Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion… and Conformity and Indoctrination

Janice Underwood

by James A. Bacon

Almost every public university in Virginia has diversity office dedicated to increasing minority representation — in particular African-American and Hispanic representation — in the student body, faculty and staff. But the Northam administration deems those efforts inadequate. The Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has just published a “Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence” in higher education, part of a broader ONE Virginia plan to advance “visible” diversity, equity and inclusion across state government.

Said Janice Underwood, Virginia’s Chief Diversity Office in a press release announcing the plan: “Using the Inclusive Excellence framework, ONE Virginia will help implement tangible reforms that interrupt long-held systems of structural inequity to create sustainable change, innovation, and productivity across state government, throughout Virginia, and around our country.”

As underscored by Underwood’s quote above, the strategic plan is built on the premise that Virginia’s institutions are systemically racist. The proposed remedy: Impose a politically correct regime on Virginia’s decentralized institutions that puts into place a machinery for indoctrinating faculty, staff and students and suppressing non-conforming views. Continue reading

UVa’s COVID Commissars

Woohoo!

by James A. Bacon

COVID-19 infections may have been trending down in Virginia for almost two months now, but they spiked at the University of Virginia several days ago, and the Ryan administration imposed tough new rules to curtail the spread. Not surprisingly, many students have violated the restrictions. In so doing, they have sparked a backlash that appears to be directed not at rule breakers generally but at offenses associated with fraternity and sorority activity.

Under the new COVID regime, in-person attendance at classes are allowed, but social gatherings are not. Students are allowed to walk to and from classes, work, dining or medical care, but otherwise told to isolate themselves. Inevitably, questions arose in the interpretations of the rules, and the Dean of Students clarified that two students could walk together, but they must wear masks and stay six feet apart.

Needless to say, fraternity and sorority parties are not allowed. Continue reading

GMU Ponders Race-Based Faculty Hiring

George Mason

by Hans Bader

George Mason University could start giving give minorities illegal racial preference in hiring until its mostly white faculty has the same racial balance as its more heavily non-white student body, which is more ethnically diverse than the average college.

Under GMU’s draft “ARIE Task Force Recommendations,” GMU will “recruit, hire, and retain faculty” and “staff to reflect” its “student population.” It will fund “diversity cluster hire initiatives” and mandate “search plans” and “diversity of applicant pool[s]” to eliminate “gaps” between “the demographic diversity” of its faculty and its student body.

That would be against the law. Institutions are not supposed to use race in hiring or promotions, to make their staff reflect the racial composition of the population they serve. For example, a federal appeals court ruled that a city could not consider race in promotions to make its police department better reflect “the racial composition of the city” or “remedy racial imbalances in the police department.” That violated the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. (See Police Association of New Orleans v. City of New Orleans, 100 F.3d 1159, 1169 (5th Cir. 1996)). Continue reading

WaPo Nabs Polk Award, Is Pulitzer Next?

Ian Shapira

By Peter Galuszka

How ironical.

Our esteemed Jim Bacon has been on a tear in recent months writing about media coverage of the problem of systemic racism at the Virginia Military Institute.

Of special interest to Jim is the reporting of Ian Shapira, a Washington Post reporter who has been digging into the VMI. After his stories were published, the superintendent of VMI retired and an inquiry was launched.

Jim doesn’t like what the Post and Shapira have done. Some of Jim’s headlines go right to the jugular including “VMI Update: The WaPo Makes Another Sleazy Insinuation” and  “WaPo Ratchets Up Assault on VMI.”

At one point, Jim made this observation: “Polish up that Pulitzer. It looks like The Washington Post is vying again for the big prize in journalism”

Well, guess what happened? Shapira and the Post have won a George Polk award for their VMI coverage. The citation reads thusly: Continue reading

Did UVa Stack the Deck in Its Lawn Selection Process?

by James A. Bacon

It is deemed a great honor to be one of the 47 fourth-year students at the University of Virginia awarded a residence on the Lawn, Thomas Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece and World Heritage site. A committee of 60 students selects the residents from a pool of applicants, in theory based on their record of “unselfish service and achievement in their respective fields of activity and academics.”

But when the Cavalier Daily published an article yesterday providing the racial/ethnic background of the individuals who were offered a spot on the Lawn next year, it didn’t emphasize their accomplishments. Rather, drawing from data provided by Dean of Students Allen Groves, the article focused on the increased demographic “diversity” of the Lawn residents.

“Students of Color” received nearly 60% of the offers this year, compared to only 30% last year, reported the student-run newspaper.

The dramatic one-year shift in the racial/ethnic composition of Lawn residents raises the question of whether race and ethnicity has become an explicit but not-stated-publicly criteria for selection. Continue reading

Demanding Openness about UVa’s Cost Structure

by James A. Bacon

Last week the University of Virginia Board of Visitors held a workshop to discuss next year’s increase in tuition, fees, and other charges and to hear input from the public — mostly students begging the board for relief from the ever-escalating cost of attendance.

A PowerPoint presentation released at the meeting essentially made the case for hiking tuition again, although the exact percentage will depend upon the level of financial support provided by the Commonwealth. The estimated increase for undergraduate, in-state tuition will range between 0% and 3.1%. Additional fees are set at $114.

The presentation reflects the Ryan administration’s spin on the numbers. It’s the job of the Board of Visitors to probe deeper. In this post, I will first summarize the administration’s stats, and then I will provide some numbers that the board should consider as it ponders the tuition increases.

“Tuition is last resort,” states a slide expressing UVa’s tuition philosophy. “[We first] look to other revenues and savings.”

We’ll see about that. Continue reading

The VMI Contract: Why the Rush?

by James A. Bacon

Last November 5, the Commonwealth of Virginia issued an RFP for a contract to investigate racism at the Virginia Military Institute. The document set an ambitious deadline. Responses were due November 17 — giving vendors less than two weeks to prepare submissions. Moreover, the document wanted the successful bidder to provide preliminary findings and recommendations by Dec. 31 and final recommendations by June 2021.

That made no sense to Carter Melton, VMI class of ’67, two-term VMI board member, and retired president of Rockingham Memorial Hospital. During his 30 years with the hospital, he had developed dozens of RFPs. He had never seen such ambitious deadlines for such a complex project. When he read the document, he was astonished — so astonished that he took out a full-page ad in the Sunday Richmond Times-Dispatch to get his views in front of Governor Ralph Northam.

First, he wrote, the scope of this project was vast and boundless. The RFP called for extensive document review, focus groups, anonymous questionnaires, a cross mapping of relevant VMI policies with those of every other college and university in the Commonwealth, and numerous legal opinions. “This is a huge piece of work; it asks for everything but the kitchen sink.” Continue reading

UVa Board Ponders 3.1% Hike in Tuition & Fees


by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors is considering raising in-state undergraduate tuition up to 3.1% next year and hiking student fees by $114. The increases potentially would add $554 to tuition and fees next year, bringing the total to $17,860, reports the Daily Progress. Including room, board, books and other expenses, the total cost of attendance would reach $34,600 for students not benefiting from financial aid. Out-of-state students would pay $70,200 all told.

Rector James B. Murray cited the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic. “2020 has been a tough year for everybody, for the students, parents and the administration. It’s been a financially troubling year and psychologically troubling year. We have lost a lot of revenue. We don’t have housing revenue, dining revenue, athletics, or student and public services. … The board is committed to keeping tuition increases at a minimum and using every other source of revenue whenever and where ever we can.”

Said Murray: “Tuition is always the last lever that we pull.”

Third-year student Madison Perry, one of two dozen students allowed to speak in the board’s first-ever open comment session, had a devastating come-back.

Continue reading

The Democratic Coalition’s Conflicts of Interest Cause Much Political Scrambling

by James C. Sherlock

It is tough to be a Democratic politician in Richmond or Washington. Now that they govern, they find it one big game of coalition whack-a-mole.

I have written today of the conflicts between the interests of teachers unions and those of parents playing out in the Virginia General Assembly. That vital Democratic suburban women demo is in play.

That is the tip of the iceberg for Democrats. They have assembled a coalition whose interests are fundamentally opposed. Those fissures are only fully exposed when they have unfettered governance, which they have now both in Richmond and Washington.

The only things they seem to agree on are big government, free money and government regulation and control of nearly everything except their own interests.

After that, it gets dicey. Continue reading

UVa Committee to Study Free Expression Issues

Leslie Kendrick

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia has created two new committees: one to articulate the university’s commitment to free expression and inquiry, and another to examine naming and memorials on the grounds (as the UVa campus is referred to).

“We are working to give voice to our commitment as an educational institution to the free and open exchange of ideas, and to grapple with the complexities of our University’s history and the names that we honor,” Ryan said in making the ann0uncement. “These committees will help us forge a path forward as we continue to address these issues as a community and as a nation.”

First Amendment expert Leslie Kendrick, vice dean of the School of Law, will chair the Committee on Free Expression and Free Inquiry. According to UVAToday, the group will craft a statement that “identifies the role that free expression and free inquiry play in UVA’s academic enterprise and how they shape engagement with the ideas of others.”

UVa officials did not explain what prompted the creation of the committee, but the university has been racked by a number of free speech/free expression controversies recently. Continue reading

Fixing the Outcome by Fixing the Rules?

by James A. Bacon

What are the rules of the game in the state’s investigation of racism at the Virginia Military Institute?

That question is now front and center, as has been revealed in an interim report released by Barnes & Thornburg, the law firm selected to pursue the investigation. Investigators have been sparring over whether VMI’s lawyers should be allowed to be present when investigators are questioning cadets, faculty and staff. 

The stakes are huge. Barnes & Thornburg will gather evidence, present its conclusions, and make recommendations with the potential to transform the culture of the military academy. The outcome of the investigation is potentially a matter of life and death, institutionally speaking, for the military academy. 

VMI has every reason to regard the investigation as an adversarial proceeding. The inquiry arose from a series of Washington Post articles alleging “relentless racism” at the military academy. Governor Ralph Northam then expressed his “deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism.” Structural racism, not alleged structural racism. Then, when selecting a firm to conduct the investigation into VMI, the administration picked a Washington, D.C., law firm that publicly proclaims its commitment to combating racism and “the larger social forces” responsible for it. Continue reading

VMI, Investigators Sparring Over Rules of Racism Investigation

by James A. Bacon

Barnes & Thornburg LLP, the special investigator selected to probe racism at Virginia Military Institute, released its first progress report today, as required by contract. The law firm has not had enough time to draw any conclusions, but the report does describe the testy relationship between the firm and VMI administrators as the investigation unfolds.

VMI has hired its own law firm as counsel, and disagreements have arisen over how to conduct the investigation. The two parties have sparred over VMI’s request that legal counsel attend an administrative briefing and sit in on interviews of faculty, staff, and cadets. Also, Barnes & Thornburg has sought assurances that individuals speaking to investigators will not be retaliated against.

“The Team firmly believes that the presence of VMI representatives will undermine the independence and effectiveness of the investigation, and may well deter the cadets and faculty being interviewed from being as forthcoming as they might otherwise be,” states the report.

It’s not surprising that VMI administrators are feeling defensive considering the origins of the inquiry. The investigation arose from a series of Washington Post articles accusing the military academy of “relentless racism.” Decrying what he called the “clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism,” Northam announced in October that he would hire an independent outside investigator to probe the charges. To some VMI officials and alumni, it appeared as if the fix was in. Continue reading

WaPo Ratchets Up Assault on VMI

image credit: Heather Rousseau/Washington Post

by James A. Bacon

After accusing the Virginia Military Institute of maintaining an environment of “relentless racism” and implying that VMI’s commandant is a racist, The Washington Post now is targeting the military academy’s honor code as archaic, excessively harsh, and discriminatory against minorities.

The latest headline: “VMI, under fire for expelling Black cadets, considers changes to prized honor system.”

In an interview this week, interim Superintendent Cedric T. Wins said he doesn’t intend to change the honor code, which forbids lying, cheating and stealing, WaPo staffer Ian Shapira wrote. “Instead, he is evaluating the student-run justice system that enforces that code.” Shapira went on to criticize the “single-sanction” penalty, expulsion, describe how other service academies have abandoned the single sanction, and highlight “startling” racial disparities among the cadets being punished.

The VMI Board of Visitors took the remarkable step yesterday of releasing a full transcript of that interview. Continue reading

General Assembly to Students on Mandatory Athletic Fees: Suck It Up, Peons

In the age of COVID and online courses, should students be forced to subsidize college athletic events attended mainly by alumni and their families, like this VCU basketball game? Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

A bill that would make optional the paying of athletic fees at public Virginia universities died in a state Senate subcommittee Monday.

Virginia universities charge some of the highest athletic fees in the country. According to a 2020 report by NBC News, Virginia Military led the nation with a $3,650 fee. James Madison University ranked third, and six Virginia institutions were in the top seven, based on charges in the 2017-18 school year.

Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, introduced the bill, SB 1359, which would have required Virginia’s public institutions to disclose to “student and parent consumers” a process to opt out of paying athletic fees. The bill was “passed by indefinitely,” effectively tabled for the duration of the 2021 General Assembly session.

DeSteph asked how colleges justify charging an athletics fee when many teams aren’t playing and, even when they do, in many cases students can’t attend, reports The Roanoke Times. Continue reading

Propagandizing Doth Not A Happy Historian Make

by Jock Yellott

“Do you agree or disagree that college faculty are contaminating history with politics and producing closed minded, unscientific and illogical propaganda?”

Dr. Ed Ayers, former president of the University of Richmond, a former Dean of Arts and Sciences at U Va, and among Virginia’s most accomplished and respected living historians, was asked that question last week.

It came during the Q&A after the January 19, 2021 online membership meeting of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society. Dr. Ayers’s  breezy, good-humored remarks about what he does and why he does can be viewed in the video above. (Dr. Ayers begins speaking at about minute 14; the question and his answer at 45.55, through 49:01).

Dr. Ayer’s response, gently edited for clarity: Continue reading