UVa to Fund Woke Community Activism

It’s not enough for the University of Virginia to become an incubator of wokeness and let its ideas seep into the broader community. Now it is proactively exporting its leftist ideology. The latest initiative is the Equity Cohort, a shared project of the Virginia Institute of Government (VIG) and the School of Data Science.

“The core of local government is public service, of course, but there’s also the question of service for what?” said Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Siri Russell. “The fact of the matter is, I’ve never lived in an equitable community. I’ve never been able to see it. It’s almost like a thing that you’re aspiring to. This dream where your race, your ethnicity, your age, your gender, your income does not define your outcomes.”

And what does Russell propose? WVIR News says this: “She wants to see more governments creating and staffing equity offices, as well as implementing more equitable policies.” Continue reading

Lessons from the Virginia Governor’s Race

Editor’s note: The curators of the Jefferson Council blog have frequently observed how rarely UVA Today profiles faculty or students who profess conservative, or even moderate, political or philosophical views. We are pleased to note an exception to that rule, in which the University of Virginia’s house organ republished a piece by Mary Kate Cary, a lecturer in the University of Virginia’s department of politics and a self-described conservative, opining on Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election. Especially heartening is her observation that the young people she teaches are eager to hear a diversity of viewpoints. — JAB

by Mary Kate Cary

I teach political speech writing. My students know that earlier this year I served on a committee that wrote the University of Virginia’s statement on free speech and free inquiry, which stated that “All views, beliefs, and perspectives deserve to be articulated and heard free from interference.”

I’m also a conservative who recently co-taught a 2020 elections class with a liberal colleague – and we both managed to survive. In my class, the mainly liberal students know they can speak freely about what’s important to them. Being open about your political views is important – but so too is listening generously to those of others. Read more.

Does Jim Ryan Value Jefferson’s Legacy?

by Walter Smith

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan has stated that, as long as he holds office, the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of the Rotunda will remain in place. UVa’s founder, he says, will not be de-memorialized.

Talk is cheap. When given a golden opportunity to publicize Jefferson’s contribution to religious freedom — the 2019 publication of “Liberty in the Things of God: The Christian Origins of Religious Freedom” — Ryan took a pass. Neither he nor the administration’s propaganda organ, UVA Today (AKA UVA Pravda), have made mention of this important scholarship by Robert Louis Wilken, a UVa professor of the history of Christianity. Continue reading

Why Is UVa Hiding Its Campus Survey Results?

… but you can’t see them! (Image credit: scwgl.org.uk)

by Walter Smith

Jim Bacon recently posted an article urging Governor-elect Youngkin to take full advantage of his higher-ed Board of Visitors appointments if he wishes to remain true to the education reform momentum that played a big part in his election. Bacon’s bits (pun intentional!) on the Boards as political plums with a go-along-to-get-along chumminess seemed dead on to me. In truth, academia is a different world. A far different world.

I came out of the corporate world. I worked as counsel in an NYSE company and a private equity company for large insurance brokerages. Governance from the academic world is something I intend to address in a complete, and fair, manner later, after gathering a great deal more info. In the meantime, permit me to share one example of how governance works — or doesn’t work — in academia.

After the 2017 Unite the Right riot in Charlottesville, the University of Virginia took many actions in response. One result was the Racial Equity Task Force report. Another was the formation of the Deans Working Group, headed by Risa Goluboff of the law school. Goluboff made four proposals to the Board in March of 2018, all of which were approved.*

One of those approvals allocated $80,000 to a “university-wide campus climate survey.” This survey, paid for by Virginia taxpayers, has never been released. Why? Given the BoV approval, does it not belong to the public? Continue reading

Mr. Youngkin, Pay Heed to Your University-Board Appointments

University of Virginia board room.

by James A. Bacon

Glenn Youngkin’s winning campaign issue in the 2020 gubernatorial election was expunging Critical Race Theory from Virginia’s public school system. An endlessly repeated trope of the Left is that CRT is an academic legal theory not taught in schools. I (and others) have explained that “CRT” is short-hand for policies based upon the precept that the nation’s institutions are systemically racist. Whatever. People will believe what they want to believe. But there’s one place where even the Left acknowledges CRT is taught… and that’s law schools. Indeed, few would dispute that CRT now saturates higher education generally.

Youngkin will have his hands full rolling back “CRT” in Virginia public K-12 schools, where the ideology is deeply entrenched in official policies, bureaucratic processes, and pervasive attitudes among teachers and administrators. It will be even more difficult rooting out this profoundly destructive ideology in Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

Making the job difficult is the governance structure of higher education in Virginia. The system is decentralized, and public higher-ed institutions enjoy tremendous autonomy. Youngkin cannot dictate his policy preferences. State government has only two tools to implement change in public colleges and universities. One is budgetary: the General Assembly provides funding to colleges and universities. The other is the power of appointment. If Youngkin is to have any impact on higher ed during his four years in office, he needs to use that power aggressively. Continue reading

The Stunning Wealth of UVa’s Nonprofits

by James C. Sherlock

As an alumnus of the University of Virginia, I like to check in occasionally to see how my alma mater is doing financially.

Not the actual University, but the wealthy and proliferating nonprofits set up for its off-the-books support. When I say wealthy, I mean $13,568,527,649 wealthy.

OK, rich.

All of them tax exempt. Continue reading

Jefferson Defended

by James A. Bacon

I was proud of the University of Virginia last night.

The Young Americans for Freedom organized an event, “Defending Thomas Jefferson,” featuring National Review editor Rich Lowry and Texas Congressman Chip Roy, both UVa alumni. Organizers believe it was the first time that conservative speakers from outside the university had been invited since former Senator Rick Santorum had appeared four or five years ago. (It’s been so long that memories were hazy about the details).

Many posts on social media had been critical, and there were rumblings that a protest might be organized. But university police posted outside the Newcomb Hall lecture room provided security, and nothing remotely unpleasant occurred.

More than 150 people attended the event, which easily met expectations. What I found most encouraging was the healthy contingent of Black students who came to hear what the defenders of the university’s founder might say. One could deduce that many were not sympathetic to the views of the speakers because they sat silently through the applause lines. But they listened respectfully and, when the time came for questions, a number asked questions that were pointed but polite. (I am pleased to note that one Black student, who spoke with an African accent, said that she found Jefferson inspiring.)

The event was exactly what a great university should be doing — exposing students to different perspectives and facilitating the civil exchange of views. I am delighted that the Jefferson Council played a role in helping make it happen. Continue reading

This Is It! Act Now to Save the Honor Code, or It Dies

Letter from Bert Ellis, president of The Jefferson Council to All Friends of the University of Virginia.

I am writing this letter as Bert Ellis, a passionate Double Hoo (College ‘75, Darden ‘79) and as a Founder and President of The Jefferson Council. Our University is under attack from multiple sources and at multiple levels. The entire academic and community experience that so many of us shared at UVA is
totally at risk. Our Administration has totally politicized the entire university to the detriment of all that we hold dear.

We at the Jefferson Council have been fighting on behalf of all of us to preserve/promote four major tenets:

1) Open Dialogue throughout the University.

2) Preservation of the Jefferson legacy.

3) Preservation of the architectural sanctity of the Lawn.

4) Preservation and rejuvenation of the Honor System.

We have indeed made some progress on points 1 and 3: The University adopted a set of principles of open dialogue which we think are quite reasonable and the Ryan administration adopted a set of rules limiting signage on the Lawn doors. Mr. Jefferson’s statue – which was in jeopardy — remains in front of the Rotunda, yet to be contextualized. The Honor System still exists but is now under very serious attack such that this could be its very final year at UVA. Continue reading

Alumni Power

Image credit: Brent Nelson, Flickr

by James A. Bacon

The university alumni rebellion, which first took root in Virginia, is going national.

Washington & Lee University was the first higher-ed institution in the country, to my knowledge, where alumni organized to fight the leftward drift of their alma mater. The W&L group, known as the Generals Redoubt, was followed quickly by The Jefferson Council (to which I belong) at the University of Virginia and The Spirit of VMI at the Virginia Military Institute.

Now the W&L and UVa groups have joined with newly formed alumni organizations at Princeton University, Cornell University and Davidson College to form the Alumni Free Speech Association. While each institution has its unique, parochial issues, they share a common resolve to stand up for free speech, free expression, independent inquiry, and intellectual diversity in the face of a doctrinaire “woke” ideology that, in increasingly totalitarian fashion, dictates the permissible range of opinions people are allowed to express.

Continue reading

Alumni of the World Unite!

The Free Speech Wall in downtown Charlottesville

This press release was issued today by the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, of which The Jefferson Council is a founding member. I serve as vice president-communications of the Council. — JAB

Millions of college and university alumni around the country are dismayed by the intolerance of unpopular viewpoints at their alma maters, and many have begun to fight back.

Alumni have organized groups at five of America’s most prestigious higher-ed institutions — Cornell University, Davidson College, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the Washington & Lee University – to defend free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity in college campuses. Today those groups are announcing that they have joined forces under the banner of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance to launch a national effort to mobilize alumni.

“Free speech and academic freedom are critical to the advancement of knowledge and to the success of our colleges and universities,” said Edward Yingling, a co-founder of the Princeton alumni group. “Yet these basic principles are under attack today at schools across the country.”

(See the column co-authored by Yingling that was published in today’s Wall Street Journal.) Continue reading