Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

The Alumni Rebellion Gains Momentum

First, Stuart Taylor and Ed Yingling (with Princetonians for Free Speech) got a column published Monday in the Wall Street Journal about the formation of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance. Fox News followed with a story yesterday (seen above). Since then, Inside Higher Ed, the leading higher-ed trade publication, has run a news story of its own.

The response has been fantastic. Yingling has been overwhelmed with inquiries. The number of subscribers to The Jefferson Council blog jumped 50% overnight.

If anyone in Virginia has an interest in starting a university alumni group to address issues centered on free speech and intellectual diversity, check out the Alliance website. Or contact Yingling directly at edyingling[at]comcast.net. Continue reading

Why W&L’s Dudley Must Go

Republished from The Generals Redoubt newsletter.

The Generals Redoubt is calling for Will Dudley to resign or be terminated as President of Washington and Lee University and for a new president to be recruited who better reflects the historical values of the school and the majority of its alumni. Unfortunately, there are too many reasons to justify his dismissal for one newsletter, so this is the first of several editions explaining why #DudleyMustGo.

In the broadest sense, Dudley should be terminated as his words and deeds indicate that he sees Washington and Lee as deeply flawed. Both he and Rector McAlevey want to reimagine Washington and Lee in a worldview not shared by the vast majority of W&L alumni, parents, and students. Continue reading

Alumni Power

Image credit: Brent Nelson, Flickr

by James A. Bacon

The university alumni rebellion, which first took root in Virginia, is going national.

Washington & Lee University was the first higher-ed institution in the country, to my knowledge, where alumni organized to fight the leftward drift of their alma mater. The W&L group, known as the Generals Redoubt, was followed quickly by The Jefferson Council (to which I belong) at the University of Virginia and The Spirit of VMI at the Virginia Military Institute.

Now the W&L and UVa groups have joined with newly formed alumni organizations at Princeton University, Cornell University and Davidson College to form the Alumni Free Speech Association. While each institution has its unique, parochial issues, they share a common resolve to stand up for free speech, free expression, independent inquiry, and intellectual diversity in the face of a doctrinaire “woke” ideology that, in increasingly totalitarian fashion, dictates the permissible range of opinions people are allowed to express.

Graduates are creating new organizations from scratch because the incumbent alumni organizations almost universally have failed to represent all of the alumni. They have been co-opted by the university presidents and turned into fund-raising arms. If the University of Virginia alumni association is any indication — and I hear the same critique of the associations at W&L and VMI — they function as rah-rah-aren’t-we-great propaganda arms for their university administrations and sugar-coat the march toward leftist orthodoxy. Continue reading

Alumni of the World Unite!

The Free Speech Wall in downtown Charlottesville

This press release was issued today by the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, of which The Jefferson Council is a founding member. I serve as vice president-communications of the Council. — JAB

Millions of college and university alumni around the country are dismayed by the intolerance of unpopular viewpoints at their alma maters, and many have begun to fight back.

Alumni have organized groups at five of America’s most prestigious higher-ed institutions — Cornell University, Davidson College, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the Washington & Lee University – to defend free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity in college campuses. Today those groups are announcing that they have joined forces under the banner of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance to launch a national effort to mobilize alumni.

“Free speech and academic freedom are critical to the advancement of knowledge and to the success of our colleges and universities,” said Edward Yingling, a co-founder of the Princeton alumni group. “Yet these basic principles are under attack today at schools across the country.”

(See the column co-authored by Yingling that was published in today’s Wall Street Journal.) Continue reading

McAuliffe Lets the Cat out of the Bag

by James C. Sherlock

Current Virginia law and Terry McAuliffe cannot coexist.

“A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.”

Code of Virginia § 1-240.1. Rights of parents.

“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Terry McAuliffe, Sept 28, 2021

Let’s walk that forward. Progressives all over Virginia and the nation were horrified. They consider McAuliffe’s words to be dogma. But they wish he hadn’t exposed it so publicly. 

During an election bid.

So, now that the cat’s out of the bag, let’s experiment with changes to  § 1-240.1. Rights of parents and see what it takes to make it comport with progressive thinking. Continue reading

A New Form of Sexual Identity Enters the Lexicon: Gender Fluid

Scott Smith, whose daughter was raped in a Loudoun County school, is shown here being escorted out of a Loudoun County school board meeting. He was subsequently charged with two misdemeanors and sentenced to 10 days in jail, all suspended.

by James A. Bacon

Loudoun Now has confirmed key details of the Daily Wire expose describing the ordeal of plumber Scott Smith and his family after his daughter was sexually assaulted in a high school bathroom by a boy dressed in a skirt.

Yesterday I refrained from going ballistic on this story, which was based on the reporting of a single, conservative news outlet. The account of a girl being assaulted by a transgender student given admittance to the girls’ restroom fit the conservative anti-transgender narrative so perfectly — the incident is exactly what conservatives have predicted — that I wanted to see reporting from another source before passing judgment. Other conservative publications have jumped into the fray, but we now have confirmation from the home-town paper.

One telling detail in the Loudoun County account warrants greater attention. According to Smith, who professes to be largely apolitical and not part of the conservative protest crowd packing school board meetings, the youth who raped his daughter identified as “gender fluid.” Continue reading

W&L Alumni Rebels Deploy Nuclear Option

by James A. Bacon

The Generals Redoubt, an association of alumni protesting the leftist drift of Washington & Lee University, scored a seeming victory earlier this year when the W&L Board voted to keep Lee — as in Confederate general and former university president Robert E. Lee — in the school’s name. But subsequent events have made clear that Lee’s name is about the only traditional element that the university intends to uphold.

After two or more years of issuing op-eds, letters, videos and other forms of persuasion to get President Will Dudley and the W&L Board to protect long-held values, the Generals Redoubt is demanding Dudley’s resignation and calling for a cessation of all donations to the private, liberal arts university. Here follows the letter distributed to alumni and friends. (For those not familiar with W&L, the Generals is the name of the school’s athletic teams.) — JAB

Generals! Out from the Redoubt.

Yes, the name has been retained, but the W&L we remember remains in name only. Continue reading

Charlottesville a Pioneer of Woke Architecture

The Darden School architecture was an homage to Thomas Jefferson’s academical village. Photo credit: UVA Today

A dustup over classical architecture at the University of Virginia prefigured the controversy over Donald Trump’s architecture executive order.

by Catesby Leigh

When Donald Trump ordered a traditionally oriented reform of federal architectural patronage in his final days as president, its life expectancy was exceedingly short. Sure enough, his successor soon revoked the order and subsequently defenestrated most of the members Trump appointed to a little-known but noteworthy design review board. To understand the affair, it’s worth reviewing what transpired in Charlottesville after the turn of the millennium, when the architecture wars heated up at the University of Virginia. On one side was the university’s architecture faculty, reflecting the arcane sensibilities of fashionable latter-day designers and academics and their fellow travelers in the legacy media. On the other side was common sense.

In 1996, UVA completed a new business school campus designed by Robert A. M. Stern, who emulated Thomas Jefferson’s beloved “academical village”—the original ensemble of Rotunda, pavilions, and connecting colonnades girding a long, terraced greensward known as the Lawn. Jefferson famously modeled his crowning Rotunda on Rome’s Pantheon. Stern’s ensemble, which shares UVA’s traditional palette of red brick with details in white wood and limestone, has been a hit with students. Other new buildings adhered to the architectural tradition that Jefferson inaugurated: a handsome pavilion designed by veteran classicist Allan Greenberg for a public-policy institute and a building by Washington’s Hartman-Cox Architects adjacent to the main university library that houses special collections.

So when it came time, in 2005, for the university’s Board of Visitors to consider alternative architectural approaches for a $105 million arts and sciences complex just south of Jefferson’s Lawn, more than half the faculty of the university’s monolithically modernist architecture school tried to head it off at the pass by denouncing traditionally oriented architectural patronage, in a broadside published in the student newspaper, as a matter of converting the university campus into “a theme park of nostalgia” — a Jeffersonian Disneyland. Continue reading

With a $14.5 Billion Endowment, Are UVa Leaders Accountable to Anyone But Themselves?

This graph shows how UVIMCO divvies up its $14.5 billion endowment from an investment perspective.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia endowment racked up a breathtaking 49% investment return in the year ending June 30, 2021, bringing the total value of the university’s investments to $14.5 billion, reports the University of Virginia Investment Management Company (UVIMCO) in its 2020-21 annual report.

I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

On the one hand, powerful investment returns supports initiatives such as the recently announced allocation of $50 million dollars for merit-based scholarships and aid to needy undergraduate students. On the other hand, such spectacular financial performance — almost $5 billion in a single year — makes the university leadership less accountable to tuition-paying students and parents, to the Commonwealth of Virginia which funds millions in state support, and to alumni whose individual donations are paltry by comparison.

Come to think of it, I’m even agnostic on whether the $50 million in new scholarship money is a good thing or not. Continue reading

Universities as Prestige Maximizers, and the Growing Disconnect with the Public

Yale University

by James A. Bacon

I have long observed that nonprofit colleges and universities, by virtue of being nonprofit, behave very differently than for-profit enterprises. Having weak systems for accountability, higher-ed institutions are captured by their internal constituencies whose interests they place of those of students and their families. Instead of endeavoring to maximize profits, as profit-seeking enterprises do, university leaders seek to maximize prestige compared to other institutions. The result is an endless “arms race” treadmill that misallocates billions of dollars across the industry.

Now comes some empirical support for my hypothesis from Peter Q. Blair and Kent Smetters, with Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania respectively, in a paper entitled, “Why don’t elite colleges expand supply?”

In a word, universities don’t expand supply because it increases institutional prestige to not do so. Continue reading

If You Thought Virginia Higher Ed Couldn’t Get Worse…. You’re Wrong

Traditional civics education, meet the new civics education.

by James A. Bacon

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) announced today that it has joined forces with dozens of higher education and student organizations in a “shared commitment” to make “democracy learning” a top priority for higher education.

In a SCHEV press release, this commitment is expressed in the most neutral and anodyne of terms. The Shared Commitment signatories, says the SCHEV statement, calls for “civic inquiry, practice in civil discourse and collaborative work on real-world public problems.”

“By thoughtfully incorporating civic learning into their academic and extracurricular programs, Virginia’s colleges and universities are equipping students with knowledge and skills that will benefit not only the students themselves, but their families and communities now and well into the future,” says SCHEV Director Peter Blake.

It sounds benign. Every thinking person would agree that all Virginians would benefit from learning how to be better-informed and more-engaged citizens. But is that what SCHEV and Virginia are signing up for? Or is the Shared Commitment just another tool for making “social justice” a core mission of Virginia’s colleges and universities? Will the result be a citizenry that is more capable of thinking independently and rigorously about public issues, or one that is more steeped in the “woke” pieties about race, class, and gender? Continue reading

How Not to Create a Diverse, Welcoming Workplace

Michelle Vermillion

by James A. Bacon

Michelle Vermillion was raised an old-fashioned liberal. She grew up thinking that people should be treated as individuals, judged, as Martin Luther King once dreamed, by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. She supports civil rights causes and endorses diversity in the workplace. Getting to know people of different backgrounds at work, she believes, is key for America to move beyond its racist past. When you get to know your coworkers as fellow humans, she says, you learn they want basically the same things you do.

But as a library staffer working at the University of Virginia Library, Vermillion felt increasingly increasingly ill at ease in the past few years. Rather than seeing a person’s race as an incidental part of his or her identity, the UVa Library administration began putting racial identity front and center. Town hall meetings and training programs made race a person’s defining characteristic.

“I’m not the one who changed,” Vermillion says. UVa changed. The traumatizing 2017 Unite the Right Rally, in which white supremacists clashed with counter-protestors, precipitated a bout of introspection about the role of slavery and segregation in the institution’s past. The Ryan administration doubled down on a commitment to recruit more Black students and faculty with its “Inclusive Excellence” program. The end result: library administrators today are fixated on race, and they are dedicated to imposing their ideological framework derived from Critical Race Theory upon library staff.

There is no escaping the obsession with race, she says. Many employees have reservations, but, for all the administration’s happy talk about engaging in a “dialogue,” they are afraid to speak out.

By this summer, Vermillion couldn’t take it anymore. She tried introducing different perspectives and sparking a conversation. The administration shut her down. Submitting her resignation, she worked her last day at the library Sept. 3. Continue reading

Intellectual Enslavement at UVa

UVa memorial to enslaved laborers

by Jock Yellott

“This year, members of the Class of 2025 are required to attend a historical tour and debrief discussion centered around the history of enslaved
laborers at the University.”
— Sydney Hertzog, Cavalier Daily, Sept. 22, 2021.

Why does this rankle? The University of Virginia, after all, has many mandates:

• Social Sciences – 6 credits from two different departments
• Humanities – 6 credits from two different categories
• Historical Studies – one 3 or more credit course
• Non-western Perspectives – one 3 or more credit course
• Natural Science and Mathematics – 12 credits from two different
departments

Why shouldn’t 1st years also be forced to “learn about the University’s
history of white supremacy and enslavement that has been suppressed for
many years”?

If any students objected, they were smart enough not to say so. To the contrary, according to the Cavalier Daily. Students “really enjoyed going on the tour because it has given them context of where they go to school.”

This is not Woke faculty indoctrination, or at least not directly. Says the Cavalier Daily: “This program was built purely by students.”

Why should it bother us? Continue reading

How We Got Here…

by A.L. Schuhart

The explosive spread of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI) in American education can be traced in large part to the changes made to the Principles of Accreditation for Colleges and Universities and Schools during the Obama Administration. These changes have reoriented the mission of American colleges from individual learning to social change and indoctrination.

American colleges and schools are “accredited” by supposedly independent regional bodies that monitor and regulate standards of education. These entities once were apolitical, but this is no longer the case. Ideally, their memberships (appointed by state governors) should reflect the diversity of competing political views in our Democracy and, in doing so, prevents the education system from being controlled by any one ideological group. That check no longer exists.

Virginia Colleges are accredited by SACSCOC (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges). Let’s look at some key language changes between the “SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation” from ante-Obama (2012) and post-Obama (2018) versions of the documents. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: The Fraying Social Fabric Edition

Honor is an antiquated slaveholders concept anyway. The University of Virginia’s student Honor Committee has voted to alter the honor code to eliminate the single sanction against lying, cheating and stealing from expulsion to a two-semester suspension. Before the change can be adopted, it must be approved by a vote of the student body. Third-year law student Christopher Benos proposed the plan. “This is a system that maintains the integrity of the Honor system, while offering the multi-sanction system that prioritizes rehabilitation, recommitment and Honor education.” The Cavalier Daily student newspaper describes the debate here. Prediction: If this proposal is enacted, few students actually will be “rehabilitated,” and lying, cheating and stealing will get worse. The “community of trust” is eroding as it is, even without the change. Sign of the times: Rocking chairs outside rooms on the Lawn have to be chained down.

Refund the police. Arlington County, which competes with the City of Charlottesville for being the most “woke” locality in Virginia, is hemorrhaging police officers, and City Manager Mark Schwartz proposes setting aside $3 million in the 2023 budget for retention and recruitment. So far this calendar year, 46 officers have announced their intention to leave the force, either resigning or retiring. “Please don’t leave, we need you,” Schwartz said, according to WTOP News. Describing the situation as “critical,” Schwartz said many police officers are leaving for better-paying positions in the private sector, including Amazon’s new Northern Virginia headquarters.

The best of a bad crowd. The College of William & Mary scored 10th in the latest Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) / RealClearEducation college free speech ranking. Among the 159 colleges surveyed, George Mason University snagged 12th place, and the University of Virginia came in 22nd. Virginia Tech dragged up the rear among Virginia institutions with a 107th-place score. The findings were based upon a survey of 37,000 undergraduate students. Students were queried about their comfort discussing controversial topics, tolerance for liberal and conservative speakers, and tolerance for conservative speakers, and administrative support for free expression. I don’t know enough to comment about W&M or GMU, but if UVa ranked 22nd freest in the survey, U.S. higher-ed has a real problem. Many students, faculty and staff do not feel free to express conservative ideas.