FUCK UVA Redux: The Revolution Consumes Its Own

by James A. Bacon

Militant students and faculty held an online gripe session today skewering President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom, and their rhetoric — including calls for Ryan’s resignation — is more heated than ever. While I support the actions Ryan and Baucom took to shut down the UVA Encampment for Gaza, where protesters were flouting university regulations and spoiling for a confrontation, I have to say that the failure of University leadership to consistently enforce its rules makes it partially to blame for the mess.

For example, Team Ryan has long tolerated political messaging on Lawn room doors in violation of occupants’ lease terms. We’ve been through this drill before. The infamous “Fuck UVA” sign in 2020 was a trigger for furious alumni to organize and create The Jefferson Council. Ryan allowed the sign to remain on the grounds that taking it down would violate the student’s free speech. But he promised to enforce new lease rules, which limited signage to a small bulletin board on the doors, in the future. Enforcement faltered, and the signs blossomed. Now, just in time for graduation ceremonies, a new “Fuck UVA sign” (shown above) has been taped to a Lawn door.

Ryan defends his action shutting down the pro-Palestinian tent compound last Saturday on the Grounds, maintaining that there are limits to free speech based on “time, place and manner.” I agree. He did the right thing. But why should campus militants have taken him seriously? Lawn room residents had been flouting the rules for months — as Tthe Jefferson Council has repeatedly documented.

We’ve also documented that student guides acting in collaboration with university authorities are giving “historical” tours that amount to half-hour recitations of past evils at the University of Virginia — slavery, racism, eugenics, etc. — with only passing mention of Thomas Jefferson as founder of the University and architect of the Academical Village. At least one person has complained that a tour for prospective students and their parents took on the same tone — even though we were assured that the Admissions Office would clean up the tours for prospective students.

We’ve also documented how Ryan and Baucom have overseen recruiting policies that have allowed the political center of gravity among faculty and staff to move steadily to the left. They applied to the Mellon Foundation, for example, to hire extreme left-wing faculty members under the guise of “anti-racism.” The Education School has gone so far as to create a Critical Whiteness Studies Group to research “how whites operate under white supremacy and how that operation then impacts people of Color.” Militants they hired were denigrating “systemic racism” at UVA — not just in the distant past but today — long before the Hamas invasion of Israel. Perhaps it has escaped the attention of Ryan and Baucom but… they are White.

It should come as no surprise that one or more faculty members hired during the Ryan era acted as spokespersons for the Encampment for Gaza and were swept up in the crackdown.

The revolution consumes its own, as the saying goes. Although they are not bomb-throwing radicals themselves — they enjoy the perks and rewards of high office at UVA too much — Ryan and Baucom helped create the conditions that are now destabilizing the University. Like the Mensheviks of Russian fame, they worked peacefully to bring about revolutionary change. Like the Bolsheviks of yore, UVA militants have turned upon them with a vengeance.

James A. Bacon is former executive director, and now contributing editor, to the Jefferson Council. The views expressed here are his own.