UVa’s Invasive, Ubiquitous DEI Program, Its President and the New Board of Visitors

UVa President James Ryan Courtesy of the University

by James C. Sherlock

As a public service and a primer for new UVa Board of Visitors members, I will offer here a brief summary of the extent and costs in dollars, time, distraction and suppression of debate by the University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program.

Put briefly, they are everywhere, overseeing everything at the University.

On that subject, Victor David Hanson has written:

At a time of impending recession, runaway inflation, and climbing interest rates, universities are charging students thousands of dollars in increased tuition and fees to subsidize an unproductive diversity, equity, and inclusion industry. And like all good commissariats, the DEI apparatchiks produce no research, do no teaching, and bully and repress those who do.

Their chief legacy is the millions of opportunistic mediocrities emerging from the shadows to mouth wokester shibboleths about climate change, diversity, equity, and inclusion, identity politics, and transgenderism, while damning the customs, traditions, history, and values of a prior society that alone is responsible for their very affluence and leisure.

A harsh critique, certainly. Perhaps it does not apply to the DEI program at the University of Virginia.

It is up to the Board of Visitors to examine whether Mr. Hanson’s description accurately describes that program and, if so, to make changes.

I will offer here a brief and assuredly incomplete accounting of that DEI bureaucracy and its hold on UVa’s President to let readers get an idea of both its scope and its penetration of the University.


The University of Virginia (“UVA”) does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender identity or expression, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, pregnancy (including childbirth and related conditions), race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status, and family medical or genetic information.

No one would want any of those groups to be discriminated against. It is the definition of what constitutes discrimination that the University, at its peril, leaves to Mr. Hanson’s commissariats.

First, at the heights of the administration, the University has a Vice President for DEI.

Thirteen schools and the library of the University have at least one Associate Dean or Director for Diversity and Inclusion. The Darden School of Business, not to be outdone, has two.

These 14 positions, to me, are the heart of the matter of academic freedom. If any professor, instructor, researcher or student does not feel threatened by these political commissars, that person does not understand their purpose. And will likely discover it.

In 2020, 57% of University of Virginia undergraduates answered a question, in the largest survey of student opinion ever undertaken, that they had been intimidated from expressing their opinions; 79% of students self-identifying as conservatives responded that they had been intimidated. Those were the ones that did not express their opinions.

No word on what happened to those that did.

The University also assures that no board or panel at the University is without DEI oversight.

For example, the Advisory Board of the University’s new Karsh Institute of Democracy features Deborah Archer, president, ACLU;  co-faculty director, Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law; co-director, Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program, New York University School of Law.

She should keep it in line.

The University’s Division for DEI has fourteen headquarters employees. It oversees:

  1. Center for Community Partnerships – seven full time employees;
  2. The Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights is rebuilding its website. No personnel listed. This office runs two programs that are required for federal compliance, the University ADA Office and Title IX Office;
  3. Disability Advocacy & Action Committee;
  4. Diversity Council;
  5. President Ryan’s Racial Equity Task Force, which has advised racial equity initiatives on infrastructure and investment, access, climate, intergroup relations, scholarships, and healing and repair (such as statue removal and contextualization and a new, lavishly funded academic program on ‘Race, Place and Equity’ with “deans from many of UVA’s schools already committing to participate”);
  6. Native & Indigenous Relations Community (NIRC);
  7. Women’s Leadership Council, and;
  8. Five Employee Resource Groups
    • Black Faculty and Staff Employee Resource Group
    • LGBT Committee
    • Latinx Employee Resource Group
    • Military Service Veteran Employee Resource Group
    • Organization of Employees from Africa

The University also has an Equity Center. You will be pleased to know that

The Equity Center will tangibly redress racial and economic inequity in university communities by advancing a transformative approach to the fundamental research mission, which will, in turn, reform institutional values, pedagogy, and operations.

A “transformative approach to the fundamental research mission.”

Personally, I always support the airing of new ideas. It would be interesting in this case, however, to find out why the university’s research mission needs to be transformed before entertaining ideas on how to transform it, and to what.

The leadership page of the Equity Center lists 43 employees. They have such titles as: Executive Director; a Local Steering Committee Member, Institutional Inequality; Director of Equitable Analysis; Faculty Director, Design Justice; Faculty Director, Youth Education Pipeline with several local steering committee members; a Local Steering Committee Member, Ground Theory of Structural Racism; a Director of Community Research; a Faculty Director, Institutional Inequality; a National Advisory Committee, Equity Center Co-Founder; Faculty Director, Grounded Theory of Structural Racism; Faculty Director of the Equity Center; Doctoral Fellow, School of Education, Youth Education Pipeline;  Sound Justice Lab Postdoctoral Research Associate; Arts Research Program Manager; Youth Pipeline Director; Educational Equity Data Scientist; and Faculty Leader, Youth Education Pipeline Programs.

School of Education Youth Education Pipeline indeed.

The Equity Center, in partnership with the Office of the President and the Office of DEI, has an Institutional Inequality Initiative that seeks reparations in their quest for equity and racial justice.

In order to enact our mission of redressing inequity within the communities we are embedded, it is necessary for us as a public institution of higher education to continue to build our capacity for equity and racial justice. From the level of executive leadership through each internal stakeholder group, including students, staff and faculty, we need to develop institutional equity literacy with common understandings of principles of equity, historical underpinnings of our social location, and methods of redress, including respectful community engagement and scholarships and reparations.

I suspect that is enough to let us understand, in part, why tuition is going up and President Ryan’s calendar is so booked up.

And why he sat and took it while a student who had violated the terms of her residential contract with the University by placing a F… UVa sign on her door on the Lawn, not only got a personal meeting with the President of the University, but lectured him on her status as a minority, lack of ADA accessibility on the Lawn (a World Heritage site), freedom of speech, white supremacy and the university police.

Hira Azher, who introduces herself as a Muslim woman of color, lectured Ryan:

I think there needs to be serious conversation about how UVA is an exploitative institution with UVA students, as well as like with the Charlottesville community, as well as how UPD is unnecessary. And that there’s no reason for us to have such a close relationship with CPD as well. How, the ways in which student self-governance is exploitative and just at the core of it, like there’s no denying that white supremacy and settler colonialism are like foundational and built into this university.

She had lots more to say along that line.

It is not only possible that she learned all of that at President Ryan’s university, it is impossible to believe she could have reached her fourth year without absorbing it.

Ryan’s response, when he finally got a word in was:

Alright, um, so some of the reactions, so, um, you know, I’m sure you’re receiving a lot of emails. I’m receiving a lot of emails. Um, a lot of the reaction is to just “fuck UVA” and the, just the profanity. Um, and I think that precludes a lot of people from actually thinking about what the rest of it is. I also think the KKK Cops, um, stops a lot of people in their tracks who think it’s basically an epithet. Um, so I’m curious, like how, how do you respond to that, right? That is completely fine to raise complaints about these issues, um, and, and, and, um, and, and concerns about them, many of which I share, but, but a lot of the reaction I’m seeing anyway, it’s just as a visceral reaction to the headline, a subsidiary reaction to, wow, are you saying all cops are members of the KKK? And I think that, that stops a lot of people from thinking about the valid points that you’re raising. And I, I’m just curious, like, how do you think about that? And if you were me, how would you think about that? (emphasis added)

That certainly put her in her place.

It is up to the new members of the Board of Visitors to decide whether this massive DEI bureaucracy and its wide and deep penetration of the entire University and all its works is proportional to the mission and representative of the culture and priorities of a public university.

And whether the University has the right President.