As Anti-Jefferson Rhetoric Swells, Ryan Stands Silent

by James A, Bacon

Here is what passes for logic at The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Virginia, a university once reputed for the excellence of its education:

We reject how the University’s physical environment — one that glorifies racists, slaveholders and eugenicists with statues and buildings named in their honor — upholds an enduring culture of white supremacy. There is a reason why Charlottesville’s local Klu Klux Klan Chapter hosted its inauguration ceremony at Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. There is a reason why white supremacists gathered with torches around Jefferson’s statue on the north side of the Rotunda. There is a reason why they felt comfortable marching through Grounds. Our physical environment — from statues to building names to Jefferson’s overwhelming presence — exalts people who held the same beliefs as the repugnant white supremacists in attendance at the “Unite the Right” rally. These buildings must be renamed and memorials removed.

Follow the syllogism: White supremacists rallied at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. White supremacists are evil. (Unstated but necessary to complete the syllogism): Ergo, Jefferson is evil. Therefore, buildings and memorials to him and other white supremacists must be removed.

The CD editorial writers use the rhetorical device of guilt by association to tar Jefferson. Notably, this particular circumlocution holds Jefferson guilty by virtue of association with the Ku Klux Klan, which did not exist in Jefferson’s time, for activities undertaken some 200 years after he lived! The mystic chords of White supremacy, it seems, transcend space, time and causality.

Ordinarily, such incoherent thinking in a college publication would not warrant commentary in a blog about Virginia public policy. But the irrational animus against Jefferson exhibited by the CD editorialists is by no means limited to the student newspaper. Hatred of Jefferson is widespread in the university he founded, and the Ryan administration has permitted the virus to spread uncontested.

This intense loathing first came to the attention of UVa alumni a couple of years ago when a resident of the Lawn posted her infamous “F— UVA” sign on her door and subsequently referred to Jefferson as a “slave-holding rapist.” As shocking as alumni found that sentiment, we were dismayed to find that it was not an outlier. A significant body of thought at UVa, we discovered, postulated that the sin of being a slaveholder was so egregious as to obliterate all other considerations.

This view became institutionalized by the Commission on the History of Slavery and the University, which began as a commendable effort to broaden and enrich the university’s history by exploring the role of African Americans, but quickly hardened into a leftist orthodoxy that drew a straight line from the institution of slavery, Thomas Jefferson, Jim Crow-era segregation, eugenics, and massive resistance to modern-day White supremacy, omitting much along the way. The UVa-as-a-white-supremacist-institution then propagated through various courses, seminars and other channels such as the university student guides who give tours of the Lawn and Rotunda as adjuncts of the Admissions Department.

The Commission was launched during the tenure of former President Teresa Sullivan, it would not be fair to lay the entire blame for the current state of affairs upon the administration of President Jim Ryan. However, it can be said that Ryan and his entourage have been remarkably detached in the face of the upwelling of anti-Jeffersonian rhetoric and uncooperative with those who would defend the university’s founding.

One is tempted to conclude one of two things. Either President Ryan is largely in accord with the anti-Jefferson radicals and seeks for pragmatic reasons to hide his sympathies — perhaps to avoid offending alumni and donors — or he is simply unwilling to bring down the wrath of powerful internal constituencies by uttering a full-throated defense of the university’s founder.

As a member of The Jefferson Council, an alumni association organized to uphold the Jefferson legacy, I find myself increasingly leaning toward the former view: that Ryan and his coterie harbor negative views of Jefferson but do not state their beliefs openly for fear of alienating alumni and compromising the flow of donations.

Two recent incidents reinforce my conviction that this is so. First, the Jefferson Council sought to place an ad in Virginia, the UVa alumni magazine, reminding readers of Jefferson’s great accomplishments as well as his record of opposition to the slave trade, the geographic expansion of slavery, and, despite his status as a slaver-holder, to the institution itself. The ad also alluded briefly to the fact that Jefferson’s paternity of his slave Sally Hemings’ children was contested by reputable scholars. The alumni association turned down the ad. When we tried to appeal to the Board of Managers, we were obstructed at every turn and denied a hearing.

Now, the alumni association is independent from the university on paper (even though it works hand-in-glove with the Ryan administration on numerous matters). But Virginia Sports Properties is not independent. When the Jefferson Council tried to run a full-page ad in the fall football guide, our request was turned down flat… without explanation, and without even an answer to the question of who, up the chain of command from the ad salesman, made the decision.

Whatever the thinking of President Ryan, the practical effect of his administration is to give free reign to scholars and students eager to trash Jefferson’s historical reputation and erase his memory while blocking any effort by the Jefferson Council to defend him. Thus, the original offense of failing to respond to the calumnies against Jefferson has been compounded by another: the silencing of those who would contest the emerging orthodoxy.

UVa today would be unrecognizable to Thomas Jefferson, the champion of free speech and open inquiry. Apparently, that’s just fine to the people in power.

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Patrick Ryan
Patrick Ryan
1 month ago

Why would be expect anything more from an Ivy League bred academic?

Baylor Trapnell
Baylor Trapnell
1 month ago

I’ll give you an example of White Privilege. In the latter 60’s when I was an A-School student, white college students got draft deferments from the Vietnam war. Young Blacks got to go. We didn’t hear about “white privilege” from Liberals then.

Will Garner
Will Garner
1 month ago

The solution is clear to me: it’s time for Mr. Ryan and any students offended by Mr. Jefferson to move on to another school where they feel comfortable and welcome.

Mike Langford
Mike Langford
1 month ago
Reply to  Will Garner

History is like a foreign country. They do things differently there.

Wahoo76
Wahoo76
1 month ago

Jim–you write great articles but they tend to raise my blood pressure–this one in particular. UVA needs a new president, and not one from the Ivy League and also one without UVA credentials. Teresa Sullivan fit this bill, I think, but she was too timid and easily swayed by the liberal faculty. She was probably selected solely because she was a female. This person needs to be decisive and do what’s right. Ryan knows what’s right but he is afraid to do it. I can’t write as eloquently as you, Jim, but hopefully I make my point. Something has to change at the top for any meaningful change to occur at UVA.

Jen Hans
Jen Hans
1 month ago
Reply to  Wahoo76

Sullivan was just as bad!

Wahoo76
Wahoo76
1 month ago
Reply to  Jen Hans

Agree!

Gene Bogen
1 month ago

The one subject the JC should eliminate from its defense
of TJ is the denial of his fatherhood of Sally Hemings children. There is ample evidence to support the charge. ( See Fawn Brodie’s biography of TJ ). Moreover, the rebuttal arguments remind me of the debates over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The JC needs to focus on TJ’s accomplishments and the need for diversity of points
of view on the Grounds.

walter smith
walter smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Gene Bogen

I agree and disagree.
The Hemings allegations have nothing to do with his accomplishments. The evil totalitarians use this only to destroy him and will move onto Washington eventually, and then leave the currently hate-filled Monticello slave descendants to simmer in their hatred as they are no longer useful to the destroyers. His greatness alone stands, no matter what. Who cannot be canceled? Can we start with MLK? I am all in on judging by the content of character, not the color of skin (which to the destroyers is apparently now racist!), but he had some awful flaws. Does that negate what he had right?
I strongly disagree as to the allegations being true. I read the Fawn Brodie book. It was psychobabble. Meanwhile, we have linked many times to the Turner Scholars’ Report where 12 of the 13 scholars concluded the allegations were almost certainly not true and the one dissenter thought they could be true.
But I am with you on the Hemings allegations – even if entirely true – Jefferson should not be canceled. And Jim Ryan does not deserve to be paid 7 figures, nor any other faculty member who cannot agree to his greatness. Taking the money from the school he founded and hating him is either hypocritical or another word that sounds like “h” but begins with “w”…if you know what I mean!

Jen Hans
Jen Hans
1 month ago

That’s because Ryan is an elitist who was installed to take down traditional America and reject TJ. Ryan must be brought down!

Wahoo'74
Wahoo'74
1 month ago

The Aug. 11 CD editorial demanding the removal of Thomas Jefferson from the University is the last straw. President Ryan and the Board of Visitors must speak up to defend our Founder or frankly they should resign.

The children are running the zoo right now, and the zookeepers need to play the “adult in the room.”

Randy Ralston
Randy Ralston
1 month ago

Beam me up Scottie, There are no intelligent life forms left at The University

angela box
angela box
1 month ago

Another outstanding article. One would hope that these critics Mr Jefferson would read Thomas Sowell’s “The Real History of Slavery” to put this era in the context of history. As Douglass Murray points out we are in an “Contextual Collapse”.

James B Newman
James B Newman
1 month ago

Bravo Jim. An insightful and all to true offering that paints a sad picture. This must stop.

Everett Campbell
Everett Campbell
1 month ago

Where is President Ryan in all this? The silence is deafening!

John
John
1 month ago

just want to let you know you’re fighting a losing battle 🙂 Jefferson was a white supremacist, I graduated in 2019 and I never heard a single person say a nice thing about that POS. have fun on your sinking ship <3

walter smith
walter smith
1 month ago
Reply to  John

I think you are proving our point…
Where did you learn that Thomas Jefferson was a “POS?”
Why do you think he was a “POS?”
Is it possible, in all your great wisdom and education, that you could be wrong?
Would you be kind enough to give me a picture so we can make you the poster child for our cause?
I suspect the royalties from that would earn you more money than the degree you may have been given from the Commonwealth’s sinking “flagship”…

Clarity77
Clarity77
1 month ago

You cannot expect Ryan to take any adult leadership role in regards to this nonsense as he is simply a Yale acolyte of the woke orthodoxy. A weak male period. Full stop.
Adult leadership will have to come from both the BOV and alumni, sooner than later. UVA is crumbling before our eyes in so many ways and it is high time for everyone in any way associated with UVA to fight back and stop the rot of the UVA woke left.

Patrick Alther
Patrick Alther
1 month ago

I wonder how many know tbat Jefferson wanted to ban slavery from expanding into ‘” all future states of the union” but could not get the measure passed. It was done for the olld Northwest Territory.
Imagine if slavery had never gone into the ” Old Southwest” or lands acquired in the Louisian Purchase. How different our history would have been!
But how do your tell people who think there is no difference between say,Jefferson and Lincoln, on the one hand, and Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler, and Roman Emperors Caligula or Nero on the other.
And why the fixation on Sally Hemings? It does not matter all that much in the big picture of Jefferson’s life and accomplishments.

Rob Austin
Rob Austin
1 month ago

The reason Ryan has said nothing about the TJ trashing is because he agrees with it. Silence is consent. He is the fruit of a Yale undergraduate education, the UVa Law School (extremely leftist) and was the Dean of the Education School at Harvard, both of which are paragons of wokeism. I had hopes Whitt Clement would serve as a voice of reason on the BOV, but he has been clam-like. Ryan wants to “reimagine” UVa in his own image: progressive, cancel-culture, virtue-signalling, liberal elitist,whining adolescent.

walter smith
walter smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Austin

But, other than that…!
You heard that with his taped conversation with Hira Azher. He agrees. He just needs to keep us pacified so he can make over 7 figures a year, destroying what was once a great school.
The kids are scared to engage on anything. If they sense you are going to say something they disagree with (abortion, Covid, Jefferson), they shut down talking – because they are obviously more knowledgeable than the antiquated parent or miscellaneous oldster.

walter smith
walter smith
1 month ago

President Ryan made a courageous stand…that is sarcasm font…
To prove his total control of messaging and absolute lack of leadership, he had UVA Pravda re-post his October 2020 mealy mouth, wishy washy statement on Hira Azher
https://news.virginia.edu/content/president-jim-ryan-great-and-good-revisited?utm_source=DailyReport&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news
Please read his statement and consider…

  1. The implication that UVA may have been great prior to his arrival, but it wasn’t “good”
  2. the refusal to condemn Hira Azher’s MANNER of speech – no one on TJC objects to her message – she has the right – but it was inappropriate on the Lawn and a violation of decency, the rental terms, the Honor Code, and respect for visitors – it was childish. He could have said so.
  3. the heavy emphasis on race and all the racial virtue signaling, while maintaining that UVA would recruit the best and brightest. Meanwhile, the 2022 admissions revealed an offer rate of 33% to black applicants and 17% to white applicants, even though for those who submitted SAT scores the white mean was roughly 100 points higher. In fact, “race unknown” had a higher offer rate of 23%. It would seem that UVA is engaging in discrimination on the basis of race.
  4. He uses Annette Gordon Reed as his permission to keep Jefferson and Washington. I am so glad AGR assents! Oh sorry, that was sarcasm font… Why does she have the censorship right? What precisely has she done for the betterment of the world? Beyond going to Haaaaavahd or whatever Poison Ivy she went to.

Meanwhile, did anything happen the last two years? Covid? The weak free speech statement, while not actually engaging in it? The open hostility to Bert Ellis because he might have some differences of opinion?
A leader would quash it. Jim Ryan is not a leader except in instilling Marxism at UVA – a total betrayal of Jeffersonian ideals and he gets paid over $1 mil a year to do it.