Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

What Must Jim Ryan Do to Earn a $100,000 Bonus?

James Ryan — what has the Board of Trustees incentivized him to accomplish? We don’t know, and the University of Virginia won’t say.

by James A. Bacon

When the University of Virginia hired Jim Ryan as president in 2018, the terms of his employment were spelled out in a contract. Anyone can obtain a copy of the document under the Freedom of Information Act, as Bacon’s Rebellion has done.  You can view it here.

Among other things, the six-year contract calls for paying Ryan a base salary of $750,000, provide him a $20,000-a-year car allowance, cover membership fees for two clubs, give him free housing (including the cost of housekeeping and utilities), grant him 22 vacation days a year, allow him to accrue Sabbatical leave at the rate of two months per year, and award him a performance bonus of up to $100,000 a year.

While the details of a university president’s compensation are interesting, the most important clause from a governance perspective covers the performance bonus. The contract says this about the bonus:

An evaluation of the President’s performance shall be conducted annually by the Rector after consulting with the Board of Visitors. The evaluation shall be based on the achievement of mutually agreed upon performance objectives determined by the Board of Visitors and Mr. Ryan.

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Darkness Descends upon Mr. Jefferson’s University

by James A. Bacon

In the previous post I gave a chronological account of how a classroom joke delivered by Associate Professor Jeffrey Leopold in University of Virginia business class exploded into a full-fledged racial controversy. The post was a straightforward, just-the-facts-ma’am narrative of what happened. I made every effort to give all sides of the story and to keep my opinions out of it. With this post, I’ll say what I think.

In the scale of injustice, the Leopold incident is trivial. A professor who knocks down a salary about twice the income of the average American household suffered personal embarrassment and was relieved from solo teaching of his class. He will go back to work. His life will return to normal. He did not die with a policeman’s knee pressing down on his neck.

But the story of how the drama unfolded tells volumes about the nature of race relations at the University of Virginia and, by extension, other elite institutions of higher education. The story illustrates the ever-morphing definition of what constitutes “racism,” the narrowing scope of what is permissible to say out loud, and how those who disagree with the cultural Marxist critique of America as a irredeemably racist nation are condemned and silenced as racists.

Those things are indisputable. But I would go farther. The Leopold incident reveals the depth of animosity that many minority students, especially African Americans, bear toward UVa. The young Asian woman who posted, “FUCK UVA” on the door of her lawn residence was not an outlier. She reflected the views of many on the grounds. The intellectual climate at UVa fosters the sense of minority victimhood and grievance. Perceived slights are viewed as acts of intolerable and unforgivable bigotry. Not only have the UVa administration and faculty allowed these sentiments to emerge but they have actively fostered the bitterness and resentment.

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Anatomy of a Racial Incident at UVa

Jeffrey Leopold

Jeffrey Leopold, a University of Virginia assistant professor, was assigned this fall to teach “COMM 1800 — Foundations of Commerce,” a prerequisite for students entering the McIntire School of Commerce. On October 22 he lectured the class on the topic of globalism. His purpose was to explain the necessity of adopting a “global mindset,” which among other things, required appreciating cultural differences.

Leopold kicked off his lecture, as he commonly did, by telling a joke. For this particular class, he told one that played on stereotypes of peoples around the world. It went like this:

The United Nations conducted a survey worldwide. The only question asked was: “Would you please give us your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?” The survey was a complete failure…

In Africa they did not know what “food” meant.

In China they did not know what “honest” meant.

In Europe they did not know what “shortage” meant.

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Bad Student Loan Debt: $435 Billion and Counting

by James A. Bacon

“A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money,” Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen said many years ago. With the passage of time and inflation, we might need to update the quote to “a hundred billion here, a hundred billion there…” But even by the debased standards of 2020, the $435 billion that the federal government likely will have to write off as bad student loan debt amounts to real  money.

The losses projected by the most authoritative study yet, reports the Wall Street Journal, are far steeper than prior government forecasts. Last year the Congressional Budget Office that the government would have to write off only $31.5 billion.

The problem has long been evident. “We make no attempt to evaluate the quality of the borrower, the ability to repay, the effectiveness of the loans,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO head who now heads the American Action Forum. Not surprisingly, borrowers with subprime credit scores are among the most likely to default. As with all government excesses, taxpayers will be stuck with the tab — unless the government just monetizes the bad debt and accelerates the nation’s headlong rush to Boomergeddon, the society-crushing collapse of federal finances when lenders finally conclude they will never be repaid.

Sooner or later there will be a reckoning for America’s — and Virginia’s — system of higher education. Even a nation as profligate as the United States — estimated 2020 budget deficit this year, $3.7 trillion, national debt $27 trillion — has to staunch the losses. The nation cannot afford to continue shoveling money into the abyss. Any meaningful reform, however, would be traumatic for the many higher-ed institutions whose business models are predicated on indiscriminate lending to students. Continue reading

Mark Herring’s Worst Thanksgiving –  Conspiracy Against EVMS may lead to Federal Involvement

by James C. Sherlock

Sentara CEO Howard Kern

Scandals are sometimes overrated. Not this one.

I have reported here before on the strange case of the EVMS-ODU merger. I posted here on Nov 1, Nov 2  and Nov 3 with my own concerns on the subject. Many of my assessments came to fruition.

On November 13 and 20, the Checks and Balances Project picked up the story and took it to the next level. The quotations below are from the November 20 story.

I am not an attorney, but I will project today the significant legal jeopardy into which the process may have put the group that got together to coordinate and plan that merger without EVMS participation. 

Not to mention the legal and personnel mess that it puts on the desk of Virginia’s Attorney General and the Governor. 

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Stewart Gets Last-Minute Gift From Trump

Corey Stewart

Peter Galuszka

Corey A. Stewart, a conservative firebrand from Prince William County, is getting a last-minute going-away present from President Donald Trump.

As Trump’s administration comes to an end, Trump has created a position on trade at the U.S. Commerce Department that is just for him. In 2016, Stewart headed Trump’s Virginia election campaign before being fired. Stewart said that he was Trump before Trump was Trump.

Stewart is an international trade lawyer and is expected to strong arm Trump’s tough and confusing trade policies.

A special target is China, which Trump has castigated, with some justification, for cheating on business deals, fiddling with its currency exchange rates, growing its armed forces and trampling on human rights.

Stewart will toughen enforcement of Trump’s hostile trade relations, according to news reports.

Some trade experts wonder what the Stewart story is all about. According to Reuters, William Reinsch, a former Commerce undersecretary, said he viewed hiring as “peculiar” since he is filling a position that does not exist. Continue reading

The Failure of University Governance

by James A. Bacon

In his new book co-authored with Richard J. Cebula, “Runaway College Costs,” James V. Koch goes beyond the usual lamentations about how out-of-control  costs are making colleges and universities increasingly unaffordable and inaccessible to millions of Americans. He describes how higher-ed governing boards have largely failed in their fiduciary duty to students to curtail the expensive ambitions of college administrators.

As alumni revolts gain momentum at the University of Virginia and Washington & Lee University, disgruntled graduates seeking to tame the politically correct enthusiasms of the current regimes would do well to read this book. It provides the best overview of higher-ed governance issues I have seen anywhere. If conservative alumni hope to exert influence on the direction their alma maters are going, they need to understand who holds power in the modern university and how they wield it.

Koch starts with the observation that the vast majority of college and university boards of visitors act as rubber stamps for spending and tuition proposals submitted by their institutions’ presidents. Dissenting voices are rare, and unanimous votes are the norm. Costs and tuition have increased relentlessly over the years because governing boards have allowed them to. Continue reading

Cancel the Student Debt? Kiss the Working Class Goodbye.

by Kerry Dougherty

We only have ourselves to blame. Baby Boomers, that is.

We were the progeny of the Greatest Generation, but growing up in their houses, with their rigid rules and endless chores, our folks didn’t seem like the greatest.

They seemed heartless when they sided with teachers over us and when they doled out corporal punishment for lackluster report cards.

So, when we had our own kids, we coddled them in ways our tough-love parents never imagined.

The every-player-gets-a-trophy culture was created because my generation couldn’t stand to see our dejected kids stand empty-handed at the end of the sports season while the gifted athletes took home all the hardware.

Our parents told us to try harder if we wanted to win. We told our kids that winning didn’t matter. Continue reading

How to Promote Ideological Diversity at Washington & Lee

by Neely Young

It is well known by now that the professoriate at many colleges and universities, particularly the more elite ones, is dominated by politically liberal faculty. American higher education needs ideological diversity in classrooms, particularly in those that touch on political and social issues. Disciplines like sociology, history, political science, literature, and philosophy have been increasingly shaped by progressive, intellectual currents over the last several years. Conservative students often avoid such courses because they feel they will be called out on their views. On many campuses, there are no conservative professors in the social sciences and humanities.

Indeed, many classrooms in these subjects are “homogenous islands.” In a recent study published by the National Association of Scholars, “Homogenous: The Political Affiliation of Elite, Liberal Arts Faculty,” Michal Langbert states that such homogeneity of viewpoint may well bias research and teaching, constrict intellectual discussion within the faculty, and deprive students of diverse viewpoints.

In his new book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses, Michael Roth, the President of Wesleyan College, has made an appeal for heterodoxy of campus viewpoints, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. As he says, “We need an affirmative action program for ideas emerging from conservative and religious traditions.”

The situation at Washington and Lee does not seem to be as dire as at some schools, but it is undoubtedly true that the faculty is more politically liberal than at any point in the past, that many conservative professors and students feel like outsiders and are not as willing to express their points of view, and that many of the liberal faculty members have played an outsized role in the controversies and crises of the last few years. The vote of 79% of the faculty to change the name of the university is a strong indication of the left-leaning propensities of that group. Continue reading

What Works: Helping Students Complete their College Degrees

Image credit: Lumenlearning

by James A. Bacon

In Virginia, nearly 30% of students who enroll in community college or four-year college fail to complete their degrees within six years. There is widespread agreement across the political spectrum that it would be a good thing if more students completed their degrees and fewer dropped out of college after loading up on student-loan debt they can never repay. The question is, how do we improve the college completion rate.

Yesterday I highlighted analysis found in a study by Rachel Fulcher Dawson, Melissa S. Kearney, and James X. Sullivan, “Comprehensive Approaches to Increasing Student Completion in Higher Education,” that shed light on why students drop out of college. Today, as promised, I focus on eight programs they have identified that measured their results in raising the completion rate. These include:

The Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) was developed by the City University of New York (CUNY) in 2007. This program assigns full-time, low-income students to advisors with small caseloads to help them to transition to college life, navigate their college campus, plan a career path, and access additional supports if they fall off track. The program provides tuition waivers, a MetroCard, and free use of textbooks. The program achieved an 18 percentage point increase in degree completion, twice the graduation rate of a control group. But it was extremely expensive — $42,000 per student for a three-year program. Continue reading

Some First Amendment Rights More Important than Others

Cartoon circulating among University of Virginia alumni…

Why So Many Students Drop Out of College

by James A. Bacon

Roughly 70% of all high school graduates in the United States pursue higher education. Among first-time full-time students who enroll in four-year institutions 40% fail to complete a bachelor’s degree within six years, and most of those never will. The non-completion rate is even higher for community college enrollees. This “completion crisis” is costly to students, most of whom wind up carrying a crippling load of debt, and to taxpayers, who are stuck with a fast-expanding portfolio of non-performing student loans.

Here at Bacon’s Rebellion, we have argued that the completion crisis is one of the greatest sources of immiseration for the American people today. If you’re looking for institutional injustice, this is a good place to start.

Society creates the expectation that Americans should be able to attend college, even if they are academically unprepared, and lends them to money to do so. But society often fails to provide the support to ensure that lower-income students succeed.

Virginia is no exception to the completion crisis. Among students enrolling in four-year institutions in Virginia in the 2011-12 academic year, the most recent for which the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia publishes data, 70.2% earned degrees within six years. Put another way, almost 30% failed to earn a degree. The completion rate is highest among higher-income Virginians (earning four times or more of poverty-level income) at 77.2%. That still leaves nearly one out of four students from higher-income families who fail to graduate. Not surprisingly, the drop-out rate is higher among students from lower-income families, at 57.8%. Continue reading

Bettina Love at Virginia Tech – a Different Context

by James C. Sherlock

A bad penny keeps on turning up.

This appearance is however critically different in context from Ms. Love’s appearance at the University of Virginia School of Education.

The Tech online get together is for faculty, and I have no problem with that. It represents legitimate academic inquiry.

Presumably the audience will question Love on her recommendations for resegregation of the schools and a radically unique curriculum for black students. That should engender a lively debate that I will pay to see.

The UVa School of Education appearance was as a keynote speaker for K-12 teachers, which represents an endorsement.

VMI Wins with Wins as Interim Superintendent

Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Military Institute has appointed retired Army Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, an African-American, as interim superintendent. He will serve while the Board of Visitors searches for a permanent replacement for retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, who resigned after Governor Ralph Northam announced an investigation into charges of “relentless racism” at the military academy.

You can read a straight news story about the appointment in the Richmond Times-Dispatch here.

You can read a jaundiced joke of a “news” story about the appointment by so-called “reporter” Ian Shapira in the Washington Post here.

First a few facts about Wins…. He graduated from VMI in 1985, sixteen years after the military academic was desegregated, and spent 34 years in the Army. Son of an Army veteran and police officer, Wins, now 57, attended VMI on a basketball scholarship and starred as a shooting guard. He remains on the team’s top all-five scorer’s list. After earning a degree in economics, he was required to serve three years in the Army. As the RTD recounts, although he had never intended to make the Army career, the Army kept presenting him with opportunities, and he kept on taking them. His final post before retirement was commander of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, the Army’s largest technology developer. Continue reading

A Challenge to the University of Virginia Ed School on the Teaching of K-12 Black Children

by James C. Sherlock

I provided an extensive review in this space of the latest book by Dr. Bettina Love, an assistant professor in the education school of the University of Georgia. She advocates separate but equally funded schools for black children and a radically revised curriculum unique to black children.

Dr. Bettina Love

Readers can see in that review the details of her analysis of the problems in the education of black children in American schools and her incomplete but radical prescriptions for fixing the problems she assesses.

The University of Virginia, my alma mater, brought this woman to my attention by paying Ms. Love to keynote a symposium, not for University faculty or students, but sponsored by the Education School for working K-12 teachers in Virginia.

That, when combined with similar content in many courses at the University, constitutes an endorsement of Ms. Love’s views, not a hearing of them by the University.

I believe that Black parents in Virginia will reject Ms. Love’s views root and branch by very large margins.  Which in turn will raise the question of why is the University doing what it is doing.

So I offer a challenge to the University.

Fund a reputable polling organization:

  1. to accurately portray Ms. Love’s views as she states them; and
  2. survey Black parents of children in public schools in Virginia to find out if they agree or disagree.

Then publish the results, even if some at the University may think they do not know what is best for their children.