Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

President Ryan’s Ship Has Hit the Shoals

by James C. Sherlock

This is the Nov 16, 4:35 p.m. update to my highly controversial article on the failures of the University of Virginia to act against the alleged killer of three students before the crime.

I was too gentle with the leadership of the University, my alma mater, in that article. I wrote that the University had taken grossly inadequate and counterintuitive actions ahead of the shootings.

I gave them too much credit.

They took no action at all. Only claimed they did under the heat of questions.

According to a report in The Washington Post on the evening of Nov. 15, the statement that the University put out earlier that the Threat Assessment Team (TAT) had “escalated the case (of the shooter Mr. Jones) for disciplinary action” was not true. It blamed the oversight on an “inadvertent mixup.”

Seems they had meant to refer the case to the student-run judiciary committee. Which is used to assigning sanctions like the writing of essays.

It is Dr. Ryan’s ship.

He failed in his duty to lead. The members of the TAT failed in their statutory duties assigned under Virginia law after the Virginia Tech massacre.

He set the tone, assigned a DEI member to the TAT to oversee their actions, and they followed his path.

And a disturbed young man was free to kill those three other young men and grievously wound two others. Who were on a University bus. Returning from a play.

Victims as much of the culture wars and profound incompetence in the University leadership as they were of the shooter. Continue reading

Religious-Rights Speaker Stirs UVa Controversy

by James A. Bacon

Three days ago the National Lawyers Guild at UVa condemned the invitation of Erin Hawley, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, to a Federalist Society event previewing a U.S. Supreme Court case touching upon religious freedom. The “progressive” law student group cited the Southern Poverty Law Center designation of the Alliance as an anti-LGBTQ+ “hate” group.

The Federalist Society, a group of mostly conservative and libertarian law school students, invited Hawley to a discussion of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a pending Supreme Court case. The Alliance Defending Freedom represents the plaintiff in that case, Lorie Smith, who believes on religious grounds that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and refuses to design websites for LGBTQ+ couples.

The National Lawyers Guild (NGL) at UVa “condemns the views of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as well as the Federalist Society’s decision to give them a platform by inviting them to speak at an event at the law school,” stated the NGL Facebook page in a post that garnered 88 “likes.”

(In the aftermath of the triple-murder shooting at the University of Virginia Sunday night, the Federalist Society canceled the Tuesday meeting “out of respect for the tragedy,” said Julia Jeanette Mroz, president of the UVa chapter. “As a student group, we felt it appropriate to follow the University’s lead in designating today a Day of Observance. No other circumstances bore on this decision.”

(The Society is working with Hawley to reschedule the event this spring.) Continue reading

A Time To Mourn

Thousands from the UVa community gathered on the Lawn last night to hold a vigil for Davin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry.

Many questions arise from the mass shooting at the University of Virginia two days ago. Why’d he do it? Were there warning signs? Could the murders have been prevented?

There will be a time and a place to answer those questions.

But not now.

Now is the time to mourn the loss of three fine young men. Now is the time for the UVa community to come together, honor the memories of the victims, support the bereaving families, and pray for the recovery of the two students who were hospitalized from the shooting.

— JAB

UVa Slayings

by Kerry Dougherty

Unimaginable.

The fear, the dread that crept across the University of Virginia grounds Sunday night as reports of a fatal shooting spread and students were cautioned to shelter in place.

The gunman was on the loose. He was armed and dangerous.

The manhunt for Christopher Darnell Jones Jr, lasted 12 terrifying hours. He was arrested in Henrico County and charged with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

More charges are coming. Two other young men — also football players — were wounded in the shooting. One of those students was in critical condition.

While thousands of UVA parents were relieved when their kids finally called home to say they were safe, three sets of parents received unspeakable news. Their sons, football players, had been shot to death.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were gone.

The father of one of the deceased expressed the depth of his grief to The Washington Post:

“I wish it was me instead of him,” said Thaddeus Lavel Davis, his father. Lavel was his firstborn child. Continue reading

UVa Tragedy Reasonably Preventable? State Investigation Required

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Nov. 15, 2020 at 8:36 AM (see end of article)

UVa President Jim Ryan

We have two related pieces of information about the UVa tragedy that call into question the effectiveness of the University’s state-mandated threat-assessment process.

We have the statements of senior University officials.

And we have Code of Virginia § 23.1-805. Violence prevention committee; threat assessment team, which mandates:

Each public institution of higher education shall establish policies and procedures for the prevention of violence on campus, including assessment of and intervention with individuals whose behavior poses a threat to the safety of the campus community.

The statements call directly into question whether the University carried out its responsibilities under that law.

The information available suggests that the Attorney General, one of whose Deputy A.G.s is the University Counsel, will likely convene an investigation led by the State Police.

I offer some information to assist in that investigation. Continue reading

Why a VMI Alumnus Yanked a $1 Million Bequest

Bye bye!

An open letter to the Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors, Virginia Military Institute Alumni Association, VMI Corps of Cadets, VMI Alumni/ae, Parents Council, and The Cadet Newspaper.

November 11, 2022

I am a member of the VMI class 1975. In the nearly 50 years since my graduation, I have taken great pride in being one of the over 20,000 who can claim that honor. Therefore, I take no pleasure in writing this letter to make known my growing concerns about the future of VMI, and my conviction that the path VMI is embarked upon will destroy the Institute. And I don’t mean the buildings and other physical features of VMI, but the traditions and other intangibles woven into the VMI experience from which I have benefitted and which is the source of my pride. I am confident that many other alumni share this view. My convictions have become so strong since Maj. Gen. [Cedric T.] Wins and his administration took charge that recently I reluctantly took the step of amending my last will and testament to excise a bequest of $1,000,000 for the benefit of VMI through the Alumni Agencies.

In the brief span of just two years since the abrupt dismissal of General [J.H. Binford] Peay as Superintendent, the Institute has traveled far down the path of political correctness. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT) ideology, have sunk their toxic roots into the fabric of VMI life. The recent recognition of Gen. Peay with the New Market medal is not a step forward but simply long overdue. Even that effort was besmirched by a crass appeal for donations by the Alumni Association immediately following the Board of Visitor’s (BOV) announcement of the award, an act that only demonstrated how VMI and the Alumni Association are trying to simply capitalize and profit from what they cravenly avoided doing long ago. Continue reading

The Commissars of Charlottesville

Leon Trotsky, People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, 1918

by James C. Sherlock

Leon Trotsky, who headed the Red Army from 1917-22, did not trust it.

On 6 April 1918, he wrote in Isvestia:

The military commissar is the direct political agent of Soviet power within the army. His post is of the highest importance. Commissars are appointed from the ranks of exemplary revolutionaries, capable of remaining the embodiments of revolutionary duty at the most critical moments and under the most difficult circumstances…. The military commissar ensures that the army does not become isolated from the Soviet system as a whole and that individual military institutions do not become breeding grounds for conspiracy.

With commissars at every level of the army, they had their own reporting chain independent of the operational chain of command. And punishments both quick and much to be feared.

Progressives, themselves unwilling to entrust the revolution to those who may subvert it, are fond of similar structures.

Witness the broad and deep Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) system at the University of Virginia. Continue reading

Optional SATs Are Here to Stay

These numbers combine media English and math SAT scores. Data source: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

by James A. Bacon

There are two broad trends driving change in the admissions policies of higher-ed institutions these days. The first is the declining number of students enrolling in colleges and universities. The other is the increasing philosophical commitment to increase demographic diversity, which in practice means admitting more “under-represented minorities.”

Arising from the second trend is an attack on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT exams, which were designed to predict student success in college, as racist because they reflect subtle bias against minorities and create inequitable outcomes. Indeed, the very concept of using objective, meritocratic, non-race-based criteria has been criticized as inherently racist.

The last thing elite higher-ed institutions want to do is speak honestly about their intentions. Openly abandoning the meritocratic ideal or establishing racial quotas would create a furor. Instead, admissions offices create proxies for race/ethnicity such as raising the percentage of “first time” students (students who are the first in their family to attend college), or favoring applicants who overcame personal adversity, or recruiting students from a wider range of neighborhoods.

In their effort to engineer preferred demographic profiles of the student body, admissions officers find that mandatory SAT scores are an embarrassment.  Invariably, when median SAT scores for racial/ethnic groups are published, they show that Asians have the highest scores by far, suggesting that their bar for admissions is much higher than for other groups. Conversely, Blacks and Hispanics have lower SAT scores, indicating that their bar is much lower. SATs, once used to open up elite schools for Jews and minorities, now are viewed as an obstacle to social justice. Continue reading

Transparency and Accountability at VMI… and Every Public University

by James A. Bacon

Virginia Military Institute Superintendent Cedric T. Wins was awarded a $100,000 bonus after his FY-2022 performance review, and the Spirit of VMI PAC (SOVP) wants to know what criteria the Board of Visitors used in granting him the award.

The bonus, which was four times his previous $25,000 award, lifted Wins’ total 2022 compensation to $725,000. The bonus was paid with private contributions.

“SOVP questions what performance metrics the BOV used to make such a generous award and sharp increase,” stated the organization in a press release last week. “FY-2022 was an academic year that generated major concern among alumni and friends about VMI’s direction, and included large increases in attrition from the Corps. Also notable was a sharp drop in applications, which triggered the elimination of the application deadline and the SAT requirement, and led to a 25% drop in New Cadet Matriculation. This failure occurred the first year after General Wins asked for the resignation of the most successful Director of Admissions in VMI’s history.”

While the Spirit of VMI’s differences with Wins reflect issues unique to VMI, the press release raises a matter of broader concern: what criteria do the boards of Virginia’s public universities use to award bonuses, and shouldn’t those criteria be part of the public record? Continue reading

UVa Employee Donations Down to a Mere 91% for Dems

The percentage of campaign donations from University of Virginia employees fell from 95% in 2020 to only 91% this electoral season, according to data compiled from Federal Election Commission records by Walter Smith, a member of The Jefferson Council.

Polls show that Hispanics, Blacks and suburban White women are deserting the Democratic Party in droves this year. Of course, there aren’t many of those constituencies at UVa. The university population represents in its purist form the Whites-with-advanced-college-degrees demographic. When you lose 4% of those people, you know the Dems are in trouble!

What else do these numbers tell us? We already knew in 2020 that, among the university faculty, staff and other employees who made contributions, only 5% swam against the anti-Trump tide of that year. This year we discover that UVa has a swing vote amounting to 4% of employees employee donors. Continue reading

Internships and Upward Mobility

by James A. Bacon

From time immemorial, it has been a priority of Virginia governors of both parties to promote workforce development through community college, job training programs, apprenticeships, and the like. An under-utilized strategy, suggests Beyond Academy, is college internships.

Beyond Academy, which markets international internship programs, has published a report ranking the 50 states by the percentage of college alumni who had internships. Gaining practical workforce experience before graduating gives a significant leg up in career advancement, the company contends.

The study draws data from 43 million LinkedIn profiles. Nationally, around 13% of college graduates list internships in their professional background. The rate varies from state to state: a high of 20% in Rhode Island and a low of 8% in Alaska. State outcomes hinge largely upon the success of its colleges and universities in placing their students as interns. Carnegie Mellon University, for example, has a 32% internship rate, while the University of Phoenix has only 1%.

Virginia fares slightly better than the national average with 14%, enough to rank it 15th in the country. But there appears to be room for improvement. Here follows a breakdown for the Virginia higher-ed institutions listed in the survey: Continue reading

UVa Faculty Senate Censures Ellis for Thought Crime

Bert Ellis. Photo credit: Washington Post

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Faculty Senate has voted to censure Bert Ellis, a Board of Visitors member, for violating the university’s “foundational values” two years ago when he “prepared to vandalize a protest sign” by a resident of the Lawn.

Ellis acquired a paint-scraper razor with the aim of removing a large sign that said, “FUCK UVA,” but did not act upon his intention when two student ambassadors (unarmed volunteer adjuncts to the university police) advised him not to.

The resolution expressed the Senate’s opposition to Ellis’ appointment to the Board and censured him for behavior “which neither reflects the Mission Statement of the University of Virginia nor fosters the safe space requisite for the free investigation, deliberation, and exploration of ideas.”

Sixty-one of 84 Faculty Senate members voted in an online tally after the resolution was proposed last week. Thirty-seven members voted in favor of the resolution, while 15 voted against and nine abstained, according to Senate Chair Tish Jennings.

Ellis was one of four members appointed in June by Governor Glenn Youngkin to the UVa Board, which was, and still is, dominated by holdovers from the Northam administration. A conservative businessman and alumnus, Ellis is president of The Jefferson Council, which is dedicated to protecting the Jeffersonian legacy at UVa, upholding the dignity of the Academical Village of which the Lawn is a part, preserving the Honor Code, and protecting free speech, free expression and intellectual diversity.  Continue reading

Three Strikes and You’re Out, Mr. Ryan

Jim Ryan

by James A. Bacon

If University of Virginia President Jim Ryan wants to recruit more African-American students, faculty and staff to the university, here’s some advice: stop reinforcing racial paranoia. Stop lending legitimacy to the idea that Blacks at the University of Virginia are under threat.

So far this semester, there have been three racial scares at UVa. First someone threw a rock through the window of the Office of African-American Affairs. Then someone laid a flag bearing an owl symbol next to the Enslaved Laborers memorial and donated an anonymous check to an African-American student. Then someone hung a noose around the neck of a statue of the blind Greek poet Homer.

The three incidents generated alarm about a “larger pattern of racially motived crimes” before the full facts came in. Upon investigation, the first two were found to have no racial motivation and significant doubt has been cast on racial hatred as a motive for the third.

UVa officials deserve some credit for quickly releasing exonerating information as it became available. But rather than dampen unfounded speculation in his early remarks, Ryan legitimized it. Continue reading

Racism at VMI? Not That This Hispanic Alum Ever Saw

Virginia Military Institute alumni share much of their correspondence with me. I can’t come close to publishing it all on this blog. But sometimes a letter illuminates aspects of the ongoing discussion about VMI’s future that have not yet made it into the public domain. The letter below comes from José J. Suárez, an Hispanic alumnus, class of 1982, who was interviewed by the Barnes & Thornburg investigative team that slammed VMI for sexism and racism but feels his views were not reflected in that report. (I have made minor edits for punctuation and style.) — JAB


Dear Members of the VMI Board of Visitors, and the VMI Alumni Association.

I am a proud graduate of the VMI class of 1982. I came to VMI from Puerto Rico, with limited command of the English language. I was one of three (3) Hispanic cadets at VMI during my cadetship.

The cadre, my Brother Rats, the faculty, and the administration helped me to make it through VMI, and to have a great career in the Engineering and the Construction Industry, and consulting, where I advanced to be the  Chief Executive of a $3 billion-plus division/company.

I have experienced racism in the U.S. Navy, and in my civilian career, but not at VMI. For this reason, I was flabbergasted by the attack that VMI received via The Washington Post, and the fact that neither the Board of Visitors, the VMI Alumni Associations, and the VMI administration, fought back publicly against these attacks. Continue reading

Wins Defends LGBTQIA+ Performance Artist at VMI

VMI Superintendent Cedric T. Wins

The rhetorical battle at the Virginia Military Institute rages like the Bloody Angle in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. In this ongoing war of words, VMI Superintendent Cedric Wins is like the corps commander who wanders dangerously close to the battlefront. Rather than rely upon subalterns and proxies to speak for him, he has waded into the rhetorical fray.

Wins recently distributed a letter responding to the criticism of VMI’s decision to host LGBTQIA+ performance artist Kimberly Dark. He argued that VMI has invited speakers, including conservative Judge Michael Luttig, representing a range of views. Taking issue with “unhappy alumni” who protested Dark’s presence, he framed the voluntary event as an opportunity for cadets to “listen to a speaker, evaluate the soundness of her analysis, hit her with tough questions, and see how well-founded her beliefs are.”

Bacon’s Rebellion has been sympathetic to the “unhappy alumni” Wins referred to, but we think he makes some reasonable points. Accordingly, in the interest of open dialogue, we republish his full letter below. –JAB Continue reading