Ryan Wilts in Conversation with Azher

UVa President Jim Ryan

by James A. Bacon

I concluded my previous column, “Hira Azher Speaks,” by asking the question, what is it about the University of Virginia that foments such deep-felt aggrievement and resentment that Azher, a self-described Muslim person of color, would feel motivated to plaster the words “Fuck UVA” on the door of her Lawn residence? Azher would say that she is motivated by the desire to condemn UVa’s culture of “white supremacy.” For many people, such an explanation is sufficient. But for those of us who find it absurd to describe the modern-day institution as a bastion of white supremacy, Azher’s sentiments call for a deeper explanation. The question I ask is this: Has the ideology of grievance and victimhood created a toxic culture at UVa?

The intellectual currents underpinning the left-wing Oppression Narrative run deep. But this also is part of the problem: UVa’s leaders — in particular, President Jim Ryan — share so many of the underlying assumptions of that narrative that they find themselves incapable of responding forcefully to students like Azher. UVa’s leaders are conflicted, therefore, they are weak.

Ryan’s ambivalence comes through clearly in conversation with Azher, which she recorded and posted on Twitter. “For everyone who asked about the convo with Jim Ryan,” she tweeted, “he kept laughing, talked about himself, & ignored everything I said :))” 

Having read the transcript and listened to part of the recording, I have a very different reaction. Ryan was very solicitous of Azher’s views. He allowed her to do most of the talking. She was confident and forceful. He, like a supplicant, laughed nervously in places. Never disputing her assertions about the prevalence of white privilege, he meekly pressed the point that the KKK reference and her use of profanity was counterproductive to winning over people to the need for “change” that both she and he shared.

Listen to the recording here. Read her transcript here.

While it is part of Ryan’s job to “listen” to the university’s stakeholders, it is also his job to stand up for the university. One would think he has some cred with left-wing students. He has, after all, led a wide range of reforms around race/ethnic identity in penance for the university’s misdeeds during the eras of slavery and segregation. But in his conversation with Azher, he fumbles for words. These excerpts illustrate the less-than-rousing defense he gave of the institution he leads.

Ryan: You know, I’m sure you’re receiving a lot of emails. I’m receiving a lot of emails. Um, a lot of the reaction is to just “fuck UVA” and the, just the profanity. Um, and I think that precludes a lot of people from actually thinking about what the rest of it is. I also think the KKK Cops, um, stops a lot of people in their tracks who think it’s basically an epithet. Um, so I’m curious, like how, how do you respond to that, right? That is completely fine to raise complaints about these issues, um, and, and, and, um, and, and concerns about them, many of which I share, but, but a lot of the reaction I’m seeing anyway, it’s just as a visceral reaction to the headline, a subsidiary reaction to, wow, are you saying all cops are members of the KKK? And I think that, that stops a lot of people from thinking about the valid points that you’re raising. And I, I’m just curious, like, how do you think about that? And if you were me, how would you think about that?

Azher: So, the first thing is like for which people? First of all, which are the people who are most offended?

Jim Ryan: Oh yeah. It’s all, it’s all alums. …

Azher: if that is something that you don’t understand, the relationship between the KKK and the cops, the history there, there’s a reason that they say the cops and Klan go hand in hand. If those are all things that if you were serious about addressing these issues that you can check with a quick Google search.

Jim Ryan: Oh, I, I, I, I, I’m more than well aware, but I’m also aware of the modern-day complexities of police too.

Hira Azher: Okay. Which are what?

Jim Ryan: Well, which is that, um, modern day police are not in hand in hand with the KKK.

DeVante Shands (a third participant in the conversation): So, if the police in the United States, if the institution of the police in the United States came directly from slave patrols, then how can you say that? If at its base, integrally, this is an inherently racist institution, how can you say “Oh, today it’s different because it’s different.”

Jim Ryan: Well, I mean our country, I mean, um, I think it’s just more complicated.

Shands: Could you explain what’s complicated about it?

Jim Ryan: Um, well the, the origins of things don’t necessarily represent the current day reality of them. … The, the part that’s hard for me on it, I’ll be honest
with you is, um, [pause] um, I get, uh, the idea of saying things in really bold ways. Um, I personally don’t believe that, um, that is always the most effective way to bring people along. It’s just, it’s a question of, um, how you promote change. Um, and I think that the sign has alienated people who might’ve listened. …

Azher: “When a disagreement completely invalidates student suffering, student pain and trauma, and the history of pain and trauma and extreme exploitation here, that’s not just something you can disagree about. Those are facts. It is a fact.

Ryan: Well, I, I, um, I think we’re [laughter] I think we may just be disagreeing about the means, um, and, and disagreeing about how you actually invite people into a dialogue. Um, and I think that, that, um, the sign itself in, in my view is not inviting people to a dialogue except people who already completely agree with you. …

Azher: And again, I’d say in that you’re privileging the experiences of people who are already privileged. Um, and you’re saying this sign is meant for those privileged people who’ve never had to experience these problems, um, and because the sign makes them uncomfortable, it is our duty as students who have experienced the pain and trauma.

Ryan: It’s not, no, no, no.

Azher: I mean, you’re not explicitly saying that, but that’s, what’s implied.

Jim Ryan: No, no, it’s, it’s not about duty at all, honestly. I mean, it’s just about strategy really at the end of the day. … It’s about, like, how do you actually promote change? … There are reasonable disagreements about strategy. Um, I feel like in my role, my job is to bring as many people along [pause] to change UVA in the way I think it should be changed. Um, and my worry honestly, is that this sign makes it harder for me to do that.

In summary, Ryan’s disagreement with Azher is not about her radical-left critique of the university or society, it’s about strategy and tactics. Unlike her, he has to fend off furious alumni who have collectively said they are revoking some $150 million in gifts to the university. He doesn’t have the luxury of speaking as boldly and forthrightly as she does.

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39 responses to “Ryan Wilts in Conversation with Azher

  1. Modern Leadership: Or, The Art Of Nervously Mumbling Talking Points Drafted By Your Comms Team

    Coming to Kindles everywhere courtesy of Jim Ryan and HarperCollins.

  2. Did Ryan know he was being recorded?

    • Good question.

      As far as understanding the real Ryan, does it matter?

    • A devastating tap recording and manuscript. Why? Because it is extremely enlightening. The last 8 years of UVa.s Madison Ave public relations campaigns that daily bombard its community have been stripped away to reveal the ugly truth about much of what has been and is going on underneath at UVa. I am not surprised about what the tape reveals. Why? Scandals at UVa have been yelling at us for the past 8 years. So have documents and opinions expressed here on Bacon’s Rebellion and elsewhere been confirmed. UVa is now reaping what it has sown, and its current leadership is clueless as to the problem and its solution.

  3. This is the age-old Marxist strategy of taking the moral high ground away from authority and imposing your demands. Read “White Guilt” by Shelby Steele.

  4. The first publicly funded police department with full time officers was started in Boston primarily to protect items in the port from theft. They were not members of any slave patrol. Some police departments in the south did start as slave patrols so Mr. Shands has some basis for seeing a racist past in some police departments.

    Then there is this gem – “if that is something that you don’t understand, the relationship between the KKK and the cops, the history there, there’s a reason that they say the cops and Klan go hand in hand. If those are all things that if you were serious about addressing these issues that you can check with a quick Google search.”

    There’s a reason that “they” say cops and Klan go hand in hand? Ok, I give up – who is “they” and what is the reason for “they” saying such things?

    “If those are all things that if you were serious about addressing these issues that you can check with a quick Google search.”

    Sounds like Ms Azher is a bit low on facts or a reasoned argument. Instead of explaining why her door has “KKKOps” written on it she invites Mr. Ryan to check with a quick Google search.

    • There is an element of “The Crucible’ to this — the accuser is always right now.

    • SO this is what UVA is teaching it’s undergrads and passing off as Liberal Arts education/enlightenment: “if you were serious about addressing these issues that you can check with a quick Google search.”

      No actual research of peer reviewed and verified publications, no primary sources, no corroboration, no verification of sourcing, no critical thinking and analysis about the meaning of the so called information, or any of the techniques that were taught in higher education [and in high school] in a by-gone era.

      Mere parroting of what today’s High Tech input/output gives you.

    • Pettus Bridge, maybe?

  5. it doesn’t really matter. In Virginia, it only takes one person to consent to recording a conversation.

    What matters is that this guy Ryan is a wuss and should not be leading a major university.

    • I wasn’t really getting at the legality. I was getting at if he understood he was being played.

    • so you think Teresa Sullivan would have done better? 😉

      and he chose her over the Alumni grumps!

      Where is Mitch Daniels when you need him?

      • Gee, I cannot imagine why this young lady feels that the school has some racist issues, considering some of what’s written here by alumni with profile pictures that indicate a broad spectrum of races.

        There are some old white guys and green guys with squiggly arms, some purple and red guys, also with squiggly arms and legs, green crabs and red lobsters

  6. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    James Ryan and James Buchanan have a great deal in common. By attempting to appease and please they pleased no one at all.

  7. Take up the White Man’s burden—
    Send forth the best ye breed—
    Go bind your sons to exile
    To serve your captives’ need;
    To wait in heavy harness
    On fluttered folk and wild—
    Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
    Half devil and half child.

    Take up the White Man’s burden—
    In patience to abide,
    To veil the threat of terror
    And check the show of pride;
    By open speech and simple,
    An hundred times made plain.
    To seek another’s profit,
    And work another’s gain.

    Take up the White Man’s burden—
    The savage wars of peace—
    Fill full the mouth of Famine
    And bid the sickness cease;
    And when your goal is nearest
    The end for others sought,
    Watch Sloth and heathen Folly
    Bring all your hopes to nought.

    Take up the White Man’s burden—
    No tawdry rule of kings,
    But toil of serf and sweeper—
    The tale of common things.
    The ports ye shall not enter,
    The roads ye shall not tread,
    Go make them with your living,
    And mark them with your dead!

    Take up the White Man’s burden—
    And reap his old reward:
    The blame of those ye better,
    The hate of those ye guard—
    The cry of hosts ye humour
    (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:—
    “Why brought ye us from bondage,
    Our loved Egyptian night?”

    Take up the White Man’s burden—
    Ye dare not stoop to less—
    Nor call too loud on Freedom
    To cloak your weariness;
    By all ye cry or whisper,
    By all ye leave or do,
    The silent, sullen peoples
    Shall weigh your Gods and you.

    Take up the White Man’s burden—
    Have done with childish days—
    The lightly proffered laurel,
    The easy, ungrudged praise.
    Comes now, to search your manhood
    Through all the thankless years,
    Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom,
    The judgment of your peers!

    • Ah, Kipling. Apt on several levels, for 21st Century America just as for 19th Century India….Global Warming will kill us all in ten years anyway….That’s a bigger part of the youthful ennui than most realize.

      • Looks like James Ryan, UVa. president, thinks he is following Kipling’s guidance, picking up his version of the White Man’s burden for Hira Azhar, particularly on strategy and tactics.

        On the other hand, Rector Murray not so much. He appears to be offering the evil White Supremacist UVa. alumni with a wholly different set of guidance on strategies and tactics to help White Supremacist Alumni deal with misguided brown native children.

        Hira Azher, on the other hand appears to be talking straight. She’s onto the White Mans’ game of speaking with forked tongue. At least Hira believes what she says, so is not a liar.

        This is what the record to date shows, along with the wisdom of Aubry Daniels who also, along with Hira, obviously believes in what he says.

        • Regarding Hira Azhar’s antenna for forked tongues, please compare and contrast UVa Rector’s Murray’s below letter to Alumni with UVa President Ryan’s dialogue with her, as taped and transcribed above.

          From: Murray, James B (jbm5qa)
          Sent: Saturday, September 26, 2020 7:29 AM
          To: Tom Neale ; Harris, Susan G (sgh4c)
          Cc: Magill, Elizabeth (mem2a) ; James Ryan ; Groves, Allen William (awg8vd) ; Luellen, Mark Matthew (mml2r) ; Mangano, Angela Hucles (akh4z) ; Lateef, Babur Bari (bbl8n) ; Fried, Barbara June (bf7g) ; Poston Jr., C. Evans (cep4q) ; Cranwell, Elizabeth Matheny (emc7gw) ; Bassett, Ellen Marie (emb7d) ; Conner, Frank Maxwell (fmc9nw) ; ‘James Reyes’ ; ‘John Griffin’ ; Britt, L. D. (ldb3ee) ; Haddad, Louis Samuel (lsh3j) ; Bowles, Mark T (mtb7u) ; Jones, Maurice A (maj9s) ; Shalaby, Mazzen Samer (mss3tu) ; Blue, Robert Markwood (rmb2dc) ; Hardie, Robert D (rdh3k) ; DePasquale, Thomas A (tad4dt) ; Clement, Whittington W (wwc8n) ; James Ryan ; ‘Jim Murray’
          Subject: Re: Letter from Rector Murray and President Ryan

          Tom-

          Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful response. We all appreciate the measured and civil approach that you have taken to some very volatile topics.

          You have raised a second issue, the signs on Lawn room doors. Having recently responded to other alumni on this topic, and in the interest of expediency, I will repeat those observations here. Note that this is a bit more of a personal, less formal, and hastier response than the President’s and mine of yesterday. That may be appropriate to the strength of my personal feelings on the topic.

          Unfortunately, the challenges of trying to keep 24,000 students and 28,00 employees safe during a pandemic, or the challenges of a $65 million budget deficit left by that pandemic – those challenges pale in comparison to the challenges of dealing with the current race and equity controversies. None of them leaves me more disappointed in a few of our students than the door signs on the Lawn.

          UVA remains a great university. It is going to survive and continue to improve. Despite the distracting headlines we are doing extremely well, every day, with the core mission of educating young people. That said, the Board and I understand your concern with some headlines, particularly the ugly site of the Lawn today.

          First, understand that no one on the Board or in the administration has any excuse for the behavior of students who use profanity as a substitute for logic or educated debate. Anyone who accepts the privileges offered to a fourth-year Lawn resident and then rudely and publicly embarrasses the University is beyond excuse.

          It is difficult but necessary to accept the advice of UVA’s general counsel (an employee of Virginia’s Attorney General’s office). He has advised the Board that this behavior is political speech protected by the First Amendment. This has been established constitutional law, a cornerstone of America’s example to the world, for over two centuries – since Mr. Jefferson, writing from France, convinced James Madison that the U.S. constitution required a Bill of Rights. [Political “speech” is legally distinguishable from the public use of obscenities to denigrate Tech (for example).]

          Acknowledging the legal status of today’s protestors does not mean that we must accept today’s signs as a norm for the future. We think it may be possible to preserve the sanctity of the Lawn with better regulations; but those new regulations will have to await the departure of the current residents. We intend to work with the General Counsel and constitutional law experts from the Law School to, hopefully, better protect the Lawn as a World Heritage Site in years ahead.

          When it comes to statues, names of buildings, monuments, or the history of the Lawn, many of us of a certain age fail to find much practical value in token gestures calling into question these historic symbols. But believe me these symbols are surprisingly, even extraordinarily, important to many or most (of all races) amongst the current generation of students. I would be reluctant to admit how many hours of Board time have been spent dealing with these issues of symbolism over the past three months. Suffice it to say the Board has made some (unpublicized perhaps) headway. The resolutions passed by the Board at its September 11th meeting are notably more modest than the “demands”, petitions, and media posts that began inundating the Board and administration in July.

          There will be several years of work ahead to address further requests regarding names, monuments, and preservation of the Lawn. However, I have some hope that future decisions will be based upon balanced judgement. Amongst the resolutions that the Board adopted of September 11th was the creation of a new commission to deal with most such issues going forward. The commission will now include an alumnus, a newly appointed member of the Board and one or more historians. The commission will be charged with applying a new set of logical standards that will be open for all to see.

          I realize that these are small measures, and they do little to address the pain and embarrassment experienced by many when seeing our fine University being publicly embarrassed by twenty-year old’s. However, UVA has been through similar episodes of youthful herd behavior in the past, and UVA has always survived.

          We will do all we can to make sure that these latest incidents make the University stronger in the longer-term, while we continue with the immediate challenges of keeping everyone healthy and school open.

          Thank you for continuing to support our great University.

          Jim Murray

      • Well, in this case it’s about 🇺🇸invading 🇵🇭but normally, you’re correct, he was big into 🇬🇧 🇮🇳 🇵🇰 & 🇦🇫.

  8. Check Google and you will find that only Bacons Rebellion is paying much attention to this story. That may not be a good thing. I thought this was supposed to be a public policy blog, not an exclusive outlet for White Rage.

  9. Thanks James. I like all opinions including yours. My goal is to keep things multi partisan. More interesting and honest that way.

  10. Jim Bacon, spot on. President Ryan has showed an abysmal lack of leadership on this issue. Aubrey Daniel has aptly pointed out in his two letters to Ryan and the BOV that there were 3 simple ways they could have taken down the original 38 East Lawn sign immediately:
    1) Enforce existing UVA statutes preventing inappropriate posters/signs.
    2) The Lawn agreement every resident must sign prior to accepting a room assignment, promising to adhere to dignified behavior and rules of decorum. To violate this signed agreement is not only a procedural violation, it is an Honor violation. Why no mention of that? Hira Azher lied, plain and simple.
    3) UVA is a UNESCO Heritage Historical site – like the Taj Mahal, Pyramids of Egypt, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Grand Canyon. ANY attempt to deface those sites would be met with legal action. Any vulgar posters would be immediately removed.

    President Ryan did not take advantage of any of these remedies. He and the BOV acceded to every demand these petulant students stated. He caved to Hira Azher on the phone call, showing absolutely ZERO adult leadership. He agreed with her core premises, only suggesting different “tactics” to not say “F UVA” or compare the police to the KKK, an obviously ludicrous analogy.

    President Ryan must resign or be removed. The BOV needs to do its job.

    • Just FYI – one CAN exercise first amendment rights in the Grand Canyon and other National Parks . I’ve seen them although none had obscene language. My suspect are if they did and the Park Service tried to censor – they would end up in court.

      So I think the World Heritage idea is pretty bogus.

      I don’t know much about how the “lawn” actually “works”. If someone knows how, how people get the housings, what the rules are, etc… would be helpful. Would it be true that UVA doesn’t want handicapped access structures built on the “lawn” but they are “okay” with obscene signs on doors?
      😉

      • Two years ago, UVa relandscaped the Lawn to accomodate wheel chairs. But, it is difficult to reengineer two hundred year old dorm rooms that are restricted from renovation by Heritage Site requirements.

        • Grandfathered. If they wanted, no historical designation could stop them. In fact the Americans with Disabilities Act could force it. Hell, the ADA has been successfully used to sue law schools and the American Bar Association. If you can take out the Bar, what could possibly defend against it?

          • Yeah, I think there is a certain amount of excuse mongering going on. No designation -historic or heritage should, in efffect, rule out basic human accomodations. That sounds a lot like when the ADA first came out and all kinds of businesses came up with all kinds of excuses why they could not – including historically-designated sites – which are totally voluntary.

            But that’s just a distraction on this anyhow because the bigger thing is that some alumni – and other folks – want UVA to do things their way … plain and simple. They do not like the way UVA is handling these issues – and in the end – they’re probably going to lose because UVA is for the people that are there now not the folks who were there before.

            And let me use a quote from Jefferson to buttress my view:

            “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.”

  11. Baconator with extra cheese

    That’s exactly why the UVA racists should tear down the white supremecist designed rooms to make way for diverse and inclusive rooms for BIPOC students…
    Same goes for every structure built in the country without the approval of a BIPOC committee signing off on the design. Besides those room won’t pass the necessary LEED certification needed to make UVA carbon negative.
    Diversity is our strength… not history or freedom.

  12. Pingback: Signs on Doors on UVa’s Lawn – Bad Leadership and Worse Lawyering | Bacon's Rebellion

  13. The ADA standards only require 5% of dorm rooms to be accessible.
    https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/about-the-ada-standards/ada-standards/chapter-2-scoping-requirements#233%20Residential%20Facilities

    Since it seems that students can trash out rooms on the Lawn now, a Lawn room might not qualify as a unique class of dorm room requiring 5% of Lawn rooms to be accessible, as long as 5% of dorm rooms as near or nearer to classrooms are accessible.

    ADA also allows exceptions for full compliance in alterations for “structural impracticability” as well as the historical exemption.

  14. Wahoo74 makes an important comment above. Below I will copy it in then elaborate on it.

    “Jim Bacon, spot on. President Ryan has showed an abysmal lack of leadership on this issue. Aubrey Daniel has aptly pointed out in his two letters to Ryan and the BOV that there were 3 simple ways they could have taken down the original 38 East Lawn sign immediately:

    1) Enforce existing UVA statutes preventing inappropriate posters/signs.
    2) The Lawn agreement every resident must sign prior to accepting a room assignment, promising to adhere to dignified behavior and rules of decorum. To violate this signed agreement is not only a procedural violation, it is an Honor violation. Why no mention of that? Hira Azher lied, plain and simple.
    3) UVA is a UNESCO Heritage Historical site – like the Taj Mahal, Pyramids of Egypt, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Grand Canyon. ANY attempt to deface those sites would be met with legal action. Any vulgar posters would be immediately removed.

    President Ryan did not take advantage of any of these remedies. He and the BOV acceded to every demand these petulant students stated. He caved to Hira Azher on the phone call, showing absolutely ZERO adult leadership. He agreed with her core premises, only suggesting different “tactics” to not say “F UVA” or compare the police to the KKK, an obviously ludicrous analogy.

    President Ryan must resign or be removed. The BOV needs to do its job.” End Quote

    In my view, if you assume that everything that UVa. President Ryan says in his phone call with Hira Azher is true, then you must conclude that he believes in the substance of her core beliefs. And that he is encouraging her on that call to pursuit those core beliefs as she elaborates them in detail, even to the point of his strongly suggesting ways to modify her strategies and tactics to better hide her real intentions from those who oppose them, and thus to better sell her core beliefs, particularly to UVa.’s alumni (and perhaps parents), who otherwise will strongly resist those beliefs.

    Another words, the transcript of the phone call suggests that UVa president Ryan told Hira Azher that he endorses her objectives, but that she needs to use better marketing techniques so that she (Hira Azher) and he (president of UVa), have a better chance of selling her ideas to UVa. alumni, and perhaps parents and the general public in Virginia, and elsewhere. In essence, on that phone call, President Ryan is proposing a partnership with 4th year UVa. student Hira Azher.

    This of course reinforces the idea that Hira Azher’s core values match those of UVa. and its president. It also reinforces that idea that 4th year student Hira Azher is a prize student (product) of UVa, and today’s UVa. education. This of course was already strongly announced by the fact the UVa. awarded Hira with a room on the Lawn of Mr. Jefferson’s Academic Virginia, historically a high honor itself.

    This plain language of President Ryan on the phone with Hira is also buttressed by the round about Right of Free Speech approach taken by the University (as Hira so intelligently argued) as opposed to the simple, effective and common sense ways to quickly resolve the problem as outlined by Aubrey Daniels in his letters.

    Note, too, this wording in Rector Murray’s above letter to the Alumni that “this is a bit more of a personal, less formal, and hastier response than the President’s and mine of yesterday. That may be appropriate to the strength of my personal feelings on the topic.” Does this give Ryan cover?

    In my view, many if not most, all students at UVa. are being fed indoctrinated poison disguised as a liberal education worthy of a great university. Here is the way I expressed my fears several ago, that also explains why this phone conversation between President Ryan and 4th year student Hira Azher came as no surprise to me.

    Here is what I wrote here on Nov. 10, 2017 in my post titled Toxic Brew: Relativism and Globalism:

    by Reed Fawell III

    For the past six years, I have warned about the damage that unrestrained and hyper-competitive academic research is inflicting on the quality of higher education in the United States. The tenor of my complaints has grown more strident over the years.

    Initially, these complaints were jump-started by a May, 2012, memo from University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan to then-Rector Helen Dragas. Sullivan proposed, in my view, to dramatically dilute the education and teaching of undergraduate students at UVa. in favor of radical increases in faculty research, most particularly in STEM research.

    UVa.’s ambition, I felt, was unduly driven by several powerful and damaging trends ongoing in higher education. One was UVa.’s compulsion to climb the rankings of US News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” reports, whose standards and formulas demanded ever higher expenditures on non-teaching activities, be they for luxury student accommodations and cuisine food courts or feeding the expanding needs of highly paid tenured research faculty.

    A related contributor, in my view, was the Obama administration’s ambition, announced in 2011, to dramatically increase federal funding of academic STEM research. …

    Likely, too, this same impulse powered the rise of the “Strategic (Research) Investment Fund” that abruptly appeared in public at UVa for the first time five years later to most everyone’s surprise (although it was hinted at three or four years earlier for legal reasons). However covert, UVa leadership deemed the fund necessary because university research almost always costs more than it generates in revenue. In the business model of today’s research-driven university, universities often divert student tuition and teaching resources to the research of tenured professors.

    Not only do students wind up paying higher tuition and get less attention from senior faculty, professors often requisition their personal time and talents for research projects. In effect, students become low-age apprentices whose exploitation helps faculty rake in massive research contracts, profit from patents, and even launch business enterprises based on new technology.

    I was worried six years ago that these practices would undermine UVa’s stature as a nationally recognized institution that specialized in teaching undergraduate arts and sciences that armed students to think independently and confidently, whether they are training in politics, philosophy, entrepreneurship, the classics, history, mathematics or physics.

    My concerns grew as I observed various pieces of the plan fall into place. More recently, I have become fully convinced that the emphasis on university R&D and STEM research has infected all tiers of higher learning. The siren call of STEM is drawing colleges and universities from their primary and critical mission to empower students to become independent, well rounded, and effective agents of change.

    Instead, over these past six years, I concluded that higher education has undermined the ability of students to stand on their own two feet. As early as the mid-1980s, William Bennett, then Head of the National Council of the Arts and Humanities, predicted the demise of the humanities at our elite national universities. He foretold the infection and destruction of traditional courses in the liberal arts and humanities (history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and literature, particularly western literature and the classics) with post-modernist relativism, deconstruction, and critical culture theory. His fears have come to pass.

    Academic leftists have weaponized this poison in the form of political correctness, safe spaces, claims of micro-aggression, and politics grounded in race and gender to drive an endlessly growing list of grievances and create a new identity-based hierarchy on the college campus. Much of this ideology has played out in Charlottesville with the UVa administration’s witting connivance, especially in the furtherance of the “epidemic of rape” canard.

    Remarkably, efforts to undermine American culture and society went largely unopposed for decades. Leftists have succeeded in hollowing out the center of our culture, and its confidence, and its coherence, and its ability to function. Now it is spreading chaos everywhere. Our institutions of higher learning have, to a marked degree, abandoned not only their roots but their sponsors, their fund-payers, their students, and in some cases the very buildings and spaces they inhabit in their quest for greener fields worldwide.

    This they call “Globalism,” which works in tandem with the explosion of research at elite universities to widen the fields of academic research to most everything, and every potential client, under the sun, while ignoring much of America’s past, and its historic culture. Witness Teresa Sullivan’s grand pilgrimage to China, a quest to set up a branch, or perhaps a second main campus, for Mr. Jefferson’s University snuggled up close to the Forbidden City in Peking.

    But higher education’s ill-fated embrace of Globalism now runs the risk of leaving the newly constructed university curriculum stranded on shifting sands. The tides are already running out. Newly constructed departments of global arts and sciences are encountering strong counter currents of resistance here and aboard.

    Students in other nations, who take great pride in their own histories and cultures, are not always receptive to listening to American professors talk about their institutions. The globalist agenda of American professors is perceived as another form of Western imperialism.

    At home, the problem is different. American students increasingly feel left behind. They feel cheated out of their right to learn about their own history, people and culture, before being taught or told to venture out into another peoples’ culture. Indeed, American and European academics increasing agree with their students. Hence globalist courses and departments are contracting, not growing, at a time when the movement has just started.

    In short, American’s elite research universities must shift their grand globalist ambitions and research driven plans. Federal research funds are shrinking. Teaching is disappearing. Science itself is under threat. And Americans now want their children educated to live and thrive in the real world, not one invented by other people.

    Reed Fawell III, a retired attorney and real estate developer, is an alumnus of the University of Virginia.

    For more, see:
    https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/toxic-brew-relativism-globalism

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