UVa Task Force Doubles Down on “Anti-Racism”

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia’s Racial Equity Task Force has released its final report, recommending 12 initiatives to promote “systemic change” and racial equity, and it’s everything you’d expect it to be. Reflecting the blinkered thinking of the academic Left, the report provides a lot of navel-gazing, virtue-signaling and window dressing while doing nothing to change the power structure at UVa or address the underlying causes of racial disparities in Virginia.

The task force proposes investing hundreds of millions of dollars toward equity initiatives, committing to “represent Virginia” in its study body demographics, hiring more minority faculty, and providing “anti-racism education” to all members of the University community. In contemporary academic parlance, “anti-racism” ideology insists that white privilege and white fragility underlie a system of white supremacy and must be extirpated. In other words, adopting these recommendations would place UVa among the institutions that replace critical thinking about race, poverty and justice with Leftist dogma.

Nothing in the report, “Audacious Future: Commitment Required,” alludes to the high and increasing cost of attending UVa, the practices driving the increasing costs, or the burden those costs impose upon all lower-income students of whatever color. Nothing in the recommendations would threaten the mechanisms by which UVa transfers wealth from tuition-paying students to faculty and staff in the form of greater pay, perks and prestige. The proffered solution is to paper over the high costs by steering more academic aid to minority students.

The report fails to acknowledge the social and economic origins of racial differences in American society such as the massive influx of poorly educated peasants from Mexico and Central America, dysfunctional family structures among lower-income Americans, the calamitous failure of inner-city school systems, and a host of other inconvenient realities that don’t fit the Oppression Narrative. The report assumes that UVa must take on the burden of rectifying inequities that are, in fact, beyond its ability to rectify, through what amounts to reverse racism.

Nor does “Audacious Future” acknowledge pervasive efforts over the past 60 years that the federal government, state governments, schools, universities, philanthropies, businesses and other institutions have made to address racial inequities. The authors of the report live in a bizarre bubble hermetically sealed from the real world.

The flaws are so overwhelmingly grievous — they permeate almost every paragraph — that it is impossible to catalogue them all in a short blog post.

For purposes of illustration, I will cite just one issue raised by the report — the recommendation to hire more minority faculty. The report points out, as I have highlighted in previous posts, that despite vigorous efforts to boost faculty hiring, the proportion of UVa faculty who identify as African-American has been stuck in the 3% to 4% range over the past 10 years. The root problem, of course, is not that predominantly white liberal faculty members discriminate against African-Americans, it’s that there are not enough African-American candidates with the PhD credentials required to qualify for a tenure-track job. Solving the national shortage of African-American PhDs is not a problem that UVa hiring practices can address (although the report does say that UVa coul do its bit to enlarge the PhD pipeline through more aggressive recruitment and mentorship of minority graduate students.)

The other problem is that competition for qualified African-American candidates is intense. There is far greater demand for African-American professors than the market can supply, and the “price” in terms of compensation packages is going up. The report indirectly acknowledges this in arguing for a the creation of a “faculty defense fund” to retain minority faculty members. States the report (my bold face):

Many deans have  expressed concern about the challenges and costs of retaining their most competitive faculty members from historically underrepresented groups, particularly when multiple challenges compound (spousal employment, Charlottesville premium, child tuition support, no critical mass, perceived pay gap, etc.). Given the investments we are aware that other universities are or will be making to recruit such faculty in the coming years, we expect the competitive pressure to increase. We recommend that the deans and the Provost seize this moment and set aside adequate resources not only to win retention negotiations, but to mitigate the range of issues that make them so frequent. Without adequate resources devoted to this, UVA will fail.

It remains to be seen whether cultivating a hyper-sensitivity about race will do anything to improve race relations at UVa or to help the supposed beneficiaries of this concern. My prediction: Putting greater the emphasis on grievance and victimhood will make African-Americans feel more alienated and unwelcome, not less.

If the powers-that-be at UVa genuinely wanted to improve the condition of African-Americans in Virginia, they could mobilize the university’s academic resources to examine the complex causes of poverty and identify the policy levers that can be pulled to encourage upward mobility. More pre-K? More effective reading pedagogies? More after-school programs? More crime reduction? More mental health and substance-abuse counseling? Stronger families? Less teen pregnancy? More apprenticeships and job training? Less emphasis on obtaining expensive four-year college degrees that line the pockets of privileged academics? Changing the work incentives created by means-tested welfare programs? In other words, UVa could dedicate itself to finding answers to the question: What works?

Sadly, such a task is of no interest to most UVa scholars. Indeed, it is arguably beyond the capability of faculty members, as immersed as they are in the race-and-gender-are-the-root-of-all-evil paradigm, that they are incapable of honest and open inquiry. When combating “systemic racism” is the prism through which the world is viewed, real problems will go unattended and real solutions will be ignored.

I suppose it will be up to UVa’s Board of Visitors to formally approve the “Audacious Future” recommendations. Given the current intellectual climate at UVa and across the country, I would be astonished if there is any pushback.

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17 responses to “UVa Task Force Doubles Down on “Anti-Racism””

  1. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    The news today says the ACC is moving forward with the college football season (at this point). Since black men make up the majority of UVA’s squad and Covid disproportionally impacts blacks, it doesn’t seem very anti-racist to have a white dominated institution putting black bodies at risk just to play a game (and make $$$$). And wouldn’t it be very anti-racist to not play (again putting black bodies at risk) against universities that aren’t living up to UVA’S anti-racist policy?

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      Is it racist to cancel the season and potentially deny the black athletes a fair shot at the pros? You see, its lose lose.

      1. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
        Baconator with extra cheese

        The Big 10 just cancelled. I guess we’ll find out if they are racist or heroic..
        Part of me thinks in some ways these schools are seeing this as a blessing.
        This way they aren’t having all the kids kneeling, wearing slogans on their uniforms, and isolating fans. I bet they are praying the virus and social justice pressure give them a break next year.. These kids will keep their eligibility, but that doesn’t leave room for the next recruit class…

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    One way UVA could attract additional minority faculty would be to institute different pay scales. I remember when I jumped from Fauquier County to Loudoun County schools I received a 9,000 dollar pay increase in exchange for a reasonable commute. Fairfax always had great staff thanks to paying more and robbing from surrounding counties. There is even a rule in Virginia that you cannot switch counties after a certain date in June to put limits on robbing. After 15 years the commute to Loudoun became long I considered coming back to Fauquier, but that thought stopped when it amounted to a 30,000 pay cut.

    So maybe UVA could offer a separate pay scale for minority professors. Rob from the underpaying universities to boost the Cavalier numbers. It would look good on paper.

  3. djrippert Avatar

    Dragas was right.

  4. So what you are saying is that Kevin McDonald — the UVA diversity officer — is failing despite his annual salary of $350K?

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    It does seem about half of the 12 bullet points involve spending substantial new sums of money. How unique…

  6. Fred Woehrle Avatar
    Fred Woehrle

    Some of these Task Force goals conflict with court rulings. The Task Force advocates “committing to ‘represent Virginia’ in its study body demographics.” That sounds like the racial quota in admissions that the Supreme Court struck down in two Supreme Court decisions, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), and Gratz v. Bollinger (2003).

  7. To be truly anti-racist shouldn’t college athletic teams also mirror the state’s demographics? Yet the Left doesn’t demand that.

    1. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
      Baconator with extra cheese

      No kidding. I would love to see Georgetown field a baskeball team with 75% asians like the student body!

    2. Top-GUN Avatar

      Paying African American Professors more than you pay the Whites…
      Hmmmm… is that discrimination??? And BTW,,, if the White guy can teach better why would you pay the minority guy more,, is that crazy or what??? Don’t UVA parents want their children taught by the best money can buy???
      And let’s throw in… This after complaining women get paid less than men for the same job???

  8. sherlockj Avatar

    I am going to write a letter to President Ryan sharing my views.

    Some of the recommendations in the report to President Ryan are reasonable. Most will lead to a truly dystopian future for the University.

    The report recommends nothing less than a complete takeover of the University by the Diversity and Inclusion mob. I use the word mob in its Mafia context. They believe they are making President Ryan an offer he can’t refuse. We will see if they are right.

    I will point out that as part of their “report” its authors indicate that failure to adopt their recommendations will challenge UVa’s “legitimacy”. The word “must” is used 19 times.

    For one of the many coercive goals seen page 19:

    “2. Launch the EQUITY SCORECARD
    “Goal: Develop a scorecard of institutional racial equity goals that are posted publicly, reviewed annually, and used in leadership performance evaluations.”

    Read the entire section and consider the Orwellian environment that the report seeks to establish.

    See in particular page 20 for a table that “summarizes an example student lifecycle indicator set across multiple dimensions of inclusive excellence.” It calls for “Equity Disaggregation Analysis by:

    Gender identity
    Sexual Orientation
    Economic Status
    First-generation Status
    Military Veteran Status
    Disability Status
    Athlete Status
    Immigration Status”

    Notice that, holding to the party line, the authors want the University to join the Curry school in targeting kindergarteners for anti-racist re-education:

    “Contribute to reform of K-12 education to eliminate educational inequities in Virginia and promote anti-racist education by supporting the great work already underway through the Center for Liberal Arts, the Center for Race and Public Education in the South, and the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.”

    If President Ryan intends to continue to lead a university focused on excellence and to attract the best and the brightest, he will reject most of the “recommendations” in this letter.

    If he wants to be a figurehead serving at the pleasure of the University’s own racism police, he will accept them.

    I don’t know if he has the courage to stand up to the threat implicit in this letter, but we can hope – and we will watch.

    1. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
      Baconator with extra cheese

      The gender identity equity is interesting. Not sure about UVA but most schools are graduating way more women… some greater than 70% women.

  9. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    Meh, it’s only money.

    Hmm, somebody’s a Pommy.

  10. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “Nothing in the recommendations would threaten the mechanisms by which UVa transfers wealth from tuition-paying students to faculty and staff in the form of greater pay, perks and prestige. The proffered solution is to paper over the high costs by steering more academic aid to minority students.”

    “Yes, the “Audacious Future: Commitment Required” cooked up by UVA’s faculty and administrators is just another money laundering scheme whereby certain privileged and self proclaimed minorities (based on the alleged color of their skin) steal other peoples’ well earned money, other people’s jobs, and other people’s power for themselves via a racist scheme of chronic and long long lasting theft.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      This, of course, is yet another layer of theft on top of the ones that are already in place to benefit the preexisting privileged classes at UVA.

      These preexisting privileged classes include UVA’s tenured professors, UVA’s top layer of Administrators, and UVA’s crony capitalists allies who use UVA as their research arm that they access at highly discounted rates that accrue massive loses that are paid for out of ever rising tuition income charged to UVA’s undergraduates, and their parents, who receive little or no benefit at all for those overcharges, and much harm and crushing debt instead.

      For more details as to how this scheme is organized and how it works, see “The Great Mistake (How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them) published by Johns Hopkins University Press, in 2016.

  11. […] public policy site Bacon’s Rebellion criticized the task force’s recommendations in a recent article, accusing them of seeking to replace critical thinking with “Leftist […]

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