The Transgender Contagion

Abigail Shrier

by James A. Bacon

Abigail Shrier deserves a Pulitzer Prize for her 2019 work of journalism, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.” She’ll never get the recognition she deserves from the literary establishment, though, because her conclusions transgress some of the holiest orthodoxies in the progressive canon. Despite the outcry that greeted her book, it became a best seller and transformed the way many people think about transgenderism. I am one of them.

Anyone reading the book, as opposed to imbibing the mischaracterizations of her critics, will readily see that Shrier is no “transphobe.” She is highly empathetic to the struggles that transgender people undergo, and she respectfully refers to them by their transgendered names and pronouns. She also acknowledges that gender dysphoria is a real (but exceedingly rare) phenomenon that occurs mainly among boys as young as three or four who believe that their minds and bodies are mismatched.

Shrier is reviled because she regards the unprecedented surge of transgender identity among adolescent girls as a cultural contagion, and she sees “affirmative” practices of hormonal treatment and breast removal as one step removed from medical malpractice. She criticizes teachers, psychiatrists and medical professionals who automatically “affirm” transgender identity rather than inquire about other potential explanations of emotional distress.

One critic described her work as “a fear-filled screed, full of misinformation, biological and medical inaccuracies, logical fallacies, and propaganda.” Perhaps. I’m no expert. But I found her credible.

Virginians can hear Shrier speak for herself when she appears at the University of Virginia October 11, Room 125 of Minor Hall, at 7:00 p.m. The event is sponsored by The Jefferson Council and the Common Sense Society as part of our ongoing effort to bring diverse voices to UVa. Register here Continue reading

Afrotopias and Christianity’s Broken Bargain

Imagine what the University of Virginia would be like if the Jefferson Council wasn’t getting speakers like former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to speak on the grounds. Here follows a list of offerings found on the UVA Today calendar of events for the current week. It’s very woke, though not uniformly so. The East Asia Center, founded in 1975 and not recognizably afflicted by progressivism, is putting on two lectures this week. And Jonathan Rauch, a pioneering advocate of gay marriage, describes himself as an admirer of James Madison and Edmund Burke and as a skeptic of utopian ideologies. I dare not predict the tenor of his remarks about Christianity’s broken promise. — JAB

New Frontiers in Black Placemaking
Panel discussion followed by a reception.
September 25

The notion of the Western frontier prompts recognition of the genocide and forced removal policies informed by notions of Manifest Destiny that dismembered Indigenous and Native communities. Native and Black landscapes of the West have historically lost population, been destroyed by development, and industry has extracted water and oil. Post-Emancipation, Black Western place makers sought a promised land in places like Nicodemus, Kansas, Blackdom, New Mexico, and Allensworth, California. During this event, descendant activists, planners, preservationists, and scholars from these towns will share their experiences preserving and planning in these emancipatory landscapes or Western Afrotopias. Continue reading

Pompeo Charms, Enlightens Crowd of 400 at UVa

Photo credit: UVa Today

The Mike Pompeo speech Monday night to an audience of 400 at Alumni Hall was a great success. View the speech in the video above. And read an excellent account of it in UVA Today.

Many thanks to our collaborators in putting on this event: the Young America’s Foundation, the University of Virginia Center for Politics, and the College Republicans-UVa.

Top-Notch Commentary from The Jefferson Independent

The Jefferson Council commends to readers’ attention two essays published in The Jefferson Independent, the University of Virginia’s alternative student publication of news and commentary. We are delighted to see students tackling the weighty issues of free speech and diversity in admissions. Please take a look. You’ll be impressed by the quality of writing and reasoning. — JAB 

UVA’s FIRE Ranking Released: Grounds is alive with self-censorship, not civil discourse. Lauren Horan, president of the College Republicans, argues that UVa’s #6 free-speech by the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reflects official policies, not real-world practice. Writes Lauren: “Grounds is alive with self-censorship, not civil discourse.”

Affirmative Action is Sugarcoated Discrimination. Mira Ramachandran examines the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on race in admissions from the perspective of an “Asian” student. “There is nothing moral about elite colleges penalizing Asian students on the SAT for performing too well,” she writes.

UVa: a Giant Among Free-Speech Pygmies

By Walter Smith

According to the most recent survey from The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the University of Virginia ranked 6th highest for free speech. Before you puff up with pride for the alma mater, please be aware that UVA’s score was 68 out of 100. Once upon a time, before grade inflation set in, that was known as an “F.”

And UVA’s score is really too generous. While FIRE gives UVa credit for its “unequivocal” support for free speech in formal written documents, the side quotes illustrating what students actually think they can say show quite the opposite. Talk is cheap.

In place of Jim Ryan’s quasi-religious manifesto (Great and Good), the Board of Visitors should set as a goal that UVA be recognized as the #1 school for free speech. How could any person who claims to love UVa and respect its Jeffersonian legacy object? Continue reading

Woke Bloat at Virginia’s Universities

by James A. Bacon

Step aside California! Public universities in Virginia have built larger diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracies than taxpayer-funded universities in any other state, concludes a new backgrounder by The Heritage Foundation. The DEI bureaucracy at the University of Virginia includes 94 employees listed on its website, says the report. Virginia Tech has 83 DEI personnel, while George Mason University has 69.

Expressed as a ratio of DEI bureaucrats to tenure-track faculty members, GMU earned the top spot as DEI top-heavy, with a ratio 0f 7.4 to 100. UVa was close behind with 6.5, while Tech was 5.6. In comparison, uber-woke Cal Berkeley has a 6.1 per 100 ratio.

(I’ll have to stop making quips about UVa being the Berkeley of the East Coast. From now on I’ll describe Berkeley as the UVa of the West Coast.) Continue reading

Jefferson Council Joins Amicus Brief In Virginia Tech Free Speech Case

Washington, D.C. (September 19, 2023) – The Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA) and alumni groups from nine colleges and universities, including the Jefferson Council, submitted a brief amicus curiae to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday [ ] urging the court to hear a case brought by Speech First over the issue of bias reporting practices and procedures at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Charles Davis, the President of AFSA explained that “the use of bias reporting systems has become pervasive across American college and university campuses and these systems create a climate of fear and intimidation that causes many students to self-censor and discourages constitutionally protected speech. These bias reporting systems have no place at a university whose defining purpose as a place of learning and human fulfillment can only be achieved through a steadfast commitment to free speech.”

AFSA is an alliance of alumni groups from 22 colleges and universities with more than 50,000 alumni, faculty and student supporters. AFSA and its related groups seek to support free speech, academic freedom and viewpoint diversity at American colleges and universities. Continue reading

UVa’s “Agency” Problem

by James A. Bacon

Last week the Ryan administration presented a graph to the Board of Visitors showing how tuition & fees for undergraduate Virginia students is lower at the University of Virginia than at any other Top 50 higher-ed institution in the country. As we noted in our post last week, the comparison comes with so many caveats as to be useless. But the implication was obvious as the Board undergoes the three-month process of setting tuition & fees for the next two years: UVa is a bargain.

But maybe not. UVa officials have long basked in the university’s reputation as one of the “best values” in higher-ed. That reputation takes a beating in a new Wall Street Journal ranking of “best values” based on a calculation of how many years it would take for someone earning the median earnings 10 years after graduation to pay off the net cost of attendance over four years. UVa ranks 74th nationally.

Rankings vary widely depending upon how they are constructed, so the WSJ exercise in calculating educational value should be taken with a grain of salt. Public universities, which draw their student bodies disproportionately from smaller pools of talent in the states they serve, are at an inherent disadvantage compared to elite institutions that recruit nationally. UVa fares better in rankings using different methodologies. But the Journal’s ranking should puncture any illusions that UVa offers a uniquely compelling educational proposition. Continue reading

Serve the University’s Interests, UVa Board Members Told

Clayton Rose addressing the University of Virginia Board of Visitors

by James A. Bacon

In their 2020 book on higher-ed governance, “Runaway College Costs,” James V. Koch and Richard J. Cebula elaborate on how university presidents manipulate their boards. Flattery and the bestowal of small perks is one ubiquitous tactic. Controlling the presentation of information is another. Isolating troublesome board members under the guise of maintaining collegiality is yet another.

Write Koch and Cebula:

Nonconforming board members are … often urged by their colleagues to offer support for the institution and to “show respect.” Public unanimity is encouraged at most board meetings; contrary trustees usually are advised to air their grievances in private and not to “disrupt” board meetings.

Such calls for civility and solidarity were heard Friday at the University of Virginia Board of Visitors meeting. Clayton Rose, a Harvard business school professor and former president of Bowdoin College, led a discussion on what Rector Robert Hardie described as “best practices in board governance.”

In his framing of the discussion, Rose argued, among other things, that “high functioning boards” have “respectful” discussions with the president and other board members on key issues, listen well to colleagues, acknowledge differing points of view, speak with one voice and, once a decision has been made, support it. Continue reading

How Does UVa In-State Tuition Compare to Other Top 50 Universities?

UVa is the bold orange line at the far right. To view a more legible image of this graph, click here and scroll to page 31 of the pdf.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors sets tuition & fees every other year. This is one of those years. In December the Board is scheduled to announce tuition and fees for the following two academic years. The decision-making process is sure to be controversial, as a number of Youngkin appointees on the board are fiscal hawks who hope to keep costs down and tuition hikes low.

The Ryan administration fired an opening salvo by distributing the graph above, which shows UVa in a highly flattering light. If you are a Virginia resident and wish to attend one of the Top 50 universities in the country (as rated by USNWR, or U.S. News & World Report), UVa charges the lowest tuition and fees. The graph is hard to read, but UVa is represented by the bold orange line at the far right, so you can see that it is the lowest by a wide margin.

Presentation of the graph prompted the most animated discussion by Board members so far in the September meeting. Continue reading