Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

Woke Bloat at Virginia Universities

by James A. Bacon

Step aside California! Public universities in Virginia have built larger diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracies than taxpayer-funded universities in any other state, concludes a new backgrounder by The Heritage Foundation. The DEI bureaucracy at the University of Virginia includes 94 employees listed on its website, says the report. Virginia Tech has 83 DEI personnel, while George Mason University has 69.

Expressed as a ratio of DEI bureaucrats to tenure-track faculty members, GMU earned the top spot as DEI top-heavy, with a ratio 0f 7.4 to 100. UVa was close behind with 6.5, while Tech was 5.6. In comparison, uber-woke Cal Berkeley has a 6.1 per 100 ratio.

(I’ll have to stop making quips about UVa being the Berkeley of the East Coast. From now on I’ll describe Berkeley as the UVa of the West Coast.) Continue reading

By the Way, What Is Virginia Tech’s View on Parental Rights?

Catherine Cotrupi

Virginia Tech’s interim dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion has been accused of violating Tech’s email policy by forwarding a message that slammed local conservative school board candidates as “hateful,” according to The Daily Signal. In responding to an email sent to her Tech account blasting the local candidates for their “anti-trans” and “anti-woke” outlook, Catherine Cotrupi forwarded the email with the notation, “Sharing in case you’re interested.” One of the school board candidates is contemplating a lawsuit.

Undoubtedly, Cotrupi deserves a hand slapping, but it’s not as if she originated the email chain. One can interpret her action as careless, not a commandeering of state resources to advance a political agenda. Of far greater concern is her implicit endorsement of the representations in the email, which is indicative of a mindset that informs her DEI work at Tech.

The local school board candidates, it appears from the Daily Signal article, are guilty of the cardinal sin of supporting Governor Glenn Youngkin’s “Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students,” upholding parental rights in transgender issues at public K-12 schools. One wonders if Cotrupi believes Virginia Tech parents have any right to be informed of, or involved in, life-altering decisions — hormone therapy, surgery, etc. — made by their children with the university’s knowledge and consent. Continue reading

Alumni Groups File Amicus Brief in Virginia Tech Free Speech Case

by James A. Bacon

The Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA) and alumni groups from nine colleges and universities, including The Jefferson Council, submitted an  amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday urging the court to hear a case brought by Speech First over the issue of bias reporting practices and procedures at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

“The use of bias reporting systems has become pervasive across American college and university campuses and these systems create a climate of fear and intimidation that causes many students to self-censor and discourages constitutionally protected speech,” said AFSA President Charles Davis. “These bias reporting systems have no place at a university whose defining purpose as a place of learning and human fulfillment can only be achieved through a steadfast commitment to free speech.”

From the brief:

Rather than adopting explicitly punitive speech codes or conditioning participation in university life on acceptance of prevailing views, colleges such as Respondent created “bias response” systems. Continue reading

Will Dove Get the Bud Light Treatment?

by Kerry Dougherty

Does the name Morgan Bettinger sound familiar?

Perhaps not.

She’s just another victim of fake hate at the University of Virginia. A girl who was wrongly labeled a racist and who suffered as a result of a relentless, mean-spirited campaign to drive her out of school.

Meanwhile, the person who accused her of racism, Zyahna Bryant, went from BLM activist to the spokeswoman for the Fat Liberation Movement who just landed a partnership with Dove. Continue reading

Don’t Get Too Fired Up About UVa’s FIRE Ranking

by Allan Stam

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) recently gave the University of Virginia a 6th-place ranking in a national survey assessing the state of free speech on college campuses. Provost Ian Baucom cited the recognition during Wednesday’s Board of Visitors meeting, noting that it was the highest ranking the university had ever achieved.

UVa’s high score suggests to some the existence of a robust culture of open dialogue and intellectual freedom at UVa. However, a closer examination of the underlying data reveals a more nuanced and troubling picture.

UVa’s overall score was a mere 68 out of 100, a grade that would be considered failing in many academic and household settings. This discrepancy between the overall ranking and the actual score raises questions about the survey’s methodology. It casts doubt on the true state of free speech at UVA and perhaps other highly ranked institutions.

UVa earned the high score primarily on the basis of its stated policies. President Jim Ryan, Provost Ian Baucom and the Board of Visitors have repeatedly endorsed free speech and viewpoint diversity in the past year. But official policies tell us little about actual practices or the cultural milieu in which students, faculty and staff interact.

When one digs a little deeper into the specific categories within the survey, the concerns become even more pronounced. UVa ranks alarmingly low in several key areas: 222nd in “Comfort Expressing Ideas,” 178th in “Disruptive Conduct,” and 188th in “Openness.” These rankings are not mere numbers; they represent a tangible reality where students feel uncomfortable expressing their ideas, where disruptive conduct stifles dialogue, and where a lack of openness hampers intellectual growth. Continue reading

UVa’s Ever-Expanding Bureaucracy: Student Advising Edition

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia old-timers (like myself) remember what it was like to find help in picking courses and deciding majors. We’d latch ourselves onto a professor who took an interest in us, and he or she would walk us through the process. It did require some initiative on our part to reach out, but then, we were accustomed to taking matters into our own hands. I was fortunate. My advisor, history professor Joseph C. Miller, was not only a charismatic teacher and a leading scholar in his field, but he regarded the care and tending of students — even lowly undergraduates like me — as part of his vocation.

That’s not the way it works anymore. Faculty members are still expected to play a role in advising students, but it is a much diminished one. At UVa, responsibility for dispensing advice has been bureaucratized.

At the UVa Board of Visitors meeting Wednesday, the Ryan administration highlighted what it is doing to improve student advising. The dominant themes of the session were (1) the student experience is lacking for many, and (2) the answer is hiring more advisors and investing in the latest, greatest technology.

The picture that emerged is that UVa has numerous fragmented initiatives at the school and college level but no coherent university-wide vision. Practices vary widely. The cost of programs was not discussed. No cost-benefit analysis has been conducted. With no clear objectives beyond “we want to be the best,” there are no logical limits to an endless expansion of programs. Continue reading

Another List of Best Colleges

Washington and Lee University.

Inspired by the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of colleges, everyone is getting into the game, each with its own criteria.

The Wall Street Journal has just released its list of “Best 400 Colleges in America.” Its rankings are based on student experiences, social mobility, and salary impact. Its greatest emphasis was on the following questions:

  1. How much will the college improve its students’ chances of graduating on time?
  2. How much will it improve the salaries they earn after receiving their diplomas?

The top school in the ranking was Princeton, followed by M.I.T, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia. Nine Virginia schools were ranked among the top 400, with four landing in the top 100. They were:

44—Washington and Lee
76—Virginia Tech
95—George Mason
152—James Madison
243—Old Dominion
326–Christopher Newport

How Many UVa Students Feel Sense of “Belonging”?

by James A. Bacon

As the University of Virginia Board of Visitors grapples with contentious issues such as equity, inclusion and racial preferences, it could benefit by knowing how well the policies of the Ryan administration have succeeded or failed in making UVa a more welcoming place for students across “every possible dimension” of diversity, to use President Jim Ryan’s words.

The administration possesses considerable data to answer the question. During the final year of the Sullivan administration, 2018, the university conducted a comprehensive, in-depth “campus climate” survey. Since then, the university has participated in biennial surveys conducted under the auspices of the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) consortium, which, th0ugh less comprehensive than the 2018 effort and fraught with discontinuities in the questions asked, does contain useful information.

The university’s Office of Institutional Research & Analysis posted results for 2022 for public viewing in August. The graphic below summarizes student responses to the statement, “I feel I belong at university.”

Three of five (60%) students agreed or strongly agreed with the sentiment that they belonged at UVa. Seventeen percent expressed various degrees of disagreement. 

Is that a good finding or a bad finding? It depends on context. Continue reading

“Let Me Talk to My Sales Manager to See What We Can Do”

Wren Building, College of William and Mary. Photo credit: Williamsburg Yorktown Daily

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

George Will had a fascinating column recently whose thesis is counter to the dominant opinion on Bacon’s Rebellion about the cost of higher education. Will cites recent research that concludes, “Students are paying less for college than they did 15 years ago.”

What is going on, although he does not use this analogy, is a lot like buying a car—hardly anyone pays the sticker price. Relying on a prevailing belief of Americans that higher cost signifies higher quality, institutions of higher education in the 1980s and 1990s began relying on higher tuitions as a marketing tool. For those applicants it wished to enroll, they offered discounts, otherwise known as merit scholarships.

I got a glimpse of this process a couple of years ago when my grandson was considering which college to attend. When I complimented him on the merit scholarships that were being offered, he and his mother dismissed the compliment, saying they were pretty much automatic for anyone being offered admission.

The large amount of student loan debt that has accumulated in recent years results from higher education minimizing its discounts by steering parents “toward having government provide the discount with subsidized student loans.” Lots of parents and students, believing the sticker cost is real, “sign the loan forms.”

This is certainly an interesting wrinkle in the ongoing discussion of the costs of higher education.

The Decidedly Unintuitive Student Debt of Undergrads upon Graduation from Virginia’s Public 4-Year Colleges and Universities

William and Mary

by James C. Sherlock

I had never until now looked at college costs from the perspective of the new graduate, as opposed to his or her parents.

But it is fair to say that many look closely at their debt and their incomes after graduation and are taken aback, whether or not they borrow yet more to go on to graduate or professional schools.

So, I have examined available state data on student debt at graduation of the undergrads at Virginia’s public 4-year colleges and universities between 2016 and 2021.

If you expected the results that you will see here on their debts at graduation, you are much more informed that I was when I started.

Some are startling, at least to me. Continue reading

Satire: Lexington’s Battle of the Statues

by Thomas Moncure

The Virginia Military Institute removed the statue of former Professor (and Confederate General) Thomas J. Jackson from the front of barracks. In doing so they have meekly emulated the sterling example of the City of Richmond and other places. Cleansing the landscape of offensive historical figures is now the touchstone of our times.

Much remains to be done at VMI. The statue of Virginia Mourning Her Dead must come down. The sculptor, Sir Moses Ezekiel, fought for slavery as a member of the Corps of Cadets at the Battle of New Market. His fellow Cadets buried at the base of the statue, who also fought for slavery, must be disinterred and removed. Perhaps they can be reburied wherever Washington & Lee University determines to place the deceased Lees when they are expelled from the University (formerly Lee) Chapel.

But the most offensive statue is that of the avowed segregationist George C. Marshall. Continue reading

Ignorance Erases George Wythe at a Virginia Community College

George Wythe

by Suzanne Munson

Virginia Peninsula Community College recently announced the removal of the names of two historic American leaders from its buildings, George Wythe and Dr. Corbin Griffin, a surgeon for Virginia patriot soldiers, presumably because they once owned slaves. It should be noted that these were heroes of the American Revolution, not the Civil War, individuals who fought for this nation’s freedom from despotic foreign rule.

One wonders how much time school officials spent on their American history homework prior to this decision, particularly with regard to the great Founding Father George Wythe.

Yes, Wythe did inherit slaves and owned them for a while. But he also freed his slaves later in life, when he was legally able to do so, and provided generously for several of them in his will.

Further, as a state judge, he shocked his contemporaries by becoming the first and only judge to rule slavery illegal, based on Virginia’s Declaration of Rights. (Hudgins v. Wright, 1806). The ruling was overturned by a higher court, but it was a principled stab by Wythe at the evil institution. Continue reading

UVa Spending on Staff Surges, Spending on Students Trails

Inflation-adjusted percentage increase of UVa E&G expenditures (in millions of dollars) compared to those of all 15 Virginia public four-year higher-ed institutions.

by James A. Bacon

Always alert for opportunities to arm the University of Virginia Board of Visitors members with statistics they don’t see in their board presentations, The Jefferson Council presents the table above, compiled from data published by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

The takeaway: UVa boosted overall E&G (educational & general) spending faster than Virginia’s other public four-year colleges and universities between fiscal 2011-12 and fiscal 2021-22, but UVa funds were more likely to flow to faculty and staff and less likely to go to student instruction, student services, or research support.

E&G expenditures represent spending on an institution’s core educational mission. Under SCHEV’s accounting methodology, E&G strips out spending on athletics, dormitories, food service, and auxiliary enterprises. The Council’s data portal adjusts for inflation over the 10 years displayed above, so these figures reflect real spending, not funny money.

SCHEV breaks down E&G expenditures by seven broad categories so the public can get a clearer idea of where the money is going. The data are consistent with the interpretation advanced by The Jefferson Council in previous posts that UVa has experienced excessive growth in administrative overhead. Continue reading

Changes in Student Populations and Choices of Majors in 4-Year Colleges and Universities 2010-2023 Challenge Virginia Schools

Virginia Union University

by James C. Sherlock

Tastes change, and with them trends.

Between fall 2010 and fall 2021, total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions in America decreased by 15% percent (from 18.1 million to 15.4 million students).

In Virginia’s 4-year public colleges and universities, the drop was 8% in that same period, right at the national average for state schools.

Virginia’s HBCU’s, except for the highest ranked, Hampton University, have fought the trend and increased their student populations dramatically recently.

The Great Recession baby bust arrives as a freshman student cliff in 2025.

National trends. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data on enrollment in undergraduate majors in 4-year public and private institutions of higher education (IHEs) show significant shifts in majors between 2010 and 2023.

There are winner and loser programs, with implications for staffing and perhaps offering a data basis for my magnet schools suggestion.

Between 2010 and 2023, undergraduate majors in:

  1. liberal arts and social sciences continued to decline;
  2. engineering majors have been in serious decline since 2019;
  3. health professions and related programs, having seen huge increases between 2010 and 2019, and physical sciences with smaller increases in those same years, since then are in decline;
  4. technology continues to gain, even faster since 2019, possibly signaling a shift from engineering to technology majors for the same types of students;
  5. Psychology, flat between 2010 and 2019, is in a major uptrend since.

Adjustments within higher education are clearly necessary to accommodate the declines in student populations, the coming student cliff and shifting educational preferences by students.

Rational adjustments are clearly identifiable but rarely seen in practice. Because administrations and faculty oppose them. The ramifications: Continue reading

Student Vets Win Back Their Space

Military memorobilia at the Veterans Center. Photo credit: WVIR-TV

by James A. Bacon

The Student Veterans of America (SVA) at the University of Virginia notched up a small win Friday when Student Affairs officials reversed a decision to expropriate some of the Veterans Center space at Newcomb Hall. But the veterans’ battle for recognition and respect at UVa is far from over.

What they need most, student veterans say, is for Student Affairs to designate someone with specialized knowledge of the G.I. Bill and other veterans issues to help them through UVa’s bureaucratic maze.

Veterans comprise a tiny fraction of the undergraduate student body at UVa. SVA leadership estimates there are only 60 veterans among the 17,000 undergraduates. That count may not have identified every undergraduate veteran, but Tomas De Oliveira, president of the club, says it represents most.

“It’s a chicken-or-egg problem. There aren’t enough vets to justify a significant commitment of UVa resources,” De Oliveira says. But the lack of support makes it difficult to recruit veterans cycling out of the military. UVa vets have friends. Word gets out. “Why would I recommend UVa?” Continue reading