Tag Archives: University of Virginia

Woke Bloat at Virginia Universities

by James A. Bacon

Step aside California! Public universities in Virginia have built larger diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracies than taxpayer-funded universities in any other state, concludes a new backgrounder by The Heritage Foundation. The DEI bureaucracy at the University of Virginia includes 94 employees listed on its website, says the report. Virginia Tech has 83 DEI personnel, while George Mason University has 69.

Expressed as a ratio of DEI bureaucrats to tenure-track faculty members, GMU earned the top spot as DEI top-heavy, with a ratio 0f 7.4 to 100. UVa was close behind with 6.5, while Tech was 5.6. In comparison, uber-woke Cal Berkeley has a 6.1 per 100 ratio.

(I’ll have to stop making quips about UVa being the Berkeley of the East Coast. From now on I’ll describe Berkeley as the UVa of the West Coast.) Continue reading

Don’t Get Too Fired Up About UVa’s FIRE Ranking

by Allan Stam

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) recently gave the University of Virginia a 6th-place ranking in a national survey assessing the state of free speech on college campuses. Provost Ian Baucom cited the recognition during Wednesday’s Board of Visitors meeting, noting that it was the highest ranking the university had ever achieved.

UVa’s high score suggests to some the existence of a robust culture of open dialogue and intellectual freedom at UVa. However, a closer examination of the underlying data reveals a more nuanced and troubling picture.

UVa’s overall score was a mere 68 out of 100, a grade that would be considered failing in many academic and household settings. This discrepancy between the overall ranking and the actual score raises questions about the survey’s methodology. It casts doubt on the true state of free speech at UVA and perhaps other highly ranked institutions.

UVa earned the high score primarily on the basis of its stated policies. President Jim Ryan, Provost Ian Baucom and the Board of Visitors have repeatedly endorsed free speech and viewpoint diversity in the past year. But official policies tell us little about actual practices or the cultural milieu in which students, faculty and staff interact.

When one digs a little deeper into the specific categories within the survey, the concerns become even more pronounced. UVa ranks alarmingly low in several key areas: 222nd in “Comfort Expressing Ideas,” 178th in “Disruptive Conduct,” and 188th in “Openness.” These rankings are not mere numbers; they represent a tangible reality where students feel uncomfortable expressing their ideas, where disruptive conduct stifles dialogue, and where a lack of openness hampers intellectual growth. Continue reading

UVa’s Ever-Expanding Bureaucracy: Student Advising Edition

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia old-timers (like myself) remember what it was like to find help in picking courses and deciding majors. We’d latch ourselves onto a professor who took an interest in us, and he or she would walk us through the process. It did require some initiative on our part to reach out, but then, we were accustomed to taking matters into our own hands. I was fortunate. My advisor, history professor Joseph C. Miller, was not only a charismatic teacher and a leading scholar in his field, but he regarded the care and tending of students — even lowly undergraduates like me — as part of his vocation.

That’s not the way it works anymore. Faculty members are still expected to play a role in advising students, but it is a much diminished one. At UVa, responsibility for dispensing advice has been bureaucratized.

At the UVa Board of Visitors meeting Wednesday, the Ryan administration highlighted what it is doing to improve student advising. The dominant themes of the session were (1) the student experience is lacking for many, and (2) the answer is hiring more advisors and investing in the latest, greatest technology.

The picture that emerged is that UVa has numerous fragmented initiatives at the school and college level but no coherent university-wide vision. Practices vary widely. The cost of programs was not discussed. No cost-benefit analysis has been conducted. With no clear objectives beyond “we want to be the best,” there are no logical limits to an endless expansion of programs. Continue reading

How Many UVa Students Feel Sense of “Belonging”?

by James A. Bacon

As the University of Virginia Board of Visitors grapples with contentious issues such as equity, inclusion and racial preferences, it could benefit by knowing how well the policies of the Ryan administration have succeeded or failed in making UVa a more welcoming place for students across “every possible dimension” of diversity, to use President Jim Ryan’s words.

The administration possesses considerable data to answer the question. During the final year of the Sullivan administration, 2018, the university conducted a comprehensive, in-depth “campus climate” survey. Since then, the university has participated in biennial surveys conducted under the auspices of the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) consortium, which, th0ugh less comprehensive than the 2018 effort and fraught with discontinuities in the questions asked, does contain useful information.

The university’s Office of Institutional Research & Analysis posted results for 2022 for public viewing in August. The graphic below summarizes student responses to the statement, “I feel I belong at university.”

Three of five (60%) students agreed or strongly agreed with the sentiment that they belonged at UVa. Seventeen percent expressed various degrees of disagreement. 

Is that a good finding or a bad finding? It depends on context. Continue reading

UVa Spending on Staff Surges, Spending on Students Trails

Inflation-adjusted percentage increase of UVa E&G expenditures (in millions of dollars) compared to those of all 15 Virginia public four-year higher-ed institutions.

by James A. Bacon

Always alert for opportunities to arm the University of Virginia Board of Visitors members with statistics they don’t see in their board presentations, The Jefferson Council presents the table above, compiled from data published by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

The takeaway: UVa boosted overall E&G (educational & general) spending faster than Virginia’s other public four-year colleges and universities between fiscal 2011-12 and fiscal 2021-22, but UVa funds were more likely to flow to faculty and staff and less likely to go to student instruction, student services, or research support.

E&G expenditures represent spending on an institution’s core educational mission. Under SCHEV’s accounting methodology, E&G strips out spending on athletics, dormitories, food service, and auxiliary enterprises. The Council’s data portal adjusts for inflation over the 10 years displayed above, so these figures reflect real spending, not funny money.

SCHEV breaks down E&G expenditures by seven broad categories so the public can get a clearer idea of where the money is going. The data are consistent with the interpretation advanced by The Jefferson Council in previous posts that UVa has experienced excessive growth in administrative overhead. Continue reading

Student Vets Win Back Their Space

Military memorobilia at the Veterans Center. Photo credit: WVIR-TV

by James A. Bacon

The Student Veterans of America (SVA) at the University of Virginia notched up a small win Friday when Student Affairs officials reversed a decision to expropriate some of the Veterans Center space at Newcomb Hall. But the veterans’ battle for recognition and respect at UVa is far from over.

What they need most, student veterans say, is for Student Affairs to designate someone with specialized knowledge of the G.I. Bill and other veterans issues to help them through UVa’s bureaucratic maze.

Veterans comprise a tiny fraction of the undergraduate student body at UVa. SVA leadership estimates there are only 60 veterans among the 17,000 undergraduates. That count may not have identified every undergraduate veteran, but Tomas De Oliveira, president of the club, says it represents most.

“It’s a chicken-or-egg problem. There aren’t enough vets to justify a significant commitment of UVa resources,” De Oliveira says. But the lack of support makes it difficult to recruit veterans cycling out of the military. UVa vets have friends. Word gets out. “Why would I recommend UVa?” Continue reading

Faculty Bloat at UVa

Data source: office of Institutional Research & Analytics
by James A. Bacon

A key cost driver at the University of Virginia is the increasing size and declining teaching productivity of its faculty. The topic appears to be taboo.

The Board of Visitors hasn’t discussed it, and there is no indication from publicly available sources that the university administration has engaged in any introspection. The slender evidence available to the UVa community is found on the website of UVa’s office of Institutional Research & Analytics (IR&A), a 17-person office deep within the bowels of the university. While that office does publish limited data online, it has not released any reports of an analytical nature.

Employee salaries, wages and benefits comprise roughly half of the university’s cost structure. While a 25.4% surge in salaried staff accounts for much of the growth in UV’s cost structure between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2022 (see our article, “Hard Numbers on Administrative Bloat“), a 9.5% increase in “faculty” was a significant contributor as well. If we count teaching faculty only (tenure-track professors, lecturers and instructors) and exclude departmental-level administrators, whose numbers have been slashed, the “faculty” headcount bounded ahead by 25.7%.

By contrast, annualized FTE enrollment rose 8.8%. Continue reading

Hard Numbers on Administrative Bloat

That bloated feeling. Image credit: Microsoft Image Creator

by James A. Bacon

A number of University of Virginia Board of Visitors members have expressed concern about UVa’s runaway costs. Administrative bloat has swollen the university’s cost structure, they say, and  higher costs have been cited in turn to justify tuition increases. So far, the fiscal hawks have been unable to force a discussion of the topic during regular board meetings. Indeed, simple requests for data on headcounts and salary costs have gone unanswered.

The refusal of UVa leadership to share the data is all the more remarkable in that the statistics are readily available. Indeed, much of it is maintained on the UVa website by the office of Institutional Research & Analytics (IR&A). The 17 members of the IR&A staff have the mission of supporting “the University community” — which, presumably, includes the Board of Visitors — in “assessment, planning, and decision-making.”

As it turns out, the IR&A data confirm the suspicions of the fiscal hawks. Between the 2011-12 academic year and the 2021-22 year, UVa’s academic division (excluding the healthcare division) saw the ranks of salaried staff grow dramatically — at twice the pace of faculty — even as enrollment barely budged.

Student enrollment (full-time-equivalent): +8.8%
Total faculty: +9.5%
Total salaried staff: +25.4%
Continue reading

More News from the Berkeley of the South

The fun never ends in the People’s Republic of Charlottesville. Rather than subject readers to excessive content about the University of Virginia, I’ll boil the latest two stories down to their essence and provide links for those who wish to read more.

The Curious Case of the Missing Podcasts. Walter Smith delves into the 2019 launch of the University of Virginia’s Woodson Institute series of podcasts reinterpreting Thomas Jefferson. UVa rolled out the program with great fanfare. Unsurprisingly, the “reinterpretation” was uniformly negative toward the university’s founder. But only two of the planned six recordings were produced. The series was canceled without explanation, and the two podcasts and accompanying features were buried deep in the Woodson Institute’s website where, for all purposes, they are inaccessible. What happened? Smith makes a powerful case that the decision had to have come from high up in the UVa hierarchy.

Student Veterans Are Up in Arms. UVa President Jim Ryan insists that he supports “all dimensions” of diversity at Thomas Jefferson’s university, extending beyond race, gender, and sexual orientation to religion, political beliefs, geography, socioeconomic status and even veteran status. But UVa’s student veteran organization isn’t feeling very welcome at the moment. It seems that the Office of Student Affairs has unilaterally co-opted space at the Veterans Students Center to create an office for an assistant dean of student affairs. The veterans’ pleas to Ryan and former Dean Robyn Hadley have gone unanswered. Frustrated, they have organized a petition to seek redress.


Ryan Ignored Board of Visitors in Formulating Admissions Policy

Screen capture from UVa’s “Common Application” form. UVa no longer has a checkbox for race — but it does ask if applicants belong to a Virginia-recognized Indian tribe and if they identify as a “sexual minority.” The applications also invite applicants to share their “personal or historic connection with UVa,” including legacy status and descent from “ancestors who labored at UVa.”

by James A. Bacon

When University of Virginia President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom announced the university’s new admissions policy last week, they made a point of saying that they had sought input and guidance from “leaders across the university,” including members of the Office of University Counsel.

But one key group was not consulted: the Board of Visitors.

That’s noteworthy because state code says the Board of Visitors sets the university’s admissions policy.

Describing the powers and authorities of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), state code notes that the SCHEV shall prepare enrollment projections for Virginia’s public colleges and universities. However, “the student admissions policies for such institutions and their specific programs shall remain the sole responsibilities of the individual governing boards.”

Not university presidents — the governing boards. Continue reading

Hadley Departs UVa Without Explanation

Robyn Hadley. Photo credit: University of Virginia

Robyn Hadley, the University of Virginia’s dean of students, will leave her job effective Aug. 1, announced President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom yesterday in a letter to the university community.

The letter provided no explanation for Hadley’s sudden departure. Hadley had served two years in the position, which oversees 300 employees engaged with student life. She supervised key functions such as the Office of African-American affairs, the career center, student housing, student health, fraternity-sorority life, event planning, and facilities operations. Continue reading

Info-Wars at UVa: Who Decides What the BoV Needs to Hear?

Provost Ian Baucom

by James A. Bacon

Last October University of Virginia Provost Ian Baucom briefed the Faculty Senate executive committee about a package of four multimillion-dollar academic initiatives that were in the works. The camera angle in the video recording shows him as a tiny, barely discernible figure at the far end of a long conference table. But his fast-clipped, staccato voice comes through loud and clear.

One initiative would address society’s “Grand Challenges” while another would build the university’s R&D infrastructure. Two others, largely geared to the pursuit of diversity, would set up a $20 million fund to aid the recruitment of graduate students and a $20 million fund to boost recruitment of “under-represented” faculty.

Members of the Faculty Senate were on board with the diversity programs, and Baucom felt at ease talking about them. “Behind [the faculty-recruitment initiative],” he said, “is the reaffirmation of the Audacious Futures Report to double the number of under-represented faculty. The president and I have been very clear that he stands by that goal.”

Four months later when the initiatives had moved further through the administrative pipeline, though, the Provost was less forthcoming with the Board of Visitors than he had been with the faculty. He described the Grand Challenges and R&D initiatives in considerable detail, but barely acknowledged the other two strategic priorities. He never explained that the faculty and graduate-student initiatives were designed in part to advance diversity.

The dichotomy in Baucom’s presentations raises important questions of governance at UVa. At a time when racial preferences in admissions and hiring are coming under increasing scrutiny, how much information about those practices is the Ryan administration withholding from the Board of Visitors? Who decides what to tell the Board? What power does the Board have to demand a fuller accounting? Continue reading

Empty, Airy Words

Credit: Bing Image Creator. Letters lighter than air.

by James A. Bacon

After the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling restricting the use of race as a higher-ed admissions criteria, University of Virginia President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom released a statement proclaiming that they would do everything in their power to admit a class of students that is “diverse across every possible dimension.” That commitment extended not just to race, ethnicity, and gender, they proclaimed, but “geography, socioeconomic status, first-generation status, disability status, religion, age, sexual orientation, viewpoint, ideology, and special talents.” (My italics.)

Some of those dimensions have occasioned far more attention than others. For example, UVa has put into place a large Diversity, Equity & Inclusion bureaucracy to advance racial/ethnic diversity. By contrast, far from promoting viewpoint and ideological diversity, university practices — hiring of left-of-center faculty, mandatory DEI statements and Student Guide tours — serve to drive off prospective students and faculty who are conservatively inclined.

In this post, I will argue that the Ryan administration pays little more heed to the geographic and socioeconomic criteria on its checklist than it does to viewpoint and ideological diversity. Students from poor households and rural households are severely underrepresented. But UVa does not care enough to even track their numbers. Continue reading

A Tale of Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites

by James A. Bacon

Italians demand that people treat their UNESCO World Heritage sites with respect. Consider the recent example of the idiot caught scratching graffiti onto a brick of the ancient Roman Colosseum. Italians reacted with outrage at video (taken by an equally outraged American) when Bulgaria-born Englishman Ivan Dimitrov used his key to memorialize his devotion to his girlfriend with the phrase, “Ivan + Hayley 23/6/23.”

According to the Sunday Tribune, Dimitrov faces a potential 2- to 5-year prison sentence and a fine of 15,000 euros. He has since apologized, pleading that he didn’t realize the structure was nearly 2,000 years old. His legal representative hopes to negotiate a plea deal that would enable Dimitrov to pay the fine without serving jail time.

Compare and contrast the reaction to Dimitrov’s offense with the response two years ago when Hira Azher posted the infamous “F— UVA” sign on the door of her room on the Lawn, also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Continue reading

UVa Admissions Trends: Whites Down, Asians Up, Blacks a Question Mark

by James A. Bacon

As the University of Virginia community debates the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling restricting the use of race in higher-ed admissions, The Jefferson Council is publishing publicly available data that provide context for the discussion.

UVa’s office of Institutional Research and Analysis publishes three types of admissions data (applications, admissions, and yield) broken down by race/ethnicity back to the 2016-17 academic year. Three trends stand out:

  • Once a dominant majority of UVa students, Whites officially became a minority (47%) of the entering 1st-year student body in 2023;
  • Asians were the fastest-growing racial/ethnic group at UVa, applying in greater numbers, being accepted in higher percentages, and (other than Whites) accepting those offers in higher percentages;
  • Despite applying and being accepted in growing numbers, the percentage of Blacks accepting their offers actually declined slightly, in contrast to the other racial/ethnic groups.

Continue reading