Tag Archives: University of Virginia

UVa, COVID, and Jim Ryan’s $200,000 Bonus

Source: University of Virginia COVID Tracker

by James A. Bacon

Like many other University of Virginia alumni, I was taken aback to hear that the Board of Visitors had granted President Jim Ryan a $200,000 bonus for the great job UVa had done in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic.

Rector Whittington Clement put it this way: “When the situation this year became clearer and we had a highly successful handling of COVID-19, we think the University did as well as, if not better, than any institution of higher learning in making the adjustments necessary to COVID-19, we thought that it was appropriate to give him a bonus.”

I don’t want to prejudge whether Team Ryan has done a great job of addressing COVID-19 or not. To be sure, UVa has resumed in-person learning, but it also has instituted a draconian lockdown, including mandated vaccination for students, the unenrollment of those who did not comply, mask wearing required both indoors and outdoors, and mandated isolation and quarantine for those who test positive and/or been exposed. UVa is a laboratory testbed for the individual-liberties-be-damned approach to public health that some would like to see for the entire country. Continue reading

Is Anyone In Charge Over There?

The new rules for occupying a prestigious room on the University of Virginia’s Lawn allow students to post comments and materials on two message boards affixed to each door. An addendum to the “Terms and Conditions for Lawn and Range Residents, Housing and Residence Life” states:

“Any materials placed on the message boards must fit within the four corners of each message board and cannot extend beyond the outer edges of any such board.”

The addendum also provides this context: Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Reality Sucks Edition

Bye, Bye, Brackney. The City of Charlottesville will not renew the employment contract of Police Chief RaShall Brackney, who took on the job in June 2018, the City announced on its website yesterday. No explanation was given. However, the announcement follows less than two weeks after publication of a survey of Charlottesville police officers showing the morale was in the dumps, that toxic city politics had prompted many to scale back on traffic stops, arrests and community policing, and that few officers felt that Brackney had their back. Among other actions as the city’s first Black female police chief, who came on shortly after the tumultuous Unite the Right Rally, Brackney had dissolved the SWAT Team after allegations of misogynistic and other inappropriate behavior.

Speaking of employment contracts… University of Virginia President Jim Ryan was awarded a $200,000 bonus during a closed session of the June 3 Board of Visitors meeting, The Cavalier Daily student newspaper has revealed. The university froze salaries for all employees during the early months of the COVID-19 epidemic, and Ryan and other senior officials took a 10% pay cut. Said Rector Whittington Clement: “When the situation this year became clearer and we had a highly successful handling of COVID-19, we think the University did as well as, if not better, than any institution of higher learning in making the adjustments necessary to COVID-19, we thought that it was appropriate to give him a bonus.” Continue reading

Unequivocal Support for Free Speech… but Not Transparency

by Walter Smith

To the tune of “Unforgettable”…

Unequivocal you’re not at all
Unequivocal nowhere this fall
Like an empty phrase that runs from me
How your illusion does things to me
Never before has something been less
Unequivocal in every way

The University of Virginia formed the Free Expression and Free Inquiry Committee in February 2021. In May the Board of Visitors “unequivocally” endorsed the work of the Committee. Personally, I think the statement is a disgrace to Jefferson’s free speech legacy – I was hoping for more than the Chicago Principles and got a lukewarm, turgid, academic, PC jargon, kinda sorta saying UVA believes in free speech..

Does UVa really believe in free speech? We have seen that F— UVA is vigorously protected on the Lawn, but what about in the classrooms and on the Grounds? Are students and professors free to express their beliefs without fear of recrimination? Anecdotally, I don’t think they are. I have heard stories. and I have seen true harassment and shaming and threats for the “crime” of not agreeing with current woke ideology du jour. Continue reading

What’s the Best COVID Metric — Vaccinations or Antibodies?

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia has “disenrolled” 49 students who had registered for fall classes but failed to comply with the school’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Another 184 temporary waivers were granted to students who have had trouble getting vaccinated, according to The Washington Post.

University officials say that fewer than one percent of students are out of compliance. “We are in a much better and much different position than we were last year, primarily because of the vaccines and the extraordinarily high vaccination rate in our community,” said President Jim Ryan.

In the spring semester, the university reported 1,950 infections among students, faculty and staff. By comparison the UVa COVID tracker logged only 12 new cases yesterday and notes that only 56 cases are active — mostly among faculty and staff.

Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology, said that vaccines are one of the best defenses against the virus. “They prevent infection and they are very effective in preventing hospitalization and other serious outcomes,” he said, according to the Post. “It remains the case that people who are vaccinated are much safer from infection than unvaccinated people.”

There they go again — failing to differentiate between unvaccinated people who have recovered from the virus and unvaccinated people who have not been infected. Continue reading

UVa’s Bait and Switch

by Walter Smith

The University of Virginia announced its COVID-19 vaccination mandate May 20. Unless students filed for a medical or religious exemption, they had to be vaccinated this fall. If they failed to comply, they would be subject to weekly testing. No mercy for COVID survivors who had developed natural immunities.

On August 6th UVa proclaimed that due to concerns over the spread of the Delta variant it would be re-instituting a masking requirement for all students. On August 9, the university announced for the first time that students who failed to comply with the vaccine would be “disenrolled.”

By the way, did I mention that UVa sent out its bills July 20 and the last day to arrange the semester payment plan was Aug. 5?

Call me a cynic. Continue reading

Make “Contextualization” Open, Vibrant, Dogma-Free

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia has taken down the statue of Indian fighter George Rogers Clark and is expunging other monuments and tributes to individuals who fall short of lofty, progressive 21st-century ideals. President Jim Ryan has promised that the statue to Thomas Jefferson, the university’s founder, will stay. But it will be “contextualized.”

What that contextualization will look like is anybody’s guess. The project has been handed to the “Naming and Memorials Committee” for elaboration. Will Jefferson be portrayed as a founding father and progenitor of principles that guide the United States today… or a slave-holding rapist? It is too early to say.

What we do know is that considerable thought has been given to the machinery of contextualization. Whatever the message may be, it will be delivered digitally. Envision standing near the Jefferson statue, or the Rotunda, or the Lawn, or other spots deemed worth of recognition, such as the Black Bus Stop, the Ginger Scott Case, or the Coat and Tie Rebellion. You can take out your smart phone, scan a QR code, and access text and audio descriptions.

But there are warning flags galore as to where this initiative is heading. Continue reading

UVa Does Foster Free Expression, VP Advancement Says

Mark M. Luellen, vice president for advancement

by James A. Bacon

The upper echelons of the University of Virginia administration are keenly aware that many alumni are unhappy with the hostility toward viewpoints that don’t conform with the dominant leftist culture at the university. As Mark M. Luellen, vice president for advancement acknowledged in a recent dear-colleagues letter, “Many of us have engaged in conversations with constituents concerned about a perceived lack of ideological balance at the University.”

President Jim Ryan recognizes these concerns, Luellen continued, and he wants to ensure the university community that “diverse viewpoints and civil discourse are encouraged.” The letter went on to tout the Statement on Free Expression and Free Inquiry that was approved recently by the Board of Visitors.

As I have observed more than once, however, it’s one thing to propound abstract principles and quite another to put them into practice — especially when new faculty and staff hires are pushing the university’s ideological center of gravity ever further to the left.

Perhaps in expectation of continued skepticism, the President’s Office compiled a list of efforts, outlets and organizations promoting the civil exchange of ideas on the Grounds. Luellen thought it would helpful for the university community to see “the sheer volume of efforts in place to foster an environment where all ideological positions are discussed and evaluated openly.” Continue reading

UVa and Tech Are Leaders in Building Massive Diversity Bureaucracies

Source: “Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy”

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech have the second and fifth largest bureaucracies devoted to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion among 65 large public universities studied by the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy. UVa has 94 DEI personnel, while Tech has 83, according to Jay P. Greene and James D. Paul in their paper, “Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy.

In another way of looking at the data, the authors found that UVa has 6.5 DEI staff for every 100 tenured and tenure-track professors. Tech has 5.6 DEI personnel per 100 faculty — compared to 3.4 per 1,000 for the average university. The figures for UVa, Tech and other universities surveyed are conservative in the sense that they do not include positions such as admissions and facilities managers that include DEI as part of their missions.

Based on climate surveys at several universities, the authors found no relationship between the size of the DEI bureaucracies and student satisfaction with their college experience. Continue reading

UVa, Wokeness, and Rooms on the Lawn

by James A. Bacon

Once upon a time in a galaxy far far way, it was considered a great honor among 4th-year University of Virginia students to be selected for residence on the Lawn — the architectural heart of the university designed by Thomas Jefferson and now designated a world heritage site. The accommodations  were less than luxurious — most memorably, the 47 rooms were not equipped with their own bathrooms. There were offsetting advantages. The rooms had fireplaces, and the University provided a plentiful supply of wood. But living on the Lawn was mainly about status. It conferred recognition of a student’s accomplishments in his or her first three years.

Something is happening at UVa, and I don’t fully understand it. The prestige of a Lawn residency is declining. The trend was made visible last year when a 4th-year woman posted a prominent sign on her door emblazoned with the words “F— UVA” and in subsequent statements dismissing founder Thomas Jefferson as a slave-holder and a rapist. As evidenced by supporting signage on other doors, other Lawn residents shared her sentiments.

But the decline in prestige long precedes that particular expression of animus toward the university granting the honor, and it precedes even the reign of wokeness under current President Jim Ryan. As shown in the table above, submitted by UVa in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by UVa alumnus and Bacon’s Rebellion contributor Walter Smith, applications to live on the Lawn have fallen steadily and precipitously — 37% — over the past five years. Continue reading

Hmmm… Implementing DE&I Might Be Trickier Than It Sounds

Here follows the transcript of an entirely fictional videoconference between University of Virginia President Jim Ryan and his Executive Cabinet. The author is not intending to be satirical. He is illuminating the issues that any honest effort to implement a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion agenda will encounter. — JAB

 by Jon Jewett

President Ryan: I have called this meeting to address the most important problem facing the University today — systemic racism. It is imperative that we make significant progress towards a solution during the 2021-22 academic year. In view of their critical roles in determining how we as a university address this problem, I have asked Greg Roberts, Dean of Admissions, Ian Baucom, Dean of Arts and Sciences. Risa Goluboff, Dean of the Law School, and David Wilkes, Dean of the School of Medicine, to join us.

I trust that by now you have all read Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist. If not, you should. Make that “must.’ Kendi’s basic message can be summed up as “No More Excuses.” We all know that all races are equal. Yet there are huge disparities between whites and blacks in this country, and in this University. Supposedly we have been working to eliminate those disparities at least since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, but they have barely changed over the last 50 years. What we have been doing has simply not worked, and it is time to recognize that reality. Kevin McDonald, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Partnerships, will first explain what our goals must be if we are to have an anti-racist university, and then I will call on others to explain how we will achieve those goals. Kevin? Continue reading

Another Free Speech Fiasco at UVa

Charlottesville attorney Charles L. Weber Jr., represented University of Virginia student Morgan Bettinger in legal proceedings involving the University Judiciary Committee, which condemned her for words that allegedly constituted a “risk” to other students. This incident is a case study in how leftist, “anti-racist” students at UVa wield processes and procedures, with the complicity of the administration, to repress free speech and chastise those who offend them. I republish here a letter from Weber to UVa President Jim Ryan asking for redress. We’ll soon find out how sincere Ryan is in his commitment to free speech and expression. — JAB

Dear President Ryan,

I am writing to urge you to correct a grave injustice perpetrated by
the University of Virginia (the University) against a student during this
past academic year.

Morgan Bettinger was unfairly punished by the University
Judiciary Committee (UJC) for speaking words protected by the
Constitution. However, because UJC appeals are limited to process, not
substance, the Judicial Review Board (JRB) concluded that the UJC
decision whether erroneous or not was unreviewable. Continue reading

Pass the Hemlock, Please


by Walter Smith

The strangest thing happened the other day. I was asleep, but I swear it wasn’t a dream. I was in Charlottesville, wandering around the University of Virginia Law School! I walked into an auditorium where the law faculty was seated, with UVa President Jim Ryan and law school Dean Risa Goluboff in attendance. Before the professors could chase me out and file a No Trespass Warning, we were suddenly transported, Star Trek-like, to an amphitheater in Athens. Socrates stood before us.

The following discourse took place in Classical Greek, and everyone understood it. Socrates took the floor and began conducting a — you guessed it — Socratic dialogue.

“Is there any limit on a woman’s right to choose,” he asked.

No, nodded the professors in freaky unanimity, the woman’s right to control what happened to her own body was sacrosanct. Pressing on, the great philosopher asked, “what if the baby were due in a month? What if the baby’s head, shoulders and torso had emerged?” Heads bobbed up and down. Yes, it was still the woman’s right to choose.

It was astonishing how up to speed on current events the old man was. He then asked — I’m telling the truth! — “If a woman has the right to control her own body, could Athens require her to get a COVID shot?” Continue reading

A Cavalier Disregard for Historical Documentation

Map of South America showing the meridian dividing the new world in Pope Alexander VI’s papal bull.

The University of Virginia in recent years has devoted considerable resources to an excavation of unpleasant aspects of its past, from slavery and Jim Crow to the dispossession of land from the Monacan Indians. Other than the controversy over Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his slave Sally Hemings, the scholarly findings have rarely been disputed. Perhaps this scholarship warrants a closer look.

Steve Adkins, an amateur historian who claims 25,000 hours of independent study, alleges several factual errors in the Encyclopedia Virginia maintained by UVa as well as UVa professor Jeffrey Hantman’s book, “Monacan Millennium.” In the narrative below, he describes the failure of Hantman, the University of Virginia Press, and university authorities to correct them. His account delves into historical minutiae that may enthrall only antiquarians. But his charge that UVa humanities and social sciences are afflicted with “an arrogant facts-be-damned, circle-the-wagons culture” may be of interest to a wider audience. — JAB

The loss of academic freedom on American campuses has been accompanied by the erosion of academic rigor. I offer this outsider’s glimpse.
Continue reading

Help Me Out. Let’s FOIA UVa about Trespass Warnings

Bacon passes around the tin cup

by James A. Bacon

Back in April 2018 Jason Kessler, the white nationalist organizer of the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, found himself the target of a series of lawsuits. He was spotted in the University of Virginia Law School library one day, minding his own business and reading up on the law. Someone recognized him, and word quickly spread. Traumatized by his presence, law school students chased him out of the room. The law school followed up by obtaining a Trespass Warning to bar him from setting foot in the library.

Later that same year, med school student Kieran Bhattacharya attended a panel discussion on the topic of microaggressions. In a question-and-answer exchange, he shocked many attendees by challenging the presenter’s premises. There unfolded a series of events, now the subject of litigation, that culminated with the issuance of a Trespass Warning forbidding him from entering the grounds.

As Ian Fleming’s character Auric Goldfinger memorably told James Bond in “The Man with the Golden Gun,” “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it’s enemy action.”

I have identified two instances in which enemies of the campus Left — one, the detestable Kessler and the other, Bhattacharya, a skeptic of social-justice pieties — have been banned from the university grounds. Could this be, in Goldfinger’s rendering, a coincidence? Or could it signify something running deeper in the UVa culture? Has the issuance of Trespass Warnings become a new tool — unappreciated by the public — for expelling undesirables and enforcing Leftist orthodoxy?

I do not know the answer, but I want to find out. I have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of all Trespass Warnings issued by the University of Virginia police department since, and including, calendar year 2017. UVa estimates that it will charge me $880 to locate the records and redact them as necessary. Continue reading