Tag Archives: University of Virginia

Cultivating the Next Generation of Fragile Weaklings

by James A. Bacon

The painting of graffiti on Beta Bridge on Rugby Road is one of the great traditions of the University of Virginia. I still recall my first encounter with the bridge as a first-year student at the University in 1971. Someone from Washington & Lee had spray-painted the phrase, “Wahoos are Goobers.” The practice of bridge-painting is even more ancient and hoary than me, dating back to 1901. There are no rules governing the painting, much of which occurs in the dark of night. Your message lasts only as long it takes for the next guy to slap another layer over it. According to Wikipedia, the bridge is painted on average about five times weekly.

Messages on the bridge cause offense from time to time. But the prevailing philosophy is that the structure is a public forum where the only response to objectionable speech is more speech. As such, Beta Bridge is a fascinating window into the culture of the university community.

In the latest flapdoodle at UVa, the secret SABLE society had painted a message to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by black transgender women, who are murdered at rate roughly four times that of “cis” females. In big bold letters, the society painted the phrase, Protect Black Trans Women.” Then, to the distress of many, someone came along and spray painted over the message: “2A” and’ GUNS.” 2A presumably refers to the Second Amendment and is tied to the movement among counties and towns in Virginia to declare themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries.

The University administration’s response started out with an appropriate gesture to free speech: Said spokesperson Brian Coy in a statement: Continue reading

Despite Five Years of Programs, Campus “Rapes” Surged at UVa in 2018

by James A. Bacon

Five years ago, Rolling Stone magazine plunged the University of Virginia into turmoil with its infamous article, “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA.” Though totally discredited, the story prompted intensive soul-searching by a campus administration primed to believe in the existence of a “rape culture” at the university. As documented in the latest edition of Cville magazine, the university dedicated considerable resources to address the problem of sexual assault.

The university adopted a Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence, instituted outreach and training programs, developed a system for reporting and tracking sexual assaults, hired a full-time Title IX coordinator, and beefed up its Equal opportunity and Civil Rights office staff. Counseling & Psychological Services nearly doubled its staff. The Women’s Center received more funding, hired trauma counselors and set up counseling hotlines.

But a curious thing happened. The incidence of sexual assault isn’t improving. Indeed, in 2018 the number of reported “rapes” leaped to 28 from 16 the year before. Continue reading

UVa Gearing Up for Another Hike in Tuition & Fees

by James A. Bacon

Later this week the University of Virginia Board of Visitors will consider increasing tuition by 3% to 4% in the 2020-21 school year and jacking up fees between 3% to 6%. Here is a copy of the PowerPoint presentation showing the arguments and data that the administration presented the board in its November meeting.

As usual, the UVA administration blames tuition increases on declines in state support for higher education.  “Responsibility for funding educational costs has shifted from the taxpayer to the student,” states one slide. “Increases in tuition have not kept pace with declines in general funds, leaving a gap of $3,648 per student in 2020-2021.”

While those numbers may justify tuition increases in previous decades — UVa bases its calculations on trends going back to 1990-91 — it overlooks the fact that between 2012 and 2018 (the latest year for which I could obtain data from UVa’s annual financial reports), state support increased by $20 million even while academic (non-hospital) spending increased by $511 million! (See support for these numbers here.) The state is to blame for higher tuition? Really? In what universe? Continue reading

Our Little Five Billion

UVa President James Ryan

by James A. Bacon

University fund-raisers are like presidential elections — as soon as one campaign ends, another one starts. Here in the Old Dominion, the University of Virginia is in the midst of a $5 billion boodle-building campaign. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is raising $1.5 billion, the College of William & Mary $1 billion, Virginia Commonwealth University $750 million, and George Mason University $500 million. That’s pretty serious dough. For purposes of comparison: Harvard, the wealthiest institution of higher education in the country (and probably the world), raised $9.6 billion in its last five-year campaign.

It never ceases to fascinate me how higher ed, which obsesses over issues of racial and socio-economic equity, has become such an engine of elitism. Donors get tax write-offs for their contributions, and public university endowments pay no taxes on income. (The 2017 federal tax law imposes a 1.4% excise tax on private-institution endowments worth $500,000 or more per student.) Here in Virginia, public university endowments also are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Sweet deal — tax breaks out the  wazoo, and freedom from public scrutiny! All to benefit whom? Faculty, administrators and, disproportionately, the children of the well-to-do.

Not surprisingly, university administrators cast their pitches for mo’ money as benefiting students and the public — more financial aid, more enriching education, more research, and, of course, as UVa President James E. Ryan, puts it, a “fearless search for truth.”

You can’t spend $5 billion without doing some good for somebody. But it bothers me that almost no one ever pushes back. No one ever questions the fund-raising goals. No one asks if the money could be spent to better effect elsewhere. There are rare exceptions — listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, “My Little Hundred Million.” But you never hear such voices in Virginia. Continue reading

Do Female UVa Faculty Suffer from Pay Discrimination?

Martha Zeiger, chair of the department of surgery at the School of Medicine, is the highest-paid female employee at the University of Virginia. She earns only $692,000, making her only the third highest-paid employee at the university.

To crib a gag line from the Instapundit blog, why are liberal and leftist institutions such cesspools of sexism? The Cavalier Daily, the University of Virginia’s student newspaper has found that female faculty at the university are earning almost $34,000 less this fiscal year than male faculty members on average. Only six of the top 20 earners at the university are women.

Here’s the part of the story I loved: In explaining the gap in male-female earnings, UVa spokesman Anthony De Bruyn sounded very much like a conservative explaining why gender pay gaps exist in society at large. Continue reading

More Race Obsession: “Corks and Curls”

As the University of Virginia continues to fixate on its long-past history of racism, a new controversy is emerging: Is the name of the UVa yearbook, “Corks and Curls” racist? And should the name be changed?

Here is the explanation offered in the inaugural edition of the publication in 1888, as summarized by the Washington Post, quoting Kirt von Daake, a UVa history professor:

Editors note that the name, “this cabalistic phrase,” must be “almost meaningless to an outsider.” The editors then present an essay explaining the name, written by a fictitious student, von Daacke said. “Cork” was used to evoke “the real agony of the unprepared student,” who, when called on in class, “sitteth and openeth not his mouth, even as a bottle that is corked up.”

“Curls” was attributed to a legend about an ambitious student who, when praised by a visiting George Washington, seemed “as pleased as a dog when he is patted on his head” and curls his tail in delight.

… Starting in the 1860s, U-Va. publications, letters and diaries contain references to corking and curling as academic slang.

Continue reading

UVa Doubles Down on Its Obsession with Race

Flaming assholes. Torch-wielding white supremacists marching at UVa last year — a useful distraction from what really ails American society.

This news is almost a month old, but I hadn’t seen anyone else pick it up, so here goes… The University of Virginia will create 20 new research professorships in “Democracy and Equity” to examine “underlying causes” of the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville last year.

Each of the 20 professorships will be funded by $1 million in donor commitments matched one-for-one by UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund. The Board of Visitors approved the group’s recommendation to set aside $20 million in matching funds to support faculty research and teaching around “related social, cultural and political issues.” Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Higher-Ed Edition

Modest UVa tuition increase. The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors has approved a 2.9% increase in-state tuition increase for undergraduate College of Arts & Sciences students next academic year, although other schools in the university may differ. The university’s financial aid program, Access UVa, will keep pace with tuition increases, reports the Daily Progress.

The board’s Finance Committee said it had exhausted other options before considering slight increases to undergraduate tuition but believed 2.9- to 3.5-percent increases in most schools are necessary. The increases represent only a modest premium over the 2.3% increase in the Consumer Price Index between September 2017 and September 2018. The modest price hikes (modest by comparison to past years) coincides with a $2.2 million increase in state support in Fiscal 2020.

Continue reading

More Identity Aggrievement at UVa

UVa Hispanic students feel left out? Really? Photo credit: University of Virginia Multicultural Services website

It didn’t take long for the University of Virginia’s new president, Jim Ryan, to have his first encounter with the university’s identity politics. A few days before his inauguration Oct. 19, Hispanic students circulated an open letter calling for more Hispanic faculty, Spanish-translated documents, and tours in Spanish and Portuguese for applicants and their families.

As of Monday, reports the Cavalier Daily, the letter had been signed by more than 70 student organizations and 450 individuals. Stated the letter:

This year, the University of Virginia admitted its ‘most diverse’ class in history. This is a great stride toward improving diversity at UVA; however, UVA cannot celebrate this when many minoritized students at the University feel underserved, underrepresented, and isolated. In order to help change this, there must be sufficient infrastructure to support minority students after their admittance to the university.

“Historically, providing and advocating for these resources has fallen on student organizations, students, and members of the community. We deserve to experience UVA as students and not as free-labored assets,” the letter read.

Welcome to UVa, Mr. Ryan!

Signatories urged the administration to expand staff in Multicultural Student Services. The letter also noted that while Hispanic students comprise 6% of the student body, there are only 24 Hispanic faculty members — 2.8% — in the College (presumably of the Arts & Sciences) faculty. Outside of the language departments, there are only 10 Hispanic professors. (The letter referred to “Latinx” faculty. I’m not ready yet to swallow that politically correct nomenclature. And for the record, university-wide, there were 80 Hispanic faculty members in 2017.)

So, Hispanic students at UVa have joined the ranks of the perpetually aggrieved. While the letter signatories purport to speak for Hispanics at the university, it’s not clear how many they actually represent. The 450 signatories are only a fraction of the number of 1,069 Hispanic undergraduates (2017 figures) and 312 Hispanic graduate students at UVa. Moreover, I’m willing to wager that many signatories are members of other races/ethnicities.

Furthermore, the letter notes that the first Latino Greek organization, La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, has been “inactive” for the past two years. Isn’t this evidence that many Hispanic students were perfectly happy joining non-ethnic fraternities, had no trouble getting accepted into them, and saw no need for an ethnic safe haven?

I suspect that the tone of whiny aggrievement and entitlement in the letter reflects the views of only a fraction of UVa’s Hispanic students.

By my count, there are at least ten active student organizations devoted to Hispanics:

  • The Darden Latin American Student Association
  • The Latin American Law Organization at UVA
  • The Latinx Student Alliance
  • The Latino/Hispanic Peer Mentor Program
  • The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
  • The Hispanic American Network at Darden
  • Destina (a Hispanic Christian group)
  • DREAMERS on Grounds
  • Fuego (an Hispanic dance team)
  • The Latin Student Network at McIntire

That doesn’t include a number of other groups dedicated to “minorities” and “diversity.” If these groups don’t fulfill their social and emotional needs, Hispanic students are free to form groups that do. Given the Student Council’s solicitude toward identity politics, they should have no trouble getting funding.

The freedom to form their own groups is not something the letter writers seem to appreciate. They want the administration’s validation and action. But I have to ask: How many Hispanic students at UVa genuinely feel “underserved, underrepresented, and isolated?” Is the feeling of isolation a real thing, or is it a political affectation of the Left? Do conservative, Republican, and non-political Hispanics — I’m sure there must be a few — feel left out?

How do letter writers think that expanding the staff of Multicultural Student Services will help? If the existence of 10 student groups doesn’t do the trick, what will adding a couple of multicultural staff members accomplish that students couldn’t do just as well by showing some initiative and launching their own groups?

What kind of world do these students imagine awaits them when they graduate? Do they expect their employers to bend over backwards to cater to their politically progressive Hispanic identity? Will they wilt like delicate flowers if they don’t have a multicultural bureaucracy to support them? Will they flounder if their bosses don’t “look like them”? Will they feel any responsibility to adapt to the corporate culture of their employers, or will they insist that their employers and fellow employees adapt to them?

Just as important, what kind of message will Jim Ryan and the UVa administration send their Hispanic students? Will they create a protective bubble to guard the tender sensitivities of the letter writers, or will they encourage them to grow up and learn to deal with the real world as, I’ll wager, most Hispanic students feel perfectly capable of doing?

UVa as “Unfinished Project”

Jim Ryan, the new president of the University of Virginia, made quite the splash in his inaugural address last week: He promised to make attendance at the elite institution tuition-free for students from families earning less than $80,000 a year, and to provide free tuition, room and board for student from families earning less than $30,000 a year.

“Here is what I see when I look ahead over the next decade or so,” Ryan said, as reported by the Daily Progress. “I see a community that opens wide the door to opportunity for first-generation, low- and middle-income students … There is more work to be done in this space, but we might as well get started.”

UVa’s financial assistance program already provides significant aid to lower-income UVa students. According to the Daily Progress, “UVa promises to meet a student’s demonstrated financial need through scholarships, loans and grants, but in-state students may need to take out up to $4,500 in loans per year.” What Ryan’s promise means for UVa finances and its progressive tuition/financial aid model, however, were not clear either from his speech or the Daily Progress article. 

The promise of increased financial aid was but a small part of his address, which explored the theme of the University as an “unfinished project.” In describing what he sees for UVa over the next decade or so, he said:

I see a community, first and foremost, that rests on an exceptionally strong moral foundation. A university that lives its values; that embraces honor and acts honorably; that studies sustainability and practices it; that promotes justice and is just; that endorses free speech and academic freedom and protects them robustly. My friend Drew Faust, from whom you just heard, often said that universities should try to be not just great, but good. I agree and would take it one step further:  I believe that in the future, it will not be possible for a university to be great unless it is also good.

With his emphasis on environmental sustainability (I doubt he’s referring to fiscal sustainability) and justice (presumably of the social justice variety), Ryan reveals himself as a standard-issue liberal-progressive. Conspicuously absent from his speech was any mention of embracing wealth creation or cultivating personal virtue — foundations without which no society can either afford environmental sustainability or enjoy social justice. It is reassuring to hear, at least, that he remains committed to the antiquated virtue of honor and that he will “robustly” protect free speech and academic freedom.

“I see a community that is as vibrant as it is diverse, a community bound by shared values of … honor and integrity, openness and civility, intellectual rigor and human compassion,” said Ryan.

That sounds like a back-handed endorsement of intellectual diversity. So, that’s something.

There’s one other thing we didn’t hear in his speech. We heard about expanding financial aid, but not where the money would come from. We heard nothing about curtailing costs, asking tenured faculty to teach more, making R&D pay its own way, or reducing administrative overhead. When it comes to the business of running the university, Ryan appears to be a status quo president.

As a humble alumnus, my vision for UVa is to create an institution that is more affordable for everyone by keeping a lid on costs rather than an institution that makes attendance affordable for some by raising tuition for others. It’s also crucial, I believe, for even the lowest-income students to bear a portion of the cost of attendance. Everyone needs to have “skin in the game,” or attendance becomes just another entitlement. Finally, if UVa wants to maintain its intellectual vitality, it cannot become an academic mono-culture. It appears that Ryan doesn’t want that to happen, but he will face intense pressure to impose  conformity. Actions speak louder than words. We will watch what he does.

UVa’s $30 Million Raid on Tech’s Biocomplexity Initiative

Superstar faculty member Chris Barrett has leaped from Virginia Tech to UVa. Barrett is a global leader in applying computer science concepts and tools to make new discoveries in complex social systems.

The University of Virginia offered a biocomplexity research professor a 15% pay raise — to $450,000 — plus a rich set of fringe benefits to recruit him from Virginia Tech, according to Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by the Roanoke Times.

Chris Barrett, who was promised $30 million in startup funds, left his job as executive director of the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech to become the executive director of the Biocomplexity Initiative at UVa. He has persuaded at least seven of his Virginia Tech colleagues to join him in the move from Tech’s Arlington facility to UVa’s Fairfax health center at the Inova Bioinformatics campus.

Reports the Roanoke Times:

Barrett’s offer letter included a number of personal perks, including a $15,000 lump sum for moving expenses and temporary housing, a computer and cell phone, lab and office space including interim space, high performing computer resources and discretionary funds including a long-term rental car for use to travel to and from the Washington D.C., metro area and 10-15 business class trips worth up to $75,000 for the first year of his employment.

Perks were also guaranteed for other employees wishing to join Barrett. … Employees wishing to work for the initiative and Barrett could also be offered $15,000 for moving expenses and an allowance for temporary housing and “accelerated recruitment offer letters with appropriate faculty appointments and rank.”

Last week the University of Virginia Board of Visitors approved drawing $30 million from the university’s billion-dollar Strategic Investment Fund to fund the package.

Outwardly, Virginia Tech has displayed no sign of animosity toward UVa. According to the Roanoke Times: “UVa’s Executive Vice President and Provost Tom Katsouleas told The Daily Progress that he was working with Tech interim Provost Cyril Clarke to navigate the situation. Tech president Tim Sands said in the first week of new UVa President Jim Ryan’s tenure he called the new president to discuss the impending changes at the two universities.”

Bacon’s bottom line: There are at least two prisms through which to view this $30 million deal: (1) the impact on Virginia university efforts to build their R&D programs, and (2) the impact on the cost of attendance at the University of Virginia.

The recruitment of Barrett and other Tech professors undoubtedly represents a coup for UVa. Press reports do not say how much Barrett and his associates generate in research funding, but it must be a substantial sum to warrant a $30 million UVa investment. At the same time, the deal delivers a significant blow to Virginia Tech’s Biocomplexity Institute lab whose 50 tenure-track professors pulled in $103 million in award grants in the first six months of the last fiscal year. Viewed from the perspective of Virginia’s higher-education system, the deal does nothing to enhance the state’s R&D standing: UVa spent $30 million to shuffle Barrett and his research team from one Virginia research institution to another.

Legislators undoubtedly will be asking themselves, does it make sense for Virginia’s leading research institutions to poach superstar faculty from one another? If a Virginia university is going to spend $30 million to recruit a big name, shouldn’t it aim to bring in someone from outside the state?

The transaction also provides insight in how much it costs to play in the R&D big leagues. The annual cost of attendance at the University of Virginia is about $30,000.  For what it cost to recruit Barrett and his team, UVa could have offset the full tuition, fees, room, board and other expenses for 1,000 students for a year. (Or, if UVa had put the money into a scholarship endowment, it could pay total expenses for 50 students pretty much forever.)

The Board of Visitors can argue that undergraduate students won’t pay a dime toward the recruitment package, which is being financed by the Strategic Investment Fund — a superfund cobbled together from various working capital sources and reserves and invested at a higher rate of return than was achievable previously. But money is fungible. The Visitors just as easily could have devoted the money toward lower tuition & fees or increased financial aid. Alternatively, if advancing UVa’s institutional prestige was the foremost consideration, they could have used the funds to supplement salaries of humanities and social science professors. A $50,000 salary supplement goes a long way to hiring a nationally renowned professor of history or English.

It will be interesting to see what kind of Return on Investment UVa expects from its $30 million outlay. How much outside grant money will Barrett be able to bring to the university?

From a statewide higher-ed system perspective, the question is this: How much more grant money will Barrett bring in as a result of his new association with UVa and Inova than he would have generated as a Virginia Tech professor? Legislators should dig for answers.

Leftists Protest Marc Short Appointment at UVa

Marc Short

The Miller Center, a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia dedicated to presidential scholarship and public policy, has taken the bold step of hiring an outgoing member of the Trump administration, Marc Short. The Center is experiencing predictable blowback from campus leftists who regard the hiring of anyone from the Trump team as an abomination.

This morning more than 300 professors, librarians and students had signed a petition on Change.org, invoking the emotionally charged, upcoming anniversary of the Unite the Right rally to object to Short’s appointment.

As we approach the first anniversary of the white nationalist violence against this university, this town, and our friends, neighbors, students faculty and staff — all of whom are represented among the injured — it is unconscionable that we would add to our university a person who served in a high-level position for the administration that first empowered, then defended, those white nationalists.”

The university should not serve as a waystation for high-level members of an administration that has directly harmed our community and to this day attacks the institutions vital to a free society. …  While we do not object to dialogue with members of this administration, we do object to the use of our university to clean up their tarnished reputations. No one should be serving at the highest levels of this administration, daily supporting and defending its actions one week, then representing UVA the next.

Not only should the appointment be revoked, says the petition, “a full review [should] be held to understand how this appointment was made.”

The petition presented no evidence that Short, a White House liaison to Congress and a frequent administration spokesman on television, had “supported” or “defended” white nationalists himself. Indeed, a CNN article on Short’s departure highlighted his role in legislative matters such tax cuts, Supreme Court nominations, Obamacare repeal, not the divisive culture-war issues raised in President Trump’s tweets.

Last night, the Miller School was hanging tough. Howard Witt, director of communications, said in an email to Politico that the Miller study is nonpartisan, bipartisan, and employs former officials from both Republican and Democratic administration.

“We understand and respect those UVA faculty members and other critics — even some from within the Miller Center — who disagree with the decision to name Marc Short a senior fellow. One of our core values is fostering robust, but civil, debate across our nation’s bitter partisan divide,” said Howard Witt, director of communications and managing editor at the Miller Center, in an email.

Witt said the addition of Short “deepens our scholarly inquiries into the workings of the American presidency. And his presence reinforces our commitment to nonpartisan and bipartisan dialogue among scholars and practitioners of good will who may nevertheless hold strongly opposing personal political viewpoints. Moreover, Short can offer insights into the Trump administration that are not currently available to our scholars or the public at large.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Kudos to the Miller Center for sticking to its commitment to foster dialogue across the partisan divide. In a nation where political polarization intensifies daily, institutions that support open dialogue are more indispensable than ever.

It comes as no surprise that UVa leftists are trying to derail the appointment. Enforcing orthodoxy by shutting down dialogue is in their DNA. Lions hunt, hyenas scavenge, parasites infect, and leftists purge dissenting views.

This controversy bears watching. The stop-Short campaign started just yesterday — the Change.org petition went live around 6 p.m. — so it hasn’t had much time to build momentum. If the opposition gains steam, it could become a huge test for Jim Ryan, who becomes UVa’s new president Aug. 1. Bacon’s Rebellion will be watching. Alumni will be watching. And Virginia legislators will be watching.

Some Students More Welcome than Others

Legacy students were offered admittance to the University of Virginia at nearly twice the rate of non-legacies in the fall 2018 semester, according to the UVa student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily. (UVa defines “legacies” as children or live-in stepchildren of university alumni.)

Nearly 47 percent of legacy applicants received an offer in the most recent round of applications. In the same period, only a little over 25 percent of non-legacy applications were offered admission — making the process almost two times as difficult for students whose parents did not attend the University.

Legacy applicants composed just over five percent of the approximately 37,000 applications received by the University, but represent more than 10 percent of about 10,000 offers sent by the University.

If you thought there was a social justice angle to the story, congratulations, you win the prize:

While the University does accept students of all races, legacies skew white. In 2018, this meant eight percent of admitted students were white legacies. By contrast, Hispanic and Latinx, African-American and black and Asian and Asian-American legacy applicants each compose less than one percent of all admitted students. …

The demographic with the highest admission rate was black or African-American applicants at 32.7 percent, followed by Asian or Asian-Americans at 29.8 percent. Hispanic or Latinx applicants had an acceptance rate of 25.8 percent and white or caucasian applicants had a 26.7 percent admission rate.

Legacy children go through the same admissions process as all other applicants, University spokesman Anthony de Bruyn told the Cavalier Daily. “Legacy is one of several factors that is considered as part of our holistic review of applicants. Other factors include whether applicants are first-generation college students, military veterans or from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds, to name a few.”

Legacy applicants have slightly better test scores and grades than non-legacies on average, de Bruyn said: 20 points higher on the SAT, and two percentage points more likely to have been in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

Bacon’s bottom line: The Cavalier Daily article cherry-picked data, alluded to racial/ethnic disparities, then used loaded language — “making the process almost two times as difficult for students whose parents did not attend the University” — to imply that the legacy process conferred an unfair advantage.

Fortunately, the reporter and/or editor were intellectually honest enough to include data, though buried in the article, that showed how little — remarkably little, to my way of thinking — legacy status figured into UVa admissions. It turns out that legacies are offered a spot in larger numbers, at least in part, because… (drumroll)… legacies are more qualified than the average applicant.

There’s a bit more to the story that the Cavalier Daily could have explored had the newspaper managed to break out of its social justice paradigm. Consider an alternative framing of the data:

White applicants were admitted to the University of Virginia at lower rates than African-Americans, Asians and Asian-Americans. The disparity was greatest for white applicants with no family connection to the university.

An alternative framing of the data also could have emphasized the gap — evident at other elite universities — between the qualifications and admission rate of Asian-American students.

To draw meaningful conclusions about the role of race, ethnicity and wealth in UVa’s admissions policies, we would need to break down applicants by racial/ethnic category, and then by legacy and non-legacy within each category. Then we would need to see the SAT scores and class rankings for each category and sub-category.

If such data could be obtained, I would offer the following predictions: (1) legacies of all racial/ethnic groups are admitted at somewhat higher numbers than non-legacies; (2) legacies of all racial/ethnic groups have slightly higher qualifications than non-legacies; (3) black and Hispanic applicants are admitted with lower average SAT scores and class rankings, suggesting that the admissions process discriminates (if not overtly, then in effect) in their favor; and (4) Asians and non-legacy whites who gain admission have higher average SAT scores and class rankings on average, suggesting that the admissions process discriminates (in effect) against them. Based on practices at other elite universities (see the lawsuit filed by Asian-Americans against Harvard for admission policies discriminating against Asians), I would predict that Asian-Americans are victims of the worst discrimination.

Those predictions are consistent with the data supplied by the Cavalier Daily, although we need complete data to draw definitive conclusions. Don’t ever expect, though, to see a follow-up from the Cavalier Daily. I doubt its staff is interested in pursuing an angle that conflicts with the dominant social-justice narrative.

Caution, You Are Entering a No Free-Speech Zone

Bruce Kothman engaged in prohibited activity — reading out loud from the Bible.

When University of Virginia alumnus Bruce Kothman planted himself on the steps of the Rotunda last week and began reading from Isaiah 40, a university police officer ordered him to stop. He was violating rules promulgated by the university in the aftermath of the Nazi/Klan rally last year restricting the right of people “unaffiliated” with the university, which includes alumni, to speak on the grounds without properly obtaining permission from the administration.

Kothman, who is Jewish, was appalled by the United the Right rally last year, which included a torch-lit parade across the Lawn accompanied by chants of “Jews will not replace us.”

But he also worried about the freedom-of-speech implications of the new university rules. He decided to test them last week — and he lost, reports the Washington Post.

To the broader public, Kothman is a much more sympathetic character than Jason Kessler, an Alt-Right provocateur who organized the United the Right rally and has made it his business to get in the face of progressives, lefties, and Charlottesville city officials. While 99% of the population may find his behavior hateful and obnoxious, he hasn’t been convicted of breaking any laws. But when he began visiting the law school library to read up on his law — apparently, he’s the subject of civil litigation — a library employee tipped off local activists who then began harassing him. Kessler engaged in argumentation with them and posted on social media referring to the protesters as “stalkers” and “Alt-Left scumbags.”

The university then banned Kessler from the grounds, issuing the following statement by way of explanation:

The warning was issued due to multiple reports from students that Mr. Kessler threatened them, targeted them through cyber-bullying and cyber-harassment, and targeted them based on protected characteristics. Kessler also intentionally and purposefully misled officers of the University Police Department regarding the torchlight rally that he helped organize on Aug. 11. His conduct on Aug. 11 threatened the health and safety of members of the University community.

Given his role in the United the Right rally, it is totally understandable that the university would regard Kessler as a malign presence. But he was not looking for trouble when he visited the library. To the contrary, the protesters were the ones who precipitated the confrontation.

There seems to be a new logic taking hold in Virginia universities. When the presence of a non-leftist person or group causes campus leftists to get agitated and disruptive, the non-leftists are held responsible — and their activities are curtailed. (I have been informed that Virginia Tech is charging the Young Americans for Freedom and Turning Point, two conservative organizations, for the security costs of their speakers rather than disciplining the students who threaten to shut them down. But I have not confirmed the accuracy of this information.)

It’s not controversial to ban a reviled character like Kessler. But it’s a slippery slope when people like Bruce Kothman are prohibited from reading from the Old Testament out loud on the Rotunda steps. And the trend is all the most troubling when the restrictions are applied in such a way that members of protected groups can engage in harassing and disruptive behavior without suffering any consequences at all. I had hoped that Virginia institutions of higher education would prove resistant to the creeping totalitarianism on college campuses, but I’m not encouraged by what I see.

Mighty Morphing Power Turbines

If Virginia ever develops a large fleet of offshore wind turbines, we may have a team of researchers led by the University of Virginia to thank.

Funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the research team expects to build prototypes this summer for a 50-megawatt offshore wind turbine that is nearly six times more powerful than the record-setting turbine deployed off the coast of Scotland in April, reports Greentech Media.

The massive turbine takes a radically different approach to wind turbine design. Conventional turbine blades face the incoming wind. By contrast, blades for the Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor (SUMR) would face downwind and fold together as the wind force increases. The design was inspired by palm trees, which have evolved to survive hurricane-force winds. And surviving hurricane-force winds is exactly what the SUMR is supposed to do.

One of the major barriers to developing a wind farm off the south Atlantic coast is the uncertainty of whether conventional turbines, which can withstand North Sea gales, would hold up to extreme hurricane winds. Before Dominion Energy Virginia is willing to build scores of turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach, it wants to erect two turbines in the so-called Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP) to test a hurricane-resistant design. But the utility was unable to get the project cost, last estimated at $300 million, low enough to win approval by the State Corporation Commission. The project has been effectively shelved.

The ultralight SUMR blades will be 200 meters long, almost twice as long as conventional blades, but will be possible to assemble in pieces, thus avoiding problems shipping them from the factory site to the project site. Because the blades would be constructed of more malleable materials, they also would be capable of morphing downwind.

“We’re trying to have the turbine blades be more aligned along the load path, so we can get away with lower structural mass and have less fatigue and less damage,” said Eric Loth, chair of the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UVa and project leader.

The UVa-led consortium plans to test its turbine this summer at the National Wind Technology Center in Colorado and complete the design within a year.

Loth, the design leader, hopes that the new turbine will be transformative. The innovative design could reduce the levelized cost of offshore wind energy by as much as 50% by 2025, he says. “We need to come up with turbines that are not necessarily more efficient but will cost less to build and maintain.”

Bacon’s bottom line: If this research pans out, Virginians should thank their lucky stars that Dominion didn’t commit to spending billions of dollars on what in retrospect can be viewed as risky and outmoded wind technologies. Hopefully, this project will spark renewed interest in offshore wind. It would be doubly cool if Virginia could not only participate in the creation of the SUMR blades but be the first to deploy it on a commercial scale and the first to reap its benefits.

As we think about Virginia’s long-term energy mix (see previous post), we should factor the potential of this new wind technology into the equation.

Correction: Al Christopher, director of the state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, informs me that the VOWTAP project has not been shelved. Rather it morphed last July into Virginia Coastal Offshore Wind. “Dominion has said publicly several times recently that it plans to file for cost recovery with the SCC very soon.”