TJC Mention: Welcome To The Silencing Of Dissenters

The Jefferson Council champions free speech and intellectual diversity at the University of Virginia. Below, find an excerpt of a timely piece by Brooklyn College’s Mitchell Langbert, originally published in Front Page Magazine. Langbert shares his findings on intellectual diversity (or the lack thereof) at universities across the US. At the request of TJC and our partners, he zoomed in on UVA.

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EXCERPT

I have done a series of research studies on the political imbalance in America’s universities. The higher-education institutions that most Americans believe have been established to encourage learning, curiosity, and thought now encourage the reverse. Ideological litmus tests via formalized DEI statements are the rule. Conservatives, libertarians, Christians, Republicans, and retired military personnel are not tolerated in many academic departments. If sunlight is the best disinfectant, the shade in the groves of academe is dense.

A few months ago, the National Association of Scholars on behalf of the Jefferson Council asked me to review the political affiliations of the faculty and staff at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Research assistants at the NAS identified 2,384 usable federal-candidate-donation records from faculty and staff. The records covered six years or three Federal Elections Commission cycles, from 2017 to 2022.

We found that federal political donations from the faculty and staff at UVA go almost exclusively to one political party.

[. . .]

Grotesque imbalances have resulted not only in intolerance but also in complacency about the intolerance. University presidents congratulate themselves about the academic freedom they encourage while dissident professors and students are afraid to speak. The silencing of dissenters through ad hominem attacks has become normalized. Virtually every conservative and libertarian professor has by now either hidden their views, suffered an attack on his career, or been fired for ideological reasons.

To change an organizational culture is difficult if not impossible. Americans need to begin to consider whether reorganization and reform of established academic institutions, including one founded by Thomas Jefferson, may be necessary. As Jefferson wrote to William Stephens Smith, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”

Mitchell Langbert is associate professor of business at Brooklyn College.

Read the full article in Front Page Magazine.

Taking A Bold Stand For Intellectual Diversity And Civil Dialogue At UVA

The primary mission of the Jefferson Council for the University of Virginia is to “Promote a culture of civil dialogue, the free exchange of competing ideas, and intellectual diversity throughout the University.” Since the advent of anti-Israel / anti-Jewish rhetoric and behaviors of questionable legality on Grounds, this goal has been brought into clear focus.

TJC first highlighted the experience of Jewish undergraduates at UVA in this space back in January. At that time, many students openly identifying as Jewish and in support of Israel against Hamas terrorists were publicly ostracized and threatened by pro-Hamas groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). While most Jewish UVA students took a quiet, “don’t make things worse” approach to the anti-Jewish rhetoric and refuse to speak publicly or provide their names when documenting abuses, one of those students, Matan Goldstein, a first year who is also an Israeli, decided to take a visible stand. Matan called-out the anti-Jewish sentiment fueled by false history and inaccurate (at best) portrayal of the facts surrounding the events on October 7 and the subsequent war in Gaza. In addition to waving an Israeli flag during an SJP rally, Matan has appeared on local radio and spoken with passion to local groups regarding his experiences on Grounds since October 7. As expected, in response to his stand for Israel and truth, Matan has endured obvious anti-Jewish discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

On May 17, attorneys for Matan Goldstein, Brown and Gavalier, filed suit under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against the in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The defendants named include The Rector and Visitors of The University of Virginia, Rector Robert D. Hardie, President James E. Ryan, Faculty For Justice In Palestine UVA Chapter, and Students For Justice In Palestine at UVA. According to the filing, the suit is based on the defendant’s “individual and collective liability for gross misconduct and the impairment and deprivation of the Plaintiff’s right to live, study, learn, and thrive at a public university free of hate-based discrimination, abuse, harassment, and retaliation.” The complaint as filed can be accessed here.

It should be noted that UVA leadership has been given ample opportunity by the Jewish community and others to avoid this lawsuit, but no one in authority was interested in having the conversation.

Perhaps the most prescient note on how to realistically view our world in the complaint appears in the preface:

“We have come to know Man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.” — Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, as quoted in the preface to Viktor Frankl’s transcendent work, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Guest Column: Why Are You So Mad?

The Jefferson Council champions free speech and intellectual diversity at the University of Virginia. We welcome columns, op-eds, and letters addressing issues affecting the UVA community for publication on our guest forum, like the one submitted by Allan C. Stam, University Professor of Public Policy and Politics.

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University presidents across the country face intense criticism from both the left and the right, caught in a vortex of political and ideological discontent. The right’s most recent grievances flow from blatant presidential hypocrisy. The roots of this can be traced to the proliferation of trigger warnings, safe spaces, bias response teams, admonitions against micro-aggressions, and the peculiar notion that words, along with silence, are violence. These illiberal restraints on speech exist ostensibly to protect students from harm.

Presidential concern for student emotional safety did not extend to Jews, however. Following the Hamas attacks of October 7, 2023, illiberal restrictions on speech were hypocritically abandoned when anti-Semitic speech spread across universities. Today, at the University of Virginia, the same left-leaning administrators who announced a $10,000 reward and an FBI investigation to find the perpetrator who hung a noose on Homer’s bronze likeness now excuse antisemitic speech and calls for the elimination of Israel as free expression. One effect of this blatant and widespread hypocrisy is that half of the Ivy League Universities are now looking for new presidents.

University leaders face a different but equally intense kind of ire from the left. Over the past decade, and particularly since the summer of 2020 following George Floyd’s death, many universities transformed themselves into bastions of social justice engagement. Institutions like Columbia University, the University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, and the University of Virginia now market themselves as training grounds for progressive activists.

The opportunity and desirability of “bending the arc of history” and being both “Great and Good” are spotlighted in admissions advertising, signaling the universities’ alignment with progressive causes. University presidents now routinely assert that the mission of their institutions extends beyond research and teaching to encompass a central focus on social justice. This has led universities to assume roles traditionally filled by local government, such as subsidizing public housing, transportation, and food for the indigent within their communities.

These days, humanities and social science professors routinely indoctrinate students with increasingly progressive values. Many of these faculty view their role more as activism trainers rather than teacher-scholars. Progressive community engagement is praised by university leaders. University glossy publications valorize activism over bias-free teaching and research. But why is the illiberal left now turning against university presidents?

In the spring of 2024, these same presidents who have been advocates and salesmen for social justice called on the police to break up campus protests. Ironically, in some cases, the demonstrations took place within a stone’s throw of monuments highlighting previous students’ protests and successful activism. The blatant hypocrisy of a university president in one breath praising the student activists of 1968 and in the next breath calling on city and state police to crack down on the current generation of students has proven too much for the leftist faculty. The same university presidents who championed progressive causes are now cracking down on the very activists they previously recruited and praised. The widespread arrests and disciplinary actions, an apparent betrayal of the progressive cause, have ignited fury among universities’ liberal base.

University leaders have historically tried to appease the liberal left, first with affirmative action in the late 1970s, which courts and state referenda eventually curtailed, and later with speech codes in the 1980s and 1990s, which were similarly struck down. Today, the tools of choice for the left are ubiquitous and costly Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. These programs encompass, among other things, identity-based discrimination, workshops on acceptable behavior, and compulsory training for students, administrators, and faculty.

Just as previous attempts at regulating speech and behavior have been legally challenged and often overturned, DEI policies are beginning to face significant judicial scrutiny. Diversity statements, commonly required in academic hiring and promotion processes, are a prime example of compelled speech, forcing individuals to adhere to a particular ideological stance. This form of ideological coercion is antithetical to academic freedom and free expression principles. As currently practiced, inclusion often equates to a new form of discrimination, excluding those who do not conform to the prevailing ideological orthodoxy. It is only a matter of time before these practices are legally challenged and dismantled.

The backlash against university presidents from both ends of the political spectrum underscores a fundamental crisis in higher education leadership. These leaders are struggling to balance competing demands: from the right, a call for the restoration of free speech and academic rigor, and from the left, an insistence on comprehensive local and national progressive social justice reform. The solution to this impasse is not to capitulate to either extreme but to restore a sense of balance and reason to university governance.

University presidents must reclaim their roles as impartial administrators rather than advocates of progressive causes, ensuring that institutions of higher learning return to their core teaching and research missions. This requires a commitment to upholding academic freedom, fostering diverse viewpoints, and resisting the imposition of ideological conformity. It is time to return the adults to the room and retake the center, steering universities back to a path that respects free expression and the pursuit of knowledge without succumbing to the pressures of ideological extremism.

Allan C. Stam is University Professor of Public Policy and Politics at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia.

The Jefferson Council Announces New Executive Director, Contributing Editor

CHARLOTTESVILLEThe Jefferson Council (TJC), a nonprofit alumni association formed to preserve the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and the free exchange of competing ideas at the University of Virginia, is pleased to announce exciting changes in executive leadership.

Sam Richardson joins TJC as executive director with over three decades of experience in nonprofit leadership and IT messaging development for Fortune 500 companies. He received his doctorate from UVA and remains in the Charlottesville community where he will partner with TJC’s local members to engage with the broader University community. 

Jim Bacon continues in a strong commitment to TJC’s mission, assuming a new role of contributing editor. Leaning into his experience as a top-drawer journalist, Jim will document and expose current events on Grounds so that UVA alumni, donors, students, and faculty are informed and equipped to take action.

“The Jefferson Council is so fortunate to build off the incredible momentum we’ve experienced under Jim Bacon’s leadership and expand our team to include Sam Richardson,” said TJC president Tom Neale. “Sam’s career is defined by a dedication to advancing civil dialogue and competing ideas while confirming long standing American values and cultural traditions. I look forward to partnering with him as we lead Mr. Jefferson’s University into a future of excellence and true intellectual diversity.”

“UVA is at a cultural crossroads,” said Sam Richardson, “and I am honored to be at the helm of an organization that is motivated to guide our beloved university through this moment with excellence and civility. Our members and partners are eager to lead, and I look forward to working alongside them to hold UVA administrators accountable and to champion the best ideas and traditions that make UVA exceptional.”

To learn more about The Jefferson Council, please visit https://thejeffersoncouncil.com/

UVA Grad Students Urge Withholding of Year-End Grades

From UCWVA Instagram post

From UCWVA Instagram post

by James A. Bacon

The United Campus Workers of Virginia (UCWVA) at the University of Virginia has launched a campaign urging faculty and graduate students to withhold grades until the Ryan administration capitulates to its demands of amnesty for people arrested during the May 4 crackdown on the pro-Palestinian “liberation zone.”

“UVA exec admin stood by while state police cracked down on a peaceful gathering,” says the UVA chapter. “If you disagree with the repression of campus protest, join your colleagues in this immediate action to demand amnesty!”

The Jefferson Council has not yet been able to determine to degree to which the grade-repression movement has gained traction. However, UCWVA claims on Instagram that Provost Ian Baucom “is sending scared emails.”

“Punishing students by withholding their grades to pressure the Ryan administration is reckless, irresponsible, and grounds for immediate dismissal,” said Tom Neale, president of the Jefferson Council.

Neale urged students, faculty, and parents to notify him at [email protected] if they know of any classes where semester grades are being withheld. Send him the names of professors and graduate students and the classes they teach. He will make sure the Administration and the Board of Visitors are made aware. Continue reading

Faculty Senate Votes for Review of Encampment Shutdown

UVA President Jim Ryan under questioning.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Faculty Senate voted Friday to call for an “independent and external” review of the use of police force to shut down the pro-Palestinian “liberation zone” near the University Chapel a week previously.

In a second vote, the Faculty Senate rejected a resolution denouncing the Virginia State Police’s “vastly asymmetric displays of force” in arresting 27 students, employees, and others.

The votes capped a two-hour session during which President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom expressed regret for the pain resulting from the arrests while also defending the decision to shut down the tent encampment.

“I know this is still very raw,” said Ryan. “I talked to people who were there. And it was horrible to see. And frightening. And traumatic. And I also know, we have lost some trust, and some of you feel a sense of betrayal.” Continue reading

BoV Meets in Special Closed Session, Takes No Action

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors met in a special closed session today for a briefing by law enforcement, administration and legal counsel on security-related issues relating to the UVA Encampment for Palestine and final exercises. Upon coming out of closed session, the Board held no discussion or took any action except to confirm by unanimous vote that no other topic was addressed. — JAB

So Much for Empathetic Listening



by James A. Bacon

Militant students and faculty at the University of Virginia — and elsewhere — often talk about having “hard conversations” about the tragic realities in Gaza. To see what those “conversations” sound like, click on the video above.

It was hard alright — hard for President Jim Ryan. The students had no interest in confronting any discomfiting truths themselves.

The Daily Progress has the back story.

Ryan had an appointment on his calendar for more than a month with UVA Apartheid Divest, a coalition of 43 student groups demanding that UVA divest endowment assets from any company doing business with Israel. He entered Pavilion VI on the Lawn, accompanied by Chief Student Affairs Officer Kenyon Bonner and Dean of Students Cedric Rucker, expecting the meeting he had agreed to. But the students had other ideas.

“President Ryan, your students are waiting for you outside,” they said. They stepped out of the room and onto the Lawn where 30 classmates had gathered. Many had red paint on their hands, symbolizing blood. Continue reading

The Revolution Consumes Its Own

by James A. Bacon

Militant students and faculty held an online gripe session today skewering President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom, and their rhetoric — including calls for Ryan’s resignation — is more heated than ever. While I support the actions Ryan and Baucom took to shut down the UVA Encampment for Gaza, where protesters were flouting university regulations and spoiling for a confrontation, I have to say that the failure of University leadership to consistently enforce its rules makes it partially to blame for the mess.

For example, Team Ryan has long tolerated political messaging on Lawn room doors in violation of occupants’ lease terms. We’ve been through this drill before. The infamous “F— UVA” sign in 2020 was a trigger for furious alumni to organize and create the Jefferson Council. Ryan allowed the sign to remain on the Grounds that taking it down would violate the student’s free speech. But he promised to enforce new lease rules, which limited signage to a small bulletin board on the doors, in the future. Enforcement faltered, and the signs blossomed. Now, just in time for graduation ceremonies, a new “F— UVA sign” (shown above) has been taped to a Lawn door.

Ryan defends his action shutting down the pro-Palestinian tent compound last Saturday on the grounds, maintaining that there are limits to free speech based on “time, place and manner.” I agree. He did the right thing. But why should campus militants have taken him seriously? Lawn room residents had been flouting the rules for months — as the Jefferson Council has repeatedly documented. Continue reading

UVA Soft on Nazis but Brutal to Students?

White supremacists carry tiki torches in 2017 march through Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village. Photo credit: Salon.com.

by James A. Bacon

A continuing meme in the ongoing rhetorical battle between leftists and anarchists on the one hand and the Ryan administration on the other is that University of Virginia authorities brutally cracked down on peaceful protesters May 4 while allowing white supremacists to march through UVA unmolested in 2017.

For example, the Virginia Student Power Network posted the following on its Instagram account three days ago:

#Charlottesville students who stood up to torch-bearing Nazis in 2017 affirm their solidarity with the UVA encampment for Gaza, which is currently being threatened by dozens of cops in riot gear – the same police agencies that were fully aware of + allowed 300+ white supremacists with torches and guns on UVA’s campus.

UVA President Jim Ryan took the meme seriously enough that he addressed it during the virtual “town hall” meeting yesterday in defense of his decision to shut down the UVA Encampment for Gaza protest. Continue reading