UVa Vice Provost’s Tough Job: Recruiting More Blacks to a “Racist” University

Stephen Farmer

by James A. Bacon

Pity poor Stephen Farmer. The newly appointed vice provost for enrollment at the University of Virginia has a thankless job: fulfilling the goal of admitting more African Americans and Hispanics, even as Virginia’s flagship university has inadvertently branded itself as a racist institution.

Farmer’s appointment was highlighted in the most recent issue Virginia, the UVa alumni magazine. A UVa alumnus, Farmer was recruited from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions. With a record of attracting more first-generation students and students from underrepresented minorities, Farmer has made “remarkable contributions to the shape of the class,” says Provost M. Elizabeth Magill.

Taking charge of both undergraduate admissions and student financial services, Farmer will build new strategies for attracting applicants and supporting students’ financial needs. “There’s a real logic in bringing them together,” Magill said.

He has two big challenges. First, in its recent report, “Audacious Future: Commitment Required,” UVa’s Racial Equity Task Force has articulated the goal of building a student body that “reflects the racial and economic demographics of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Only 7.4% of the undergraduate student body is African-American, compared to about 20% of Virginia’s population. Only 7.4% is Hispanic, compared to about 10% of the state population. Asians are significantly over-represented: 17.1% of the student body compared to 5.6% of the state population. Whites are slightly under-represented.  (These numbers are calculated from data published on UVa’s Diversity Dashboard, omitting foreign students and students whose race is unknown.)

The second challenge is that UVa has aggressively increased tuition, fees, room and board over the years, including a 3.6% in tuition this year. Indeed, according to the Cavalier Daily, the Student Council and Young Democratic Socialists of America have launched campaigns to push for a tuition freeze in the next two academic years, citing financial difficulties for many students caused by the COVID-induced recession. While UVa has increased financial assistance, the net cost of attendance continues to increase, disproportionately impacting students from low-income and disproportionately minority families.

Farmer’s problem is compounded by the fact that the university already discriminates in favor of blacks and Hispanics in admissions. According to the 2019 study, “Preferences in Virginia Higher Education,” 35% of blacks who apply to UVa are admitted, compared to 32% for Asians and Hispanics, and 30% for whites — even though Asians had higher median SAT scores (1480), as did whites (1420), than Hispanics (1350) and blacks (1240).

The question Farmer must grapple with is why would a black student want to attend UVa under any circumstances? Here’s what the racial equity task force appointed by President Ryan had to say about UVA:

The University of Virginia was built by enslaved laborers, on Monacan tribal land, and the enslaved people provided labor and knowledge that supported the students and faculty from the time of the University’s founding through the Civil war. In the twentieth century, UVA faculty were important contributors to the eugenics movement and supported segregated schools. The University itself only opened its doors to racial minorities and women when forced to by lawsuits in the 1960s and 1970s.

It is no exaggeration to say that UVa’s administration has been wallowing in its racist past and has kept injustices (to borrow an advertisers’ phrase) “top of mind.” Many students regard UVa as a racist institution, as vividly demonstrated by the fourth-year student residing in a prestigious room on the Lawn who posted the now-infamous “FUCK UVA” sign on her door, and as also expressed by Student Council members (documented by Bacon’s Rebellion) during a recent controversy over the recent joke by a Commerce professor that was widely deemed to be racist.

While UVa may invite a higher percentage of blacks than other races to attend, according to the racial equity task force, blacks and Hispanic students accept UVa offers of admission at significantly lower rates — 10 percentage points — than whites and Asians do. The task force cited a student survey in which 48% of black students and 23% of Hispanic students do not agree that individuals of their race “are respected,” as compared with only 4% of whites.

There is a legitimate question of why blacks and Hispanics are so much more likely to feel unwelcome at UVa. Do perceptions reflect objective reality, or are they shaped by the prevailing ideology that cultivates the sense of minority victimhood and grievance? I suggest that minority grievance at UVa, which has gone to great lengths to atone for its past, stems from students being taught to see every interaction through the prism of race and to view “micro-aggressions” as symptomatic of endemic racism. I also suggest that the UVa administration has been complacent about addressing this corrosive ideology, if not actually complicit in perpetuating it.

However justified or unjustified the perceptions of minority students, when it comes to admissions, perceptions are their own reality — and Farmer will have to deal with them.

Good luck, dude. You’re in the hot seat now.

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18 responses to “UVa Vice Provost’s Tough Job: Recruiting More Blacks to a “Racist” University”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    Actually, UVA and really, many Universities with significant sports programs already have an in-house capability for helping academically marginal students (athletes) stay in school and graduate. They just need to scale it up. And they likely can do it on the cheap with adjunct and grad students!

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Wow — if I’d blurted out that level of stereotypical thinking….

    2. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
      Baconator with extra cheese

      Yes! What the world needs is more Communications, PE, and Whatever Studies majors…. it’s rare to see a male athlete with a real major.
      Females seem to be quite the opposite for whatever reason. .

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        Georgia Tech.

        I remember in the 80s timeframe when GT played Bama for the national title. They introduced the starting lineups. The Bama kids were all PE majors. Then came the GT squad. Annouced majors and GPAs … Nuclear Engineering, 3.5,… Electrical Engineering, 3.56, … Mechanical Engineering, 3.8,…

        Yeah, they got slaughtered.

  2. sherlockj Avatar

    The issue of self-admitted “structural racism”, now a reflex action for woke public institutions and some private ones, whether true or not, is part of what bit Loudoun County Schools.

    It will bite every one of these institutions and the attention craving “leaders” that run them who flagellate their own organizations to demonstrate their woke credentials. It plays well at the cocktail parties they attend.

    In medicine such people are often diagnosed as having narcissistic personality disorder.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Narcissistic personality disorder? You mean like Donald Trump?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Or Joe Biden, who picked a religious bigot for his VP. Last time I looked, religious tests were barred by the Constitution. Perhaps, we need to make an allowance for Senator Harris since she failed the bar exam.

    2. Still fixated on Donald Trump? Seems like a bit of an obsession.

      Isn’t it time to shift your focus to the guy to said:

      “Unless we do something about this, my children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions having built so high that it is going to explode at some point.”

      Fact check:

      “Did Joe Biden Say He Didn’t Want His Kids Growing Up in a ‘Racial Jungle’?”

      “Correct Attribution”


    3. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
      Baconator with extra cheese

      I agree he suffers from narcissism…. now take that long pointing finger and try using it elsewhere and equally… I mean like real journalism-style.

    4. Matt Hurt Avatar

      I believe that Narcissistic personality disorder is a prerequisite to running for public office, regardless of party.

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        Uh yep. But combined with a low curiosity index and you get Trump.

    5. Name someone who has run for president of the United States in the last 30 years who showed no signs of narcissistic personality disorder.

      I think a malignant narcissist is probably the only type of person who has the “correct” mixture of total selfishness, extreme [if unwarranted] self-confidence and total lack of shame necessary to withstand the degradation and soul-consuming bullshit associated with running for president these days.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Can’t wait until Jan. 20. I remember him back in the early 1990s when I worked in New York. I used to read about his antics in tabloids while I was strap-hanging in a subway car.He was regarded as a local joke.

    1. At least you have a date to look forward to.

      When might the rest of the country expect the news media to start doing its job, and holding Biden and his team accountable? They’ve asked Biden what flavor of ice cream he bought, told us about Biden’s nifty socks, and asked how his foot is coming along. It’s absolutely pathetic.

      The evidence that was so lacking in the Russia collusion fiasco is there in spades for the Biden family, and their connections to China (and elsewhere).

      We will need a vigilant press more than ever if Biden becomes President on January 20. Robert Gates, who served as defense secretary for the Obama administration stands by his assertion that:

      “He’s a man of integrity, incapable of hiding what he really thinks, and one of those rare people you know you could turn to for help in a personal crisis. Still, I think he’s been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”


  5. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    Nothing says “we’re moving away from systemic racism” like a grey-haired white man in a suit.
    UVA needs a better marketing department.
    Hell even VMI figured that out!

  6. Why even try to increase minorities? UVa will receive no accolades. Just keep it like it is.

  7. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    The story of Robert Bland is a good one from the way back machine. The first back in 1959. Electrical engineering major.

  8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “35% of blacks who apply to UVa are admitted, compared to 32% for Asians and Hispanics, and 30% for whites — even though Asians had higher median SAT scores (1480), as did whites (1420), than Hispanics (1350) and blacks (1240).”

    Stare at those statistics for a while, what do they tell you? What do they suggest?

    What would they tell an Asian student at Uva? For example, a 1480 median SAT score is within the Top 1% of all students taking SAT.

    What would they tell a white student at Uva? For example, a 1420 median SAT score is within the Top 4% of all students taking SAT.

    What would they tell a Hispanic student at Uva? For example, a 1350 median SAT score is within the Top 8% of all students taking SAT.

    What would they tell a Black student at Uva? For example, a 1240 median SAT score is within the Top 15% of all students taking SAT. Remember too that median means half of your category tested above and half tested below 1240 most all tended to cluster toward the median. Remember too how easy it is to believe that everyone in Virginia likely knows these numbers, as it is a place that today seems obsessed with race, grievance and fault finding centered about the color of ones skin. But also remember, most importantly, that 1240 is a good SAT score, that will get you in a good selective college.

    For insight into this affect of preferences on campuses, however, consider this:

    “As a transfer student at mostly white Holy Cross in 1968 – with a scholarship and work study job at the elite Massachusetts school … (Clarence Thomas) grew angrier still, adopting the rhetoric, gestures, and army surplus garb of the sixties student radical. Awaiting the revolution that would purify a U.S. culture “irretrievable tainted by racism, he and his small band of fellow black undergrads put on the “swagger (and) sense of moral superiority” of “the aggrieved and righteous.”

    “It would not be until I was exposed to the most fortunate and best educated in our society that I would be informed that all this time I had been a victim,” he recalled in a 1995 speech. “You can imagine what I was like when I returned home to Savannah and informed my grandparents that with the education I had received because of their tremendous foresight and sacrifice, I had discovered our oppressed and victimized status in society. Needless to say relations were quite strained, and our vacation visits were somewhat difficult. My Grandfather was no victim and he didn’t send me to school to become one.

    (Clarence Thomas) began to see – but not say- that the conventional left wing nostrums for uplifting black Americans might backfire. Holy Cross was doing no favor to many of the black students it admitted in increasing numbers under affirmative action, he thought. Smart but unprepared, they too often got bad grades or flunked out. “Why, I asked,” were these gifted young people being sacrificed on the altar of an abstract theory of social justice, when they would have flourished closer to home or in all black colleges. Those affirmative-action beneficiaries who succeeded tended to be the light skinned children of middle class-class families who needed no extra boost, and who, with their own brand of racism, looked down on darker, poorer blacks like himself.

    … Back at Holy Cross, after a April 1970 march on Harvard Square, … (Clarence Thomas) had what he calls a “road to Damascus moment.” He begged God to purge his heart of the “rage and resentment that threatened to wreck my academic career and life,” shrinking him to a knee-jerk stereotype mouthing empty slogans and accomplishing nothing. To change the world, he realized he’d have to change himself first; he’d have to man up and play as best he could the hand he was dealt – a hand containing, he acknowledged, much better cards than his grandfather ever held. Yes, he had gone through a radical phase at college, he acknowledged, and he knew radicalism’s cant from inside. But “then I grew up.” End Quote, from Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution” by Myron Magnet.

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