Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

UVa Rules Out a “Pattern” of Hate Crimes

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia executive leadership has issued a remarkable statement that lends insight into the fraught state of race relations at Virginia’s flagship university. Three recent incidents have taken place on the Grounds since the new academic year began that have “caused some to speculate that they are linked or part of a larger pattern of racially motived crimes,” said J.J. Wagner Davis, chief operating officer, and Tim Longo, chief of university police.

One incident involved a White man hanging a noose around the neck of the Greek poet Homer, an act of ambiguous meaning that President Jim Ryan promptly branded as a hate crime. The Davis-Longo statement made it clear, however, that two other matters — a report of someone throwing rocks through the window of the Office of African-American Affairs, and the discovery of a flag bearing a strange symbol lying on the grass near the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers — have been determined not to be hate crimes.

“President Ryan has asked us to provide this community with an update and to make as clear as we can: These incidents are not linked, and two of the three were not racially motivated at all,” the statement read.

The series of incidents has roiled the UVa community. As the statement notes, Ryan and other senior University officials have “spoken with many students, faculty and alumni” about efforts to get to the bottom of the events. Continue reading

FIRE to VMI: Hands Off the Independent Student Newspaper

by James A. Bacon

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has asked the Virginia Military Institute to refrain from pressuring an independent student newspaper, The Cadet, to change its editorial stances.

“Cadet staff have faced interference from VMI leadership, including pressure to make the paper’s content more flattering to the Institute, suppression of its distribution, and demands that the student staff stop working with alumni on publication efforts,” wrote Anne Marie Tamburro and Mike Hiestand with FIRE, a national organization that focuses on campus free speech issues, in FIRE Letter to VMI.

“VMI’s cumulative acts seeking to bend the paper to administrative pressure and interfering with its staff’s activities squarely contradict the Institute’s obligations under the First Amendment, which demands that VMI respect the editorial independence of The Cadet,” FIRE said.

VMI spokesman Bill Wyatt said that FIRE did not fact-check the allegations with VMI contained in the letter before sending it. “They’re taking Bob Morris’ word as gospel,” he said, referring to VMI alumnus Bob Morris, who advises the newspaper and heads the foundation that supports it financially. VMI is working on a response, he added.

Correction: The original version of this story said that FIRE did not fact-check the allegations in the story. It has been corrected to say that FIRE did not fact-check with VMI. Continue reading

UVa Updates: Jefferson Legacy, Honor System, Tuition Credit

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors met Thursday and Friday last week and discuss several matters of interest to the broader community. Here are some headlines:

Clement Defends Jefferson’s Legacy; Ryan Stays Mum
Jefferson Council blog

Whitt Clement, rector of the University of Virginia, gave a brief defense of Thomas Jefferson and his legacy at the Board of Visitors meeting Friday.

“We are a University founded by Thomas Jefferson, and honoring his legacy and his contributions to our nation has, and will always be, an indelible part of what it means to live, learn and work here,” Clement said. “That is the policy and the position of this institution and it will not change under our leadership or that of President [Jim] Ryan or his team.”

Board of Visitors Discusses Rollout of “Living Honor” Campaign
Jefferson Council blog

The University of Virginia Alumni Association presented an overview to the Board of Visitors last week of its “Living Honor” marketing campaign. Continue reading

College “Equity” and the Student Pipeline Problem

by James A. Bacon

It’s sad to see that my friends at the Partners for College Affordability & Public Trust (once a sponsor of Bacon’s Rebellion) have embraced the “social justice” paradigm for higher education. I whole-heartedly endorsed their mission when it focused on containing the rising cost of college attendance generally and advocated increased transparency for higher-ed governance. But in a new paper, “Fair Funding and the Future of Higher Education in Virginia,” the Partners have succumbed to the mantra that higher ed should be not only affordable but “equitable” and “transformative.”

The paper, which is co-written by Education Reform Now, advances a series of premises: (1) that “a state of de facto segregation by income and race exists in Virginia higher education;” (2) that higher education should promote “social mobility” for lower-income Virginians; and (3) that colleges and universities should strive to advance social mobility by closing the racial admissions gap.

In this schema, it not the job of Virginia’s higher-ed system as a whole to provide social mobility for lower-income Virginians. Virginia needs to revamp its public support for higher-ed to “erase equity gaps” at each institution, the study report says. “At some of Virginia’s most prestigious public institutions, barely 1 out of ten undergraduates come from low-income households and only a quarter come from low- and middle-income households combined.” 

What this analysis ignores is that higher-ed is largely powerless to address the equity gap, which arises from socioeconomic conditions and the failures of Virginia’s K-12 school system. Virginia’s elite institutions cannot boost their numbers of lower-income students significantly without either sacrificing the rigor of education or exposing them to the risk of failure, dropping out, and going deeply into debt. Continue reading

VCU Police Department Signals Its Wokeness

VCU Police Chief John Venuti

by James A. Bacon

A new “resource” will be available to the LGBTQIA+ community in Richmond. Virginia Commonwealth University — yes, the same institution that recently lost $470,000 in a cyber scam — has assigned two campus patrol officers as “campus LGBTQIA+ liaisons.”

A recent university announcement noted that VCU Police Chief John Venuti has designated the two liaisons as part of the department’s “culture of inclusive community outreach for officers and staff.”

It is not clear, either in the VCU announcement or a WRIC story, what the two officers actually will be doing… aside from liaising and collaborating. Nor is there indication why such liaising and collaborating is necessary.

VCU News said only this: “While the department mandates Safe Zone training for all staff, Officers Hakilah Hudson and Briana Jackson will actively collaborate with offices and groups for outreach and events on both campuses and will be the points of contact for groups on and off campus.”

The VCU page on LGBTQIA+ Liaisons adds this: Continue reading

Presumed Racist Until Proven Innocent

by James A. Bacon

Around 11:15 p.m. last Wednesday, a White male dressed in dark clothing climbed the statue of the blind poet Homer on the grounds of the University of Virginia and hung a noose around its neck.

The next day University President Jim Ryan declared the incident to be a “hate crime” and vowed to track down the perpetrator. Ryan said he wanted to assure every member of the UVa community that he was “working to keep you safe and to make the University of Virginia a place where everyone is welcome” regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology.

“A noose is a recognizable and well-known symbol of violence, most closely associated with the racially motivated lynchings of African Americans,” Ryan said in a prepared statement. “The combination of those factors led University public safety officials to determine that this incident met the criteria of a hate crime and that a community alert was required.”

Proclaiming the incident to be a hate crime seems premature. Given the facts available, I would not call it unreasonable to suspect that noose might have been meant to intimidate African-Americans — let’s call it a working hypothesis — but one must ask, if someone is trying to send a racist message, why hang the noose around the neck of an ancient Greek poet? Why not hang the noose from a tree branch? Or vandalize the shrine to UVa’s slave laborers? Continue reading

The Trouble with Guaranteed Student Loans

by Dr. A Schuhart

I benefitted directly from the guaranteed student loan program. Unlike most of my colleagues, I was a first-generation college student, and I took out loans for both BA and MA degrees. I would not have attended college were it not for this program, so I have always been grateful for it.

In my view, my fellow citizens invested $25,000 dollars in me, hoping to get a decent return on that investment. The government did not “give” it to me; I asked for it, and American taxpayers loaned it to me. I believe, after more than 30 years in the classroom teaching almost 10,000 students, that I have returned excellent value on that initial investment. If I am still paying my loans today (which I am), it is because of my own foolishness when younger, and not the fault of the program or its expectations of repayment.

So, I believe in the value of the Guaranteed Student Loan (GSL) program, and I think it has helped many people like me. Overall, it was a positive program when all parties participated in it with integrity. But it is clear that the program has spiraled out of control, and the very problems that were warned about at the outset have come to pass. Congress and the public should take the time to investigate that initial debate and look at the student loan “crisis” through a longitudinal lens.

So, what are the problems that were predicted at the outset of the program? Here they are as I recall them, and they are all related to this troublesome word… “guaranteed.” Continue reading

Va. Colleges Fare Pretty Well in Free-Speech Rankings

Click on table for more legible image.

by James A. Bacon

Three Virginia universities scored in the top 25 institutions in the 2022-23 College Free Speech Rankings published this week by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

The College of William and Mary scored 12th among the 203 institutions ranked in the national survey of 44,900 undergraduate students. George Mason University ranked 17th, and the University of Virginia 24th.

Washington & Lee University ranked 70th, placing it in the top half, but Virginia Tech achieved a dismal 150th-place ranking, making it among the worst in the nation for free speech.

Institutions with the best rankings tended to score well in their formal, written speech codes, as determined by FIRE research based on formal university policies. Those policies are not necessarily honored in practice, however. Of potential concern to Bacon’s Rebellion readers, for example, W&M and UVa students expressed far less tolerance for conservative outside speakers than liberal speakers. Continue reading

Sorry, Lefties, But Racists Don’t Invest In Black Enterprise

by James A. Bacon

The broadsides against Bert Ellis are going national. Inside Higher Education, the higher-ed trade publication, has published an article highlighting the growing controversy over Ellis’ appointment to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. The article quotes Eva Surovell, editor-in-chief of The Cavalier Daily, whose articles sparked the furor, as saying that developments at UVa reflect the larger campus culture wars across the country.

That observation is true enough. Unfortunately, Surovell goes on to say this: “We’re just not unique in that really conservative voices are nostalgic for a time when women, when Black people and when other people of color were either banned or much less of a population here at UVA.”

Translation: Ellis and his alumni allies are reactionary racists and sexists.

I’ve got news for Ms. Surovell: Bert Ellis is CEO of Johnson Energy Storage, a developer of solid-state energy storage solutions founded by African American inventor Lonnie Johnson. Racists don’t invest in minority-owned enterprises. Racists don’t serve as CEOs of companies founded by minority entrepreneurs. Continue reading

A Lie Is Born

by James A. Bacon

It is horrifying to watch in real time how the media generates falsehoods and then spreads them without correction. About two weeks ago The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Virginia, published an article about a 47-year-old controversy in which Bert Ellis, who then was a tri-chairman of the student union and now sits on the UVa Board of Visitors, invited William Shockley, a racist and eugenicist, to speak at the university. The story, shorn of critical context, spread to the Democratic Party of Virginia, then to the Washington Post editorial board, and most recently to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Insinuated but not stated baldly, is that Ellis is a racist. In its latest mutation, the lie is used to build a case that Governor Glenn Youngkin, who appointed Ellis to the board, is, in the Post’s words, “racially obtuse.”

Bert Ellis is a colleague of mine. We serve together in the leadership of The Jefferson Council, which is dedicated to upholding the Jeffersonian legacy at UVa. I don’t know him intimately, but I have gotten to know him pretty well. I have heard him speak candidly on a host of incendiary issues, and I’ve never heard him utter a racist sentiment.

With this column, I’m putting Virginia’s mainstream media on notice: stop it! You’re treading dangerously close to libel. You can no longer claim innocence of the facts. If you persist, you deserve to be sued. Continue reading

Woke Limbo: How Low Can You Go?

by James A. Bacon

The bar for triggering Virginia Democrats gets lower by the day. The latest limbo contortion is a call by the Democratic Party of Virginia and the University Democrats at the University of Virginia for the resignation of Bert Ellis, a recently appointed member of the UVa Board of Visitors, who has yet to utter a single public word in his capacity as a board member. In a joint statement, the two organizations cite three particulars, each of which exceeds the other in triviality.

According to the joint statement, Ellis’ sins can be traced back to the 1974-75 academic year when he was chairman of the University Union, which put on concerts, brought in speakers and organized other events at UVa.

That year, the Union and Ellis held an event entitled The Correlation Between Race and Intelligence, featuring William Shockley, an unabashed racist, white supremecist [sic], and eugenicist. This event is a stain on the University’s past, especially due to the event’s intentional scheduling during Black Cultural Week. As the University continues to grapple with its history of slavery, racism, and eugenics, Mr. Ellis’ appointment is not only regressive, but also directly insulting to countless students and student organizations who have worked relentlessly to make Charlottesville more equitable.

Neither The Cavalier Daily, in its article raising the controversy, nor the Democratic Party, in its joint statement, acknowledges that Shockley, whose theories were widely circulated in the 1970s, was invited to debate Richard Goldsby, an African-American biologist. Neither Ellis nor the Student Union endorsed Shockley’s racist views; they invited public scrutiny. Continue reading

Virginia’s Self-Perpetuating Schools of Education

by James C. Sherlock

We are in the midst of a series of articles examining Virginia’s system of schools of education. In this one we will look at how the rules for licensure of teachers and other school staff have changed and impacted teacher education.

Those answers are found in the laws of Virginia and in the Board of Education’s regulations and comprehensive plans. All are political documents written by political organizations.

As we examine them below, we will see that the politicians, on the advice of the schools of education, have made the business of traditional schools of education a sinecure.

In Virginia, those schools have become an integral part of the system of laws and regulations that make them a self-perpetuating system that has no apparent purpose other than to sustain itself. Continue reading

As Anti-Jefferson Rhetoric Swells, Ryan Stands Silent

by James A. Bacon

Here is what passes for logic at The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Virginia, a university once reputed for the excellence of its education:

We reject how the University’s physical environment — one that glorifies racists, slaveholders and eugenicists with statues and buildings named in their honor — upholds an enduring culture of white supremacy. There is a reason why Charlottesville’s local Klu Klux Klan Chapter hosted its inauguration ceremony at Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. There is a reason why white supremacists gathered with torches around Jefferson’s statue on the north side of the Rotunda. There is a reason why they felt comfortable marching through Grounds. Our physical environment — from statues to building names to Jefferson’s overwhelming presence — exalts people who held the same beliefs as the repugnant white supremacists in attendance at the “Unite the Right” rally. These buildings must be renamed and memorials removed.

Follow the syllogism: White supremacists rallied at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. White supremacists are evil. (Unstated but necessary to complete the syllogism): Ergo, Jefferson is evil. Therefore, buildings and memorials to him and other White supremacists must be removed.

The CD editorial writers use the rhetorical device of guilt by association to tar Jefferson. Notably, this particular circumlocution holds Jefferson guilty by virtue of association with the Ku Klux Klan, which did not exist in Jefferson’s time, for activities undertaken some 200 years after he lived! The mystic chords of White supremacy, it seems, transcend space, time and causality. Continue reading

I Agree with DEI… This Much

John Dewey, prophet of the Progressive education movement, which is now in its flailing, floundering senescence.

by Dr. A. Schuhart

The foundational warrant of “Progressive” DEI educators to transform American Education is that the education system is fundamentally a racist construction, and we need to dismantle it. This warrant is the only part of the DEI argument that I accept as true. And it is a damningly ironic truth for DEI proponents to contemplate, for the fact is, the American Education system today, as it stands, is an expression of Progressive (aka Socialist) Education theory that was instituted after World War II. It is not the theory of Education that evolved in tandem with American Democracy, and Science, itself.

No, our failed education system is a socialist imposition. It is not based in the observable and rational understanding of human cognitive development that is the foundation of Democratic Education theory, practice, and design. Instead, it is an authoritarian model of control, a completely deductive model at that. The purpose of this national socialist education is to transform American society into the ideal that socialists ignorantly serve. Thus, Progressive Education is not dedicated to individual merit and accomplishment, it is not dedicated to individual discovery and self-creation, it is not dedicated to serving the individual equal human being, and it is certainly not dedicated to serving truth. Continue reading

The Newest Entitlement for a Morally Bankrupt Nation

Cartoon credit:

by James A. Bacon

This is it: the final straw. I’ve had it. I’m ready to (figuratively) burn the place down.

President Joe Biden has moved to cancel student-loan debt for 43 million borrowers in an initiative that the Wharton School of Business estimates could cost taxpayers $300 billion over the next ten years. Students from low-income families qualifying for Pell grants would get $20,000 in debt forgiveness while others would be forgiven $10,000.

This action is wrong on so many grounds that I barely know where to begin. As some have observed, the primary beneficiaries of forgiveness are America’s educated elites. Americans in blue collar occupations get nothing from this arrangement. The move also rewards deadbeats by offloading bad-debt burden to taxpayers. Those who made sacrifices to retire their debts take up the slack through their taxes for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay off their loans.

The Biden administration is effectively transforming student loans into another income-transfer entitlement benefiting debtors and the higher-ed institutions that enabled their debt at the expense of taxpayers and those who honor their debts. This is more than a fiscal outrage. It is a moral outrage. Continue reading