An Open Letter to Governor Youngkin: Pick Fighters for the UVA Board

28 June 2024
Glenn Youngkin
Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia

Dear Governor Youngkin,

You are getting close to the June 30 deadline for announcing five new nominees to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. As of July 1, your appointees will comprise a Board majority for the first time in your two-and-a-half years in office. To leave a lasting legacy, however, you cannot nominate business-as-usual candidates.

UVA’s rector, Robert Hardie, is a Northam-era holdover, and he works with President Ryan to set the agenda, frame the discussion, and control the flow of information of the Board. Both men support the status quo, and both will have the backing of administrators, faculty, and student leadership who are hostile to your vision for the University.

You need to nominate fighters willing to ask hard questions and shrug when their names are dragged through the mud. Don’t appoint passive candidates to avoid stirring up controversy. They will accomplish nothing.

You also need to set clear priorities. 

The Jefferson Council offers the following:

Address astronomical tuition cost and administrative bloat. The cost of attending UVA is pricing out the middle class, especially for out-of-state students. You have called upon all Virginia universities to cut costs and tame tuition. Cosmetic, one-time cuts won’t accomplish your goal. The Board members you appoint must do the hard work of digging deep into UVA’s cost structure. Step one: dismantle the vast administrative apparatus erected to pursue “social justice” and “racial equity,” loosely referred to as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). The Board of Visitors committed in 2020 to carrying out the recommendations of the Racial Equity Task Force, which called for spending between $700 million and $950 million to rectify historical wrongs. The Board must scrutinize that spending. 

But that’s just a start.

Reduce spending on feel-good initiatives. Does UVA really need more guidance and emotional-wellness counselors? Does being “Great and Good” necessitate building social-justice partnerships with the community? Why do the highest-paid professors teach the fewest courses? How aggressively does UVA reallocate resources from low-enrollment departments to high-enrollment departments? There are many areas to consider cutting costs, and The Jefferson Council is prepared to sit down with you and the Board of Visitors to identify the low-hanging fruit as well as long-term solutions.

Advance free speech and intellectual diversity. You have asked every Virginia university to devise a plan for advancing free speech and intellectual diversity. UVA’s website may boast a high free speech rating, but actions from administrators and faculty alike increasingly contradict that label and demand your attention. Faculty and staff are marching relentlessly to an ideological extreme, utilizing “DEI statements” to filter out candidates with different views. Departments have become self-perpetuating cliques of the like-minded. The Board needs to lay bare the intellectual monoculture that prevails at UVA and devise strategies to change it. The Jefferson Council would like to partner with you in this effort in various ways, including by providing diverse perspectives from among our membership and network of UVA alumni and donors.

Preserve Jefferson’s legacy. Thomas Jefferson was a man like few others produced by history. He was not a saint, but today at UVA, he is often portrayed as a slave-holding rapist. A Youngkin-appointed Board needs to preserve his legacy. There are many ways we are ready to work with you on this, but here are two quick and easy wins that can signal the new priorities: 

First, protect the dignity of the Lawn, part of a UNESCO world heritage site visited by tourists around the world, by forbidding student residents, in their terms of lease, from placing posters and flyers on their doors. No one’s free speech rights will be violated. Lawn residents have numerous other options to express their views.

Second, sever relations with the Student Guides club that provides student and historical tours. Student administrative-sanctioned events must have a welcoming script and guides willing to deliver it. However, these tours have degenerated into discourses on slavery, segregation, racism, and the persecution of indigenous peoples. Many students and parents have been turned off and never return. 

Your next Board of Visitors appointments assume their seats at a critical time for Mr. Jefferson’s university, and for your legacy. Nominate individuals who will have the grit to fight for the university, its history, its legacy, and its students. Nominate men and women who are capable of making the hard decisions to lead UVA back to a position of great character and excellence.


The Jefferson Council
Executive Committee

Thomas Neale, President
Sam Richardson, Executive Director
Peter Bryan, Treasurer
Chip Vaughan, Secretary

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walter smith
walter smith
16 days ago

I would also recommend adding a goal, fully in line with TJC’s “4 Pillars” and Jefferson’s ideal for the University –

UVA should be ranked #1 for free speech. Real free speech, not just #1 on the FIRE rankings (but FIRE rankings are a good start), and that can be used as a real magnet to attract the best in professors and students.

Wahoo 76
Wahoo 76
16 days ago

Great letter and good work!

Tom Neale
Tom Neale
5 days ago
Reply to  Wahoo 76

Thank you

16 days ago

Lost in all these discussions as to what must be rectified at UVA is the well documented rise in student mental health issues. Whether it be anxiety issues and an associated widespread use of powerful psychotropic drugs or the issue of gender dysphoria as promoted by proponents of queer theory resulting in horrific gender transitioning treatments how the heck is a UVA student of today to be able to build their intellectual health while dealing with mental health issues that are not being properly addressed at UVA?

As a UVA biology major who was taught as to yes the actual science gender is in fact not fluid but determined by one’s DNA. It was a horrific experience for me to attend a first year gender transitioning orientation in the Newcomb LGBTQ+ center where I observed obviously very mentally ill first year students being encouraged to utilize their student health insurance to access UVA Health to transition. No mention was given as to treating the underlying issue of gender dysphoria as a psychological pathology.

Beyond these clinical issues I cite there are the issues voiced in student surveys as to a perceived decline in student cohesion and camaraderie that in the past served to help build and enhance mental well being in the UVA student experience.

Whether it be queer theory, DEI, IBT, social justice, or other leftist driven ideologies it becomes quite clear that when you have members of the cult of the woke left in charge of educating young minds the results are anything but healthy. For the sake of these innocent young minds it behooves the newly composed BOV to work swiftly to reverse this disgraceful recent trend as to student mental health under Ryan.

Going forward UVA now more than ever needs adults in charge with a laser focus on correcting all these issues as laid out on the TJC. This has been a dark period for UVA but the future is bright. As Jefferson said, “I prefer the dreams of the future to the history of the past.”

14 days ago
Reply to  Clarity77

Thank you for this frank, yet very disturbing comment. You nailed it. Let’s all hope the new BOV takes swift and decisive action.