Tag Archives: University of Virginia

Make “Contextualization” Open, Vibrant, Dogma-Free

by James A. Bacon

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

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

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

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

UVa Does Foster Free Expression, VP Advancement Says

Mark M. Luellen, vice president for advancement

by James A. Bacon

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

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

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

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

UVa and Tech Are Leaders in Building Massive Diversity Bureaucracies

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

by James A. Bacon

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

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

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

UVa, Wokeness, and Rooms on the Lawn

by James A. Bacon

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

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

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

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

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

 by Jon Jewett

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

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

Another Free Speech Fiasco at UVa

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

Dear President Ryan,

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

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

Pass the Hemlock, Please


by Walter Smith

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

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

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

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

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

A Cavalier Disregard for Historical Documentation

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

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

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

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

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

Bacon passes around the tin cup

by James A. Bacon

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

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

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

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

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

Challenging UVa.’s Culture of Left-Wing Intolerance

Note: This column is republished from The Washington Times.

by James A. Bacon

A committee appointed by University of Virginia President Jim Ryan issued a statement this May outlining the university‘s policy on free speech. As befitting the university founded by Thomas Jefferson, a champion of individual liberties, the committee stated its unequivocal “commitment to free expression and free inquiry.”

The statement of abstract ideals was reassuring. The trick, as Mr. Ryan himself acknowledged, will be applying those principles in real-world situations. And that likely will be easier said than done. Mr. Ryan will have to challenge the university‘s culture of left-wing intolerance and expand the range of permissible viewpoints on such ideologically charged issues relating to social justice.

Faculty members addressing the committee recounted undergoing mandatory “training” sessions in which they were pressured to regurgitate officially sanctioned platitudes. Others spoke of reining in words that might be construed as micro-aggressions. Kenneth Elzinga, a popular economics professor who has taught more students than any other in the history of UVa, described students “who tell us they are afraid to express their views in the classroom.” Continue reading

Will Clement Leave His Mark as UVa Rector?

Whittington W. “Whitt” Clement

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors will have some fresh blood tomorrow. Whittington W. Clement will assume leadership as rector July 1, and he will be joined by three new members appointed by Governor Ralph Northam earlier this month on the 19-person board.

The question is this: Will anything change? Will the Board reassert its control over an institution that is run by a self-aggrandizing senior staff with no regard to the interests of students and parents who pay most of the bills? Will it act to protect Thomas Jefferson’s legacy and UVa’s proud tradition of intellectual diversity and free inquiry? Or will the Board acquiesce to President Jim Ryan’s ambition to create a monochromatically leftist faculty while tolerating a student culture of dreary ideological conformity?

I don’t know Clement well, but I can say confidently that he is a dedicated public servant who will do his honest best to balance the many conflicting demands confronting the Board of Visitors. Continue reading

A Free Exchange of Left Wing Ideas


by James A. Bacon

There was an old joke back during the Cold War. An American diplomat was talking to a Russian diplomat. The American diplomat praised the superiority of the American way of life: “In our country, we are free to criticize President Reagan.” To which the Russian diplomat replied, “In our country, we are also free to criticize President Reagan.”

That old saw came to mind when I read The College Fix‘s re-cap of a controversy over a University of Virginia webinar in which the panelists expressed boundless contempt for white evangelical Christians. Here’s what one panelist had to say: “Because they are being selfish and because they don’t care, their racism, their sexism, their homophobia, their lack of belief in science, lack of belief and common sense may end up killing us all.”

Jim Sherlock wrote about the panelists’ hate speech in Bacon’s Rebellion, and then posted UVa President Jim Ryan’s written response, in which he said, “I assure you we’re taking this matter seriously and looking into it.”

Now The College Fix has followed up to see what came of Sherlock’s inquiry. After “looking into it,” the administration has decided the issue no longer needs review. Said UVa spokesman Brian Coy: “Our Provost and the Dean of the College looked into this and concluded that while the panel raised ideas that could certainly be deemed controversial, it was an entirely appropriate academic endeavor and did not violate any university policy.” Continue reading

Looks Like We’ll Be Hearing a Lot More from the “F— UVA” Lady

Hira Azher

by James A. Bacon

I get a lot of unsolicited emails in my inbox from liberal advocacy groups around Virginia. I don’t block them because I think it’s important to know what people have to say, even if I don’t usually agree with them. Imagine my surprise when an email arrived today, introducing the new communications and digital outreach coordinator for Virginia Interfaith Power & Light — Hira Azher.

Bacon’s Rebellion readers may remember Ms. Azher as the resident of the University of Virginia Lawn who made quite the name for herself by posting “F— UVA” in bold letters on her door. For many, that incident exposed for the first time the depth of animosity toward the university, Thomas Jefferson and established institutions generally that exists at UVa. It certainly awakened me to the degree to which UVa in recent years, most notably during the tenure of President Jim Ryan, has become an incubator of grievance, resentment and hate.

In the letter of introduction to subscribers to the Virginia Interfaith Power & Light newsletter, Azher tells all about herself. Thinking this might be of interest to readers who have followed the Lawn controversy at UVa, I am republishing it here. Continue reading

Why Mandate COVID Vaccinations for Low-Risk Populations?

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia announced Tuesday that it was extending its COVID-19 vaccination mandate from students to faculty and staff. The university will provide exemptions for religious and medical reasons, but non-vaccinated faculty and staff will be required to submit to weekly COVID-19 tests if they are to return to the university grounds this fall, reports UVA Today.

As in the past, UVa officials offered no medical or scientific justification for the mandates. Rector James Murray has said that the university followed “advice from doctors, infectious disease specialists and public health experts at the UVA Medical School and Health System.” But the university has refused to release documents detailing that advice on the grounds that they are President Jim Ryan’s “working papers.”

Presumably, the mandate could be justified on the public health grounds that unvaccinated individuals are potential carriers of the COVID virus, strains of which are significantly more infectious than a year ago. If students and employees wish to participate in the university community, they need to be vaccinated to protect others, if not themselves. But college-age students are at significantly lower risk of infection than the general population, and some evidence suggests that students who have caught the virus are as protected from reinfection as people who have received the vaccine. Continue reading

The Fascists Next Door

Displaying dangerous fascistic tendencies… Photo credit: DailySIgnal

by Ann Mclean

Want more evidence that the University of Virginia has become an impermeable thought bubble where people can say the craziest things without fear of contradiction? Consider this: Two University of Virginia professors —Manuela Achilles and Kyrill Kunakhovich — taught a history course this spring that portrays American conservatives as fascists. They weren’t being hyperbolic. They really meant it.

In their analysis, the wellspring of fascism is not worship of the all-powerful, totalitarian state — which conservatives totally reject — but the traditional American virtues of family and patriotism.

I first learned of this class from a young friend of mine. Here is her description: 

Recently, I enrolled in a fascism class thinking it would be a great way to weed through the constant accusations that politicians make about who is fascist and who is not. The class started out great. We studied Hitler and Mussolini and other fascisms in Europe, then moved to Asia to look at Japanism, but the more the course progressed, the more I was confused about what fascism actually is. My professors chose to leave fascism undefined and allow each student to come to their own conclusion. That seems pretty reasonable, right? I thought so, too. Continue reading