Your Alumni Association Dollars at Work

by James A. Bacon

Above is an ad that The Jefferson Council submitted to run in the University of Virginia Alumni Society, Virginia. Before I tell you the fate that befell this ad, please take a moment to read it, and then ask yourself: Is there anything political about it? Is there anything contentious about it? Is there anything inaccurate about it?

Sure, you might disagree with the thrust of the ad. Maybe you think, like many people at UVa do, that Jefferson deserves to be remembered in history as a slave-holding rapist. But, really, do you find anything objectionable about the facts, the quotes or the tenor of the presentation?

Now, you might think that the association representing the alumni of the university that Jefferson founded might be willing to publish a paid ad defending his reputation. And you would be wrong. Continue reading

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 that 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, make changes. Continue reading

UVa Board Meetings Should Get a Lot More Interesting

Bert Ellis

by James A. Bacon

Governor Glenn Youngkin has announced his appointments to the boards of visitors of Virginia’s colleges and universities, at least one of which has the potential to be highly consequential — Bert Ellis, a serial entrepreneur and major donor, at the University of Virginia.

Ellis has been a prominent critic of UVa’s leftward drift under President Jim Ryan. He is president of The Jefferson Council, an alumni organization formed a year and a half ago to preserve free speech, promote intellectual diversity, protect the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, and preserve the dignity of the Jefferson-designed “academical village” centered on the Rotunda and Lawn. (Full disclosure: I am vice president-communications of The Jefferson Council.)

The current board has provided little pushback to Ryan’s policies. Rector Whitt Clement has worked behind the scenes to blunt the worst excesses, but he avoids confrontation. His personal style is to be a conciliator. He has achieved some success on free-speech issues, but has been powerless to halt more fundamental changes in university culture.

In an update to Jefferson Council members in December, Ellis noted approvingly that Governor Glenn Youngkin, Lt. Governor Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares were are all interested in “re-focusing UVA and other colleges and K-12 schools in Virginia on educating students and not brainwashing them with the Woke/CRT/DEI mantras that have overtaken UVA and almost all other colleges and K-12 schools in Virginia and across our country.” Continue reading

A New Classic on Thomas Jefferson and Public Education in Virginia

Courtesy University of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

On April 29, 1962, President John F. Kennedy addressed a group of Nobel Prize winners at a dinner in their honor at The White House.

Kennedy, raised patrician, classically educated and fired in war and politics graciously toasted another such man.

“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

The polymath Jefferson saved the indulgence of a great passion, public education and the creation of a new style of American university, until his last years.

Influenced early by the writings on education of Sir Francis Bacon and John Locke, he completely re-imagined higher education in America from what consisted in 1800 largely of a few colleges teaching religion and the classics under church leadership and funding.

Jefferson’s idea of the university was an institution publicly funded and teaching republican ideals for the preservation of the form of government he and the other founders had labored so hard and risked so much to bring about.

It emphasized education in history, languages, the principles of the Enlightenment and the sciences with graduate schools in law and medicine. Of those he thought history to be the most critical of all to the preservation of freedom. Continue reading

It’s Good to Be King

UVa President Jim Ryan

by Walter Smith

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan has entered into three employment agreements with UVa (technically, the Board of visitors on behalf of UVa). His first agreement was executed in September of 2017, to commence on October 1, 2018, and to last through July 31, 2025. His second agreement, executed as of March 2, 2018, amended his agreement to commence as of August 1, 2018. His third, and current, agreement was executed on March 2, 2022, extending his term of employment until July 31, 2028.

I will summarize its terms for your convenience. This summary will necessarily leave out some of the details, and, if that bothers you, then read the entire agreement yourself! (View the contract and compensation.)

The “term” is set to expire on July 31, 2028, and “renewal” discussions are to commence no later than March 31, 2027, with a desired termination date of discussions by July 31, 2027. In other words, if President Ryan’s employment is not to continue beyond the current term, he desires one year notice of his impending non-renewal. Continue reading

Open Letter to Thomas Unsworth

Bert Ellis, president, The Jefferson Council

Written by Bert Ellis, President of The Jefferson Council

Dear Mr. Unsworth: 

I am writing to you in your capacity as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the  Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, with a request that you postpone the vote  scheduled for June 27 on changing the library’s name until everyone involved in the decision has an opportunity to carefully consider all of the ramifications of this landmark decision.  

We are aware of no urgency in resolving this issue and no harm of any kind that might  result from a reasonable delay. On the other hand, a rush to judgment without regard to  fundamental facts could produce long-term harm to both the institution you represent  and the reputations of all involved. 

Given the many very positive contributions of Presidents Jefferson and Madison it  would seem only fair that they be given at least a modicum of due process before being  discarded from our community in such a cavalier manner. 

I write in my capacity both as President of the Jefferson Council (a non-profit  organization formed to preserve the legacy of Mr. Jefferson), and as a 1975 graduate of  the College and a 1979 graduate of the Darden School of Business. Our Board of  Directors at The Jefferson Council has unanimously instructed me to contact you in this  matter, as we consider your planned vote to be of profound importance.

Your role with the Library Board of Trustees suggests a love for books, education, and of  course the libraries that facilitate public access to books. I am confident that you are  familiar with Mr. Jefferson’s famous observation that “If a nation expects to be ignorant  and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”1 Thus,  the library branches under your supervision play a critically important role in maintaining our democracy and preserving our freedoms.  Continue reading

The New Racial Calculus in UVa Admissions


by Walter Smith and James A. Bacon

On March 20, 2022, The Cavalier Daily student newspaper trumpeted the fact that the University of Virginia set a record low acceptance rate, offering slots to only 9,534 applicants, or 19% of the nearly 51,000 total. Of particular note, 52% of the offers went to “students of color” — up from 41% the prior year.

Only a little more than half of students who get accepted to UVa wind up enrolling there, so it’s not known what the ultimate composition of the entering class will be. But it is possible that entering first-year students will comprise the first class in which a majority of students are comprised of racial/ethnic minorities.

That would be no accident. In 2020, UVa recruited a vice provost of admissions, Stephen Farmer, whose most heralded accomplishment at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill had been  setting records for recruiting first-generation students and students from underrepresented minorities. At the time, UVa’s Racial Equity Task Force had recently articulated the goal of building a student body that “reflects the racial and economic demographics of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

An analysis of acceptance numbers, provided by the University of Virginia and summarized in the table above, shows that UVa admissions this year clearly favor African-Americans, in-state students, and legacy students. If you are an in-state African-American applicant whose parent is an alumnus, your odds of getting accepted are roughly four times that of an out-of-state White applicant with no family connections. Continue reading

VMI Alumni Open Letter Raises Governance Issues Relevant to UVA

A couple of weeks ago, Walter Smith raised questions about the lack of accountability of the leadership of the University of Virginia Alumni Association. Graduates of the Virginia Military Institute are asking similar questions about the VMI Alumni Association, whose governing rules allow a hermetically sealed oligarchy to perpetuate itself.

Dissident UVa alumni may find the Open Letter penned by their VMI counterparts to be worth reading.

Once upon a time, nobody cared how alumni associations were governed. As long as they held good reunion parties, it didn’t matter. But alumni associations have evolved into adjuncts of university administrations, becoming critical partners in university fund-raising campaigns, purveyors of pro-administration propaganda, and implicit supporters of “progressive” policies pursued by those administrations. Whose interests does UVa’s alumni uphold — those of the alumni, or those of the UVa adminstration?

What Role Will “Equity” Play in UVa’s Pay Raises This Year?

by James A. Bacon

The College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia will be using “equity” as a criteria in allocating pay raises in the coming year, according to a memo distributed by Interim Dean David L. Hill.

Hill has divided the 5% pool of funds available for pay raises into three portions. One portion, accounting for 20% of the 5%, will go to “standard promotion raises,” in which “equity” is one criteria among several. The second portion, accounting for 40%, makes no reference to equity, but a third portion, also accounting for 40%, allows department chairs and directors to “address additional merit and equity considerations in their departments and programs.”

The memo does not define what Hill means by “equity.” But the pay raises will be handed out in a context in which College employees are required to submit “diversity statements” in their annual reviews describing their commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in teaching, research and service.

When Bacon’s Rebellion asked if pay raises would be tied to race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation, John Carfagno, the College’s director of communications, denied that they would. Responded Carfagno:

The communication you reference outlines efforts by the Dean’s Office to evaluate potential pay inequities between faculty members who have similar roles, academic backgrounds, performance, and scholarly activities. These can arise due to many factors, including the timing and mode of one person’s hiring relative to another. These decisions are made independent of the traits you referenced in your email to Dean Hill.

Continue reading

Who Holds the UVa Alumni Association Accountable?

by Walter Smith

Who owns the University of Virginia? The answer is clear: As an agency of the state government, UVa is owned by the citizens of Virginia. The governor appoints the members of its governing board, the University of Virginia, the General Assembly allots a significant percentage of its budget, and, although it has been granted considerable autonomy, the university must abide by state rules and regulations, such as, to mention just one, the Freedom of Information Act.

But who owns the University of Virginia alumni association — a nonprofit entity that, according to its Form 990, has $582 million in assets? And what mechanisms exist to hold the association’s leadership accountable for its actions?

The answer to that question is less immediately obvious. After digging into the matter, I’ve reached the conclusion that the alumni association is accountable to no one — certainly not to the UVa alumni. It is run by a self-perpetuating clique, which is free to indulge its decidedly ideological preferences largely uncontested. Transparency is minimal. and most alumni are clueless.

The UVa alumni association is not unique in this regard. My findings likely apply to alumni associations across the country and, indeed, to most nonprofit organizations generally. The story of how unaccountable, tax-advantaged nonprofits exercise extraordinary influence over our society is one of the great untold stories of our age. Continue reading