UVA Leadership Squelches Debate About University’s Antisemitism Problem

Provost Ian Baucom and Academic & Student Affairs Chair Elizabeth Cranwell: Antisemitism issues best addressed “in another setting.”

by James A. Bacon

During the University of Virginia Board of Visitors meeting Thursday, Provost Ian Baucom briefed board members on what the administration was doing to defuse tensions in the UVA community between Jews and the vocal pro-Palestinian faction over the Israel-Gaza war.

He mentioned “sustained academic programming” to illuminate sources of the decades-long conflict. He took note of the mental health services provided those experiencing mental anguish. He assured the Board that the University was working to bring opposing parties together in dialogue and to understand “the reality of Jewish, Muslim and other religious minorities.” UVA, he said, was committed to “deep engagement” and “freedom of expression.”

The Provost reiterated the administration’s support for free speech. UVA, he said, was a place where “people are free to disagree” but where “everyone belongs.” “We need to listen to people we disagree with,” he added, and concluded by thanking the Board for its “help and wisdom.”

But when board members began addressing the hostile environment for Jewish students at UVA, there was no sign that the Provost, President Jim Ryan, or Rector Robert Hardie were interested in “listening” to anyone who disagreed with them, much less in “engaging” with them on the most contentious issue to afflict the University in recent years. Continue reading

Alderman Cancelled

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors voted Friday afternoon to rename Alderman Library to Edgar Shannon Library. Other than an abstention by Paul Harris, the tally was unanimous. Stephen Long cast his vote “with reservations” but it counted as a “yes.”

The vote followed an extended closed session, which ran significantly over the scheduled time limit. The session had been preceded by a testy exchange between Hardie and Bert Ellis, who wanted to talk about the treatment of Jewish students at UVA, Hardie cut him off, saying, “We will discuss this in closed session.”

There is much more to be said about the Board’s discussion — or the stifling of discussion — about the treatment of Jews at UVA, and your humble correspondent will tell that story in the near future. For now, he will order a daquiri, retire to his hammock, and enjoy the fading moments of his Costa Rica vacation.


Board Shows No Interest in Israel Divestment (Updated)

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia students this week voted two-to-one in favor of a referendum asking the University to “divest its stocks, funds, and endowment from companies that profit from any and all acts of human rights violations across the world.” The referendum specifically asked for UVIMCO, which manages the university’s $14 billion endowment, to audit its holdings and identify corporations financially “implicated” with Israel’s “apartheid regime.”

Thirty percent of the student body participated in the referendum in a process starting Monday and concluding Wednesday. The referendum generated significant publicity on Grounds.

The Board of Visitors had the perfect opportunity this morning to address the divestment issue when it met with UVIMCO’s Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer. But the topic never came up.

UVIMCO officials reported on their 2023 investment results, and board members did inquire about the investment group’s relationship with the university, its philosophy toward ESG (environmental, social and governance), and its ability to pick specific stocks, bonds and securities. The subject of Israeli divestment was never broached but the dialogue made it clear that purging individual investments would be exceedingly different under UVIMCO’s business model. Continue reading

Alderman Name Change Contested at Board Meeting

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors took up the controversial issue Thursday of renaming the Alderman Library to the Edgar Shannon Library. Two board members expressed sharp objections to name change, but the Building & Grounds Committee voted to advance a resolution authorizing the change to the full board, which will take up the issue Friday.

Foes of the renaming called into question the process by which the Naming & Memorials Committee reached its decision to jettison the name of Edwin Alderman, UVA’s first president and architect of UVA’s transformation in the early 1900s into a modern university. The name of Edgar Shannon, who led the University through integration and the Vietnam War, has been suggested in Alderman’s place.

Paul C. Harris was the first board member to attack the recommendation. He criticized proponents of the name change for their confidence in their moral rectitude and their “unforgiving culture.” He was disappointed, Harris said, that the committee members spent so much time passing judgment on a historical figure so central to UVA’s history without acknowledging his transformative contributions.

Foes of the name change have assailed Alderman, who served between 1904 and 1931, for perpetuating segregation and supporting the eugenics movement. Under the proposal put before the Board, Alderman’s name would be removed from the building but the original dedication plaque crediting his role would remain in place. Continue reading

Tune In, Watch Edwin Alderman Get Canceled

by James A. Bacon

Tomorrow afternoon, Feb. 29, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors is scheduled to vote on renaming Alderman Library to the Edgar Shannon Library. The Jefferson Council urges friends of the Council to watch the event on live-streamed video. The board discussion, if any, will take place during time allotted for the Buildings & Grounds Committee between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Click here to watch the live stream.

A vote had been scheduled during the December 2013 Board meeting but the agenda item was withdrawn after it was clear that the administration lacked the votes to enact the name change. Now the administration is back, having recalculated the odds, although it may be getting a bit ahead of itself by titling the agenda item as “Renaming the Edgar Shannon Library,” not “Renaming the Alderman Library,” which is its name now and will be until the Board votes.

Support for the name change, as seen in posters on Library walls, has justified stuffing Edwin Alderman’s name down the memory hole on the grounds that the UVA president, who served between 1904 and 1931, was a racist who supported eugenics. Known as a “progressive” in the mold of Woodrow Wilson, Alderman also was one of the most consequential leaders in UVA’s history. Continue reading

In Their Own Words: Christa Noel Robbins

Christa Noel Robbins teaches art history at the University of Virginia. On Feb. 26, she wrote an email, which was forwarded to the Jefferson Council, explaining her reasons for canceling class. The art historian said she was motivated by solidarity with the “Yes on Divest Walkout.” The walkout organizers endorse a student referendum demanding that managers of the University of Virginia $14 billion endowment purge its holdings of corporations benefiting from business with the “apartheid” regime of Israel.

Dear Class,

I’m writing to let you know that I am canceling class today in solidarity with the “Yes on Divest Walkout” that the UVA Apartheid Divest coalition organized. I realize this issue is polarizing right now, so I want to take a moment to let you know why I made this choice. As we’ve discussed in class, cultural heritage and community integrity has everything to do with place. You just finished watching Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, where you saw that Gaza (a strip of land around 25 miles long and no more than 7.5 miles wide at its widest point, that once held over 2 million people) has been under a blockade since 2007. You heard Hagai El-Ad, an Israeli LGBT and human rights activist, describe Gaza as a “Third World country on the way to collapse” and you saw a group of young students describing Gaza as a prison and expressing their regret that they cannot travel the world because they cannot freely move in and out of Gaza. Continue reading

Healing By Highlighting Racism, Trauma and White Supremacy

February is Black History Month, and to celebrate, UVA Health has organized  activities around the theme, “Racial Healing: The Heart of Racial Equity.”

Racial healing activities include:

  • Kultivate Connection. An emotional wellness break and space facilitating racial healing through a connection with colleagues, shared experiences, and cultivation of authenticity and kinship.
  • DEI Book of the Month Discussion. “The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing.”
  • Guest speaker: Jodie Geddes, co-author of “The Little Book of Racial Healing: Coming to the Table for Truthtelling, Liberation, and Transformation.”
  • Guest speaker: Dr. Michael McCreary, president of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, on “Trauma and Race: a Path to Wellbeing.” The topic covers “trauma-informed counseling for racially traumatized African (Black), Latino/a/x, Asian, and Native (Indigenous) Americans (ALANAs).”
  • Guest speaker. “My Story, My Voice,” featuring Gene Cash, executive director of the Counseling Alliance of Virginia, on racial awareness and sensitivity.

To do his bit to bring about racial healing, Mr. Cash addressed the topic of White Supremacy. In the clip atop this post, he asks participants if they can name the tenets of White Supremacy. He draws mostly blanks, although one lady hesitantly suggests that “perfectionism” is such a tenet. Cash agrees, describing perfectionism as a tool for White control, rule, and the disregarding of “Black and Brown spaces, transactions and interactions.” He goes on to discuss the horrors of slavery and lynching.


In Their Own Words: Rachel Spraker

Rachel Spraker (she/they) is assistant vice president-equity and inclusive excellence at the University of Virginia, one of 15 staff members in the university’s Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Here’s how the web page describes her job (words in bold highlight rhetoric characteristic of intersectional-oppression ideology, colloquially referred to as wokeness):

Rachel develops, implements, and evaluates policies, practices, and programs which seek to advance the representational diversity, inclusive capacity, and sense of belonging of the University’s workforce and learning community. Rachel has previously served on the executive board of the American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity and as an equity consultant for institutions of higher education.

Rachel grew up in a small town in rural Appalachia in what is now called Virginia, on the traditional territory of the Tutelo people. Rachel was a first generation student at UVA where they earned their bachelor’s degree in history and foreign affairs. Rachel holds a Master of Science in Sociology from Virginia Commonwealth University with work focused on landscapes of racial violence and is currently a doctoral student at UVA in the School of Education and Human Development.

Spraker has not published any academic articles, but her approach to diversity, equity and inclusion can be discerned by the ideological framework employed in her master’s thesis and articulated in several video recordings. Of particular interest are her thoughts about “environmental violence,” “dying of whiteness,” “white toxicity,” the “emotionality” of whiteness, and the justification of racial preferences. Continue reading

Jones Trial Scheduled for Early 2025

We’re a bit late, but this development in UVA’s triple-homicide tragedy has just come to our attention….

The trial of Christopher Darnell Jones, Jr., charged with killing three and wounding two University of Virginia students in a 2022 shooting, has been scheduled for trial — in January 2025. Albermarle County Circuit Court has set aside more than a month for the proceeding, WSET-TV reported earlier this month.

University officials have refused to release the Attorney General-ordered report into the university’s failure to avert the tragedy until after the trial. Thus, it could be two-and-a-half years after the slayings until members of the UVA community will be allowed to see the report and assess whether the university has taken meaningful corrective action to prevent another incident.

University officials say they don’t want the report to prejudice the result of the trial.

In Their Own Words: Lanice Avery

Assistant Professor Lanice Avery has a joint appointment to the departments of Psychology and Women, Gender & Sexuality at the University of Virginia. Her research interests, she says on her university profile page, lie at “the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and media.” In her LinkedIn page, she describes herself as a “board-certified sexologist.” This semester she is teaching one course, on Black feminist theory.

In this post we highlight her work in her own words, both in writing and on video. (We have highlighted key phrases to show how her work conforms to the intersectional-oppression paradigm, commonly referred to as wokeness, that is increasingly prevalent at UVA.) From Avery’s university web profile:

She is interested in Black women’s intersectional identity development and how the negotiation of dominant gender ideologies and gendered racial stereotypes are associated with adverse psychological and sexual health outcomes. … Her work examines how exposure to gendered racism impacts Black women’s psycho-social development, and the contributing role of media (mainstream, digital, and social) use on Black women’s identity, self-esteem, victimization experiences, and mental health outcomes.

Avery has co-authored numerous articles appearing in scholarly journals. According to Google Scholar, her articles have been cited 717 times. Here follow excerpts from the abstracts of articles published since 2020 and listed on her web profile. Continue reading