Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

Time to Be Honest about COVID-19

By Peter Galuszka

Two remarkable stories dominate headlines this morning – Donald Trump has COVID-19 and some 5,000 Virginia college students also have the virus.

The infection of Trump throws an already chaotic presidential race into further confusion. State colleges are scrambling to find what to do about viral infections since the numbers have exploded from about 500 a month ago to 5,000 today.

This is no time to say, “I told you so,” but many on this blog really need to ask themselves about their efforts to minimize the worst health crisis the nation has faced. Already 205,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, but somehow that has not deterred the naysayers.

We have seen a steady and often snarky campaign to reopen Virginia Beach, send kids back to school too soon, reopen business and blame Gov. Ralph Northam for trying to take needed precautions that just about every other state governor has done. Continue reading

W&L Alumni Revolt Gains Momentum

by James A. Bacon

The Washington & Lee alumni outcry against an initiative to remove Lee’s name from the university is morphing into a powerful constituency demanding influence in university decision-making. Under the name of The Generals Redoubt, alumni protesters have formed a nonprofit, raised $456,000 in funds, and articulated a coherent alternative vision for the institution.

“The Generals Redoubt is dedicated to the preservation of the history, values, and traditions of Washington and Lee University,” states the website.

While not directly addressing the administration’s embrace of social justice issues, the Generals Redoubt calls for a student body with “a variety of economic backgrounds and life experiences” as well as “greater political and ideological diversity” in hiring faculty and administrators. The group also seeks “freedom of expression” on campus and the restoration of public prayer (participation optional) at ceremonial functions.

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Bacon Bits: Special Ethnic/Racial/Sexual Exploitation Issue

VCU construction workers allege exploitation. From VPM News: Speaking anonymously, undocumented workers at Virginia Commonwealth University construction sites say they are being exploited by unidentified middle men who misclassify them as contractors instead of employees, deprive them of benefits, and don’t pay them for overtime. VCU said it does not hire undocumented workers (illegal aliens) and cannot account for the practices of the sub-contractors that its general contractors hire. The article leaves a lot of questions unanswered, primarily, which construction companies are engaging in these allegedly illegal practices? Who are the “middle men” the article refers to? Name names. Do Richmond’s larger, more reputable firms engage subs who hire and cheat undocumented workers? Alternatively, are the offending firms owned by Hispanics? If so, does the prevalence of this practice reflect VCU requirements for giving work to minority contractors? At the very least, VPM ought to be asking these questions.

A COVID bonus. There’s a silver lining to every dark cloud. In the case of the COVID 19 epidemic, the unheralded benefit is universities’ crackdown on big parties. Restrictions on the number of people who can gather in one place puts a huge crimp in fraternity life at James Madison University, which is rated No. 33 for top party schools in America, reports the Daily News-Record. Let’s speculate about the downstream consequences… Tighter COVID-19 restrictions means fewer drunken parties… which means less drunken party sex… which means less “regret” sex. One can predict that fewer cases of regret sex will translate into fewer accusations of rape and sexual assault. We are witnessing a fascinating social scientific experiment. I hope someone is tracking the numbers.

Meanwhile, in the racial healing department…. The Virginia Department of Education offers its monthly #EdEquityVa webinar series to provide educators with “professional learning opportunities” to advance “education equity.” This month’s offerings for Racial Equity & Anti-Racism include: Continue reading

College Students See Free Speech on Campus as a Problem

by James C. Sherlock Updated Sept 30 3:15 PM

The results of a new, rigorously analyzed and very large-scale scientific survey of nearly 20,000 students’ perspectives of free speech at 55 different universities in the U.S. are beyond troubling.

We will look at the overall results and specific results for the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

This was the largest survey  of college students ever conducted about free speech on their campuses.

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College Education as Consumer Fraud?

The college diploma: not worth what it used to be.

by James A. Bacon

I’ve long warned that Virginia’s colleges and universities would pay a price for their embrace of leftist radicalism, intolerance of non-conforming views, and hostility to reasoned debate. Why, I asked, would parents spend tens of thousands of dollars yearly to send off their children to be indoctrinated with values and world views antithetical to their own? Here in Virginia, we’re seeing the first signs of resistance to campus radicalism from the alumni of Washington & Lee University and the University of Virginia. Now there are signs of the counter-revolution going national.

In July, President Trump asked the Treasury Department to re-examine the tax-exempt status of colleges and universities, claiming that “too many” institutions are driven by “radical left indoctrination.” It’s a shame that Trump got involved because he polarizes everything he touches. Half the nation will automatically oppose anything he supports. But he was tapping into a very real issue. There is a deep and increasing resentment of higher-ed in America today.

In the latest sign of the times, Ronald Kessler, a Trump-friendly journalist, has linked campus radicalism and college affordability, hitting themes that Reed Fawell, Jim Sherlock, and I have been hammering on for some time now. In an opinion piece he disseminated by email, “Colleges Are Consumer Frauds,” he touches upon arguments that Bacon’s Rebellion readers will find familiar. Continue reading

Alumni to UVa: Enough Is Enough

by James A. Bacon

The debate over “contextualizing” the Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia itself needs some context. Viewed in isolation, the idea of adding a plaque to the Jefferson statue alluding to his flaws as a slaveholder as well as to his political and intellectual achievements should not be a cause of great consternation. Jefferson was not a saint. To my mind, acknowledging his human frailties makes his accomplishments all the more vivid.

But the Board of Visitors’ resolution earlier this month to contextualize the statue was not an isolated incident. The vote followed a long train of developments in which the university has sunk ever deeper into the quicksand of the left-wing interpretation of race, race relations, and the legitimacy of this country’s institutions. For many alumni, I suspect, the statue issue is simply the last straw.

After supinely tolerating the destructive, leftward drift in rhetoric and burgeoning signs of the cancel culture while dutifully handing over their money like good little alumni, many UVa grads have run out of patience. As Thomas M. Neale wrote in a letter to university authorities, “Enough is enough. Where does this end?”

The answer is that the leftward drift does not end until it meets resistance. For years, university leadership has responded mainly to internal constituencies, which are overwhelmingly left wing and steeped in social-justice ideology. The parents who pay the ever-escalating bills are not organized and have no power. Alumni are equally unorganized. Like a company union, UVa’s alumni association is a captive organization that functions as the administration’s alumni-propaganda arm. But the appearance of “Fuck UVA” signs on the Lawn and the decision to contextualize the statue — verbiage to be determined — were the sparks that lit the accumulated detritus that exploded into a forest fire. Continue reading

UVa Leadership Justifies Contextualizing Jefferson Statue

The University of Virginia administration and Board of Visitors is caught in the crossfire as alumni push back against the radicalization of the university and denigration of its founder Thomas Jefferson. In the previous post, I published a letter written by Thomas M. Neale and co-signed by 200 others condemning the Board of Visitors resolution to “contextualize” the Jefferson state on the UVa grounds.

Rector James B. Murray Jr., and President James E. Ryan wrote the following letter in response, which I offer with minor edits. — JAB

The actions recommended by the administration and taken by the Board have been years in the making. In response to growing interest from our students, faculty, and community, the University has for some time now been addressing more fully its history and the life of Thomas Jefferson. Our work has been similar to the efforts of Monticello, more fully portraying Mr. Jefferson’s life to provide a complete picture of his (many) accomplishments, as well as his shortcomings, and to make these facts available to a larger audience. Continue reading

End Self-Flagellation, Urge UVa Alumni

The social-justice war has been unfolding at a furious pace at the University of Virginia. Earlier this month, UVa alumni Bert Ellis wrote a widely disseminated email decrying the posting on the door of a 4th year student of her room on the lawn a sign saying “Fuck UVa.” When the administration declined to act to take down the sign — indeed, when it assigned monitors to prevent anyone else from taking it down — Ellis called essentially for alumni defunding of the university. Before long, several more “Fuck UVa” signs appeared on Lawn doors. Not long afterwards, the Board of Visitors adopted a resolution calling for the university to “contextualize” the statue of founder Thomas Jefferson on the grounds that he had been a slaveholder “to tell the broader story about his contributions to the University, the nation, and the world, as well as contradictory writings and actions that were an integral part of his life and work.”

About a week ago, 200 alumni signed a letter written by Thomas M. Neale, class of ’74 and a founding partner of Murray Hill Associates, responding to the decision to contextualize the statute resolution. With minor edits, I present that letter here. — JAB

Many universities across America are renaming endowments, removing statues, and eradicating the names of prominent alumni/ae and benefactors whose names adorn university buildings and academic departments. The men and women whose names are being removed do not meet the ethical criteria or societal norms of our 21st century culture according to the Faculty, Administrative leadership, and governing Boards of these universities. In short, these decisions are made, and judgments decreed, based upon revisionist historical analyses rather than the ethical norms and moral tenets that were prevalent during these men and women’s lifetimes. Continue reading

Anti-Racism Training and Whiteness – Equal Time

by James C. Sherlock

The movement should be allowed to speak for itself. It will do so here.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, in its online portal called “Talking About Race,” provided what may qualify as the official list of the characteristics of whiteness. 

The graphic linked below was published by the museum sometime before July 16. The part you may have trouble reading says:

“White dominant culture, or whiteness, refers to the ways white people and their traditions, attitudes, and ways of life have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States, and since white people still hold most of the institutional power in America, we have all internalized some aspects of white culture—including people of color.”  

It was accompanied by a chart to show what whiteness is.  Click on the link to see a readable version.  

characteristics of whiteness

In one of the six stages of loss that antiracism training features, participants may wish to confess their parts in the listed aggressions.

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College Education for Free? Eat Your Heart Out, Bernie Sanders

Illustration credit: Wall Street Journal

by James A. Bacon

Progressive icon Bernie Sanders famously called for “free” higher education. Not free for taxpayers, of course, but free for students. Daniel Pianko, co-founder of the University Ventures fund, thinks that nearly free tuition may be coming — thanks to market-driven innovation.

COVID-19 is accelerating trends that were underway before the epidemic saddled traditional higher-ed institutions with the task of reopening campuses and keeping students, faculty and staff safe. Many classes are being taught online, and many colleges and universities are offering a 10% tuition discount as compensation.

“Such discounts imply that students are still getting 90% of the value of higher education (about $45,000 worth, on average) from their Zoom lectures, but much of the educational content has become widely available for free. Students and parents can’t be faulted for suspecting that an online education should cost next to nothing,” writes Pianko in the Wall Street Journal.

Pianko expects that one day online educational institutions will be able to provide college degrees almost for free. Continue reading

$300 Million Bond Refinancing Won’t “Save” Higher Ed from Long-Term Challenges

If higher-ed institutions don’t address fundamental challenges, their long-term debt may not be worth much more than these Confederate bearer bonds.

by James A. Bacon

Governor Ralph Northam has unveiled a higher-education refinancing plan that will allow Virginia’s public colleges and universities to reschedule more than $300 million in debt over the next two years.

The Commonwealth of Virginia would refinance bonds issued by the Treasury Board of Virginia and the Virginia College Building Authority. Under the Governor’s plan, which requires General Assembly cooperation, institutions would make no principal payments on their VCBA bonds through fiscal year 2023; the restructuring would extend institutions’ payment plans for two years beyond their current schedule for both types of bonds.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have tremendous impacts on higher education, including the fiscal health of our colleges and universities,” said Governor Northam in a press release. “Families all over the country are taking advantage of record low interest rates to refinance their home mortgages, and we want our public institutions to benefit as well. Refinancing will free up millions of dollars in savings allowing our colleges and universities to make critical investments, meet the needs of Virginia students, and continue offering a world-class education.”

The headline of the Governor’s press release indicated that Virginia institutions would “save” more than $300 million over the next two years. That nomenclature was repeated in leads and/or headlines appearing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Roanoke Times, and Washington Post. The initiative will do no such thing. The vast majority of “savings” would come from deferring payments on $300 million, which still will would have to be repaid. Continue reading

Major Impacts of Northam’s War against Teachers

Federal school funding threatened; Democrats and unions in a bind; Lawsuits coming

Timing is Everything

by James C. Sherlock

Ralph Northam declared on August 30 of this year that Virginia’s schools are systemically racist and that teachers are presumptively racist and must be treated and monitored.

In addition to threatening to create turmoil in the schools and damage to the very students he apparently meant to help, the Governor has potentially kicked over a hornets’ nest worse than he stirred up with his infamous infanticide interview that resulted in the release of his blackface yearbook photo. 

And he may have set Virginia up for federal demands for repayments of Department of Education funds and related fines. At stake is a breathtaking amount of money that includes CARES Act funding, all of which has been contingent on compliance with the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The documented facts may also have put Democrats and their allies (in that word’s traditional and critical race theory definitions) in a large political bind.

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Northam Labels Virginia’s Teachers Racists

No word on teacher Pam Northam’s status

by James C. Sherlock

Trouble at the dinner table?

Governor Northam on August 24, 2020 declared Virginia’s schools guilty of systemic (structural) racism and declared his intention to “build antiracist school communities.”  

He was addressing the #EdEquity VA Virtual SummitCourage, Equity and Antiracism hosted by Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.

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The COVID Made Me Do It

With apologies to Flip Wilson: the covid made me do it

by James A. Bacon

To nobody’s surprise, we are getting confirmation that lower-income students are suffering the most from the way colleges and universities are responding to the  COVID-19 challenge. Higher-ed enrollment has dropped significantly this fall, and the drop-outs are skewing toward the lower end of the income spectrum.

Some 100,000 fewer high school seniors completed financial aid applications to attend college this year, according to a National College Attainment Network analysis. Also, tuition deposits at 100 four-year colleges tracked by education research firm EAB are down 8.4% among families making less than $60,000 per year.

Those numbers are quoted by a Washington Post article highlighting the enrollment trend. Notice, though, how the Post spins the story (my emphasis):

The lower enrollment figures are the latest sign of how the economic devastation unleashed by the coronavirus crisis has weighed more heavily on lower-income Americans and minorities, who have suffered higher levels of unemployment and a higher incidence of covid-19.

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In the Naming Rights Sweepstakes at UVa’s Ed School, A Sophie’s Choice for the Woke

Mao Zedong

by James C. Sherlock

“Sophie’s Choice” is centered on a scene in Auschwitz where Sophie has just arrived with her ten-year old son and her seven-year old daughter. She loves them both equally. A sadistic doctor tells her that she can only bring one of her children; one will be allowed to live while the other is to be killed.

A reader of an earlier post suggested with tongue in cheek that UVa’s School of Education and Human Development be renamed the Marx School of Re-education.

Three currents have reached “intersectionality” (see Wikipedia’s anti-racism glossary) in renaming Virginia’s Ed School: the theorists – Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory –  and the practitioners – the new Cultural Revolution.

It would insult the leadership of the Ed School to call them theorists.

Accused accurately and publicly of “shoddy scholarship” by the Rector of the University, those worthies may consider them elves street fighters leading a cultural revolution, not academics. If so, they will wear the label proudly. The T-shirts write themselves.

If given only two choices similar to those that faced Sophie, UVA’s Committee for Naming must let Marx go and put Mao’s name on the door.

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