UVa President Ryan on UVa Religious Studies Professors Attacking Evangelicals

UVa President James Ryan

by James C. Sherlock

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan was kind enough to read my column detailing the unacceptable behavior of two Department of Religious Studies professors.

There are two “counts” I charged against them:

  1. First, slander. All speakers trashed all white evangelicals as racists and “confederates” who are sorry the South lost the Civil War. Two of them were UVa professors speaking at a University-sponsored webinar.
  2. Second, systemic slander.  The webinar had a topic, “Informed Perspectives: White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America,, which demanded a speaker for the evangelical community for a balanced discussion. None was invited. It was an academic lynch mob.

President Ryan wrote to me:

“I assure you we’re taking this matter seriously and looking into it.”

He did not have to write that. I take him at his word.

It was easy for me to recommend the firing of the two professors. These were public employees making statements pursuant to their job duties.

Unlike me, however, Ryan has a pretty thick forest of interest groups to navigate to hold those two accountable. It won’t be fun, and it is not the job of a committee. The Provost can provide a recommendation. The buck stops with Ryan.     

There is no one who thinks that if the target of the slander was any other group than Christians or perhaps Zionist Jews, those professors would still have their jobs. No one.

There is a video, so there are no competing recollections with which to deal.

UVa Provost Liz Magill

He and the Executive Vice President and Provost Liz Magill can take action, and should.

I’ll give them some space on this specific case. But not, say, until after the upcoming fall elections.

And as long as they are on the subject, they should reconsider the “Department of Religious Studies” at UVa. That is very tricky ground for a state university.

The one at UVa functions as a Department of Anti-Christian studies. Look at the course offerings and read the descriptions. Summary:

  • Eastern religions – good.
  • Western religions – bad.

Self-identified Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians make up more than half of Virginia citizens. That makes the way UVa runs that department an ethical, political and legal time bomb.

Shut it down.

The Sociology, History and African-American studies departments and pretty much every other department in the College of Arts and Sciences present much the same views on religion as does Religious Studies.

That should be sufficient.

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20 responses to “UVa President Ryan on UVa Religious Studies Professors Attacking Evangelicals”

  1. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Well, weak minds. They’ve been the targets of charlatans since, well, at least 33BCE.

    1. Publius Avatar

      Psalm 14:1

  2. “I assure you we’re taking this matter seriously and looking into it.”

    Ryan has committed himself to absolutely nothing. He might query the religion department head about the incident, thus living up to his promise to “look into it,” and the department head will excuse or justify the behavior, and that will be that. I would be astonished if there were any consequences whatsoever — not even a stern talking to. If there are, then there might be hope for UVa.

    But I’m not holding my breath.

    1. vicnicholls Avatar

      I would never send or recommend kids go there.

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      He did not have to respond at all, but he did. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. If anyone there is possible to embarrass, this is the case.

    3. Rob Austin Avatar
      Rob Austin

      He and his consigliari Magill will dodge this somehow. She is particularly adept at behind-the-scenes machinations that Ryan rubberstamps. She knows he’s weak and plays on it. This issue will fade away without any substantive thought or action on UVa’s part.

  3. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    While he is at it, he might develop a plan to return UVA to the values and culture that led it to be Mr. Jefferson’s University. The cultural drift at UVA and other universities is undermining what universities are supposed to be and do.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Slavery too?

      1. William O'Keefe Avatar
        William O’Keefe

        Give me and everyone else a break. It should be obvious to any thinking person what I meant.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Yes, you are nostalgic for a time about which you have only read. Idylls.

  4. Charlie Potatoe Avatar
    Charlie Potatoe

    My previous comment about the failure of the Governor to know what was going on in his Administration, as amended for Ryan:

    I don’t understand why you are giving President Ryan the benefit of the doubt about his failure to be informed about and acting on an important issue for the University during his Term as President?

    Based on the history of dissembling, dishonesty, and failure by the Ryan and his Administration regarding the Lawn and other important issues of conduct, the presumption should be reversed.

    Perhaps Ryan’s Staff and/or Provost Liz Magill were incompetent and failed to inform him of bigotry against evangelical Christians expressed by the two Department of Religious Studies Professors, but the ultimate responsibility lies at the top, with the Leader, the weak President.

    My point is that, if the Ryan knew, he directly is responsible for the mess you outlined, and if he didn’t know, he is guilty of negligence, and maladministration for such failure.

    To quote Harry Truman’s Desk, “The Buck Stops Here.”

    Also, based on the history of Ryan, it is unlikely that he will do anything, other than dissemble, in response to you.

    However, I disagree with your recommendation of the firing of the two Professors, however distasteful their views.

    The solution in this case, as generally with the state of discourse at the University, is to assure that there is free and open speech, with a guarantee
    that all points of view are welcome.

    Finally, after all we have seen, the time for accepting the bona fides and
    good intentions of Ryan and his crowd at the University is at end.

    The only way to deal with these People is to use all the available levers of power-legal, financial, political, and intellectual argument- to bring them to heel or to remove them from power.

    Otherwise, you are Charley Brown dealing with Lucy and the football.

    Ora Basta!

    1. Publius Avatar

      Personnel is policy.
      His appointments are AC/DC concert level…

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Patience, Charlie. I’ll give him 6 weeks.

      1. Charlie Potatoe Avatar
        Charlie Potatoe

        Mr. Sherlock, Then, after 6 weeks, what will you propose doing, if his response is unsatisfactory or is effectively a nonresponse?

        1. JAMES Avatar

          Force the issue into the gubernatorial campaign.

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    It’s not slander if it’s true.

    I have said before that one of the most enjoyable HS courses I took (late 60s) was a comparative religions course, which spent the majority of the year in the Bible (front and back) and was clearly and most obviously a “get around” the prayer in school ban.

    God save us all from the godly.

    1. Publius Avatar

      Oink oink

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Sorry, don’t speak pig. Do you know a language other than your native tongue?

  6. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    “I assure you we’re taking this matter seriously and looking into it.” Ah, the great political primer, Yes Minister. In Humphrey Appleby-speak I think that translates to “we’ve lost the file.” If they were ACTIVELY looking into it, it would mean they were trying to find the lost file.

    Mainstream and secular departments of “religion” have — not to put a gentle face on it — shat upon people who base their faith on the literal interpretation of the Bible for a century or more. Expect no changes. And I make no assertion who is correct. This just is what it has long been.

  7. FredClark Avatar

    So no more inviting authors to speak about their books unless you also invite someone to provide a rebuttal? And that person should be, like you, someone who has not read the book in question and would never do so?

    “Thank you, Steven King, for coming to speak to us about your book. Now, in the interest of balance, let me introduce Pennywise the Clown …”

    Not how that usually works.

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