Letter from Bert Ellis, president of The Jefferson Council to All Friends of the University of Virginia.
I am writing this letter as Bert Ellis, a passionate Double Hoo (College ‘75, Darden ‘79) and as a Founder and President of The Jefferson Council. Our University is under attack from multiple sources and at multiple levels. The entire academic and community experience that so many of us shared at UVA is
totally at risk. Our Administration has totally politicized the entire university to the detriment of all that we hold dear.
We at the Jefferson Council have been fighting on behalf of all of us to preserve/promote four major tenets:
1) Open Dialogue throughout the University.
2) Preservation of the Jefferson legacy.
3) Preservation of the architectural sanctity of the Lawn.
4) Preservation and rejuvenation of the Honor System.
We have indeed made some progress on points 1 and 3: The University adopted a set of principles of open dialogue which we think are quite reasonable and the Ryan administration adopted a set of rules limiting signage on the Lawn doors. Mr. Jefferson’s statue – which was in jeopardy — remains in front of the Rotunda, yet to be contextualized. The Honor System still exists but is now under very serious attack such that this could be its very final year at UVA. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The university alumni rebellion, which first took root in Virginia, is going national.
Washington & Lee University was the first higher-ed institution in the country, to my knowledge, where alumni organized to fight the leftward drift of their alma mater. The W&L group, known as the Generals Redoubt, was followed quickly by The Jefferson Council (to which I belong) at the University of Virginia and The Spirit of VMI at the Virginia Military Institute.
Now the W&L and UVa groups have joined with newly formed alumni organizations at Princeton University, Cornell University and Davidson College to form the Alumni Free Speech Association. While each institution has its unique, parochial issues, they share a common resolve to stand up for free speech, free expression, independent inquiry, and intellectual diversity in the face of a doctrinaire “woke” ideology that, in increasingly totalitarian fashion, dictates the permissible range of opinions people are allowed to express.
The Free Speech Wall in downtown Charlottesville
This press release was issued today by the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, of which The Jefferson Council is a founding member. I serve as vice president-communications of the Council. — JAB
Millions of college and university alumni around the country are dismayed by the intolerance of unpopular viewpoints at their alma maters, and many have begun to fight back.
Alumni have organized groups at five of America’s most prestigious higher-ed institutions — Cornell University, Davidson College, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the Washington & Lee University – to defend free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity in college campuses. Today those groups are announcing that they have joined forces under the banner of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance to launch a national effort to mobilize alumni.
“Free speech and academic freedom are critical to the advancement of knowledge and to the success of our colleges and universities,” said Edward Yingling, a co-founder of the Princeton alumni group. “Yet these basic principles are under attack today at schools across the country.”
(See the column co-authored by Yingling that was published in today’s Wall Street Journal.) Continue reading
This graph shows how UVIMCO divvies up its $14.5 billion endowment from an investment perspective.
by James A. Bacon
The University of Virginia endowment racked up a breathtaking 49% investment return in the year ending June 30, 2021, bringing the total value of the university’s investments to $14.5 billion, reports the University of Virginia Investment Management Company (UVIMCO) in its 2020-21 annual report.
I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
On the one hand, powerful investment returns supports initiatives such as the recently announced allocation of $50 million dollars for merit-based scholarships and aid to needy undergraduate students. On the other hand, such spectacular financial performance — almost $5 billion in a single year — makes the university leadership less accountable to tuition-paying students and parents, to the Commonwealth of Virginia which funds millions in state support, and to alumni whose individual donations are paltry by comparison.
Come to think of it, I’m even agnostic on whether the $50 million in new scholarship money is a good thing or not. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Michelle Vermillion was raised an old-fashioned liberal. She grew up thinking that people should be treated as individuals, judged, as Martin Luther King once dreamed, by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. She supports civil rights causes and endorses diversity in the workplace. Getting to know people of different backgrounds at work, she believes, is key for America to move beyond its racist past. When you get to know your coworkers as fellow humans, she says, you learn they want basically the same things you do.
But as a library staffer working at the University of Virginia Library, Vermillion felt increasingly increasingly ill at ease in the past few years. Rather than seeing a person’s race as an incidental part of his or her identity, the UVa Library administration began putting racial identity front and center. Town hall meetings and training programs made race a person’s defining characteristic.
“I’m not the one who changed,” Vermillion says. UVa changed. The traumatizing 2017 Unite the Right Rally in which white supremacists (almost all from out of town) clashed with counter-protestors, precipitated a bout of introspection about the role of slavery and segregation in the institution’s past. The Ryan administration doubled down on a commitment to recruit more Black students and faculty with its “Inclusive Excellence” program. The end result: library administrators today are fixated on race, and they are dedicated to imposing their ideological framework derived from Critical Race Theory upon library staff. Continue reading
UVa memorial to enslaved laborers
by Jock Yellott
“This year, members of the Class of 2025 are required to attend a historical tour and debrief discussion centered around the history of enslaved
laborers at the University.”
— Sydney Hertzog, Cavalier Daily, Sept. 22, 2021.
Why does this rankle? The University of Virginia, after all, has many mandates:
• Social Sciences – 6 credits from two different departments
• Humanities – 6 credits from two different categories
• Historical Studies – one 3 or more credit course
• Non-western Perspectives – one 3 or more credit course
• Natural Science and Mathematics – 12 credits from two different
Why shouldn’t 1st years also be forced to “learn about the University’s
history of white supremacy and enslavement that has been suppressed for
If any students objected, they were smart enough not to say so. To the contrary, according to the Cavalier Daily. Students “really enjoyed going on the tour because it has given them context of where they go to school.”
This is not Woke faculty indoctrination, or at least not directly. Says the Cavalier Daily: “This program was built purely by students.”
Why should it bother us? Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
A few days ago I reported an alleged act of vandalism against 2,977 tiny American flags, planted in the ground as part of a 9/11 commemoration at the University of Virginia. The evening after the service, which was sponsored by the conservative Young Americans for Freedom and attended by President Jim Ryan, it was discovered that hundreds of the flags had been knocked over. A preliminary review of surveillance tapes suggested that two unidentified individuals had flipped over a table with a banner.
A review by UVA police now suggests that wind might have blown over the flags and that the person in the video might have been trying to set the table right.
The incident had drawn considerable attention at UVa. Two days ago Ryan updated the Board of Visitors about the incident. I republish it here; Continue reading
UVA President Jim Ryan (left) poses with members of the Young Americans for Freedom at the 9/11 commemoration ceremony.
by James A. Bacon
I’m beginning to have a smidgeon of sympathy for University of Virginia President Jim Ryan.
On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Ryan attended an event sponsored by the Virginia branch of the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) to commemorate the lives lost in the terrorist attacks. YAF is an avowedly conservative group, and the keynote speaker, retired Col. Dan Moy, is a UVa lecturer but also chairman of the Republican Party of Charlottesville. Nevertheless, the ceremony, which featured 2,977 miniature flags in the grounds, one for each American live lost — was not overtly partisan. Unless you happen to think that remembering lives lost to terrorism is itself partisan.
Ryan tweeted his appreciation to YAF. “Many thanks to YAF @ UVA for organizing this morning’s moving event commemorating the lives lost on September 11th,” he wrote.
The tweet immediately generated blowback. As the Cavalier Daily student newspaper reports, “students and other social media users” critiqued Ryan’s choice to thank YAF. On Instagram, his post generated 52 comments, most condemning the recognition of YAF. On Twitter, Ryan’s post received mostly negative 27 replies. Continue reading
Read the latest stories from the University of Virginia’s independent, conservative student publication: Selling “White Fragility” in the student bookstore… vandalizing the Young Americans for Freedom 9/11 display… and much more.
Attendees of the 9/11: Never Forget Project included Ian Solomon, dean of the Frank Barren School of Leadership and Public Policy (third from left), President Jim Ryan (third from right), YAF chapter Chairman Nickolaus Cabrera (far right) and other YAF chapter officers.
On the morning of Sept. 11, the Young America’s Foundation at the University of Virginia held a service to remember the 2,977 Americans who died in the wave of terrorist attacks 20 years previously. The conservative group planted 2,977 tiny flags in rows in the university Amphitheater. Dan Moy, a retired Air Force colonel, gave the address.
The event was supported informally by the UVa administration. President Jim Ryan was among those in attendance.
The event went as planned, but that evening, someone discovered that the flags were in disarray. Intruders had knocked over many of the colors, strewing them about, and had flipped over a table with a banner. Continue reading