Author Archives: James A. Bacon

Bacon Meme of the Week

Lords of the Lie

by James A. Bacon

I never imagined it possible to exceed the vitriol heaped upon University of Virginia board member Bert Ellis over the past few months. I thought for sure that the nastiness would die down. I was naive. Yesterday the Democratic Party of Virginia labeled him a “eugenicist” — an advocate of the philosophy of sterilizing the genetically unfit. The philosophy was adopted by racists to purge the gene pool of Jews, Blacks, Roma and other groups deemed undesirable. In so doing, the attack groups Ellis with the worst racists of history.

The charge appears in a press release lambasting Governor Glenn Youngkin’s education policy, primarily in K-12 education. While most of the criticisms were tendentious and wrong-headed, at least they were directed toward Youngkin’s policies and actions. But in Ellis’ case, the Democratic Party of Virginia engaged in a vicious personal attack with zero factual foundation. Indeed, the DPV elevated previous libels of Ellis as a “White supremacist” to new heights of malice.

Here is what the press release says.

Appointment of a Eugenicist to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors Continue reading

Virginians Ship Another 22 Ambulances to Ukraine

Departing from Harrisonburg, a convoy of 22 ambulances arrived at the Port of Baltimore this morning and boarded a cargo ship bound for Ukraine. In total now, non-profit Ukraine Focus, founded by former USAID official Brock Bierman, has shipped 112 of the life-saving vehicles to Ukrainian medics on the frontlines of Russia’s aggression.

Ukraine Focus estimates that each ambulance will save the lives of up to 200 soldiers per month. (Due to Russian targeting and theft of ambulances on the battlefield, however, the average lifespan of an ambulance in Ukraine these days is only 30 to 60 days.)

Find out more about Ukraine Focus here.

— JAB

“Anti-Racism” in Action: Fairfax Schools Edition

by James A. Bacon

Do you have an 8th grader who wants to go to college? Does he or she fall into one of several marginalized groups, including Black or Hispanic racial/ethnic identity? If so, Fairfax County has a special College Partnership Program to help.

Although the program apparently allows Whites and Asian students to participate if they qualify as an English learner, first-in-family to attend college, economically disadvantaged, or having a learning disability, only Blacks and Hispanics are entitled on the basis of their race to participate.

Enterprising journalist/crusader Asra Nomani has the story here. Nomani engages in slight overreach by stating that Asian-American students are “excluded.” But the Fairfax County criteria are clearly racist. Blacks and Hispanics are granted a race-based privilege not given Whites and Asians. Continue reading

Empty Gesture? UVa Board Endorses Diversity of Thought.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors did more than endorse free speech on university campuses Friday when it voted to adopt a Council of Presidents statement on free speech: it endorsed the principle of viewpoint diversity.

In 2021 the Board had embraced a 2021 statement on free speech by a commission appointed by President James Ryan. But that statement alluded only vaguely to the value of “exposure to a range of ideas.” If the ideas discussed at UVa consisted only of different strains of leftism, the declaration on free speech wouldn’t amount to much.

The statement of the Council of Presidents, which was crafted at the request of Governor Glenn Youngkin, made it clear that the exercise of free speech and the diversity of ideas are intertwined, and it implied that a wide range of ideas should be encouraged. [My emphasis added below.]

As presidents of Virginia’s public colleges and universities, we unequivocally support free expression and viewpoint diversity on our campuses. Free expression is the fundamental basis for both academic freedom and for effective teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom. Our member universities and colleges are bound to uphold the First Amendment. We are committed to promoting this constitutional freedom through robust statements and policies that are formulated through shared governance processes and through actions that reflect and reinforce this core foundation of education. We value a scholarly environment that is supported by a diversity of research and intellectual perspectives among our faculty and staff. We pledge to promote and uphold inclusivity, academic freedom, free expression, and an environment that promotes civil discourse across differences. We will protect these principles when others seek to restrict them.

Ryan told the board that he wants the Council of Presidents statement to “inform what we do at UVa.”

The challenge for Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom will be implementing those principles in an institution marked by a left/right ideological imbalance of roughly ten-to-one; in which a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion bureaucracy suffuses university policies with a leftist understanding of “equity” and requires employees to express their views of DEI in “diversity statements”; and in which many students and the faculty self-censor for fear of igniting a social media storm, sparking social ostracism, or suffering administrative punishment. Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

From The Bull Elephant

Bacon Meme of the Day

Ceaser Crosses the Rubicon, Refuses to Give DEI Loyalty Oath

Jim Ceaser

by James A. Bacon

Jim Ceaser runs the Program for Constitutionalism and Democracy at the University of Virginia, which provides civic education on American ideas in politics and political economy. The courses are unusual these days in surveying the thought of mostly dead White men: from Aristotle and Montesquieu to Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville. The courses are remarkable also in giving equal time – in many instances even more than equal time — to thinkers most people today consider conservative and who, he believes, receive less attention than they merit.

Ceaser is a fully tenured professor, which provides significant protections against being fired. As for the program he directs, which reaches a large number of students, all of the funding comes from private donors and foundations from outside the university. Having started teaching in 1975, he’s reached retirement age.

If not cancel-proof, he is cancel-resistant. That makes it easier for him to refuse to fill out questions in a “peer review evaluation form” that probe his thinking about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

The form requires faculty members to describe their teaching, advising, research and service activities in the previous year. For each of those topics, faculty are told to describe their efforts on behalf of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. For example: Continue reading

School Superintendent Balow a Casualty of the Culture Wars?

Jillian Balow

by James A. Bacon

Jillian Balow, Virginia’s top K-12 school official, has submitted her resignation effective March 9. She gave no reason but appears to depart on good terms with the Youngkin administration.

In a press release, Balow thanked Governor Glenn Youngkin for the opportunity to serve, and pledged her support for the governor’s agenda of “raising standards and promoting excellence and expanding educational choice and opportunities for all students.”

Balow expressed particular satisfaction in the Virginia Literacy Act, which she said will become a model for other states, and the release of “Our Commitment to Virginians,” a roadmap for student success that empowers parents.

She said she and her family had “quickly developed roots in Virginia,” and, despite having family in the West — she had previously served as state school superintendent of Wyoming — “will continue to reside here in the commonwealth for the foreseeable future.” Continue reading

UVa’s Lawn Applications Down… Again. Why?

Photo credit: The University of Virginia

by James A. Bacon

Forty-seven University of Virginia students have been offered a room on the Lawn for the 2023-24 academic year. They were selected from a pool of 152 applicants, reports The Cavalier Daily. The number of applications was down from 189 last year and 221 two years ago.

Why the decline?

There was a time when residence on the Lawn was a coveted honor. Does the fall-off in applications reflect a sentiment among UVa students that life on the Lawn is less of a privilege than it once was? Are students today more likely to find the living conditions — such as the necessity to walk outside to reach a bathroom — too primitive for comfort? Alternatively, do some students believe the Lawn selection is stacked and see no point in applying?

The Cavalier Daily does not ask the question. Those of us who are not part of the selection process are left to speculate.

Here’s a clue: the newspaper article reports the demographic make-up of the Lawn residents. The collection and dissemination of such data reflects upon the priorities of those involved in the selection process. As the old saying goes, you manage what you measure. Continue reading

Norfolk’s Progressive Prosecutor Comes Under Fire

Ramin Fatehi

by James A. Bacon

Excellent reporting by the Virginia Mercury’s Jim Morrison highlights the debate in Norfolk over the rising homicide rate since 2020. In this two-part series (here and here) he describes how the city’s “progressive” Commonwealth Attorney Ramin Fatehi, who campaigned on the premise that structural racism is the root cause of criminality, has become the focus of the controversy.

Fatehi has championed a panoply of policies to combat “explicit and implicit bias, mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the criminalization of poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and substance-use disorder.” In practice that has meant seeking cash bail less often and charging suspects with lesser crimes, often reducing felonies to misdemeanors.

Norfolk’s 2022 homicide total, 63, was the highest the city had seen since the mid-1990s. In 2021, there were 62 murders. From 2012 through 2019, the city suffered between 29 and 43 murders annually.

Fatehi, of course, blames outside factors such as economic insecurity, the flood of guns, and the COVID pandemic. The spike in homicides has occurred in many places, he says, not just in cities with progressive prosecutors.

It is difficult to disentangle the “root causes” of the increase in homicides because the surge coincided with three social/economic tidal waves: the COVID-19 pandemic, the George Floyd protests in 2020, and the economy’s increasingly acute labor shortage in multiple professions including law enforcement. Fatehi did not assume office until January 2022. Continue reading

Explaining the Decline in English Majors

by James A. Bacon

Once upon a time, the University of Virginia was known for the excellence of its English Department — one of the most highly regarded in the country. Perhaps it still is. But you wouldn’t know it from the decline in the number of students earning B.A. and graduate degrees.

The number of degrees awarded has declined by almost half — from 404 in the 1999-2000 academic year to 210 in the 2021-22 year, according data contained in the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia database.

To be sure, the precipitous decline in the number of students studying English at UVa reflects a national phenomenon. “During the past decade, the study of English and history at the collegiate level has fallen by a full third. Humanities enrollment in the United States has declined over all by seventeen per cent,” writes The New Yorker in “The End of the English Major.”

The article explores many potential causes: declining funding for the humanities; the rise of social media and diminishing attention spans; and the surging cost of a college degree and practical decisions by students to master disciplines with a greater financial payoff. Continue reading

Virginia’s New Population Growth Leaders

by James A. Bacon

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the dynamics of population growth in Virginia. For decades Northern Virginia, with Fairfax County at its core, led population growth in Virginia. And in the 2010s, Virginia’s central cities experienced a population renaissance. But the combination of COVID-19 and sky-high real estate prices have pushed growth out to counties on the metropolitan fringe, mainly around Richmond, but also around Fredericksburg, Charlottesville and Winchester, according to University of Virginia demographer Hamilton Lombard.

The fastest growing localities in Virginia between 2020 and 2022 were New Kent, Goochland, and Louisa counties, expanding by 7.5%, 5.6% and 5.4% respectively. Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction, Fairfax County, lost 26,000 residents. Virginia Beach lost 7,700.

Percentagewise, counties in Southside and Southwest Virginia were among the biggest losers. Some counties in those economically depressed regions also continued to experience out-migration, but several managed to buck the trend. A bigger factor was the fact that the populations of these localities are so much older that deaths outnumbered births. 

Writing in the UVa demographic research group blog StatChat, Lombard said it was “unclear” whether the COVID-era trends would continue or reverse themselves. Either way, the population movements between 2020 and 2022 were striking, as the following map shows. Continue reading

Time to Bring Back the Blue Books?

by James A. Bacon

It’s hard to know how much credence to give to trend data extrapolated from online search queries. But if we imbue the findings of software firm Tiny Wow with any significance, one recent search trend is worrisome indeed.

Tiny Wow analyzed Google Trends for the search queries “essay writer,”  “essay ai writer,” and “chatgpt essay.” Among the 50 states, Virginia ranked 6th in the interest Googlers showed in using artificial intelligence essay-writing software.

“According to these findings, there is a clear interest in students looking to AI for essay help in the U.S.,” said a Tiny Wow spokesperson. Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

Jeanine's Memes

From The Bull Elephant.