Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

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

We’re Doctors. Implicit Bias Training Has No Place in Medicine.

by Martin Caplan, MD, and Kenneth Lipstock, MD

Apparently, Virginia’s doctors and nurses are racist.

This is the message of two bills that are moving through the state legislature. The bills would force medical professionals to take ongoing “implicit bias training” to get and keep their license. The problem is that such training is insulting, dangerous, and scientifically indefensible. It’s grounded in the false idea that people mistreat and even oppress others, especially those of a different race.

It’s a popular narrative, but there is no sound evidence to support it. What is clear is that if our lawmakers pass these bills, they’ll encourage racial division and tribalism, while undermining the medical profession and hurting patients who need our help. Continue reading

Dartmouth Reinstated the SAT. Will Virginia Universities Follow Suit?

by Nancy Almasi

Dartmouth College is making news regarding its return to using the SAT/ACT scores once again as a part of its admissions process. The policy will become effective in 2025 for the incoming class of 2029.

Many colleges and universities decided to make the SAT/ACT test optional during the COVID-19 pandemic when health protocols made taking these tests more difficult for students. This came on the heels of many years of pressure from those who believe that SAT and ACT tests are biased towards those who are wealthy and/or white, arguing that those who can afford SAT prep classes, tutoring, and books have an unfair advantage.

Dartmouth’s policy reversal came as the result of a faculty study prepared by three economists and one sociologist. The professors compared the admissions data from the years when the standardized tests were optional with the data when the tests were required. They concluded that the scores were helpful in finding well-rounded, academically prepared students from diverse backgrounds.

Dartmouth President Sian Leah Birlock wrote the following in her email to the Dartmouth campus about the policy change.

SAT and ACT scores reflect inequality in society and in educational systems across the nation. The research does not dispute that. Crucially, though, the research shows that standardized test scores can be an important predictor of academic success at a place like Dartmouth and beyond—more so even than just grades or recommendations, for example—and with a test-optional policy, prompted by the pandemic, we were unintentionally overlooking applicants from less-resourced backgrounds who could thrive here.

Continue reading

What Do We Make of the VCU-Qatar Connection?

A new report from the National Association of Scholars explores the entanglements between American universities and Qatar, a small state on the Persian Gulf known as the home of the Al Jazeera news network and a haven for Hamas leadership and other assorted radical Islamists. Qatar has emerged as a top foreign funder of American universities, investing more than $4 billion between 2001 and 2021. Virginia Commonwealth University, the first American university to establish an overseas campus in the country, has been one of the biggest beneficiaries, receiving more than $103 million.

University leaders say their Qatari campuses help spread Western values in the conservative Middle Eastern country, which is ruled by an authoritarian, semi-constitutional monarchy, according to the NAS paper. But one might ask the reverse: what influence, if any, does Qatari money exert on VCU? Continue reading

The Purge Comes for Edwin Alderman

by James A. Bacon

As President of the University of Virginia between 1904 and 1931, Edwin Anderson Alderman led Thomas Jefferson’s university into the 20th century. A self-proclaimed “progressive” of the Woodrow Wilson stamp, he advocated higher taxes to support public education, admitted the first women into UVA graduate programs, boosted enrollment and faculty hiring, established the university’s endowment, reformed governance and gave UVA its modern organizational structure. Most memorably to Wahoos of the current era, he built a state-of-the-art facility, named Alderman Library in his honor, to further the pursuit of knowledge.

Like many other “progressives” of the era, Alderman also promoted the science (now known to be a pseudo-science) of eugenics, and he held racist views that  have been roundly rejected in the 21st century.

A movement has burgeoned at UVA to remove Alderman’s name from the library. The Ryan administration was poised in December to ask for Board of Visitors approval to take that step by renaming the newly-renovated facility after former President Edgar Shannon. The administration withdrew the proposal after determining it did not have a majority vote. But Team Ryan could resurrect the name change at the February/March meeting of the Board, as suggested in the flier seen above. Continue reading

The Return of Compulsory Chapel: George Mason Will Require Students to Take ‘Social Justice’ Courses

by the staff of Liberty Unyielding

It’s the “return of compulsory chapel: George Mason University, a Virginia public institution, will require students to take two social justice courses,” notes Walter Olson of the Cato Institute. A student taking such courses will have “to demonstrate” “competencies” in “diversity,” “equity.” and “inclusion.” George Mason University is Virginia’s largest university.

Last month, George Mason University announced:

Students entering Mason in Fall 2024 or later will be required to take two Mason Core courses that have the Just Societies flag….

Courses with a Just Societies flag must meet both of these outcomes, in addition to other required course outcomes related to the primary Mason Core Exploration category. Upon completing a Just Societies course, students will be able to demonstrate the following two competencies:

  1. a) Define key terms related to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion as related to this course’s field/discipline and
    b) Use those terms to engage meaningfully with peers about course issues …
  1. Articulate obstacles to justice and equity, and strategies for addressing them, in response to local, national, and/or global issues in the field/discipline

The National Review says thatthe classes no doubt will be grievance-dominated and utopian.”

There is a course approval process for faculty wishing to teach these required courses. But as a practical matter, only courses with a left-leaning ideological slant are likely to be approved. “What do you suppose would happen if a GMU professor proposed a course on the theme that the most just society would be one with a minimal government?,” asks George Leef of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. Continue reading

The VMI Class of ’25’s Elephant in the Room

by the staff of The Cadet

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) Rat Mass of 2024+3 is now the Class of ’27. That recognition brings a time to pause and reflect on the past and future of what was and is no longer. The mantle will soon pass to the Class of ’25 for their Ratline next year and it is time to address “the elephant in the room.” Unless ’25 brings it back, the Ratline will continue to degrade into a risk-averse basic training curriculum providing little more to incoming Cadets than how to march and endlessly repeating the Inscription on the Parapet and the VMI Mission. While the knowledge and understanding of this information is important for a Rat undergoing our indoctrination phase, what value does it provide if Rats do not have the time management skills, self-discipline, or physical ability to compete in our academic and military environment?

It was the administration, not the First Class, that dictated the date for “breakout.” The activities were known well in advance not only by Rats but by parents who asked on social media how they could attend. The much advertised “fakeout” (fake breakout) to try and add a little mystery was an open secret, and directly pinpointed the true date of “breakout.” Though the First Class, and especially the Rat Disciplinary Committee (RDC), worked hard, a majority of the Corps were not involved in the event that took place on Tuesday afternoon, starting around 2:00 p.m., and only lasted several hours. Turnout for the Second Class sweat party was weak, at best. Professors scheduled exams the next day requiring many to choose between participation and their grades. Coaches and (the senior cadets who mentor Rats) in NCAA programs were notified and briefed on the events, of which they immediately informed their freshman players. Rats were not even required to fill the sandbags used to depict their class year in the photo. They are now returning to storage until needed for the next spectacle.

The administration stated the main Rat Mass priority is “retention” with the Dean continuing to brief the Board of Visitors (BOV) on the failing numbers for Corps and, especially Rat Grade Point Averages (GPAs). An increasing number of Cadets who would normally be placed on academic suspension are being held in the Corps, while the Dean advocates for General Order 1 restrictions on Corps events that limits the “leadership laboratory” experience of VMI to no more than a few hours a week.

The Blue Book and other official documents have now expunged the term “Rat” in favor of “New Cadet.” Photos soliciting donations in the name of “One VMI” show cadets packing stands for basketball and football while first Class Ratline activities were canceled in favor of mandatory attendance at those games. Continue reading

No More Legacy Admissions in Virginia

Out of luck

by James A. Bacon

Bills to ban preferential treatment for relatives of alumni at Virginia’s public universities flew through the 2024 session of the General Assembly in remarkable time. In a legislature marked by intense partisan divisions, companion bills passed subcommittees, committees, and the full Senate and the House of Delegates on unanimous votes. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Glenn Youngkin has indicated he will sign the bill.

“If we’re going to have an even playing field, let’s have an even playing field,” said Democratic Sen. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, who sponsored the Senate bill.

VanValkenburg’s statement presumably alludes to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling restricting preferential treatment in college and university admissions on the basis of race. Many Republicans and conservatives argued that policies should not tilt the playing field for or against members of a particular race or ethnic group. Admissions, they contend, should be based on merit.

In this case, Virginia Republicans appear to be true to their meritocratic principles. Attorney General Jason Miyares was among those backing the ban on legacies. The Times-Dispatch summarized his thinking this way: “Colleges should judge applications based on what a student can control — such as classes, grades and extracurriculars — not the color of their skin or their parents’ school.” Continue reading

Scott Surovell’s End Run Around Jason Miyares

Sen. Scott Surovell

by James A. Bacon

The battle for control of higher-ed institutions in Virginia is boiling over into the state legislature. Senator Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, has submitted a bill, SB 506, that would allow Virginia’s public universities to hire their own legal counsel in place of lawyers answering to the Attorney General.

The bill would give governing boards of every institution authority over the hiring of “outside legal counsel, the oversight and management of any legal counsel, and the appointment of a general counsel to serve as the chief legal officer of the institution.”

Attorney General Jason Miyares

Public universities are classified as state agencies. Like other state agencies, their legal interests are represented by counsel that reports to the Office of Attorney General.

The underlying political conflict is who controls Virginia’s colleges and universities. The issue surfaced last year when former Bowdoin University President Clayton Rose addressed the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors and suggested that board members owe their primary loyalty to the institution, not their personal agendas. He received pushback from two board members appointed by Governor Glenn Youngkin who argued that the duty of board members is to represent the interests of the Commonwealth of Virginia, not the institution itself. Continue reading

The Most Woke Universities in Virginia

“Woke” as rendered by Bing Image Creator.

by James A. Bacon

Borrowing a methodology from a Harvard computer science prof, Jay Greene and Mike Gonzales with The Heritage Foundation have calculated a wokeness ranking for Virginia’s public universities: the number of times “social justice” appears in a university’s course catalog.

Measured by the absolute number of “social justice” mentions, James Madison University is the most woke (72 references), followed by George Mason University (59), and Virginia Commonwealth University (53).

Some universities offer far more courses than others, however, so Greene and Gonzalez introduce another measure: a ratio of courses that mention “social justice” versus courses that mention “Constitution.” Continue reading

“Enacting Racial Change by Design”

by James A. Bacon

The backlash against Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in higher-ed and the corporate world may be gathering momentum across the country, but the University of Virginia is rolling out a new DEI initiative oblivious to the shift in the national mood.

UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences has launched a program this semester entitled, “Enacting Racial Change by Design.” Participating faculty will discuss chapters from the book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk to deepen understanding of “systematic racial inequity in higher education.” Participants will be able to apply for $1,000 grants to implement DEI-related projects.

The rhetoric of the memo announcing the initiative is disconnected from the national conversation now underway. The program shows not the slightest inkling that critics of DEI need be acknowledged much less engaged in dialogue. U.S. Supreme Court ruling on race in admissions? Resignation of the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania? Helloooo? Anyone home?

This is what happens when an academic elite is captive to DEI dogma and there is not enough diversity of thought for anyone to push back.

Here follows the memo: Continue reading

VMI Loses DEI Court Case: a Win-Win Situation

by Jake Spivey

In Virginia’s ever-shifting landscape of diversity, equity, or opportunity, and inclusion, a powerful decision has been made. Following the sensational, yet unproven, allegations of exceptionally bad behavior and poor leadership at Virginia Military Institute in late autumn 2019, the administration and Board of Visitors attempted to quickly effect conclusive actions that would correct their unproven ills. A prime effort by the administration would be delivery of DEI training to staff, faculty, and the Corps of cadets. Unfortunately, in its haste to instigate the training, VMI circumvented the state’s procurement laws. By sidestepping the proper legal path for solicitations and contracts, VMI became vulnerable to protest by competing but unsuccessful contractors.

After a series of hearings before Judge Christopher B. Russell, the judge rendered a verdict finding VMI in “Violation of Virginia Public Procurement Act and/or the Rules Governing Procurement of Goods, Services, Insurance and Construction by a Public Institution of Higher Education of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” The judge’s decision represents a loss for VMI and its legal counsel,  an alumnus. VMI’s attorneys tried but repeatedly failed to have the case dismissed on technicalities rather than argue the merits of VMI’s actions when pursuing the DEI training contract. Continue reading

Pleasure Activism at JMU’s Queer Teach-In

by Stu Smith

On October 4th 2023, Adrienne Maree Brown presented her work on Pleasure Activism at JMU as part of a Queer Teach-in. This Teach-in was hosted by JMU’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. As you will soon hear from JMU’s Coordinator for Cultural and Affinity Spaces, Kwyn Riley, “This conversation serves as the nucleus of the Queer resistance teach-in.” But first, how about we hear from the keynote speaker, Adrienne Maree Brown?

I’m sure most of y’all are at a total loss for words. This is who James Madison University parades out to speak to young and impressionable minds. I think the footage speaks for itself and I frankly don’t have too much to say. To me it is clear that Pleasure Activism is just Hedonism under a Social Justice lens. As a history lover, I always wonder what the namesakes and founders of these universities would think of situations like this. I can’t recall any of Madison’s thoughts on pleasure, but his ol’ pal, Thomas Jefferson said this…

“Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.” Continue reading

Look What UVA Is Hiding

by James A. Bacon

Acting on behalf of The Jefferson Council, Walter Smith has filed a complaint in Henrico County against the University of Virginia, seeking a remedy for its refusal to supply documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Smith serves in a volunteer capacity as chair of the Council’s research committee.

The suit alleges 14 instances in which the University’s FOIA staff improperly denied emails and other documents to the Council. Smith’s FOIA requests asked for documents that would shed light on the inner workings of the University’s administrative decision-making process.

The cases highlighted in the complaint illustrate two main themes. First, UVA’s FOIA lawyers have stretched the presidential “working papers” exemption beyond its original intent of protecting the university president’s personal deliberations. Second, the lawyers did not apply privacy protections to Bert Ellis, a Board of Visitors member who was widely perceived as a threat to the university status quo.

“UVa’s FOIA process seems designed to delay and discourage and deny inquiries that may be embarrassing to the Ryan administration,” said Smith. “The administration says it’s all for open inquiry. These are matters of legitimate interest to the public. It seems hypocritical to hide so much.” Continue reading

What Does UVA Need in a University President?

by James A. Bacon

For anyone following governance issues at the University of Virginia, Bill Ackman’s Twitter broadside against Harvard’s now- dethroned president Claudine Gay and its governing board is must reading. Ackman, the hedge-fund manager-turned-activist who spearheaded Gay’s overthrow, identifies serious systemic problems at Harvard, from its ponderous DEI bureaucracy to a tuition policy that prices out the middle class.

Every one of the pathologies he describes at Harvard plays out at UVA (although, one can argue, in diluted form). Little of this is new to readers of The Jefferson Council blog, for we have been documenting the problems for two years. But Ackman raises one point that we have not considered: what qualifications should a governing board look for in a university president?

The question might seem academic, but UVa President Jim Ryan is surely feeling nervous these days. As dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education before ascending to his position at UVA, he is a product of the same hyper-progressive Harvard culture as Gay. And Liz Magill, the University of Pennsylvania president who was sacked after her abysmal testimony before Congress, was Ryan’s hand-picked provost for UVa before she moved on to the Ivy League. Ryan is less politically tone deaf, to be sure. He is popular among UVA students and faculty, and he has said all the right things regarding free speech and institutional neutrality. No one in authority has publicly called for his resignation. Even The Jefferson Council, as critical as it has been of UVA under Ryan’s tenure, has taken no position on whether he should stay or go.

Nevertheless, it is worth asking the question, in light of the presidential de-fenestrations at Harvard and Penn: what should an elite university look for in a president? Continue reading