves were not recognized by Virginia at that time, but Washington did recognized and record the marriages.

          • The Wiki article and references also wrong?

            ” Washington’s slaves were the subjects of the longest provisions in the 29-page will, taking three pages in which his instructions were more forceful than in the rest of the document. His valet, William Lee, was freed immediately and his remaining 123 slaves were to be emancipated on the death of Martha.[277][278] The deferral was intended to postpone the pain of separation that would occur when his slaves were freed but their spouses among the dower slaves remained in bondage, a situation which affected 20 couples and their children. It is possible Washington hoped Martha and her heirs who would inherit the dower slaves would solve this problem by following his example and emancipating them.[279][280][75] ⟩”

            so when he died he did not release them – he said that they would be free when his wife died.

            Clearly , he did not release them.

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            One of the great ironies of the Mount Vernon Custis estate slaves. The grandson George Washington Parke Custis (adopted by George/Martha) inherited the bulk of Martha Washington’s slaves. Upon GWP Custis death, his son in law, Robert E. Lee set in motion the legal procedures to execute the will and manumit the slaves of Arlington. Many of the slaves of Arlington were the descendants of the slaves of George and Martha’s Mt. Vernon. Despite the Civil War and Arlington under Federal occupation, Lee completed the will 11 days prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. Thus in a sense, Lee completed what Washington could not. Attached is list of the slaves personally owned by Washington and those owned by Martha (my first cousin 8 times removed).

          • “He gave all but one of them to Martha who was supposed to set them free when she died.”

            Again, his will clearly freed the slaves upon his wife’s death. So you saying she was “supposed to set them free when she died” suggests 1) that she had the power to keep them enslaved when she died, which she did not, and 2) that they were possibly not freed, when in fact they were freed a little over a year after George Washington’s death.

            The History article you cite misleadingly says “nearly half of the enslaved people at Mount Vernon remained in bondage for decades”. Washington’s will freed all of the slaves he owned within a year of his death. He did not own the other dower slaves at Mount Vernon.

  4. Jim –

    Your decision to continue discussion of these issues in a series of additional posts is an excellent one. Your decision to launch that series against the background of many prior posts and comments as they are listed and linked into your post here is also a fine idea.

    The background information in those prior posts will inform and put into greater context future posts on the same subject. This helps to cure a long time flaw in the Bacon’s Rebellion format that otherwise tended to require readers and commenters to “reinvent the wheel” on issues that had earlier been extensively and very profitable discussed on the blog. I am constantly amazed at the past quality of many of these earlier discussions by so many people, however uneven some discussion otherwise may be, on past blogs.

    But, as regards your above list, I find the links provided to several of the posts do NOT include the extensive commentary noted to have occurred after that particular post. If that technical issue is easy to rectify, lets do it. If not, I suspect I might understand why.

    For example at:

  5. What is going on at UVA is going on just about everywhere, to greater or lesser degree. Many (alums/taxpayers/donors) are in full agreement, many are sleeping through it, and the Outrage Brigade represents a minority. Nothing they/we do is likely to reverse the trend, which probably just needs to burn out. Like the virus. Fun to rant and rave, I guess. People are not going to stop sending their kids as long as the perception is that these schools pass out tickets to success.

    • Five years ago a black man was fired for kneeling during the Anthem. God only knows what could have happened had he painted “BLM” on TJ’s statue. It’ll burn out when the old white wood has turned to ash.

      As gramps always said, “Put that in your smipe and poke it.”

    • Wow! What a breath of real air! 😉

      do I dare agree with you lest, the others set upon you ?

      so why does the thunder and lightening continue in BR and mostly directed at the folks who agree with the “outrage” ? Echo chamber?

      Coming from self-avowed “free market” folks, I would expect support for competitive ideas and institutions. Why try to change ones you don’t agree with? Let the market emerge that will serve the wants and needs of those who feel UVA has neglected them.

      I’m serious! Even the guy who runs Amazon has said that some day, his company will be run out of business by more nimble and responsive competitors.

      UVA has morphed into something Conservatives hate with a passion but as Steve said – they are far from unique in Virginia or nationally. This is, as he says, “going around”.

      Thiswill subside. More people will realize it’s gone father than it might should have but the echo chamber dialogue won’t really be listend to by those would might find some common ground.

      This advice is coming from some one who is looking at a morphing SCOTUS not at all to his liking much less the prospect of 4 more years of POTUS. This stuff does happen and all of us have to live with stuff we hate… In the end, if you don’t have the votes , you don’t have the votes.

      Now, I fully expect Mr. Tump, if he wins again to take an even harder run at this – so who knows?

  6. Making up for doing something you did wrong requires some personal contribution. Otherwise, it’s simply hollow posturing, a/k/a virtue signaling.

    If UVA has continued to maintain policies and programs that are truly discriminatory against blacks, shouldn’t the people who maintained these programs be dismissed if the won’t resign? If the administration and teaching staff is not “representative of the state,” shouldn’t a number of them be dismissed and replaced by employees that better reflect Virginia’s demographics? That could include adding conservatives, as well as racial minorities? But I bet the true answer is UVA’s “woke whites” believes UVA and state need “woke whites.” Let some one else pay the freight.

    It’s similar to the WaPo’s editorial board that has been poking at Fairfax County over the admissions process for Thomas Jefferson HS as not producing a student body that is representative of the county’s demographics. But neither is the editorial board representative of the region’s demographics. Dollars to donuts, they’d freak if Bezos said a lottery would be held to pick a revamped editorial board.

    Walk your talk.

  7. What a bunch of cranky old guys! I am not a UVA alumn but I am a UVA parent and do volunteer work with the school. I do not see the outrage over a student displaying the “F” word on the door of her dorm room even if it is on the precious “Lawn.” The word has been around for a long time and over the past 60 years or so has been used more openly than before. I believe that movies made in the 1960s started using it. At the time my parents were shocked. But hey, it is the 21st century and UVA is no longer a mostly white male school where everyone wore a tweed jacket and tie as my cousin did before he graduated from the school in 1966.
    For that matter, I see nothing wrong with providing context about prominent people including Jefferson. When the news about Sally came out, there was indignation by the Tut Tut Squad. I also could never understand what former President Sullivan did that was so wrong, but that’s something for another day.

    • Tweed jacket? I thought they wore blue blazers…

    • That’s easy… cuccinelli, mann, sullivan letter to union of concerned scientists, and… and this is the biggie… retribution!

    • The dorm rooms on the lawn are the property of the university and, therefore, the state. Civil discourse should be mandatory. Criticism can be leveled at the university without the near illiterate public use of hard profanity. Should employees of the DMV be able to hang signs saying “F*** the Virginia DMV” on their counters inside a DMV office? Should state troopers be able to affix magnetic signs that say “F*** the Virginia State Police” onto their patrol cars?

      As for contextualization – I guess I’d like to see what is said first. I find it odd to oppose contextualization without any context.

      • “Should employees of the DMV be able to hang signs saying “F*** the Virginia DMV” on their counters inside a DMV office?”

        Been to a DMV lately? The Covid has only made it easier for those folks to live down to their reputation. Now they are rude by appointment only.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      We haven’t seen an article from you in a good while Mr. Peter. Plenty of material here.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I know what I am getting you for XMAS Mr. Peter. I am going to get the old cranky guys to autograph it too!

  8. “If UVA has continued to maintain policies and programs that are truly discriminatory against blacks, shouldn’t the people who maintained these programs be dismissed if the won’t resign?”

    Exactly. “Institutional racism” is only possible when the individuals who control the institution practice racism.

  9. In terms of paying for past discrimination or confusing it for structural racism.

    Colleges have participated for decades in doing what society did – like using slaves to build their buildings or not allowing blacks to be admitted, erecting statues and memorials to slave owners, naming buildings for those who advocated slavery, etc,

    that’s not the same descrimination now occurring.

    The question is what to do with all the trappings of white culture in the colleges. It is like a Muslim or Jew showing up at a private Catholic University. Public universities are supposed to be color and culture neutral and when they are not – prospective students of color do notice.

    UVA – and, in reality, hundreds of Universities around the country have shown courage in admitting that they have been complciit in past practices and want to address those things that affect people of color in negative ways.

    Why that causes outrage on the right is inexplicable. Why they want to portray it as active discrimination that should be punished is not surprising. It really says who they are.

  10. Only in Western nations, but mainly the US, is the nations institutions reflecting the influence of its traditionally largest racial and religious groups (white Christians) racist. Tell me again how Arab Muslim nations celebrate minority non Arabs non Muslims in their government or public institutions and apologize for their Arab Muslim trappings of culture. I suppose if you go to Africa it would be unexpected to see their universities reflect the trappings of Black African culture. The same in China, India, or anywhere else. Dang racists!

    • It’s racist anywhere it happens. We tell the rest of the world that we are different and all men are created equal .. Turns out we are little better, eh?

  11. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Slippery slope sure is fun. When does the ride end? Wonder what happens when UVA grads go to the workforce and contextualize everything on the job?

  12. Does the curriculum include William Ellison, one of the most successful free blacks in South Carolina and a former slave? Trouble is he also became a slaveowner.

  13. The ghost of TJ may be regretting his founding UVA. It’s just following the crowd of universities that are dishonoring their reason for being. As for contextualizing, the University could simply say visit Monticello.

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