The Players and the Dispute in the High Level Cage Match at UVa – Can a Racism Charge be Far Behind?

By James C. Sherlock

Loren Lomasky,
Cory Professor of Political Philosophy, Policy & Law.       Courtesy UVa.

I read yesterday morning on BR Tragedies in Charlottesville” by UVa professor Loren Lomasky, who wrote:

It is reasonable to judge that in either the longer or shorter version of the history of the university, no single individual has done it as grievous a harm as the man who now serves as its chief academic officer.

Among the few propositions on which Loren Lomasky and provost Ian Baucom agree is that the University of Virginia would be better off with exactly one of them gone.

Wow! Cage match!

I guess you could say that Dr. Lomasky has had enough.

He opposes, obviously strongly, Provost Baucom’s strange intervention into academics school-wide after the November shooting of three young men at the University.

We also suspect the fight might reflect the history between the two men. Baucom was Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences during most of Professor Lomasky’s tenure there.

Libertarians like Dr. Lomasky seek, in his case as a career, to minimize encroachments on and violations of individual liberties and to maximize personal autonomy and political freedom.

They are believers in personal agency and taking responsibility for ones actions. They insist on academic freedom.

Nice to see the professor, who advocates all of that, call out the University of Virginia leadership in the person of provost Ian Baucom, who emphatically does not advocate any of it.

Not a word about that story yet that I can find in the mainstream media that cover Virginia.  Fair enough.  Perhaps we will see it tomorrow.

Nothing in The Cavalier Daily yet, which does,however, offer a riveting story pressing for free menstrual products in the dorms.

But Professor Lomasky also called out the DEI bureaucracy at UVa in the strongest terms.

I have no doubt that they have opened a “case.” (Update.  I understand that Prof. Lomasky has been the subject of at least three investigations by the EOCR division of DEI).

Dr. Baucom has had a career-long focus on race.

Baucom is the author of Out of Place: Englishness, Empire and the Locations of Identity, and Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. He is the co-editor of Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain. His latest book, History 4° Celsius, released August 2020, places Black studies into conversation with climate change.

Baucom earned his undergraduate degree in political science from Wake Forest University and holds a master’s degree in African studies and a doctorate in English, both from Yale University.

UVa Provost Ian Baucom. Courtesy UVa.

He was promoted from the Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences in March of 2022 to be the executive vice president and provost of the University.

It is reasonable to inquire in these times whether that promotion was at least in part because of his focus on race.

Then on Nov. 13, 2022, the infamous shootings of Black football players by a Black former football player took place.

Baucom’s intervention.  The provost suddenly declared that no grades in any course in the fall semester would count unless a student got a good one.

Grades of credit (C or above) /general credit (D)/no credit (F) would not factor into a student’s GPA.

Then the hilarious part:

Monday’s decision marks the first time students will be permitted to opt-in after viewing their final grades.

To permit students from being “overburdened”.

Professor Lomasky wrote:

The great tragedy of November was the senseless deaths of three young men. But there were also associated lesser tragedies, chief among them the cheapening of UVA’s academic mission.

Professor Lomasky continued:

Almost all American colleges and universities feature a large and growing rank of non-academic bureaucrats empowered by local policy and federal guidelines. They can be identified by initials such as (the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) DEI or (the Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights) EOCR . They may know little or nothing about academic standards, but through expertise in paper-shuffling they serve as unaccountable prosecutor, judge, and jury of students and faculty.

The infection at UVA is not as pronounced as at some other well-known institutions, but it is not negligible. Only a fool or a hero will have the temerity to disregard the threat they represent.

That – the persecution of non-conforming professor by DEI – is the biggest story.

The press.  One can take either side of the public “me or him” showdown between a tenured professor and the University’s provost.

But Lomasky characterized the DEI bureaucracy as an infection and a threat. That is a feature or a bug depending upon one’s point of view.  Count me on the feature side.

The Washington Post (“Democracy Dies in Darkness”), transfixed again this morning by its long-running assault on VMI, its alumni, and Matt Daniel, offers not a word yet about any of that.

But media outlets covering Virginia cannot pretend it is not a story.  It may not be reported yet because the press is working on the story.  We’ll see.

Those outlets will be uncomfortable with the issues in play at UVa.   They certainly will be uncomfortable with the players’ contrasting philosophies.

  • Professor Lomasky is best known for his work in moral and political philosophy from a libertarian perspective.
  • The provost and the DEI bureaucracy offer authoritarian perspectives from racial perspectives.

Bottom line.  Professor Lomasky’s 1987 book Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community established his reputation, the reputation for which he was hired at UVa, and he has stayed true to it.

It should be impossible to even suggest that he is a racist.

But I am confident that the DEI bureaucracy, called out in stark and honest terms, will prove equal to the task.

It is, after all, their mission.

Updated Feb. 22 at 10:50. I was reliably informed today that the EOCR division of the DEI bureaucracy at UVa has investigated Prof. Lomasky at least three times.  I have filed a case with the The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).