Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Updates from the Higher-Ed Apocalypse: VSU, RU, and JMU

VSU President Makola Abdullah

by James A. Bacon

Accelerated by the COVID-19 epidemic, the wrenching restructuring of the higher-ed industry is moving from small, private liberal arts colleges to the weaker public universities. Here’s the latest news from Virginia State University and Radford University.

VSU, a 138-year-old historically black institution, faces a 10% drop in enrollment, big losses in dormitory and cafeteria revenue, and a $26 million operating deficit, reports the Richmond Free Press. President Makola M. Abdullah has told the board of visitors that the university likely will have to dip into its $21 million reserve fund to cover some of the deficit, including debt payments for residence halls and buildings.

Like other historically black higher-ed institutions, VSU has struggled in a marketplace where larger, more prestigious institutions offering more financial aid are competing for African-American students. The university has teetered on the brink of financial collapse before but has always managed to fight its way back. The Northam administration’s response to the COVID epidemic has undermined the business model of every Virginia institution by limiting the number of students who can reside in dormitories, and VSU is no exception. Continue reading

Are Guns Finally OK Now that Lefties Carry Them?

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

A loosely organized group of men and women with handguns and rifles are patrolling the Lee Statue on Richmond’s Monument Avenue “intent on keeping visitors safe,” reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Asked why she needed to carry a gun and participate in a volunteer security force, 19-year-old Jasmine Kelley replied, “I don’t want to die.”

That sounds paranoid to me, but as long as Ms. Kelley and her gun-toting friends are obeying the law, I don’t have a problem. The residents of the immediate neighborhood might feel nervous, and I wouldn’t blame them, but Virginia is a right-to-carry state.

I wonder what the tut-tutters who disapproved of the show of arms by peaceful protesters at the gun-rights rally in the state capitol last January might have to say.

— JAB

Why Hasn’t Northam Acted Yet on the Great COVID News?

What makes Ralph run?

by James A. Bacon

A flood of COVID-19 test results were reported to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) over the weekend — more than 45,000 tests — and the news is good. While 1,652 new cases were confirmed over Saturday and Sunday, the seven-day moving average of the percentage of people testing positive declined to 6.5%, which may be the lowest since VDH started reporting the data.

Meanwhile, we see continued declines in the number of people sick enough to warrant admittance to the hospital . The seven-day average of new hospitalizations per day now stands at 24. You have to go back to March in the earliest stages of the epidemic to find such a low number. Same story with the number of deaths.

The prevalence of the virus in the population is falling. Hospitalizations are falling. Intensive hospitalization as measured by ICU occupancy and ventilator use is falling. And deaths are falling.

Even the Virginia Mercury, an online publication with a progressive slant, is moved to explain in its COVID-19 coverage why the Northam administration isn’t opening up the economy more rapidly. After all, every criterion Governor Ralph Northam announced a month ago has been met: more testing, a falling rate of confirmed cases, and fewer hospitalization. Continue reading

Stoney Proposes Overhaul of Richmond Policing

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

The Richmond Police Department received more than 80,000 calls for service in the first five months of 2020, writes Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney an a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed. Police respond to every type of crisis, from homelessness to mental health to substance abuse.

“We need officers to respond to violent and criminal acts,” Stoney says. “We cannot expect our police officers to serve as social workers, psychologists, child trauma experts and mental health workers, responding to every noncriminal call for service because America hasn’t properly prioritized other service providers. It does not make our country, or our city safer.”

Now it’s time to “reimagine” public safety, he says. Accordingly, he has created a Task Force on Reimagining Public Safety to come up with actionable steps within 90 days. Measures might include reallocating police funding to allow social workers to respond to non-violent calls, creating a Civilian Review Board to hold officers accountable for misconduct, and using evidence-based policies and practices.

I’m not convinced that the Richmond Police Department is broken. There have been few instances of police brutality, and the RPD has one of the highest murder-clearance rates in the country — a sign that police have a reservoir of trust and good will in the community. Further, I don’t know if these reforms are being driven by the residents of Richmond’s more crime-afflicted neighborhoods or by leftist activists and intellectuals. Still, some ideas may be worth pursuing, even if they come from the Left — at least if executed carefully without wrecking the morale of the police. Continue reading

COVID Restrictions Slam Black Businesses the Hardest

Stephanie Hart, owner of Brown Sugar Bakery in Chicago. Restaurant Business describes her travails in “Recent Crises Add to Life-or-Death Struggles for Black-owned Restaurants.”

by James A. Bacon

If Governor Ralph Northam needs further justification for reversing his emergency shutdown measures, perhaps he should consider this recently published paper by Robert Fairlie with the University of California-Santa Cruz.

Analyzing the impact of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions on small business, Fairlie found that they disproportionately hit minority enterprises. The number of active business owners in the U.S. plummeted 22% between February to April 2020. “African-American businesses were hit especially hard experiencing a 41 percent drop. Latinx business owners fell by 32 percent, and Asian business owners dropped by 26 percent,” Fairlie writes. Immigrant and female businesses were similarly affected.

Using the logic of disparate impact, in which any adverse differential between whites and blacks is deemed to be evidence of discrimination or structural bias, the emergency decrees enacted by Northam and other activist governors can only be described as racist.

Northam may not have promulgated the decrees with racist intent, but motives really aren’t the issue. What matters are outcomes. Continue reading

The Coming K-12 Meltdown

by James A. Bacon

Educational achievement in Virginia schools is heading for a melt-down. The racial achievement gap will get worse, not better.  And Virginians will live with the consequences for decades to come.

Part of this looming disaster can be attributed to the COVID-19 epidemic, which compelled the Northam administration to make difficult decisions on the basis of incomplete and evolving information. But much of it will be entirely man-made. I will touch upon broad themes in this post, and follow up with more detailed blogging in the future. Here are the key elements converging to create a perfect storm.

The epidemic. Governor Ralph Northam, like governors across the country, made the decision to close Virginia schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The necessity of this move, made in an environment of media-stoked hysteria, is, to be generous, debatable: School children are far less vulnerable to contracting and spreading the virus than adults. However justified the school shutdown may or may not have been from an epidemiological perspective, the educational consequences are undeniable. Children lost two- to three months of schooling as many districts fumbled the switch to online learning. Moreover, kids from poor families, who are disproportionately African-American, were less likely to have access to home computers and broadband, and their parents were less likely to provide the necessary supervision to ensure they were doing their work. The disparity in lost learning likely has been exacerbated. Continue reading

Northam Back-to-School Plan Unconstitutional, DeSteph Says

by James A. Bacon

Wise King Ralph may have a problem with his back-to-school plan for this fall: Some of his subjects think it may be unconstitutional.

Under the Governor’s directive, schools will return to something resembling normal in three phases. The most controversial part of the plan requires staggering classes so students attend in-person some days and remotely on others. Critics have questioned the quality of teaching that can occur in such an environment, and have noted that keeping kids at home makes it difficult for parents to go back to work.

Senator Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, issued a letter yesterday saying that the plan is not only misguided, but it is unconstitutional.

Despite the emergency authority being executed by your office, it is the General Assembly, not the Governor, that is given the power and authority to formulate the policies in our educational system for school boards to apply. Your plan announced June 9th is best characterized as gubernatorial overreach.

Continue reading

COVID Deaths Are Way Down. Wear Masks to Keep Them Down.

by James A. Bacon

The number of new deaths in Virginia attributed to the COVID-19 virus fell to three yesterday, according to data published this morning on the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard. That’s the lowest number since April 6.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals fell to 857, the lowest number since the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association began tracking the number in early April. And in yet another sign that the epidemic is receding, at least for now, the seven-day moving average of tests that yielded positive results for the virus fell to 7.2%.

And in other coronavirus-related news…. A study by Virginia Commonwealth University professor Christopher T. Leffler and colleagues finds that wearing face masks can dramatically reduce the per-capita death rates of COVID-19. The study examined 198 countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19; death rates varied from an average of one per million people to 94 per million. Researchers analyzed a range of public health factors to examine which had the biggest impact on the differences in death rates. Continue reading

Coming to a City Near You: Middle-Class Flight

The latest to be vandalized: The Richmond Howitzers Monument.

by James A. Bacon

As the City of Richmond becomes increasingly ungovernable in the face of continued protests and vandalism, a lot of people are saying to themselves, “I’m out of here.” Here’s a prediction: Middle-class flight will become the next big thing.

Richmond, like many other cities around the country, has enjoyed a strong economic revival in recent years. The city offered walkable streets, attractive neighborhoods and a lively cultural scene that attracted many young people. Businesses followed their creative-class employees to downtown, Shockoe Bottom and Scotts Addition. Taxes were higher and schools were problematic, but violent crime rates had fallen and people felt safe. Richmond seemed so much more vibrant and exciting than the suburbs of Henrico and Chesterfield Counties.

Everything has changed. Public order is eroding. As the state capital, Richmond has seen weeks of protests, destruction, and now vandalism unchecked by law enforcement. Yesterday, even though Governor Ralph Northam and Mayor Levar Stoney had proclaimed their intention to remove Civil War statues within the scope of the law, “protesters” couldn’t contain their rage. They tore down a third statue.

Stoney’s response: Fire the police chief.

You won’t see members of the silent majority organizing counter-protests. They won’t even post yard signs, for fear of being vandalized. They’ll just vote with their feet. They’ll sell their houses and move to the suburbs. The ‘burbs may be sterile, but they’re safer. Continue reading

It’s Good to Be King


by James A. Bacon

Wise King Ralph, in his wisdom, announced yesterday that he would delay implementation of the Phase 3 rollback of emergency economic-lockdown measures. He reached that decision even though Virginia’s COVID-19 metrics show that the epidemic is receding rapidly. Unfortunately, despite declaring previously that he would be guided by those very same metrics, Wise King Ralph did not share his thinking with the populace, nor did the fawning court media deem the contradiction worthy of notice in today’s new coverage.

Here’s all he had to say: “I want to have more time to see how the numbers look before we make changes, especially as we see surges in other parts of our country.”

For the edification of Bacon’s Rebellion readers, however, I am publishing the the metrics, published on the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) COVID-19 dashboard, said to be “statewide key measures.”

The graph above shows the seven-day moving average of total confirmed COVID-19 cases. The seven-day average smooths out the blips caused by random daily volatility. And the trend since late May has been steadily downward. Continue reading

Look, Over There, a Squirrel!

The new, politically correct UVa logo. How long before someone decides this, too, is insensitive? The term “cavalier” refers to English aristocrats and monarchists of the 1600s. Didn’t they support slavery? Wasn’t Governor Berkeley, the man who suppressed the uprising of poor whites and freed slaves known as Bacon’s Rebellion, a cavalier? Isn’t it time to jettison this anachronistic, militarist and offensive logo?

by James A. Bacon

Ever alert to signs of racism so subtle that most people can’t see them, the University of Virginia has altered its new V-Sabre logo to remove curves that had been added to the sword  handles. At the unveiling of the original logo, the university had noted that “detail was added to the grip of the sabres that mimics the design of the serpentine walls found on the Grounds.”

The serpentine walls have long been revered as one of a highlight of Thomas Jefferson’s design of the original university lawn, pavilions and environs. But Mr. Jefferson erected the walls for the purpose of keeping slaves out of view. Ergo, in the words of Virginia athletics director Carla Williams, there was a “negative connotation between the serpentine walls and slavery.”

Williams apologized to those who “bear the pain of slavery in our history.”

Interesting. As best I can tell, Williams has never apologized to those who bear the pain of the $28,335 cost of attendance (2019-20 academic year) at the University of Virginia, a cost that has increased 14% in just four years and, even with financial aid, causes disproportionate hardship on poor minorities who attend the university. Continue reading

Administrative Bloat and Racial Inequity in Higher Ed

Source: James V. Koch

by James A. Bacon

Recently, I told the story of how Virginia Commonwealth University, which prides itself for embracing minorities and first-generation college students, is enacting a left-wing social justice regime. While fostering a culture of minority victimhood and grievance, VCU charges its students $25,419 in tuition, fees, room, and board. Among the “students of color” who graduate, seven out of ten borrow money to pay their way through college. On average they entered the job market $31,500 in debt.

Where does all this money go? Does it actually cost $25,400 a year to provide a residential four-year education? Or does the tuition support a bloated administrative structure that serves the pay, perks and priorities of college administrators and faculty? Now, thanks to James V. Koch, economist and president emeritus of Old Dominion University, there is a way to answer those questions.

Administrative costs at VCU amounted to $5,800 per weighted, full-time-equivalent (FTE) student in the 2017-18 academic year, according to data Koch compiled for his forthcoming book, “Runaway College Costs.” Among the ten Virginia public higher-ed institutions surveyed, VCU has seen the greatest percentage increase — 128% — in inflation-adjusted administrative costs over 14 years. Continue reading

By the Way, Assaults on Virginia Police Officers Surged Last Year


by James A. Bacon

So, the nation is in an uproar again, this time over the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks by a white police officer in Atlanta after Brooks resisted arrest, grabbed the officer’s taser and turned it on him. While this incident, like every other episode fueling the Black Lives Matter movement, occurred outside the Old Dominion, Virginians are wrestling with the same set of issues regarding the police use of force, particularly in their interactions with African-Americans.

Largely missing from the discussion — certainly here in Virginia — are the risks that police officers encounter when dealing with the public. The data shown above, taken from Virginia State Police “Crime in Virginia” reports show dramatic increases in the number of assaults on police officers in 2017 and 2019. Last year, the number of assaults reached 1,939 — by far the greatest number of incidents of any year since the state police settled upon consistent reporting methodology in 2000. Continue reading

COVID Update: Masks, Libertarians and Bureaucrats

Nicholas Taleb

by James A. Bacon

More good news from the latest COVID-19 data dump: The number of new hospitalizations reported by the Virginia Department of Health fell to 25 yesterday, and the number of deaths reported declined to five. We’re back to the levels of early April — more evidence that Governor Ralph Northam can relax his Vulcan Death Grip on Virginia’s economy.

To what do we owe this fortuitous turn of events? Social distancing? Mask wearing? The economic shutdown? to what extent do Northam’s emergency decrees deserve the credit? To what extent would the viral spread have peaked and receded without his draconian measures?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has nothing to say about Virginia. But the philosopher, best known for his books “Black Swan,” “Antifragility,” and “Skin in the Game,” makes several observations that are helpful in understanding America’s response to the virus. I highlight here three of his principles from  a recent post that (a) I found easiest to understand (he’s difficult for mathematical ignorati like me to comprehend when he delves into probability theory), and (b) I found most relevant to our situation in the Old Dominion. Continue reading

Want to Advance Racial Justice, VCU? Look at Your Bloated Cost Structure and Runaway Tuition

Million-dollar Rao

by James A. Bacon

Three days ago I described how Virginia Commonwealth University is in the process of installing a new “social justice” regime that will mandate “non-discrimination” training to exacerbate snowflake sensibilities, encourage students and employees to report “micro-aggressions,” and adjudicate grievances in a way that will be “affirming for those who have been aggrieved.”

The transformation of VCU into a political reeducation camp is based upon the premise that the university is afflicted with a systemic racism that must be eradicated. This narrative is highly convenient for those in charge.

VCU is, in fact, a source of grave social injustice. But the source of that injustice is not the students who fall afoul of ever-shifting, ever more elusive definitions of what constitutes racism but of those who benefit from the massive wealth transfer from students (and their families) to the administrative and faculty elite of the institution itself.

VCU prides itself as being an institution that is open to minorities and first-generation college students. At the same time, the institution has erected a cost structure that makes necessary the fifth highest cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room, and board) among public Virginia universities — $25,419 in the 2019-20 academic year. Between the 2010-11 academic year and the 2019-20 year, VCU has increased tuition & mandatory E&G (education and general) fees by 76%, mandatory non-E&G fees by 26%, and room & board by 27%. That is far in excess of the 17.5% consumer price inflation over the same period. Continue reading