by James A. Bacon

Wokeness is so all-pervasive in Virginia higher-ed that I cannot possibly keep readers abreast of it all. Today I settle for quoting the thoughts of others.

Today The Wall Street Journal op-ed section highlights litigation surrounding Virginia Tech’s Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT).

The advertising catchphrase “see something, say something” calls to mind suspicious packages that might be bombs. At Virginia Tech, that slogan applies to the school’s official Bias Intervention and Response Team, or BIRT. Hokies are encouraged to report one another’s ill-considered opinions or crass jokes. On May 31 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to end this, but a dissent by veteran Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III is a persuasive signal flare for the Supreme Court to take the case and defend free speech.

Read the whole editorial. Even better, if you have the time, read Wilkinson’s minority opinion on the litigation. Some excerpts:

Virginia Tech has constructed a complex apparatus for policing and reporting whatever administrators may deem “biased speech.” The intricate program has a straightforward effect: students self-censor, fearing the consequences of a report to BIRT and thinking that speech is no longer worth the trouble….

The University has somehow managed to offend virtually every cardinal principle of First Amendment law. The First Amendment comes in dead last by its reckoning. The Amendment exists at the sufferance of a bureaucracy dedicated to eliminating “bias.”

The plain language of its policy makes [the Bias Incident Response Team] even more troubling. Virginia Tech provides a vague but expansive definition of “bias.” Students are told that “bias incidents” are “expressions against a person or group because of the person’s or group’s age, color, disability, gender (including pregnancy), gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law.”

With a definition this loose and rambling, almost anything could be framed as a bias incident….

In effect, the prolix text of the policy permits students to report speech for no other reason than they were offended by what was said. In fact, the district court recounted a few such reports of bias, including the following:

[1] a report that the words “Saudi Arabia” were written on a whiteboard outside of a student’s dorm room, alleging bias based on “national or ethnic origin;”

[2] a report that a student in a University residence hall overheard several male students privately “talking crap about the women who were ‘playing’ in a snowball fight,” calling them not “athletic,” which the complainant reported as discrimination based on “gender;” and

[3] a report that a student told a joke that included “Caitlyn Jenner’s deadname” during a classroom lecture, which was reported as discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The real bias in BIRT is whose offended feelings are deemed worth protecting and whose are not. Some people slough off insults and indignities, and get on with their lives. Other people make a fetish of finding offense and nurturing grievances. BIRT empowers those who wallow in victimhood.

Note to Hokie alumni: where the heck are you? Are you going to let this stand? Follow the lead of alumni at University of Virginia, Washington & Lee, Virginia Military Institute, James Madison University and, embryonically, at the College of William and Mary, of organizing to push back. Contact me at if you’d like help on how to do it.

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26 responses to “Darkness Comes to Hokietown”

  1. Wahoo'74 Avatar

    Wahoos of The Jefferson Council stand ready to help our VT alumni sports rivals get up and running with AFSA membership (

  2. WayneS Avatar

    Students self-censor, fearing the consequences of a report to BIRT and thinking that speech is no longer worth the trouble. …

    Goal achieved!

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Some interesting numbers can be found in the link below in regards to BIRT. 129 incidents reported in 2020-2021. Mostly undergraduates and those living in dorms. 41 complaint filers came from the general public. 56 incidents of race bias. Only 10 incidents required no further action. All others addressed by Dean of Students or other agents of the school. It would be useful to see the data from the last 2 years. 3 years ago the school was in pandemic mode.

  4. Virginia Gentleman Avatar
    Virginia Gentleman

    I am curious to learn about any success any of these groups at UVA, VMI, and JMU can tout.

    1. WayneS Avatar

      As opposed to successes that cannot be touted as successes?


      1. Virginia Gentleman Avatar
        Virginia Gentleman

        Thanks — fixed.

        1. WayneS Avatar

          No worries.

          Sometimes I can’t resist being a bit pedantic.

          1. Lefty665 Avatar

            That’s a feature not a bug:)

  5. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Quoting Wilkinson’s dissent at length is sort of like a liberal quoting Sotomayor’s dissent in the Dobbs decision.

    1. WayneS Avatar

      Except the BIRT decision was not rendered by the supreme court.

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        Yes, Wilkinson never got there. America’s loss, he’s a great jurist.

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Well, gee, Dick, the judges write the dissents because they have an itch to say something important. They are the fun part.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I agree. However, JAB treats it as if it were the deciding word. It would have been better to contrast Wilkinson’s reasoning with that of the majority.

  6. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    We instead have single sanction Carol, right? WHACK. In truth, I’d last about a week in an environment with that big a stick up its wazoo. Keeping BIRT in a frenzy would be such fun….Only 129 incidents in an entire year tells me most students are ignoring the nonsense, quite properly. I heard more dish, political invective and trash talk in the dorm halls than that in one weekend. Such panty waists….

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      How many Hokies even know of the existence of BIRT? 129 incidents out of a massive student body.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        You need only execute a dozen murderers to deter murder, no? Oh wait, no that’s been proven to have no deterrent value at all.

        Interest and penalties have ended tax cheats! No. Not that either.

        What does only 129 cases out of 25,000 students mean then?

        You’re right. It’s a nothingness.

        1. WayneS Avatar

          As with many statistically insignificant violations of our rights, it’s not a “nothingness” to those caught up in the gears of the “social justice” system.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Well. Leave the classified stuff at the office then. Or, at least, give it back when they ask for it.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      “As of February 2022, a total of 1,363 people had been executed by lethal injection in the United States since 1976,…”

      Wow! This United States place must be the safest country in the world, eh?

  7. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    “Phabulous Phoebus Street Festival” Saturday the 17th, 1-7PM.

    All you white and delicates are welcome. But, be prepared, there may be one or two in drag. Be sure to tell them that they are abominations to God.

    1. WayneS Avatar

      Hampton is a bit far for me to travel to chastise “sinners”…


      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Too many much closer. Now where’s my wig?

  8. M. Purdy Avatar
    M. Purdy

    I agree with Wilkinson that the definition of “bias” is way too loose. My guess is that the SCOTUS will take this case.

  9. DJRippert Avatar

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    I know public university administrators and professors hate this … but they are employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The first amendment applies to them.

    “Caitlyn Jenner’s deadname”

    You mean Bruce? The name he went by most of his life? You know, before (as Lou Reed would say), “Shaved her legs and then he was a she”. Referring to Jenner as Bruce instead of Caitlyn is some kind of hate speech? Wow.

    I wonder if listening to “Walk on the Wild Side” would trigger a snowflake alert down in Blacksburg.

    But what’s happening at VT is just part and parcel of the garbage being spewed by the left these days. Here’s an example:

    “As a refresher, using a trans person’s birth name is referred to as “dead-naming,” and is considered an act of violence.”

    Seriously? An act of violence? Not just rude or inappropriate but an act of violence. You also have to love the unconditional nature of the statement. Not “considered by some” or “can be considered”. Nope. Calling Caitlyn Jenner Bruce is an act of violence.

    And the looney left wonders why people don’t take them seriously.

    1. There is a great deal more in Wilkinson’s dissent than the excerpt attached by JB (although much of the remainder concerns issues only a lawyer could love). I hope you get to read it all, at

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