Tag Archives: University of Virginia

UVa Rules Out a “Pattern” of Hate Crimes

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia executive leadership has issued a remarkable statement that lends insight into the fraught state of race relations at Virginia’s flagship university. Three recent incidents have taken place on the Grounds since the new academic year began that have “caused some to speculate that they are linked or part of a larger pattern of racially motived crimes,” said J.J. Wagner Davis, chief operating officer, and Tim Longo, chief of university police.

One incident involved a White man hanging a noose around the neck of the Greek poet Homer, an act of ambiguous meaning that President Jim Ryan promptly branded as a hate crime. The Davis-Longo statement made it clear, however, that two other matters — a report of someone throwing rocks through the window of the Office of African-American Affairs, and the discovery of a flag bearing a strange symbol lying on the grass near the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers — have been determined not to be hate crimes.

“President Ryan has asked us to provide this community with an update and to make as clear as we can: These incidents are not linked, and two of the three were not racially motivated at all,” the statement read.

The series of incidents has roiled the UVa community. As the statement notes, Ryan and other senior University officials have “spoken with many students, faculty and alumni” about efforts to get to the bottom of the events. Continue reading

UVa Updates: Jefferson Legacy, Honor System, Tuition Credit

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors met Thursday and Friday last week and discuss several matters of interest to the broader community. Here are some headlines:

Clement Defends Jefferson’s Legacy; Ryan Stays Mum
Jefferson Council blog

Whitt Clement, rector of the University of Virginia, gave a brief defense of Thomas Jefferson and his legacy at the Board of Visitors meeting Friday.

“We are a University founded by Thomas Jefferson, and honoring his legacy and his contributions to our nation has, and will always be, an indelible part of what it means to live, learn and work here,” Clement said. “That is the policy and the position of this institution and it will not change under our leadership or that of President [Jim] Ryan or his team.”

Board of Visitors Discusses Rollout of “Living Honor” Campaign
Jefferson Council blog

The University of Virginia Alumni Association presented an overview to the Board of Visitors last week of its “Living Honor” marketing campaign. Continue reading

“Our Life Is Always Threatened”

Insult to dead White man inspires outcries against racism by campus radicals. Photo credit: Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

Last week an unidentified White man draped a noose from the statue of Homer at the University of Virginia. Without any evidence of the perpetrator’s motive, University Police and President Jim Ryan promptly proclaimed the incident a hate crime. Yesterday, a group of 60 or so students gathered near the statue of the ancient Greek poet to protest racism and White supremacy and The Daily Progress, Charlottesville’s newspaper, was there!

In the resulting 19-paragraph story, the newspaper gave full voice to the protesters’ rhetoric without a single dissenting view.

“For Black men and Black women here on this campus and in this country, our life is always threatened. There’s always a noose around our neck,” said one Black UVa student organizer. “This is nothing new for us. I was hurting, especially when it first happened.”  Continue reading

Presumed Racist Until Proven Innocent

by James A. Bacon

Around 11:15 p.m. last Wednesday, a White male dressed in dark clothing climbed the statue of the blind poet Homer on the grounds of the University of Virginia and hung a noose around its neck.

The next day University President Jim Ryan declared the incident to be a “hate crime” and vowed to track down the perpetrator. Ryan said he wanted to assure every member of the UVa community that he was “working to keep you safe and to make the University of Virginia a place where everyone is welcome” regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology.

“A noose is a recognizable and well-known symbol of violence, most closely associated with the racially motivated lynchings of African Americans,” Ryan said in a prepared statement. “The combination of those factors led University public safety officials to determine that this incident met the criteria of a hate crime and that a community alert was required.”

Proclaiming the incident to be a hate crime seems premature. Given the facts available, I would not call it unreasonable to suspect that noose might have been meant to intimidate African-Americans — let’s call it a working hypothesis — but one must ask, if someone is trying to send a racist message, why hang the noose around the neck of an ancient Greek poet? Why not hang the noose from a tree branch? Or vandalize the shrine to UVa’s slave laborers? Continue reading

Sorry, Lefties, But Racists Don’t Invest In Black Enterprise


by James A. Bacon

The broadsides against Bert Ellis are going national. Inside Higher Education, the higher-ed trade publication, has published an article highlighting the growing controversy over Ellis’ appointment to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. The article quotes Eva Surovell, editor-in-chief of The Cavalier Daily, whose articles sparked the furor, as saying that developments at UVa reflect the larger campus culture wars across the country.

That observation is true enough. Unfortunately, Surovell goes on to say this: “We’re just not unique in that really conservative voices are nostalgic for a time when women, when Black people and when other people of color were either banned or much less of a population here at UVA.”

Translation: Ellis and his alumni allies are reactionary racists and sexists.

I’ve got news for Ms. Surovell: Bert Ellis is CEO of Johnson Energy Storage, a developer of solid-state energy storage solutions founded by African American inventor Lonnie Johnson. Racists don’t invest in minority-owned enterprises. Racists don’t serve as CEOs of companies founded by minority entrepreneurs. Continue reading

A Lie Is Born

by James A. Bacon

It is horrifying to watch in real time how the media generates falsehoods and then spreads them without correction. About two weeks ago The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Virginia, published an article about a 47-year-old controversy in which Bert Ellis, who then was a tri-chairman of the student union and now sits on the UVa Board of Visitors, invited William Shockley, a racist and eugenicist, to speak at the university. The story, shorn of critical context, spread to the Democratic Party of Virginia, then to the Washington Post editorial board, and most recently to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Insinuated but not stated baldly, is that Ellis is a racist. In its latest mutation, the lie is used to build a case that Governor Glenn Youngkin, who appointed Ellis to the board, is, in the Post’s words, “racially obtuse.”

Bert Ellis is a colleague of mine. We serve together in the leadership of The Jefferson Council, which is dedicated to upholding the Jeffersonian legacy at UVa. I don’t know him intimately, but I have gotten to know him pretty well. I have heard him speak candidly on a host of incendiary issues, and I’ve never heard him utter a racist sentiment.

With this column, I’m putting Virginia’s mainstream media on notice: stop it! You’re treading dangerously close to libel. You can no longer claim innocence of the facts. If you persist, you deserve to be sued. Continue reading

Woke Limbo: How Low Can You Go?

by James A. Bacon

The bar for triggering Virginia Democrats gets lower by the day. The latest limbo contortion is a call by the Democratic Party of Virginia and the University Democrats at the University of Virginia for the resignation of Bert Ellis, a recently appointed member of the UVa Board of Visitors, who has yet to utter a single public word in his capacity as a board member. In a joint statement, the two organizations cite three particulars, each of which exceeds the other in triviality.

According to the joint statement, Ellis’ sins can be traced back to the 1974-75 academic year when he was chairman of the University Union, which put on concerts, brought in speakers and organized other events at UVa.

That year, the Union and Ellis held an event entitled The Correlation Between Race and Intelligence, featuring William Shockley, an unabashed racist, white supremecist [sic], and eugenicist. This event is a stain on the University’s past, especially due to the event’s intentional scheduling during Black Cultural Week. As the University continues to grapple with its history of slavery, racism, and eugenics, Mr. Ellis’ appointment is not only regressive, but also directly insulting to countless students and student organizations who have worked relentlessly to make Charlottesville more equitable.

Neither The Cavalier Daily, in its article raising the controversy, nor the Democratic Party, in its joint statement, acknowledges that Shockley, whose theories were widely circulated in the 1970s, was invited to debate Richard Goldsby, an African-American biologist. Neither Ellis nor the Student Union endorsed Shockley’s racist views; they invited public scrutiny. Continue reading

As Anti-Jefferson Rhetoric Swells, Ryan Stands Silent

by James A. Bacon

Here is what passes for logic at The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Virginia, a university once reputed for the excellence of its education:

We reject how the University’s physical environment — one that glorifies racists, slaveholders and eugenicists with statues and buildings named in their honor — upholds an enduring culture of white supremacy. There is a reason why Charlottesville’s local Klu Klux Klan Chapter hosted its inauguration ceremony at Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. There is a reason why white supremacists gathered with torches around Jefferson’s statue on the north side of the Rotunda. There is a reason why they felt comfortable marching through Grounds. Our physical environment — from statues to building names to Jefferson’s overwhelming presence — exalts people who held the same beliefs as the repugnant white supremacists in attendance at the “Unite the Right” rally. These buildings must be renamed and memorials removed.

Follow the syllogism: White supremacists rallied at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. White supremacists are evil. (Unstated but necessary to complete the syllogism): Ergo, Jefferson is evil. Therefore, buildings and memorials to him and other White supremacists must be removed.

The CD editorial writers use the rhetorical device of guilt by association to tar Jefferson. Notably, this particular circumlocution holds Jefferson guilty by virtue of association with the Ku Klux Klan, which did not exist in Jefferson’s time, for activities undertaken some 200 years after he lived! The mystic chords of White supremacy, it seems, transcend space, time and causality. Continue reading

Want a Woke Version of UVa History? Go on a Student-Guided Tour

by James A. Bacon

In June 2022 a University of Virginia alumnus took his college-bound daughter to visit Mr. Jefferson’s university. UVa was one of the young woman’s two top choices, and she looked forward to a tour of the Lawn and the Grounds. But disillusion set in quickly. At the orientation, a senior assistant dean welcomed prospective students with a four-to five-minute discourse on how UVa’s land had been stolen from the Monacan Indians and how the University was making amends for this historical wrong. And that was just the warm-up act.

Toward the end of an otherwise engaging tour of the Academical Village, a student guide launched into a “lengthy diatribe” recounting injustices ranging from the building of UVa on the backs of oppressed slaves to the infamous 2017 Unite the Right rally. The young woman was not impressed. If the recitation of left-wing grievances defined the zeitgeist of UVa today, this was not the place for her. She dropped UVa from her list of preferred colleges.

Sadly, the young woman’s experience was not an isolated one. Indeed, denigrating themes are woven through many, if not most, tours.  Arguing the need to “tell the whole truth” about Jefferson and UVa, as they put it, student guides frequently cast the University of Virginia in an exceedingly negative light. Continue reading

Outrage Is No Substitute for Thought

UVa students push back against learning about other viewpoints.

by Shaun Kenney

WARNING! This is a long one . . . so pour your favorite scotch or cup of coffee and be prepared to consider alternate viewpoints that may offend. As the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick remarks, “My thoughts do not aim for your assent, just place them alongside your own for awhile.”


One of the things I deeply appreciated about my time at the University of Virginia was its treatment of the humanities writ large. In short, everyone — no matter what their intelligence or depth — should expose themselves to something more than just their profession. “What good is it to earn your first million at the age of 30,” opined one professor, “only to find out you can’t have a conversation because you are a boring person!

I had the privilege of encountering not just one but two generations of Virginia students. The first was among my peers during the late 1990s; the second when I darkened the towers to pursue my own academic career, which remains an ongoing project to be sure.

Of course, I was instantly identified by more than one professor as having a Jesuit background. For those unfamiliar with the accolade, a Jesuit education is considered to have a certain approach to the world. Continue reading

A Shameful Shallowness of Intellect

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Student Council has called for the immediate resignation of alumnus Bert Ellis from the Virginia Board of Visitors, and chastises Governor Glenn Youngkin’s decision to appoint him as “rewarding behavior that endangers students.”

Ellis stands in a long line of violent racist oppressors, says the proclamation. “From the bondage and abuse experienced by enslaved people, to the violent occupation by Nazis and KKK members, to Bert Ellis — the Lawn is no stranger to racist violence under the guise of ‘Jeffersonian ideals’ in order to maintain power for the white elite.”

No, Ellis hasn’t marched in neo-Nazi rallies. He hasn’t burned any crosses. He hasn’t even used the N-word. His primary offense was a professed intention — never acted upon — to use a small razor blade to cut the infamous “Fuck UVA” sign from the door of a Lawn resident. “Whether or not Ellis used his blade, whether or not Ellis threatened the student directly,” the Council declared, “his conduct is reprehensible.” Continue reading

Wonders Never Cease: WaPo Gives Fair Treatment to Alumni Rebellion

Bert Ellis, UVa graduate, president of The Jefferson Council, and newly appointed to the University of Virginia Board of Trustees, is highlighted in The Washington Post article on the alumni-led free speech movement.

by James A. Bacon

Every once in a while The Washington Post reminds us of the kind of newspaper it used to be — capable of producing balanced journalism. Education reporter Susan Svrluga has published an article describing the rise of what I (not she) call the alumni rebellion. She cites the concerns of Virginia-based organizations — the Jefferson Council (on whose board I serve), the Spirit of VMI, and the General’s Redoubt — as well as allied groups in Princeton, MIT and other nationally known universities about the erosion of free speech on college campuses.

Svrluga doesn’t squeeze our statements into a left-wing narrative, she doesn’t mischaracterize our concerns, and she quotes us fairly, accurately, and in context. To be sure, she gives space to those who minimize our allegations about the state of higher-ed today — as it is her obligation to do. It’s important for readers to know that not everyone agrees with us.

The contrast with Ian Shapira, The Washington Post author of repeated hit jobs on the Virginia Military Institute, is dramatic. Shapira epitomizes the new school of journalism. He started with his narrative of VMI as a systemically racist institution, uncritically repeated information that confirmed his belief, and ignored or sought to discredit information that did not. He did go through the motions of producing pro-forma statements for the “other side of the story,” but he never let them interrupt his pre-determined narrative.

So, kudos to Svrluga for letting us tell our story.

While I am grateful for Svrluga highlighting the new alumni-led free-speech movement, I do believed that she missed a critical angle. By way of preface, I need to quote UVa spokesman Brian Coy and renowned political scientist Larry Sabato. Continue reading

$8 Million a Year for Higher-Ed’s Non-Lobbyist Lobbyists

by James A. Bacon

When Donald J. Finley retired from the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) earlier this year, Virginia’s higher-ed industry lost one of its most effective advocates in Richmond. As Charles Kelley with McGuire Woods Consulting tweeted at the time: “Don is the best example of a true public servant, and he’s undoubtedly the single-most important factor in silently but masterfully making Virginia’s #highered system the powerhouse it has grown into over the last half century.”

The goal of the Council is to support “higher ed investment” in Virginia toward the goal of building a world-class workforce. Last month the organization issued a press release applauding the General Assembly for its “historic vote” that would provide “more than $1 billion in new state funding focused on college affordability and talent development.”

The higher-ed lobby is one of the most powerful in Richmond. Not only can universities mobilize the support of business organizations such as the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and call upon powerful alumni for assistance, they field a small army of government relations (GR) employees. By one count, Virginia’s public universities alone account for 50 state employees who are compensated (not counting benefits) $8.6 million a year — not counting paid lobbyists. Continue reading

College Admissions and the Legacy Dilemma

The Williams family — Wahoos all. Photo credit: The New York Times

by James A. Bacon

The issue of legacy admissions to prestigious colleges and universities poses a ticklish problem for conservatives who support meritocratic criteria and oppose racial preferences. There is nothing meritocratic about giving preferential treatment to family members of alumni who, by virtue of having graduated from a prestigious institution, already enjoy a leg up on life.

Stereotypically, one thinks of White youngsters named Biff or Muffy benefiting from the legacy system, but that’s changing now that African-Americans and other minorities have begun graduating from America’s top institutions in large numbers.

Such is the case of Anastasia and Sanford Williams and their children, all of whom have graduated from the University of Virginia. Pictured in a New York Times article about admissions, they feel conflicted. Sanford wants to open up opportunities for other African-Americans. Yet he supports legacy preferences, reports the NYTimes, “as long as they are a small part of the admissions process.”

In America today, the top tier of universities give preference to two groups in admissions: the offspring of alumni (mostly but decreasingly White) and favored racial/ethnic minorities (namely Blacks and Hispanics but not Asians). Everyone else suffers a significantly diminished chance of being selected. Continue reading

The Far-Reaching Implications of the Federal Case of a UVa Medical Student

by James C. Sherlock

This space has hosted commentary before on the case of KIERAN RAVI BHATTACHARYA, Plaintiff, v. JAMES B. MURRAY, et al., Defendants.

Mr. Murray is sued in his role as University of Virginia Rector.

This case relates to Bhattacharya’s suspension and dismissal from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in the fall of 2018 and his collateral treatment at the hands of the UVa police.

On October 25, 2018, Bhattacharya attended a panel discussion on “microaggressions” sponsored by the American Medical Women’s Association (“AMWA”) at UVA Medical School. A presentation was given by a Med School professor on her research on microaggressions. Bhattacharya openly, and the University contends aggressively, challenged that research.

(It makes me, and the legal system, wish the plaintiff had reacted similarly on a less politically charged topic.)

Thus began a spiral of actions that resulted in Bhattacharya being involuntarily committed to the psych ward at UVa hospital, being banned from the Grounds of the university, and being expelled from medical school.

But it is not nearly that simple, my conservative friends. Continue reading