Anarchy and nihilism. Mural at the University of Virginia. Photo credit: Ann McLean
by Scott S. Powell and Ann McLean
The United States is under a cultural and ideological attack that threatens its continuity and survival more than at any previous time in the 239-year history of the nation. And since the leaders of this attack think strategically, it should come as no surprise that Virginia would be in the crosshairs of a new kind of battle to transform America.
Virginia is the key state that gave birth to the United States, and this state has more historical sites than any other — approximately 130 in all. Yorktown and Appomattox Courthouse, both in Virginia, were the sites of the final battles of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Thus, America-haters know that if the history and culture of Virginia can be denigrated and rewritten, the rest of the country will be easier to take down.
Four of the first five U.S. presidents came from Virginia. George Washington, who led the Continental Army to victory in the War of Independence, would become the first president. At the outset of that war, Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, became the third president. James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, drafted the Constitution. James Monroe, the fifth and last president among the Founding Fathers, was the brave 18-year-old volunteer soldier holding the American flag in Emanuel Leutze’s famous 1850 painting, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” sitting in the boat right behind resolute commander-in-chief Washington. Continue reading
In a presentation to its Board of Visitors, administrators at George Mason University showed a graph (seen above) comparing the number of employees per student at Virginia’s six public research universities. GMU shared with Old Dominion University the distinction of having the lowest employee-student ratio of the six. The purpose, of course, was to make the GMU administration look good by comparison.
Perhaps it’s a chart that the UVa Board of Visitors should see as well, though for entirely different reasons. By this reckoning, UVa has two-and-a-half times as many employees per student as GMU. On the face of it, that seems scandalous.
The disparity is so stark that one might legitimately inquire if the GMU functionaries who compiled this data were comparing apples with apples, so I don’t rush to any judgment. However, it would seem reasonable for UVa’s board members to ask for an explanation.
From our indefatigable filer of Freedom of Information Act requests, Walter Smith, we get the following description of a course, “Trump, Tea Party Women, and the Rebirth of a White Christian Nation,” offered by the University of Virginia departments of Politics and Religious Studies. The course description and required texts speak for themselves — no commentary needed. On a positive note, Professor Larycia Hawkins does demand adherence to the Honor Code and penalizes students for late papers! — JAB
Depts of Politics and Religious Studies
The idea that women’s main role in the republic is birthing citizens has experienced a renaissance. This course explores the politics of evangelical Tea Party women, including their construction of authentic citizens as white and Christian; explains the cultural logics that secured Trump’s election; and analyzes the effects of this version of reproductive politics for public policies in the Trump era ranging from immigration to welfare. Continue reading
The Impious Attack on Thomas Jefferson / The American Conservative
Some UVa students seem to agree with the “United the Right” marchers that Thomas Jefferson is significant only inasmuch as he supported white supremacy.
Inside Student Activists’ Cancel Campaign against a Youngkin Appointee to UVA Board /National Review
University of Virginia alumnus Bert Ellis, who was recently tapped by Governor Glenn Youngkin to sit on the university’s Board of Visitors, was touring his alma mater’s campus with his family in 2020 when…
The Terrifically Terrible Tours of the University Guide Service / The Jefferson Independent
It’s finally spring break! You’re a junior in high school, touring prospective colleges and one of them happens to be the great and wonderful University of Virginia situated in beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia… or so you thought….
Unfounded Attacks Should Not Tarnish Boards of Visitors Appointment Process / The Jefferson Independent
Despite the misguided attacks against his appointment, Bert Ellis deserves his position on the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. Ellis has a demonstrated history of successful business operation and gratitude for the University we call our own….
I have deleted a post about the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital’s policy on the treatment of transgender children. It had no place here. The Jefferson Council has no policy regarding transgender rights. Our focus is on our four pillars. That was entirely my error as editor of this blog, and I apologize for it. — JAB
by James A. Bacon
University of Virginia executive leadership has issued a remarkable statement that lends insight into the fraught state of race relations at Virginia’s flagship university. Three recent incidents have taken place on the grounds since the new academic year began that have “caused some to speculate that they are linked or part of a larger pattern of racially motived crimes,” said J.J. Wagner Davis, chief operating officer, and Tim Longo, chief of university police.
One incident involved a White man hanging a noose around the neck of the Greek poet Homer, an act of ambiguous meaning that President Jim Ryan promptly branded as a hate crime. The Davis-Longo statement made it clear, however, that two other matters — a report of someone throwing rocks through the window of the Office of African-American Affairs, and the discovery of a flag bearing a strange symbol lying on the grass near the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers — have been determined not to be hate crimes.
“President Ryan has asked us to provide this community with an update and to make as clear as we can: These incidents are not linked, and two of the three were not racially motivated at all,” the statement read.
The series of incidents has roiled the UVa community. As the statement notes, Ryan and other senior University officials have “spoken with many students, faculty and alumni” about efforts to get to the bottom of the events. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Like employers around the country, the University of Virginia is experiencing major staff shortages. The problem is serious enough that it warranted a discussion during last week’s Board of Visitors meeting.
President Jim Ryan attributed the workforce challenges mainly to “the Great Resignation,” or the increasing willingness of employees during the wind-down of the COVID-19 epidemic to quit their jobs in search of better prospects elsewhere.
Looking ahead, UVa will pay greater attention to hiring, recruitment and retention, Ryan told the Board. He also made some useful suggestions. The university will review open positions to see if the listed educational credentials are truly necessary to perform the job. The university will increase its commitment to training so employees can rise within the organization — better to encourage people to move from one part of UVa to another than lose them altogether. An even more promising idea came from a Board member that if a position remains open for months and the place doesn’t fall apart, maybe it’s not really needed.
There’s one more thing, I humbly suggest, that UVa can do to expand the pool of potential applicants — eliminate mandatory diversity statements in job applications and employee reviews. Continue reading
Image from the Living Honor video.
The University of Virginia Alumni Association presented an overview to the Board of Visitors last week of its “Living Honor” marketing campaign. The initiative, proposed by President Jim Ryan and Rector Whitt Clement, is designed to aid students and alumni in learning about Honor and its role at the University following a student vote last year to reduce the single sanction for honor offenses from expulsion to a two-semester leave of absence.
The goal, according to alumni association President Lily West and Chief Marketing Officer Susan Klobuchar, is to build greater understanding of the Honor system and to engage members of the university community in a conversation about honor. The centerpiece is a website, Living Honor, which features video clips of students and alumni describing what the Honor system means to them.
The campaign kicked off in August, and a teaser video (shown above) was presented at the Honor Convocation in August. Additionally, the alumni association has provided an “partner toolkit” for faculty.
The concept of “honor” has changed as society has changed. What was evident from the presentation and the video clips is that the justification has shifted from the ideal of honor as a personal virtue to honor as a means to create a “community of trust.” Continue reading
Silent Jim — President Jim Ryan during the UVa Board of Visitors meeting Friday
by James A. Bacon
Whitt Clement, rector of the University of Virginia, gave a brief defense of Thomas Jefferson and his legacy at the Board of Visitors meeting Friday.
“We are a University founded by Thomas Jefferson, and honoring his legacy and his contributions to our nation has, and will always be, an indelible part of what it means to live, learn and work here,” Clement said. “That is the policy and the position of this institution and it will not change under our leadership or that of President [Jim] Ryan or his team.”
Clement alluded to a statement made by Ryan two years ago regarding the decision to contextualize the Jefferson statue on the Rotunda plaza: “I do not believe the statue should be removed, nor would I ever approve such an effort. As long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson.”
Seated next to Clement in the board meeting, Ryan did not expand upon the rector’s remarks in any way. But UVA Today, the mouthpiece of the administration, published an article summarizing Clement’s speech and repeated Ryan’s two-year-old quote. No other board members or university officials were given an opportunity to comment. Continue reading