Tag Archives: University of Virginia

In Their Own Words: Lanice Avery

Editor’s Note: To document the spread of “wokeness” — short-hand to describe the philosophy of intersectional oppression — The Jefferson Council has begun publishing profiles of University of Virginia faculty members in their own words. Not our words. Not our spin. Not our interpretation. Their words. — JAB 

Assistant Professor Lanice Avery has a joint appointment to the departments of Psychology and Women, Gender & Sexuality at the University of Virginia. Her research interests, she says on her university profile page, lie at “the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and media.” In her LinkedIn page, she describes herself as a “board-certified sexologist.” This semester she is teaching one course, on Black feminist theory.

In this post we highlight her work in her own words, both in writing and on video. (We have highlighted key phrases to show how her work conforms to the intersectional-oppression paradigm, commonly referred to as wokeness, that is increasingly prevalent at UVA.) From Avery’s university web profile:

She is interested in Black women’s intersectional identity development and how the negotiation of dominant gender ideologies and gendered racial stereotypes are associated with adverse psychological and sexual health outcomes…. Her work examines how exposure to gendered racism impacts Black women’s psycho-social development, and the contributing role of media (mainstream, digital, and social) use on Black women’s identity, self-esteem, victimization experiences, and mental health outcomes.

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The Purge Comes for Edwin Alderman

by James A. Bacon

As President of the University of Virginia between 1904 and 1931, Edwin Anderson Alderman led Thomas Jefferson’s university into the 20th century. A self-proclaimed “progressive” of the Woodrow Wilson stamp, he advocated higher taxes to support public education, admitted the first women into UVA graduate programs, boosted enrollment and faculty hiring, established the university’s endowment, reformed governance and gave UVA its modern organizational structure. Most memorably to Wahoos of the current era, he built a state-of-the-art facility, named Alderman Library in his honor, to further the pursuit of knowledge.

Like many other “progressives” of the era, Alderman also promoted the science (now known to be a pseudo-science) of eugenics, and he held racist views that  have been roundly rejected in the 21st century.

A movement has burgeoned at UVA to remove Alderman’s name from the library. The Ryan administration was poised in December to ask for Board of Visitors approval to take that step by renaming the newly-renovated facility after former President Edgar Shannon. The administration withdrew the proposal after determining it did not have a majority vote. But Team Ryan could resurrect the name change at the February/March meeting of the Board, as suggested in the flier seen above. Continue reading

“Enacting Racial Change by Design”

by James A. Bacon

The backlash against Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in higher-ed and the corporate world may be gathering momentum across the country, but the University of Virginia is rolling out a new DEI initiative oblivious to the shift in the national mood.

UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences has launched a program this semester entitled, “Enacting Racial Change by Design.” Participating faculty will discuss chapters from the book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk to deepen understanding of “systematic racial inequity in higher education.” Participants will be able to apply for $1,000 grants to implement DEI-related projects.

The rhetoric of the memo announcing the initiative is disconnected from the national conversation now underway. The program shows not the slightest inkling that critics of DEI need be acknowledged much less engaged in dialogue. U.S. Supreme Court ruling on race in admissions? Resignation of the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania? Helloooo? Anyone home?

This is what happens when an academic elite is captive to DEI dogma and there is not enough diversity of thought for anyone to push back.

Here follows the memo: Continue reading

Covid vs. Religious Freedom at UVA

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia has paid more than $1.8 million in legal fees fighting a lawsuit filed by UVA Health employees who were fired, despite religious objections, for refusing to take the Covid vaccine. And that’s just through November. Given the continuing litigation, billing has likely passed the $2 million mark.

Eleven former employees filed a lawsuit a year ago, claiming that the $3 billion-a-year-in-revenues health system arbitrarily declined to grant them religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate.

Hunton Andrews Kurth is the lead law firm for UVA, charging between $600 and $900 per hour for legal services and racking up $1.52 million in charges through November, according to documents The Jefferson Council has acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. Eckert Seamons has charged $240,000, and IslerDare $70,000. Continue reading

Look What UVA Is Hiding

by James A. Bacon

Acting on behalf of The Jefferson Council, Walter Smith has filed a complaint in Henrico County against the University of Virginia, seeking a remedy for its refusal to supply documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Smith serves in a volunteer capacity as chair of the Council’s research committee.

The suit alleges 14 instances in which the University’s FOIA staff improperly denied emails and other documents to the Council. Smith’s FOIA requests asked for documents that would shed light on the inner workings of the University’s administrative decision-making process.

The cases highlighted in the complaint illustrate two main themes. First, UVA’s FOIA lawyers have stretched the presidential “working papers” exemption beyond its original intent of protecting the university president’s personal deliberations. Second, the lawyers did not apply privacy protections to Bert Ellis, a Board of Visitors member who was widely perceived as a threat to the university status quo.

“UVa’s FOIA process seems designed to delay and discourage and deny inquiries that may be embarrassing to the Ryan administration,” said Smith. “The administration says it’s all for open inquiry. These are matters of legitimate interest to the public. It seems hypocritical to hide so much.” Continue reading

What Does UVA Need in a University President?

by James A. Bacon

For anyone following governance issues at the University of Virginia, Bill Ackman’s Twitter broadside against Harvard’s now- dethroned president Claudine Gay and its governing board is must reading. Ackman, the hedge-fund manager-turned-activist who spearheaded Gay’s overthrow, identifies serious systemic problems at Harvard, from its ponderous DEI bureaucracy to a tuition policy that prices out the middle class.

Every one of the pathologies he describes at Harvard plays out at UVA (although, one can argue, in diluted form). Little of this is new to readers of The Jefferson Council blog, for we have been documenting the problems for two years. But Ackman raises one point that we have not considered: what qualifications should a governing board look for in a university president?

The question might seem academic, but UVa President Jim Ryan is surely feeling nervous these days. As dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education before ascending to his position at UVA, he is a product of the same hyper-progressive Harvard culture as Gay. And Liz Magill, the University of Pennsylvania president who was sacked after her abysmal testimony before Congress, was Ryan’s hand-picked provost for UVa before she moved on to the Ivy League. Ryan is less politically tone deaf, to be sure. He is popular among UVA students and faculty, and he has said all the right things regarding free speech and institutional neutrality. No one in authority has publicly called for his resignation. Even The Jefferson Council, as critical as it has been of UVA under Ryan’s tenure, has taken no position on whether he should stay or go.

Nevertheless, it is worth asking the question, in light of the presidential de-fenestrations at Harvard and Penn: what should an elite university look for in a president? Continue reading

Nooses, Masks and Double Standards

by James A. Bacon

In the fall of 2022 a furtive figure was caught on videotape draping a noose around the Homer statue on the Grounds of the University of Virginia. The university administration immediately declared the act a hate crime. University police launched an investigation, enlisting the FBI to help in the search for the perpetrator. A $10,000 award was offered to anyone who could provide more information.

“The facts available indicate that this was an act intended to intimidate members of this community,” said President Jim Ryan in a letter to the community. “A noose is a recognizable and well-known symbol of violence, most closely associated with the racially motivated lynching of African Americans.”

A noose hung from a tree branch is indeed a recognizable symbol of lynching. The meaning when hung around the neck of a statue of an ancient Greek poet, however, was not self-evident (as we noted at the time). Indeed, when the offender was discovered, it turned out he hadn’t been targeting African Americans at all. Irate at how the Homer statue placed a hand on the head of a naked youth, the Albemarle County man declared that it “glorified pedophilia.” Local authorities charged him with intimidation anyway.

That was then.

Photo credit: WUVAnews.com

The day after Hamas’ October 7 terrorist assault on Israel, the Students for Justice in Palestine at UVA issued a statement  declaring that “colonized people” had the right to resist oppression “by whatever means they deem necessary.” A poster promoting the October 12 march showed a Hamas bulldozer plowing through an Israeli security fence. “Decolonization is not a metaphor,” the poster said. Later that month, SJP held two rallies on the Grounds. Marchers waved Palestinian flags and chanted, “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea.” Some insisted that the slogan was just a call for solidarity with oppressed Palestinians, but many Jews interpreted it as advocating the eradication of the Israeli state and, in the context of the Hamas massacres, the slaughter of the Jewish population.
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A Hostile Environment for Jews

by James A. Bacon

Matan Goldstein is a rarity at the University of Virginia — a Jewish student unafraid to openly defend Israel in its war with Hamas and oppose Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Palestinian group that praised Hamas’ October 7 terror attacks on Israeli citizens. The Israeli student has appeared on local talk radio and published an op-ed in the local newspaper. He wears a kippah, openly identifying himself as a Jew, and he was one of the two students who waved an Israeli flag on the steps of the Rotunda during an SJP rally. 

Goldstein, who was drawn to UVa by its classics program, was surprised upon coming to Charlottesville by the prevalence of antisemitism and the impotent handwringing of the UVa administration in dealing with it. University officials have declined to criticize the eliminationist rhetoric of pro-Palestinian students and faculty. Instead, the University has created a religious diversity task force to investigate discrimination against Jews… and Muslims… and other religions. Two of the eleven task-force members had signed a faculty letter faulting Ryan for his failure to sufficiently acknowledge the suffering of the Palestinians.

Goldstein’s account is echoed by other members of UVa’s Jewish community contacted by The Jefferson Council, although he was the only one willing to speak on the record. A law school student spoke off the record, while parents, alumni, a professor and a rabbi conveyed the sentiments of many other Jewish students whom I was unable to contact for first-hand accounts. Jewish students are so reticent to speak publicly that the signatories to a letter in The Cavalier Daily identified themselves only as “a group of Jewish students.”

During his first-year orientation in September, Goldstein participated in a group discussion in which students told others about themselves. He mentioned that he was Israeli. A classmate, a student from Egypt, spoke up. He said he was angry at the Jewish state and the Israeli Defense Force. He thought Abdul Gamal Nasser, an Egyptian dictator who sought to destroy Israel in the Six Day War, was a hero. “He said we could never be friends.” Continue reading

How Unbiased Is UVa’s Religious-Diversity Task Force?

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia task forced assigned the job of ensuring that UVa is “welcoming” to all religions includes two faculty members who signed an open letter criticizing UVa President Jim Ryan for failing after the October 7 terrorist rampage afflicted upon Israel to acknowledge the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Ryan denounced Hamas terrorism but declined to take sides in the ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Jews. The task force’s aim, according to the announcement in UVa Today, “will be to understand how Jewish and Muslim students, faculty and staff, as well as those of other religious backgrounds, experience life on Grounds.”

“We want every student, faculty member and staff member to understand that they are a vital part of this place and how profoundly they enrich our common life as we take on that fundamental work of the University,” Ryan said.

The task force is headed by College of Arts & Sciences Dean Christa Acampora. She will be supported by 10 faculty, staff, students, and other members of the UVa community. Christians, Muslims and Jews are all represented. A challenge will be keeping the focus on how Jewish and Muslim students are experiencing UVa without getting infected by the emotional debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that gave rise to the task force. Continue reading

The Asymmetrical Application of Free-Speech Principles

by James A. Bacon

Clifford S. Asness, founder of AQR Capital Management, did a masterful job of distilling the free-speech debate on college campuses to its essence. Though he had in mind the disastrous testimony of the three Ivy League presidents last week regarding Palestinians and Jews, his Wall Street Journal op-ed describes the dilemma at the University of Virginia as well.

Alumni donors like me don’t object to free speech. What we can’t abide is the extremely asymmetrical application of free-speech principles. For years these schools, [the University of Pennsylvania] prominently included, have actively suppressed ideas disagreeable to the progressive worldview of their administrations, faculties and hard-core student activists. Now that those groups are talking about wiping Israel off the map, these college presidents are wrapping themselves in the First Amendment….

Unacceptable is the current status quo of free speech for those chanting slogans that amount to “death to the Jews” but not for those committing alleged microaggressions against the politically favored.

That is precisely the problem I have with the UVa administration.

The day after Hamas terrorists slaughtered thousands of defenseless Israeli citizens and abducted hundreds more, the Students for Justice in Palestine at UVA were free to say the following [my bold]: Continue reading

Kalven Principles for UVa?

by James A. Bacon

Five years ago, University of Virginia President Jim Ryan took to the social media platform formerly known as Twitter to comment upon the horrific murder of 11 Jews in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh by a white nationalist.

“This kind of hate and violence goes against everything this country should stand for, and for which the University of Virginia will always stand,” he tweeted. “It falls to all of us to do everything we can, not just to keep our community safe but to prevent hate and bigotry from taking root in the first place.”

Someone warned him at the time to be careful, Ryan recalled in remarks to the UVa Board of Visitors Friday. Once he started commenting on news headlines, it would be difficult to stop. There is always something happening around the world. If university presidents comment on one story, they are expected to comment on the next. And if they don’t, people read meaning into the silence.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the practice of making public pronouncements on events of the day, Ryan suggested. Maybe it’s time to consider adopting the Kalven principles, a set of principles articulated by the University of Chicago’s Kalven Committee that urged colleges and universities to maintain institutional neutrality on social and political issues. Continue reading

Does UVa Need to Charge Higher Tuition to Keep Pay Competitive?

by James A. Bacon

The Ryan administration notched up two big wins in the University of Virginia Board of Visitors meeting Thursday and Friday. It pushed through 3% tuition increases for the next two academic years and it framed the budgetary debate to its advantage. Rather than engaging in a wide-ranging discussion of how UVa might hold down costs, the Board spent most of its time talking about the challenge of hiring and retaining faculty and staff, with the implicit assumption that staying competitive will require higher pay, more money, and higher tuitions.

The administration carefully orchestrated the discussion of tuition & fees from the very beginning — through an initial Finance Committee meeting in October, a public hearing on tuition increases at which only one person testified in November, and then the Board vote Friday. Each step of the way, the administration made lengthy presentations contending that UVa provides a superior value proposition to students, that it has restrained spending, and that inflationary pressures and cutbacks in state funding compel the university to raise tuition. Discussion was restricted to the data presented by the administration. Past efforts by board members to obtain additional information about UVa’s cost structure — in particular, about administrative costs — were ignored.

Bert Ellis, a former president of the Jefferson Council and appointee of Governor Glenn Youngkin, was the only board member to abstain from voting for the tuition increases. The seven other Youngkin appointees on the Board voted for the tuition increases, as did every holdover from the Northam administration.

The Ryan administration presented a case that was sometimes valid but frequently used cherrypicked data or made points that were shorn of context, as the Jefferson Council has documented in previous posts. There are no simple answers to the question of what the “right” level of tuition & fees should be. Optimal tradeoffs between affordability and costs require a vigorous and free-ranging debate at the Board level that simply did not occur. Continue reading

Fear and Loathing of Youngkin’s Higher Ed Policy

by James A. Bacon

In early October Governor Glenn Youngkin asked Attorney General Jason Miyares for a formal opinion on a seemingly innocuous question: whose interests are members of Virginia’s public university governing boards supposed to represent? Miyares responded that the “primary duty” of the boards of visitors is to the commonwealth, not to the institutions themselves. The conclusion would seem to be so obvious, so clearly the intent of the state code, that it doesn’t warrant discussion.

But some people espy a vague but malign intent behind the finding.

Speaking to the higher-ed trade journal, Inside Higher Ed, Claire Gastañaga, former director of Virginia’s ACLU and a former deputy attorney general overseeing Virginia’s public colleges and universities, said Miyares’ opinion is a threat to the autonomy of public institutions. In the publication’s words, she “fears it signals an attempt by the governor to justify the removal of board members whose actions don’t align with his priorities” and replace them with appointees who share his priorities. Gastañaga pointed to the Bert Ellis bogeyman as evidence that Youngkin is scheming something nefarious. Continue reading

Everyone Loves Free Speech… In Theory

Governor Glenn Youngkin at the higher-ed summit at the University of Virginia. Photo credit: The Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

Governor Glenn Youngkin outlined yesterday his vision for colleges and universities in Virginia as bastions of free speech and intellectual diversity where people come together to devise solutions to society’s most pressing problems.

“How do we ask serious questions and foster informed debate so we can get to answers?” he asked in a pragmatic defense of free speech in a keynote speech at a statewide higher-ed conclave held at the University of Virginia. The answer was implicit in the title of the event: the Higher Education Summit on Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity.

The summit was attended by representatives, including many presidents, of every public university in Virginia and more than half of the state’s private higher-ed institutions. The end goal of the event, said Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera in introductory remarks, was for every institution to create an “action plan” to advance the goals of free speech and intellectual diversity.

Youngkin began laying the groundwork a year ago when he addressed the Council of Presidents and pushed them toward the same goals. The Council, comprised of Virginia college and university presidents, adopted a statement endorsing free speech and intellectual diversity in the abstract. But as discussions at Wednesday’s summit made clear, there is considerable gray area in applying free speech principles in the real world. The next step is to move beyond the expression of abstract principles to putting those principles into action. Continue reading

“Who Exactly Is the University of Virginia Protecting?”

Rector Robert D. Hardie

by James A. Bacon

A week ago The Jefferson Council publicly questioned the decision to withhold publication of the investigation into the University’s failure to prevent the Nov. 13, 2022, mass shooting. We were particularly perplexed by who made the decision to delay release of the report until after the trial of the defendant, Christopher Jones. The decision, announced by Rector Robert D. Hardie and President Jim Ryan, apparently was made without the approval of the Board of Visitors. (See “Will the Public Ever Get to See the Mass Shooting Report?”)

Now, as reported by The Daily Progress, others are asking questions.

The Daily Progress leads with the question, “Who exactly is the University of Virginia protecting?” Continue reading