Category Archives: Culture wars

Keffiyehs, Yarmulkes and “Belonging” at UVA

by James A. Bacon

It’s “Palestinian Liberation Week” at the University of Virginia this week, and the Students for Justice in Palestine have organized loads of activities for antizionists, culminating with a “Die-In for Gaza” Friday.

“Wear your keffiyeh,” urges UVA’s Students for Justice in Palestine on its Instagram page. Keffiyehs are traditional Arab scarfs, which students wear to signal their solidarity with Palestinians seeking to combat “settler colonialism” in Israel.

Meanwhile, Jewish students have stopped wearing yarmulkes, Stars of David or other ornamentation that would identify them as Jews.

What does that dichotomy say about the sense of “belonging” — the holy grail of the Ryan administration — experienced by Arabs and Jews respectively at UVA? 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

VMI Eschews Standards of Excellence, Devalues Diploma

by Joseph D. Elie

As an alumnus living in Florida, I have a dearth of information about what is happening at the Virginia Military Institute on a day-to-day basis.

I see the superficial social media postings from the public relations department, the Superintendent, and the Commandant; but I crave the scuttlebutt that tells the truer story.

The recent editorial, “Class of 25: The Elephant in the Room,” in The Cadet was very enlightening, provided much-needed insight and served, in effect, as a detailed report on the Institute.

The editorial also revealed why the administration didn’t want a student newspaper committing acts of journalism – as it validated my own suspicion that Breakout and the entire Rat Line itself have been rendered much less difficult.

From this year’s Breakout videos, the Rats seemed to merely be going through the motions when compared with videos from past Breakouts. The energy, enthusiasm, and the spirit were gone.

The Cadet editorial outlines how VMI’s core standards have been made less rigorous for the sake of maintaining the enrollment retention rate, particularly with regard to the nature and rigor of the Rat Line.

The Rat Line energizes the entire Corps of Cadets. It is an annual rite of passage that the upper classes have historically zealously preserved.

The Rat Line was once extremely difficult to complete and doing so resulted in justifiable pride and a tremendous boost of self-confidence.

Continue reading

UVA As a “Maze of Predatory Systems”

by James A. Bacon

If you visit the latest exhibit at the University of Virginia’s Ruffin Gallery, “EscapeRoom,” it takes no more than five or ten seconds for the artists’ message to sink in — the amount of time it takes to read the signage at the entrance:

The University of Virginia (UVA) is a site of reckoning. The legacies of slavery and white supremacy reverberate throughout its built environment. EscapeRoom confronts the frameworks of injustice that contemporary audiences inhabit and inherit in relation to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. … EscapeRoom charts critical routes through a maze of predatory systems.

Inside, the exhibits contributed by multiple artists elaborate upon the white-supremacy theme. Five 3D-printed pieces of porcelain, for instance, are described as giving “materiality, scale and dimension to the many ‘tools’ that mediate state violence visited upon Black victims: horses, batons, guns, tear gas, and more.”

A mobile made of steel sheet metal “examines violence visited upon Black people at the hands of the American state. It attends to the paradoxes of Black life and death in this anti-Black world.”

To set foot in the EscapeRoom is to enter a world of victimhood that would have been entirely justified a century or two ago but seems tragically out of date 60 years after the passage of Civil Rights legislation, the enactment of the Great Society’s war on poverty, and the dramatic transformation of attitudes toward race in America — not to mention the implementation of Racial Equity Task Force recommendations at UVA itself that made the exhibit possible in the first place. Continue reading

In Their Own Words: Jefferson, Whiteness, and Dicks in the Sky

Meet Marisa Williamson. The Harvard-educated assistant professor in the University of Virginia art department works in video, image-making, installation and performance art around themes of “history, race, feminism, and technology,” according to her UVA faculty page. Most recently, she co-curated the EscapeRoom exhibition at the Ruffin Gallery, which we highlight in a companion article.

Williamson, who has worked at UVA since 2018, was one of the first faculty members hired under the “Race, Justice and Equity” initiative made possible by grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

She described her approach to art in a 2021 conversation with Tori Cherry, a Charlottesville artist and UVA Grad, hosted by Charlottesville’s New City Arts.

“One of my big goals is to unsettle and to figure out how to haunt, how to keep things moving, how to agitate through these various forms of performance and monument,” Williamson said. Continue reading

The Use and Misuse of a UVA Lecture Series

by James A. Bacon

The “fixation” of modern-day Israelis on the Holocaust has become a “vast and ugly fig leaf” hiding oppression of Palestinians and giving Israelis license to brush aside moral qualms about their response to the October 7 terror attacks, Brown University historian Omer Bartov told an audience of 60 or so people Tuesday at the University of Virginia.

In vowing to “never again” let Jews fall prey to genocidal extermination, Israelis indulge in “self-victimization,” “self pity,” and “self righteousness,” said Bartov, an Israeli-born Jew who has built his academic career around the study of the Holocaust and genocide. “It’s not a condition conducive to understanding, toleration, and reconciliation.”

The lecture, entitled, “The Never Again Syndrome: Uses and Misuses of Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Global Politics,” was one in a series of events billed by UVA leadership as broadening understanding of the Middle East conflict. The lecture series is an outgrowth of the tension between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups at UVA. Jewish students have complained of a hostile environment that leaves them afraid to speak out or even openly identify as Jews. In a parallel initiative, the Ryan administration created a religious diversity task force to understand how Jewish and Muslim students, faculty and staff “experience life on Grounds.” Continue reading

Marriage Promotes ‘White Supremacy,’ George Mason Professor Says

by Jerome Woehrle

“Marriage fundamentalism” promotes “white supremacy,” according to a professor at Virginia’s largest university.

“Marriage fundamentalism, like structural racism, is a key structuring element of White heteropatriarchal supremacy,” wrote George Mason University Professor Bethany Letiecq in the Journal of Marriage and Family. “Marriage fundamentalism can be understood as an ideological and cultural phenomenon, where adherents espouse the superiority of the two-parent married family.”

Letiecq, an official of the American Association of University Professors, says she employs “critical family theorizing … to delineate an overarching orientation to structural oppression and unequal power relations that advantages [white heteropatriarchal nuclear families] and marginalizes others as a function of marriage fundamentalism.”

Letiecq says the government has coerced “its citizens to enter into an institution built upon White heteropatriarchal supremacy.” Letiecq says marriage as an institution has allowed white heterosexual couples “to gain access to benefits, rights, and protections.”

She lives with her partner and their children in what she describes as “a committed heterosexual union outside the institution of marriage.” Letiecq claims that only White heterosexual couples reap the social and financial benefits of marriage subsidized by the government while minority Americans do not gain any such benefits.
Continue reading

War on Fossil Fuels Reaches Court of Appeals

By Steve Haner

A climate alarmism publicity stunt masquerading as serious litigation had a hearing in front of the Virginia Court of Appeals on Monday, seeking to revive its rejected petition to shut down the fossil fuel industry in Virginia. Why? Because some of the plaintiffs suffered from heat exhaustion while exercising on summer days, and two of them got Lyme Disease after tick bites.

The suit was last discussed on Bacon’s Rebellion when it was filed in 2022. Later that year a Richmond City Circuit Court judge accepted the state’s motion to dismiss it on summary judgement, citing the doctrine of sovereign immunity. It was an appeal of that dismissal which was before a panel of the appeals judges, covered only by Brad Kutner of Radio IQ.

The appeals court is being asked to reinstate the case, which is seeking aggressive if poorly defined relief. Basically, the original petition seeks to repeal Virginia’s Gas and Oil Act and reverse long-standing policy decisions in favor of developing energy resources. It seeks to prevent the state regulatory agencies from allowing any new fossil fuel infrastructure of any kind, presumably from pipelines to coal mines to gas stations to power plants.

The stages and pleadings of the Virginia case are documented by a website tracking it and a handful of similar cases around the nation, with the same basic arguments and a common set of lawyers. So far, the plaintiffs have seen some initial success only in Montana and Hawaii. Their federal level suit is being actively opposed by the Biden Department of Justice. Continue reading

San Francisco’s “Algebra for None” Policy and How Virginia Avoided a Similar Fate

by Todd Truitt 

On March 5, 84% of San Francisco voters  voted in favor of a referendum for San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to bring back Algebra for 8th graders, overturning their prior ill-fated math reform (a “no middle schooler let ahead” math policy). What does this vote have to do with Virginia?

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) had initially proposed a similar policy for Virginia as part of its Virginia Math Pathways Initiative (VMPI) in 2021. As noted below, VMPI cited Stanford Education Professor Jo Boaler and resources primarily using SFUSD’s misrepresented preliminary data as “empirical evidence” for VMPI’s similar initial proposal. 

San Francisco’s “Algebra for None” Policy and Its Immediate Effects

SFUSD revised its math program in 2014 based on the ideas of Boaler, requiring heterogeneous math classes and restricting Algebra until 9th grade. By 2018, Boaler and SFUSD were claiming success based upon SFUSD’s preliminary data (subsequently exposed as having been misrepresented).

At the same time, a flood of middle class and well-off families pursued workarounds, thereby creating opportunity gaps with less advantaged kids. As a result, the City of San Francisco (not SFUSD) began funding workarounds for less advantaged kids. Meanwhile, SFUSD’s math head used the tired trope that those who opposed the inequity of its “Algebra for None” policy were only affluent parents fighting for their own children to get ahead. Continue reading

Youngkin and Confederate Heritage

by Donald Smith

Does the Virginia GOP want the help and support of the Confederate heritage community? We should get a pretty good indicator this week.

Three bills just passed by the General Assembly will soon land on Governor Youngkin’s desk, if they haven’t already. They will remove the tax exemptions of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Stonewall Jackson Memorial House in Lexington, and stop further issuance of the General Robert E. Lee and Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates (but not recall existing ones). The governor will have only seven days to sign, veto, or let them become law without his signature.

That is plenty of time. Plenty of time for him to do the right thing, and veto them. 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

Virginia Dems Have Their Panties in a Twist

by Kerry Dougherty

This is what triggers Virginia Democrats today:

There was an exchange at the Virginia Capitol between Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, who presides over the State Senate, and Sen. Danica Roem of Prince William County.

Roem identifies as a woman, although Roem was born a man. The politically correct crowd insists that failing to use feminine pronouns for someone like Roem is “misgendering.” A sin invented by the left.

Roem stormed out of the Senate chamber after Sears addressed her as “sir.” Several other senators with their panties in a twist followed. Eventually Sears apologized.

Sheesh.

Look, my main problem with the trans movement is when children are involved. And the trans movement is actively recruiting kids. It needs to stop.

Beyond that, children shouldn’t be chemically castrated, sterilized with hormone blockers or have their body parts carved up because they’re confused. And no child should be allowed to pretend to be a member of the opposite sex in school without the permission of their parents.

Biological males should be banned from playing sports with biological females and they need to be forbidden to enter traditional girls’ safe spaces such as bathrooms and locker rooms.

That said, adults may do what they want. If a man wants to put on lipstick and wear a dress, fine.

What they cannot do is force the rest of us to play along. Continue reading

New Admissions Policy for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Will Stand

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear the appeal of the Coalition for Thomas Jefferson challenging the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the changes in the admissions policy for the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.  The result is that the changes in the school’s admission policy adopted by the Fairfax County School Board in 2020 will stand.  Justices Thomas and Alito dissented from the decision not to grant certiorari.  (Their dissents begin on page 30 of the linked document.)

This issue has been discussed extensively on this blog.  For some background, see here.

In Their Own Words: Lanice Avery

Editor’s Note: To document the spread of “wokeness” — short-hand to describe the philosophy of intersectional oppression — The Jefferson Council has begun publishing profiles of University of Virginia faculty members in their own words. Not our words. Not our spin. Not our interpretation. Their words. — JAB 

Assistant Professor Lanice Avery has a joint appointment to the departments of Psychology and Women, Gender & Sexuality at the University of Virginia. Her research interests, she says on her university profile page, lie at “the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and media.” In her LinkedIn page, she describes herself as a “board-certified sexologist.” This semester she is teaching one course, on Black feminist theory.

In this post we highlight her work in her own words, both in writing and on video. (We have highlighted key phrases to show how her work conforms to the intersectional-oppression paradigm, commonly referred to as wokeness, that is increasingly prevalent at UVA.) From Avery’s university web profile:

She is interested in Black women’s intersectional identity development and how the negotiation of dominant gender ideologies and gendered racial stereotypes are associated with adverse psychological and sexual health outcomes…. Her work examines how exposure to gendered racism impacts Black women’s psycho-social development, and the contributing role of media (mainstream, digital, and social) use on Black women’s identity, self-esteem, victimization experiences, and mental health outcomes.

Continue reading

Moving the Goalposts (for Banning Books)

by Joe Fitzgerald

Everybody probably already knew what moving the goalposts meant, but with Taylor bringing in a new set of football fans, the sports-related metaphors can probably be used more widely.

Moving the goalposts is of course a reference to changing the standards in the middle of a process. Latest example: the Rockingham County School Board’s half-assed approach to banning books.

We all know the things wrong with their approach. Some of the books aren’t in the library; they haven’t read them; they can’t substantiate their claims of parental complaints; they’ve over-ruled a policy they didn’t know existed; and they’ve interfered in an educational process in which they have no training.

Two writers in The Harrisonburg Citizen have recently suggested that there are two sides to the issue or that the problem is not the book-banning but the way it’s being discussed. Giving the Fahrenheit 451 crowd this benefit of the doubt moves the goalposts toward censorship and religious domination of public discussion. There’s a reason the First Amendment is the first one, and there’s a reason its first clause says the nation won’t give special respect to an establishment of religion. Continue reading