Category Archives: Governance

The Bureaucratic Banality of Academic Oppression

by James A. Bacon

Two-and-a-half years ago, Kieran Ravi Bhattacharya, a medical school student at the University of Virginia, attended a session on “microaggressions” in which psychology professor Beverly Colwell Adams gave a presentation about her research. In what he considered to be a collegial manner, Bhattacharya challenged her analysis.

The challenge was not well received. Indeed, other participants in the session deemed his questions disrespectful. There followed a sequence of events in which Bhattacharya was investigated by the Academic Standards and Achievement Committee for unprofessional behavior, was told to submit to psychological evaluation, was suspended, was branded as a threat to the university community, was banned from the university grounds, and ultimately was expelled. Continue reading

Would Someone Enroll the UVa Board in These Courses, Please?

Laura Goldblatt

by James A. Bacon

Like most higher-ed critics, Bacon’s Rebellion conducts analysis of Virginia’s higher-ed institutions from a politically conservative perspective. Colleges and universities have mostly gotten a pass from commentators on the left wing of the political spectrum because, I would suggest, colleges and universities are almost all leftist-dominated institutions. But there are occasional exceptions.

One of those is a course taught by University of Virginia assistant professor Laura Goldblatt this spring, “The Marketplace of Ideas? Following the Money at the University of Virginia.” Her course description starts with an excellent question: “Why does student tuition for four-year, US colleges keep rising (at rates above inflation)? And where do all those tuition dollars go?” Continue reading

Demanding Openness about UVa’s Cost Structure

by James A. Bacon

Last week the University of Virginia Board of Visitors held a workshop to discuss next year’s increase in tuition, fees, and other charges and to hear input from the public — mostly students begging the board for relief from the ever-escalating cost of attendance.

PowerPoint presentation released at the meeting essentially made the case for hiking tuition again, although the exact percentage will depend upon the level of financial support provided by the Commonwealth. The estimated increase for undergraduate, in-state tuition will range between 0% and 3.1%. Additional fees are set at $114.

The presentation reflects the Ryan administration’s spin on the numbers. It’s the job of the Board of Visitors to probe deeper. In this post, I will first summarize the administration’s stats, and then I will provide some numbers that the board should consider as it ponders the tuition increases. Continue reading

What Must Jim Ryan Do to Earn a $100,000 Bonus?

James Ryan — what has the Board of Trustees incentivized him to accomplish? We don’t know, and the University of Virginia won’t say.

by James A. Bacon

When the University of Virginia hired Jim Ryan as president in 2018, the terms of his employment were spelled out in a contract. Anyone can obtain a copy of the document under the Freedom of Information Act, as Bacon’s Rebellion has done.  You can view it here.

Among other things, the six-year contract calls for paying Ryan a base salary of $750,000, provide him a $20,000-a-year car allowance, cover membership fees for two clubs, give him free housing (including the cost of housekeeping and utilities), grant him 22 vacation days a year, allow him to accrue Sabbatical leave at the rate of two months per year, and award him a performance bonus of up to $100,000 a year.

While the details of a university president’s compensation are interesting, the most important clause from a governance perspective covers the performance bonus. The contract says this about the bonus: Continue reading

UVA’s Lawn Scandal — Bad Leadership and Worse Lawyering

Ms. Azher’s pinboard pictured here has a note that states: “I stand with farm workers”

by James C. Sherlock
University of Virginia
College of Arts and Sciences, 1966

Hira Azher’s profane sign on the door of her room on the University of Virginia’s Lawn has made headlines, and the ensuing controversy has raised many questions. This article will highlight a new issue. University administrators, I will argue, botched the handling of the incident by turning what should have been a breach-of-contract issue into a constitutional freedom-of-speech case.

After alumni raised objections to the now-infamous sign, which said “F— UVA,” President Jim Ryan sought legal advice from University Counsel Timothy Heaphy. Heaphy concluded that the student’s use of profanity was protected by the First Amendment. Although the resident contract signed by Lawn residents gives the University the right to regulate signage, he argued, the institution’s failure to enforce that particular provision in the past essentially gave Azher a pass.

But my analysis suggests that the contract is clear. The University could have enforced it when Ms. Azher breached it with her door sign, which is prohibited by both the contract and University fire regulations. Continue reading