George Will to Dissect the Assault on Free Speech

The Jefferson Council invites you to hear George Will April 25th at the University of Virginia. The topic of his address could not be more timely: “The Bad Ideas Fueling Today’s Attack on The Best Idea — Free Speech.”

Will began writing national syndicated columns in 1976, making him one of the longest-running pundits of our time. He’s also one of the best, winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977. Age has not in the least dimmed his way with words or the incisiveness of his critiques.

The assault on free speech has been a top-of-mind issue for the conservative columnist recently. Consider a recent column he wrote about campus radicals at Stanford who shut down the speech of federal Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan.

The noun “parent” has become a verb as many people embrace the belief that perfectibility can be approximated if parents are sufficiently diligent about child-rearing. So, “helicopter parents” hover over their offspring to spare them abrasive encounters with the world. And “participation trophies” are given to everyone on the soccer team, lest the excellence of a few dent others’ self-esteem — the fuel that supposedly propels upward social mobility.
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Douglas Murray’s “Notes on the State of Virginia”

The University of Virginia was the first stop for Douglas Murray, author of “The War on the West,” in a multi-campus speaking tour last month. He was accompanied by Marion Smith, president of the Common Sense Society, the lead organizer of the tour. (The Jefferson Council co-sponsored Murray’s appearance at UVa.)

It is illuminating to read the reactions of both Murray and Smith upon the completion of the tour.

Wrote Murray in the U.K. publication The Spectator:

I started my week at the University of Virginia. It is one of the many American universities which have serious problems because of their founding – probably the majority do. In this case the University of Virginia has a problem because it was founded by Thomas Jefferson.

Until recent years, being founded by Jefferson – whether in the case of the United States or a university – was a badge of honour. Today it is a mark of Cain.

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TJC Sponsors Debate on Climate Policy

Climate change, it is commonly said, is “settled science,” so there is nothing much to discuss but the details. Advocates of the proposition that rising CO2 levels are creating an existential crisis for mankind typically refuse to contend with skeptics in an open forum on the grounds that it is senseless to give a platform to “deniers.” But skeptics have ample grounds for questioning the conventional wisdom.

Our friends at the Cornell Free Speech Alliance in partnership with the Steamboat Institute managed to pull off the seemingly impossible this month: a debate between two eminent authorities — Robert H. Socolow and Steven E. Koonin — on the proposition, “Does climate science compel us to to make large and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions?”

The Jefferson Council is proud to have sponsored an event that furthers the civil exchange of views and broadens the scope of permissible discourse. You can watch the debate by clicking on the image above.

Who Runs UVa? Part II

by James A. Bacon

In past posts the Jefferson Council has highlighted a recently published screed, “We’re Pissed Off; You Should Be Too,” that criticizes the governance structure of the University of Virginia. Among other grievances voiced, the authors note that state government provides only 11% of the funding for UVa’s academic division, yet the state controls the appointment of 1oo% of the board seats. The governance structure should be more “democratic,” they contend. Students and faculty should be given voting seats on the board.

“Currently, the BOV oversees 28,361 employees, as well as 23,721 undergraduate and graduate students. There are only 3 ways a BOV member can be removed, and none of them involve us,” laments the tract. (Emphasis in the original.) “The only apparatuses that have power over the BOV are other BOV members and the governor.”

Message to UVa lefties: The Board of Visitors is accountable to the citizens of Virginia — not you. You are employees, not owners. The Commonwealth of Virginia owns UVa, and the governance structure is designed to serve the citizenry, not university employees. Continue reading

What Do DEI Bureaucracies Do All Day?

Dean Stephanie Rowley, UVa School of Education and Human Development

by James C. Sherlock

We are left to imagine what Dean of the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development Stephanie Rowley would possibly do without the assistance of LaRon Scott, her Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).

How in heaven’s name without Mr. Scott could she keep reactionaries like Catherine Bradshaw, Nancy Deutsch, Scott Gest and Stephanie van Hover and the Center on Race, Public Education, and the South and Youth-Nex Center to Promote Youth Development from preaching white supremacist doctrine and organizing torchlit marches on NAACP offices?

I am not singling out UVa for special criticism. I just know a lot more of the details about my alma mater than other schools. Virginia Tech reportedly has a very aggressive program.

The point is that we have to try to figure out why modern American universities in 2021 suddenly needed large and growing DEI bureaucracies. And what they do all day.

The left had won the war in academia before DEI. It would be unkind to think the DEI apparatchiks are formed as a paramilitary wing to execute enemy survivors.

So, if not that, what do they do? Continue reading

Marion Smith: a Thinker-Activist with a Global Perspective

In our annual meeting on April 4th, you will hear how the Jefferson Council is fighting for free speech and intellectual diversity at the University of Virginia, and how our struggle is just one front in a nationwide alumni rebellion to reclaim America’s universities from the left. From Marion Smith, president of the Common Sense Society, you’ll hear how the crusade to restore American universities is part of an even larger war of the woke on Western Civilization.

As president of the Common Sense Society, which is dedicated to the defense of liberty, prosperity and beauty, Smith believes that ideas matter. He has recruited an all-star roster of conservative intellectuals – of whom a previous Jefferson Council speaker, Douglas Murray, is just one – in the defense of our way of life. A liberty-loving doppleganger of George Soros, he has built an international organization with offices in the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Hungary.

In his address to the Jefferson Council, “American universities and the battle for Western civilization,” Smith will make the case that nothing less than democracy, market capitalism, and Enlightenment thought is at stake.

Click to view the full program.

Click to see the speakers’ biographies.

And click here to register.

You Want Pictures? We Got Pictures.

Douglas Murray defends the legacy of Thomas Jefferson in an age of wokeness.

Douglas Murray’s excursion to the University of Virginia — first a reception at the Colonnade Club and then a speech at Newcomb Hall — was a great success. Check out the photos here. Our eagle-eyed photographer caught just about everyone in attendance.

Annual Meeting – About Our Keynote Speaker

Glenn Loury is one of the foremost African-American intellectuals in the country. No, actually, that’s selling him short. He’s one of the foremost intellectuals – period — in America. As an economics professor at Brown University, an author, a columnist, a podcaster, and a self-described “liberal who has been mugged by reality,” he has emerged as a leading conservative voice in the debate over Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

Tom Neale and I saw Loury in action at an American Council of Trustees and Alumni event last year, and we can tell you, he is phenomenal. DEI in higher education, he charges, makes African-American students think of themselves as victims, deprives them of agency, and induces passivity and fragility. He also makes the case for Black patriotism. Black people, he says, are blessed to be Americans.

That’s not to say America is perfect. Persistent racial inequality is real, he says. But the higher-ed panaceas of “anti-racism” and DEI are grievously flawed.

As the keynote speaker of our April 4 annual meeting, Loury will explain what’s wrong with DEI, suggest what can be done about it, and stand up for the founding fathers, the American Constitution, and the American democratic system that has created unparalleled opportunity for Blacks in the 21st century.

If you aren’t familiar with Loury’s writings, we recommend his essay, “The Case for Black Patriotism.”

Time is running out to register for this great event. We have a fabulous line-up of speakers to brief you on the threats to free speech and intellectual diversity nationally and at the University of Virginia, and how the Jefferson Council and other alumni organizations are fighting back.

— Jim Bacon

Click here for program details and registration.

Who Really Runs UVa?

by James A. Bacon

Earlier this month, an anonymous group distributed a pamphlet, “We’re Pissed Off: You Should Be, too,” on the University of Virginia grounds that issued a broadside against the university’s governance structure. Although Board of Visitors member Bert Ellis was the primary object of their ire, the authors criticized the Board generally as “an undemocratic institution.”

“Seventeen people who are appointed by the State, which only provides 11% of UVA’s academic division’s funds, are deciding where 100% of it goes as the BOV gets the final say over approval of the annual budget,” states the pamphlet. “The Board of Visitors (BOV) as an institution is inherently undemocratic. It does not have enough checks and balances put into place to protect students, as well as faculty, staff, and UVA’s administration.”

This is a useful conversation to have. From the student’s or graduate student’s perspective, I suppose, the Board does seem undemocratic. Board members are appointed by Virginia’s governor. Neither students nor faculty get to vote on who serves on the board. But, then, the taxpayers of Virginia don’t get a direct vote either. Neither do parents paying tuition. Neither do alumni who collectively contribute as much to UVa’s funding as the Commonwealth of Virginia does. (Philanthropy and endowment income have surpassed state contributions as a revenue source.)

UVa, like other higher-ed institutions, is a strange beast. Its rules of governance are unlike those of government, or corporations, or charitable organizations. UVa is more like a feudal institution. It has an academic division and a healthcare division. The academic division has 13 colleges and schools, each with its own dean and varying degrees of autonomy and philanthropic funding. Students have a significant role in self governance. So do faculty. Affiliated with the university is a bewildering assemblage of autonomous groups that carry out important functions, each with their own boards.

Nominally, the Board of Visitors governs this feudal kingdom. But in reality it does not exercise much power. It is easily manipulated by the administration. This is not unique to UVa or a rap on President Jim Ryan. It’s the way almost all universities work. Continue reading

Engaging Differences — or Imposing Conformity?

by James A. Bacon

In its March board meeting, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors addressed the topic of intellectual diversity. The unspoken assumption among some board members was that there is precious little diversity in the philosophical outlook of UVa’s faculty, which skews heavily to the left, or the courses they teach. But Provost Ian Baucom made the case that it is possible to foster a diversity of viewpoints by structuring the curriculum to allow for open dialogue.

As an example, Baucom pointed to the “Engaging Differences” courses for first-year students, which the university website describes as “the cornerstone of the liberal arts experience at UVA.” These courses are designed to “equip our students to articulate provisional analyses that reflect an openness to debate and differing values.”

The aim, Baucom elaborated for the board, is to encourage students “to think about how you argue for or against a position.”

The University lists 15 Engaging Differences courses. You can see the course descriptions here. The overwhelming majority struck me as employing leftist vocabulary, assumptions and frames of reference. The question arises whether the discussion that arises within such ideological frameworks can allow for much genuine diversity of thought.

I will detail my concerns in just a moment. But first I want to give fair time to UVa spokesman Brian Coy. Here is how he responded to my questions: Continue reading