Category Archives: Civil Rights, Individual Liberties

UVA Grad Students Urge Withholding of Year-End Grades

From UCWVA Instagram post

From UCWVA Instagram post

by James A. Bacon

The United Campus Workers of Virginia (UCWVA) at the University of Virginia has launched a campaign urging faculty and graduate students to withhold grades until the Ryan administration capitulates to its demands of amnesty for people arrested during the May 4 crackdown on the pro-Palestinian “liberation zone.”

“UVA exec admin stood by while state police cracked down on a peaceful gathering,” says the UVA chapter. “If you disagree with the repression of campus protest, join your colleagues in this immediate action to demand amnesty!”

The Jefferson Council has not yet been able to determine the degree to which the grade-repression movement has gained traction. However, UCWVA claims on Instagram that Provost Ian Baucom “is sending scared emails.”

“Punishing students by withholding their grades to pressure the Ryan administration is reckless, irresponsible, and grounds for immediate dismissal,” said Tom Neale, president of The Jefferson Council.

Neale urged students, faculty, and parents to notify him at tom74@comcast.net if they know of any classes where semester grades are being withheld. Send him the names of professors and graduate students and the classes they teach. He will make sure the Administration and the Board of Visitors are made aware. Continue reading

Governor Leaves Consistency and Principle Behind

Playing a “skills game”. Photo credit: Virginian Pilot

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

With his proposed amendments to legislation regulating “games of skill,” Gov. Youngkin has demonstrated deep inconsistencies, if not outright hypocrisy.

Before getting into the specifics, a little background is needed.

“Games of skill” are machines on which people can play and win money. The proponents of the machines claim that some element of skill is needed to win. The opponents claim that the machines are not that different from slot machines, in which pure luck is involved. Not having played any “games of skill,” I am not going to offer any judgment on this argument.

Skill games are present in many, if not most, convenience stores, truck stops, and even some sit-down restaurants, such as the Kelly’s Tavern franchise in Virginia Beach. The machines themselves are owned by large corporations, mostly from out of state. The owners of the venues receive an agreed-upon share of the revenue generated by the machines. The revenue can be significant and many of the businesses have come to depend on it. Continue reading

Eclipsing Speech in RVA

Richmond City Hall

by Jon Baliles 

Last month, City Council applied a few new stringent guardrails to public comment at Council meetings by altering their Rules of Procedure under the guise of “streamlining” meetings.

Now, I am all for free speech, but I also understand that people showing up to Council meetings to push for a ceasefire, fight world hunger, or colonize Mars (i.e., things Council can’t do anything about) takes up valuable time on issues that Council should be addressing (or trying to address). City Council is granted specific powers, and resolving world issues is (thankfully) not one of them. The business of local government is local and decidedly unsexy: trash pickup, potholes, schools, housing, public safety, transit, development, etc.

Council used to limit each public comment session at each meeting to eight speakers who sign up beforehand with the City Clerk with a brief description of their topic and are each given three minutes to speak. The new rules do not apply to people speaking to issues on the Consent Agenda or Regular Agenda or budget meetings; but lately, almost all of these eight Public Comment slots have been taken by people calling for or against issuing an official resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza, even though Council has not discussed any such resolution. Continue reading

Jewish Parents Decry Double Standards at UVA

by James A. Bacon

A half year after Hamas terrorists assaulted Israel, hostility at the University of Virginia toward Israel and Jews is unrelenting, according to parents of Jewish students there. In collaboration with other parents, Julie Pearl complained in a letter Tuesday to Rector Robert Hardie that a “blatant double standard against Jewish students persists at UVA.”

Pearl’s letter was prompted in part by the administration’s response to a recent incident in which a truck with digital billboards rolled through the University displaying messages critical of Hardie. One screen said, “Rector Robert Hardie won’t confront antisemitism” while another said Hardie is “unfit to lead U.Va.” The administration’s reaction was to criticize the slogans and investigate who was behind the stunt, Pearl said.

“How does the billboard incident directed at you merit outrage, an immediate statement of condemnation, and investigative action … while the ongoing harassment and intimidation faced by Jewish students receive no such response?” she asked. Continue reading

VCU Wins Free Speech “Green Light” Rating

Photo credit: Babs Reh, Flickr

by James A. Bacon

Congratulations to Virginia Commonwealth University for winning a “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) after making conscientious efforts to improve its formal free-speech policies. VCU is now one of five universities in Virginia and only 64 nationwide with the designation.

Since 2018, VCU revised several policies governing dorm room decorations, computer use, student conduct, sexual harassment, and reservation and use of campus spaces. But VCU’s sex-based misconduct policy remained a problem, according to FIRE.

“VCU’s old policy included a laundry list of behaviors, such as mocking and name-calling, that the school might have classified — and therefore made punishable — as sexual harassment. It was both overbroad and vague,” said FIRE in a statement.

“A single insult or joke does not qualify as sexual harassment,” explained Laura Beltz, FIRE director of policy reform. “It has to actually be a part of a pattern of conduct that meets that definition of harassment before being punishable. But that was not made clear under the old policy. For all students knew, they were always one strike away from getting in deep trouble on account of something they said.” Continue reading

RVA HISTORY: Schools Are for Learning

by Jon Baliles

The effort to save the old Richmond Community Hospital (RCH) from Virginia Union’s wrecking ball raises an interesting debate about recognizing history, remembering history, and benefitting by learning from history. Especially when one program is established that then becomes part of a bigger effort and very especially when it is used to overcome something as insidious as segregation. It is also an example of why saving monuments to black history is so important instead of sacrificing them for a revenue stream from 200 apartments.

This story, in a roundabout way, ties in with the opportunity Virginia Union has to create and model a historic preservation program like the successful program at Tuskegee University in Alabama — which is the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to have such a program. Doing something like that at VUU centered around the RCH as a starting point and building block could have an incalculable impact for generations of students to come.

The architecture program created at Tuskegee in 1893 (which led to the historic preservation program) was so lasting and impactful it quickly became a main contributor in educating almost 700,000 black children across the south for decades in what were known as The Rosenwald Schools. Continue reading

UVA Leadership Squelches Debate About University’s Antisemitism Problem

Provost Ian Baucom and Academic & Student Affairs Chair Elizabeth Cranwell: Antisemitism issues best addressed “in another setting.”

by James A. Bacon

During the University of Virginia Board of Visitors meeting Thursday, Provost Ian Baucom briefed board members on what the administration was doing to defuse tensions in the UVA community between Jews and the vocal pro-Palestinian faction over the Israel-Gaza war.

He mentioned “sustained academic programming” to illuminate sources of the decades-long conflict. He took note of the mental health services provided those experiencing mental anguish. He assured the Board that the University was working to bring opposing parties together in dialogue and to understand “the reality of Jewish, Muslim and other religious minorities.” UVA, he said, was committed to “deep engagement” and “freedom of expression.”

The Provost reiterated the administration’s support for free speech. UVA, he said, was a place where “people are free to disagree” but where “everyone belongs.” “We need to listen to people we disagree with,” he added, and concluded by thanking the Board for its “help and wisdom.”

But when board members began addressing the hostile environment for Jewish students at UVA, there was no sign that the Provost, President Jim Ryan, or Rector Robert Hardie were interested in “listening” to anyone who disagreed with them, much less in “engaging” with them on the most contentious issue to afflict the University in recent years. Continue reading

Common Sense from Young Delegate Earley

Del. Mark Earley Jr.

by Gordon C. Morse

Occasionally, a member of the House of Delegates will stand up, speak to a matter of public interest and do so coherently. 

Del. Mark L. Earley Jr., R-Chesterfield, achieved this feat on Friday afternoon, Feb. 23, 2024, when he offered his thoughts on state Sen. Bill 212 — legislation that would sanction skill games, described by the Richmond Times-Dispatch as “electronic slot machine-like devices the General Assembly tried to ban in 2020.” 

While the measure cleared the House of Delegates on a 57-38 vote, Del. Earley spoke to a broader concern:  

Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House, I don’t want to take a lot of your time today. I know it’s Friday. But I just feel compelled to comment on this briefly. 

As we all know, in the last few years, really about a five-year time frame, we’ve have had a serious expansion, in a very short amount of time, in gaming and gambling here in Virginia. At this point, we got the lottery, we got casinos, we got sports betting, we got all sorts of things.

And now we have these gray games, skill games, whatever you want to call them, that have really sort of come here imposed upon us in a certain way, and now we’re dealing with it. 

Now,  don’t get me wrong, I certainly understand the arguments about how small business can potentially benefit from this, and I appreciate that. I am very sympathetic to it. 

But I do think that we have a different obligation, and perhaps a higher obligation, to consider what this means for our neighborhoods and our families. 

I’m concerned about turning every neighborhood store and every gas station into a mini casino.  Continue reading

The Speaker Rules

Del. Don Scott (D-Portsmouth), Speaker of the House of Delegates Picture credit: Axios

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates is widely regarded as the second-most powerful figure, after the Governor, in Virginia state government. Speaker Don Scott (D-Portsmouth), elevated to the position this session after only two terms in the House, has let the power go to his head. Rather than acting like the presiding officer of the whole House, he is behaving like a partisan dictator.

Two events, perhaps related, earlier this week illustrate this attitude.

To help with the understanding of these events, it would be best to state some of the ground rules:

  • The Speaker appoints delegates to committees;
  • The Speaker assigns bills to committees;
  • The Speaker chairs the House Rules Committee;
  • The Rules Committee, unlike other committees, can send bills to the Floor without recommendation;
  • House Rules require that no amendment to a bill can be on a subject that is different from the one under consideration. This is known as the “germaneness rule”;
  • The Speaker can rule on questions of parliamentary procedure;
  • The Speaker’s rulings can be challenged. (Invariably, the members of the majority party, the Speaker’s party, will vote to uphold the Speaker’s rulings.);
  • The federal Hyde amendment prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.

Continue reading

RVA HISTORY: Strides of Strength

by Jon Baliles

Richmond unveiled a new sculpture last week on the site of the old Westhampton School (near St. Mary’s Hospital) that marked the desegregation of the West-End school in 1961. The 12-foot piece, entitled “Strides,” marks that day when 12-year old student Daisy Jane Cooper (now Jane Cooper Johnson) arrived as the first African American student following a three-year legal battle that took a U.S. District Court’s intervention. (Photo courtesy of Bon Secours.)

At age 9, Jane was having to travel five miles to get to the segregated Carver Elementary School. In 1958, civil rights attorney Oliver Hill submitted an application to the Richmond City School Board on behalf of Jane’s mother to transfer Jane to the all-white Westhampton School. The State Pupil Placement Board rejected the request, which led to the lawsuit that lasted three years and resulted in a groundbreaking victory in 1961. It impacted not only Richmond City schools but other localities as well — and the ruling meant that African-American students no longer required permission from the State Board to attend a white school.

A year after first walking through the doors of Westhampton, Cooper also became the first African-American student to integrate Thomas Jefferson High School in September 1962, after deciding she wanted to go there instead of the all-black Maggie Walker High School. Continue reading

Barbie, Liars, and Newspapers Circling the Drain

by Kerry Dougherty

Warning: I’m a tad grouchy today. You see, I’m a hyperactive gym rat who hasn’t worked out since last Tuesday and has been slowed down by surgery. That happened Wednesday, by the way, when a skilled orthopedic surgeon sawed off part of my leg.

In other words, I’ve had way too much time to brood.

So, I’m starting the week with a litany of irritants that have totally ticked me off.

Number one: I’m sick of feminists protesting that Margot Robbie was cheated out of an Oscar while her male Barbie co-star Ryan Gosling got one.

How many of these same women protested when Riley Gaines was cheated out of her place on a podium by a man, Lia Thomas?

If that’s you, just shut up. No one wants to hear from you.

Plus, I actually watched Barbie on HBO Saturday night.

That may be the worst movie I’ve ever seen. The absolute worst. Worse even than Oppenheimer which was a total yawn, although many people pretend they liked it because it’s about a smart guy and lasted three hours. They think raving about this bore makes them appear intelligent.

It doesn’t. Continue reading

Right to Life March Falls on Deaf Ears as Dobbs Makes Abortion Issue More Difficult for Republicans

by Ken Reid

The 50th annual pro-life march took place in DC January 19; it has been held every year since 1974, the year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, that women had a constitutional protection for abortion, and thus negated 50 state laws regulating the procedure.

It was cold and snowing, but thousands of committee pro-lifers showed up; could have been 100,000. I was not there, but the media coverage was quite limited.

You would think the pro-life movement won with the June 2022 “Dobbs” Decision, which overturned Roe and put the regulation of abortion back to each state. But alas and alack, that is not the case.

Abortion, as I wrote after “Dobbs,” still continues but is down in numbers since 1991 due to the advent of better ultrasound, home pregnancy tests and public education about unwanted pregnancies. There are no back-alley coat-hanger abortions, as the histrionic pro-abortion forces predicted, and if anything, prolife forces seeking six-week bans and the like are being flustered by the political process.  

The abortion drug, Mifeprex, was approved in 2000 and now comprises a majority of all abortions in the U.S. – only for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. A pending Supreme Court case may determine if the drug stays on the market or will be subject to state review  – thus negating the Constitution’s “commerce clause” and federal pre-emption, and creating more havoc in this nation. 

I don’t expect that to happen. Some 626,000 abortions occurred in 2021, the most recent year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has numbers 

Anti- abortion groups continue to press their cases with state legislatures for. restrictions and some want a national ban by Congress, which is counter to “Dobbs” and has no chance of passage. Continue reading

An American Opportunity Story, from Missouri to Virginia

by Dan Stoddard

Though some of today’s political leaders and commentators may try to tell us that the American Dream is dead – or was always a myth – they are wrong.  America is still the Land of Opportunity.  Throughout the country there are countless examples of women and men of humble beginnings who have achieved a degree of success and contribution they could hardly have dreamed of as children. I know because I have seen them, I have met them, and (in a small measure) I am one of them. I write this because I want to share with young people and their parents what I believe are keys to that success – keys that for them will unlock those same opportunities for a happy, successful, and fulfilling life in this great country of ours.

There is nothing particularly special about me – and that is exactly the point.  I have no unique, innate talent (that fifteen-inch vertical leap cut short my hopes of pro basketball career at a very early age). Despite that fact, my life has taken me from a small home in rural Missouri, to becoming a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company here in Virginia. Along the way I’ve travelled to multiple countries; shaken the hands of congressmen, senators, governors, and at least one vice-president; and had the opportunity to serve my country in the United States Navy. I have also been blessed with the ability and the means to serve and contribute to numerous charitable and social welfare organizations over the years.

So how did a young man who grew up in a mobile home, far out in the country, whose father never finished high school because he left to join the Navy and fight in World War II, and whose mother raised him after having lost a leg in an automobile accident at a young age, have so many opportunities? Application of a simple formula – one that is available to young people of all backgrounds: getting an education, having a thirst for knowledge, accepting that risks and challenges are a part of life and that setbacks are not signs to give up, but opportunities to learn and grow, and a lot of good old-fashioned hard work. Those things, along with integrity, respect for others, strong faith, and love of family and of country, are the quintessential American Values – ones that any young person can and should embrace. Continue reading

Covid vs. Religious Freedom at UVA

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia has paid more than $1.8 million in legal fees fighting a lawsuit filed by UVA Health employees who were fired, despite religious objections, for refusing to take the Covid vaccine. And that’s just through November. Given the continuing litigation, billing has likely passed the $2 million mark.

Eleven former employees filed a lawsuit a year ago, claiming that the $3 billion-a-year-in-revenues health system arbitrarily declined to grant them religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate.

Hunton Andrews Kurth is the lead law firm for UVA, charging between $600 and $900 per hour for legal services and racking up $1.52 million in charges through November, according to documents The Jefferson Council has acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. Eckert Seamons has charged $240,000, and IslerDare $70,000. Continue reading

U.S. Constitution Calling Jason Miyares . . .

by Jock Yellott

Affirmative action is unconstitutional, said the U .S. Supreme Court last June.

But we’ll keep doing it until somebody tells us not to, says Virginia’s Department of Transportation. In some quarters, it seems we’re seeing Massive Resistance to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

An especially absurd, and ongoing, affirmative action boondoggle called the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program magnifies the cost of Virginia roadbuilding … and causes minority lay-offs. Yes: it’s hurting the minorities it is supposed to help.

Recently, a Charlottesville small business won a city contract to build a bike path. But the Virginia Department of Transportation told the City: deny them the contract. Not enough “good faith effort” to go find minority subcontractors, they opined.

Losing the contract means laying off the small business’s employees. Nearly half of whom are minorities. Continue reading