Tag Archives: University of Virginia

UVa Student Council Peddles Its Character Assassination to the General Assembly

by James A. Bacon

The executive board of the University of Virginia Student Council has asked the Virginia General Assembly to reject Governor Glenn Youngkin’s appointment of Bert Ellis to the Board of Visitors.

The letter was addressed to Democratic Party leaders of the state Senate. The Senate is comprised of 22 Democrats and 18 Republicans, which gives Democrats the power to block the nomination if they follow a party-line vote. None have commented publicly yet on their intention.

The letter, which recycled charges made earlier this year by the UVa Student Council and Faculty Senate, described the Ellis appointment as “reckless, ill intentioned and threatening to the safety of the marginalized students at this University.” 

The Daily Progress repeated the allegations and linked to the letter without any offsetting comment from Ellis, the Youngkin administration, or The Jefferson Council, a UVa alumni organization of which Ellis is president. Ellis’ email is readily available: it is listed on The Jefferson Council website, as is that of the executive director (me).

The vendetta against Ellis amounts to character assassination. The portrayal of him is so one-sided as to make him unrecognizable. Ellis offered to give his side of the story to the Faculty Senate but the offer was declined. The Jefferson Council has published rebuttals, and letters have been written to The Cavalier Daily, but Ellis’ critics have acknowledged none of the exculpatory facts and testimony. They appear to be impervious to anything that might disturb their narrative. Continue reading

UVa Grade Inflation Has Accelerated Since 2018

Source: University of Virginia Institutional Research and Analysis

In the spring of 1992, the cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of University of Virginia undergraduate students was 3.1, according to data maintained by the office of Institutional Research and Analysis. By 2021, the average GPA had soared to 3.6.

Grade inflation is a national phenomenon in U.S. higher education, so there may be nothing unusual about the long-term trend at UVa.

What does stand out in the chart is how grade inflation has accelerated in the past few years. The dot in the graph represents 2018, the year Jim Ryan became president. The average GPA that year was 3.4. Within three years, it shot up to 3.6. Viewing the UVa data in isolation, however, cannot tell us whether that incipient hockey stick is unique to the University or common to higher-ed nationally.

An average of 3.6 implies that at least 60% of all grades are As — and that assumes that the rest are Bs. If we assume that students occasionally are assigned Cs or Ds, the percentage of As is likely even higher. It would be interesting to see the grade distributions. Unfortunately, UVa does not provide that information. Still, based on the data made public, one must wonder, does anyone ever receive a failing grade anymore? Continue reading

The Hidden Costs of DEI

by James A. Bacon

According to a new report by the Virginia Association of Scholars, the University of Virginia in 2021 employed 77 people as part of the a vast and growing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) bureaucracy at a cost of nearly $7 million a year. Many questions arise from this revelation. What do all these people do? What are their goals? Are they improving the university climate? What is the effect of DEI on freedom of speech, inquiry and expression?

We will address these questions in future posts. For now, we want to make it clear that the $7 million cost is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The authors of the VAS study make it clear that they are counting only positions that are explicitly tied to DEI-related programs, and it counts only salaries. Not benefits. Not office overhead. Not outside consultants, speakers, or events. And perhaps most importantly, not the impact on faculty productivity.

The fixation on DEI suffuses every aspect of university life. Not only does the university administration have a DEI staff, not only do each of its 13 schools and colleges have DEI staffs, but the DEI ethic permeates down to the departmental level as reflected in planning sessions, training programs, departmental-level reading groups, the hiring of new employees, and the granting of pay raises, promotions, and tenure decision-making.

An extraordinary amount of activity at UVa is devoted to DEI, and that activity sucks faculty, students, and non-DEI staff into the vortex. Continue reading

UVa’s DEI Bureaucracy: the Details

Here is the breakdown of DEI positions and salaries at the University of Virginia identified in the Virginia Association of Scholars report, “Should Virginians
Pay for University ‘Diversity’ Leftism?”

In 2020, UVa spent more money than any other public Virginia university on DEI staff and salaries. In 2021, UVa doubled the number of administrators and increased spending on salaries by 66%.

These numbers reflect only a fraction of the total administrative costs imposed by the DEI bureaucracy. They do not include employee benefits, office space, travel & entertainment, engagement of outside consultants and speakers, or DEI-related tasks performed by staff and faculty with other job responsibilities.

— JAB

UVa DEI Positions in 2020

Continue reading

If This Doesn’t Get You Admitted to UVa, What Will?

@schooloflimmy

did you get them right? #collegeapps #collegeadmissions

♬ original sound – Limmy 💛

The producer of The School of Limmy, a Korean-American neuroscience major at Duke University, posts short videos about college admissions on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. One of his schticks is reading the qualifications of student applicants and listing the colleges that accepted and rejected them.

The applicant described in the video above was valedictorian of his class, scored perfectly on the ACT exams and 1550 on the SAT, took several AP and Honors courses, had a 4.7755 grade point average, was captain of the lacrosse team, wrestled, ran cross country, was a Boy Scout troop leader, was a youth council leader, served on student council, and belonged to a math club… which he founded.

The applicant was accepted to eight universities, including Princeton and Washington & Lee University (which he ended up attending), but was rejected from several others… including the University of Virginia.

This makes you wonder what UVa is looking for in a student applicant. Obviously, it’s more than SAT scores, the submission of which is now voluntary, and good grades. Continue reading

The Perry Family Lawyers Up

Happy and Sean Perry

by James A. Bacon

In a news conference yesterday the parents of D’Sean Perry, one of three University of Virginia football players slain in a mass shooting last month, called for changes to gun laws and faulted UVa for failing to boot their son’s killer off campus. Said D’Sean’s father Sean Perry: “(We want) to make sure another family will never, never go through this again.”

According to CNN, the Perrys said they wanted unspecified reforms to “gun laws” (CNN’s words), although it was unclear from the article what remedies they sought. “The red flags were there, and (the suspect) was still able to purchase a firearm,” said D’Sean’s mother, Happy Perry. Here’s the background provided by CNN: Continue reading

UVa Law Rejects U.S. News Ranking Methodology

Lemming

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia School of Law has announced that it will no longer cooperate with U.S. News & World Report in compiling its ranking of top law schools. The school currently ranks No. 8 in the country.

Here’s the reason given by Dean Risa Goluboff: “As they currently stand, the U.S. News rankings fail to capture much of what we value at UVA — facilitating access to legal education and the legal profession for students from every background; fostering the free exchange of ideas within a community of joy, humanity, and trust; providing top-notch teaching by accomplished faculty; supporting public service; and launching our graduates into the stellar career paths of their choosing.”

I’ll leave it to others to comment upon the law school’s commitment to “fostering the free exchange of ideas” and probe the meaning of the modifier that such an exchange should take place “within a community of joy, humanity, and trust.”

I’ll focus instead on Goluboff’s commitment to facilitating access to legal education for students “from every background.” Continue reading

Helping Minorities Thrive in STEM

Josipa Roksa

by James A. Bacon

There is a shortage of doctors, scientists, engineers and other employees with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and medicine) backgrounds in the U.S. economy. One reason is that American institutions of higher education aren’t turning out enough graduates with STEM degrees. And a big reason for that is that roughly half the students who enter STEM programs drop out. The labor shortage is especially marked among Hispanics and African-Americans.

The University of Virginia is trying to address disparities in STEM degrees awarded by applying university funds to leverage a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute — $7.7 million total over five years — to support the Driving Change and Inclusive Excellence 3 initiatives that aim to “enhance the academic experience and success of STEM students, particularly those who belong to historically excluded groups.”

The project director is Josipa Roksa, a professor of sociology and education who gained notoriety a decade ago as co-author of Academically Adrift, a book that demonstrated that more than one-third of college students showed “almost no significant improvement in learning” during their four years in college. Since then, her research has focused on racial/ethnic inequalities in learning.

The underlying problem is that many students who enter UVa STEM programs are academically unprepared for the courses taught. Continue reading

Red Brick or Limestone for the Temple of Democracy?

Preliminary draft design for the Institute of Democracy building on Ivy Road.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia’s newly formed Karsh Institute of Democracy will be housed in a signature building, a key part of the Ivy Road corridor in Charlottesville that will include an Olympic sports center, the football program, the School of Data Science, a conference center, and structured parking. Expecting to invite world-class speakers to the venue, UVa officials want the building to make a memorable architectural statement.

In a presentation to the Board of Visitors last week, University Architect Alice J. Raucher walked board members through the thinking behind the preliminary design. Thematically, the architects sought to link UVa’s founding ideals while looking ahead for the next 200 years and highlighting the university’s “global identity” as a forward-looking institution, she said. The signature staircase was inspired by the Oval Rooms in the Rotunda, and the window panels by the classical columns of Thomas Jefferson’s academical village. The design also is meant to communicate the “message of democracy” by being a “welcoming, inviting, inclusive” place that is “open and transparent.”

Some board members liked the design. But it left others cold. Continue reading

How UVa Responded to Grief

Pop up memorial. Photo credit: WTOP

by James A. Bacon

The shooting of five University of Virginia students Nov. 13 on a bus back from a field trip in Washington, D.C., was understandably traumatic for the young people who witnessed the horror, as it was for family and close friends of the victims, three of whom died.

Indeed, the event was a trauma for the entire UVa community, and the administration treated it as such. The University responded by launching into full therapeutic mode: canceling events and classes, giving students a pass/fail option in their courses, mobilizing counselors, and creating safe spaces.

“There is still profound sorrow and loss that we’re all feeling,” President Jim Ryan said Friday in briefing the Board of Visitors about the administration’s response to the shooting. The horror impacted far more than the homicide victims and those who witnessed the shootings, he said. The circle of those affected included medical professionals who responded to the shooting, football teammates, friends, roommates, and students who sheltered in place during the search for the killer. “This had a large ripple.”

Ryan listed key actions the administration took. Classes were canceled for two days. Events were canceled or rescheduled. Gathering spaces were set up where students could commiserate. Walk-in counseling was made available along with therapy dogs to comfort those in grieving. A basketball game was canceled, as was the remainder of the football season.

Provost Ian Baucom explained that the administration was concerned that the impact might linger and affect students’ ability to function academically. He asked faculty to provide maximum flexibility to allow students to deal with their grief and get them through the exam season, which wound up last week. Continue reading

Bacon Appointed Executive Director of The Jefferson Council

CHARLOTTESVILLE—The Jefferson Council, an alumni association devoted to upholding the Jeffersonian legacy at the University of Virginia, has appointed James A. Bacon Jr. as executive director.

“The hiring of a full-time director manager is a milestone in the evolution of the Jefferson Council from an all-volunteer group to a professionally staffed organization,” said President Bert Ellis. “The appointment will position the Council to ramp up its activities in support of the longstanding Jeffersonian traditions of civility, honor, free speech and the open exchange of ideas.”

Bacon is the perfect individual to manage the day-to-day operations of the Council, Ellis said. “As a university alumnus, a life-long Virginia journalist, including 16 years as editor and publisher of Virginia Business magazine and then founder of the Bacon’s Rebellion public policy blog, Bacon has a depth of knowledge of UVa’s challenges that few can match.”

Founded two years ago, the Jefferson Council is one of the first alumni associations in the United States to organize in response to the rise of ideological intolerance and suppression of free speech on college campuses. It is one of five founding members of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, and a leader in the alumni rebellion sweeping the United States. Continue reading

Alleged Shooter’s Dorm Room on UVa Property Exposed Him to University Actions Not Taken

Bice House – All photos and diagrams courtesy University of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Nov. 19 at 8:50 AM. See details at end.

So, the University of Virginia conducted a formal threat investigation of allegations of student possession of firearms on the Grounds.

Except it really didn’t.

The accused was found after three murders and two woundings to have possessed in his dorm room a small arsenal.

The Threat Assessment Team (TAT) knew that the student had been accused of talking of possessing a gun. That was the reason the TAT was convened.

The TAT had access to State Police records including

  • his legal gun purchases;
  • his conviction in Chesterfield County on a concealed weapon charge, a misdemeanor;
  • his Petersburg conviction on a felony hit-and-run charge that was reduced to a misdemeanor; and
  • the fact that he was on suspended jail sentences for both of the crimes.

Let’s see who they sent to interview him. From the Charlottesville Daily Progress:

However, (Chief) Longo noted, neither the off-Grounds tipster nor Jones’s roommate ever saw a weapon, and Longo implied that the Office of Student Affairs unsuccessfully attempted to speak to Jones.

They sent someone from the Office of Student Affairs. On a gun-threat issue.  What could have gone wrong? It is perhaps a good thing the student refused to cooperate.

TAT members individually had all the authority and evidence they needed to inspect his room on university property, seize the weapons and, as a result, arrest and ban him from the grounds (possession of weapons on university property), expel him, and evict him from University housing.

They did none of that. They “meant” to refer him to the student-run Judiciary Committee. For a three-month wait for a trial and a stern warning or community service. The University actually announced that had happened. But that announcement was not true.

They later announced there was a “snafu.”

The student, the now-accused murderer, was treated with extreme and deadly deference by University security officials.

Three young men are dead. Continue reading

AG’s Office to Review UVa Handling of Shooting Threat

Attorney General Jason Miyares has agreed to conduct an external review of the events that led up to the shooting deaths of three University of Virginia students Sunday. He will enlist special counsel to assist his office in the completion of its work, said spokesperson Victoria LaCivita.

The review will produce a report to be shared with students, families, the larger UVa community, and government officials. “The Attorney General will work with deliberate speed while ensuring that all necessary resources remain devoted to the criminal investigation being conducted by state and local authorities,” she said.

Miyares’ statement comes after a request for the review issued by the UVa Board of Visitors. In a letter to the Attorney General, Rector Witt Clement wrote the following: Continue reading

Religious-Rights Speaker Stirs UVa Controversy

by James A. Bacon

Three days ago the National Lawyers Guild at UVa condemned the invitation of Erin Hawley, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, to a Federalist Society event previewing a U.S. Supreme Court case touching upon religious freedom. The “progressive” law student group cited the Southern Poverty Law Center designation of the Alliance as an anti-LGBTQ+ “hate” group.

The Federalist Society, a group of mostly conservative and libertarian law school students, invited Hawley to a discussion of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a pending Supreme Court case. The Alliance Defending Freedom represents the plaintiff in that case, Lorie Smith, who believes on religious grounds that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and refuses to design websites for LGBTQ+ couples.

The National Lawyers Guild (NGL) at UVa “condemns the views of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as well as the Federalist Society’s decision to give them a platform by inviting them to speak at an event at the law school,” stated the NGL Facebook page in a post that garnered 88 “likes.”

(In the aftermath of the triple-murder shooting at the University of Virginia Sunday night, the Federalist Society canceled the Tuesday meeting “out of respect for the tragedy,” said Julia Jeanette Mroz, president of the UVa chapter. “As a student group, we felt it appropriate to follow the University’s lead in designating today a Day of Observance. No other circumstances bore on this decision.”

(The Society is working with Hawley to reschedule the event this spring.) Continue reading

Trump, Missiles, COVID, and Youngkin

by Kerry Dougherty

Yes, I heard. The whole country heard.

Donald Trump announced last night that he was running for president in 2024. The worst-kept secret in American history.

If I were a Democrat I’d be delighted.

While Trump always sucks the air out of the room and dominates the news cycle, other events were more important.

For instance, Poland reported yesterday that a Russian-made missile fell inside its border killing two, bringing the world ever closer to all-out war. Almost immediately #Article5 began trending on Twitter.

Russia denied that it fired one of its missiles into NATO territory, but the incident is a reminder that Europe is a very volatile place.

Oh, and apparently Joe Biden is feeling under the weather. Lucky us to have a feeble 80-year-old leading the Free World.

In an overlooked moment, the U.S. Senate voted 62-36 yesterday to terminate Biden’s COVID National Emergency declaration. Continue reading