Author Archives: jimbacon1953

Want a Woke Version of UVa History? Go on a Student-Guided Tour.

by James A. Bacon

In June 2022 a University of Virginia alumnus took his college-bound daughter to visit Mr. Jefferson’s university. UVa was one of the young woman’s two top choices, and she looked forward to a tour of the Lawn and the Grounds. But disillusion set in quickly. At the orientation, a senior assistant dean welcomed prospective students with a four- to five-minute discourse on how UVa’s land had been stolen from the Monacan Indians and how the University was making amends for this historical wrong. And that was just the warm-up act.

Toward the end of an otherwise engaging tour of the Academical Village, a student guide launched into a “lengthy diatribe” recounting injustices ranging from the building of UVa on the backs of oppressed slaves to the infamous 2017 Unite the Right rally. The young woman was not impressed. If the recitation of left-wing grievances defined the zeitgeist of UVa today, this was not the place for her. She dropped UVa from her list of preferred colleges.

Sadly, the young woman’s experience was not an isolated one. Indeed, denigrating themes are woven through many, if not most, tours. Arguing the need to “tell the whole truth” about Jefferson and UVa, as they put it, student guides frequently cast the University of Virginia in an exceedingly negative light. Continue reading

UVa: Cemetery Not Woke Enough

To: Bert Ellis

My thanks to you for your valuable time and effort to save what we know and love about UVa. Here’s another example of Wahoo Wokeism gone wild. Please help Trula and me if and when you can.

Twenty years ago Trula and I paid for the creation of a self-guided tour brochure for the very historic UVa Cemetery which has been re-printed three times over the years. This self-guided tour brochure has been available to visitors from all-weather dispensers at each cemetery entrance. Today those dispensers are EMPTY. Why is that? Because the UVa Cemetery Committee ruled we could NO LONGER give them away because they do not tell the story of slaves buried OUTSIDE THE WALLS OF THE CEMETERY.

Because of our not telling the story of the burial of slaves outside of cemetery walls all over the world, we must stop educating students about the past accomplishments of those buried within the walls! This is flagrant wokeism and cancel culture which must be CRUSHED. Continue reading

UVa’s YAF Chapter Recognized

The Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) has been honored by the Young America’s Foundation as the 2021-22 National YAF Chapter of the Year. Accepting the award is YAF President Nickolaus Cabrera, who also serves as a student representative of The Jefferson Council. Last year the UVa chapter organized hosted three events with conservative speakers, topped off by former Vice President Mike Pence. The Jefferson Council is delighted to have co-funded the speakers, and we extend our congratulations to Nick and his fellow Yaffers who made it all happen.

Outrage Is No Substitute for Thought

UVa students push back against learning about other viewpoints.

by Shaun Kenney

WARNING! This is a long one . . . so pour your favorite scotch or cup of coffee and be prepared to consider alternate viewpoints that may offend. As the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick remarks, “My thoughts do not aim for your assent, just place them alongside your own for awhile.”


One of the things I deeply appreciated about my time at the University of Virginia was its treatment of the humanities writ large. In short, everyone — no matter what their intelligence or depth — should expose themselves to something more than just their profession. “What good is it to earn your first million at the age of 30,” opined one professor, “only to find out you can’t have a conversation because you are a boring person!

I had the privilege of encountering not just one but two generations of Virginia students. The first was among my peers during the late 1990s; the second when I darkened the towers to pursue my own academic career, which remains an ongoing project to be sure. Continue reading

A Shameful Shallowness of Intellect

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Student Council has called for the immediate resignation of alumnus Bert Ellis from the Virginia Board of Visitors, and chastises Governor Glenn Youngkin’s decision to appoint him as “rewarding behavior that endangers students.”

Ellis stands in a long line of violent racist oppressors, says the proclamation. “From the bondage and abuse experienced by enslaved people, to the violent occupation by Nazis and KKK members, to Bert Ellis — the Lawn is no stranger to racist violence under the guise of ‘Jeffersonian ideals’ in order to maintain power for the white elite.”

No, Ellis hasn’t marched in neo-Nazi rallies. He hasn’t burned any crosses. He hasn’t even used the N-word. His primary offense was a professed intention — never acted upon — to use a small razor blade to cut the infamous “Fuck UVA” sign from the door of a Lawn resident. “Whether or not Ellis used his blade, whether or not Ellis threatened the student directly,” the Council statement declared, “his conduct is reprehensible.”  Continue reading

Wonders Never Cease: WaPo Gives Fair Treatment to Alumni Rebellion

Bert Ellis, UVa graduate, president of The Jefferson Council, and newly appointed to the University of Virginia Board of Trustees, is highlighted in The Washington Post article on the alumni-led free speech movement.

by James A. Bacon

Every once in a while The Washington Post reminds us of the kind of newspaper that it used to be — capable of producing balanced journalism. Education reporter Susan Svrluga has published an article describing the rise of what I (not she) calls the alumni rebellion. She cites the concerns of Virginia-based organizations — the Jefferson Council (whose board I serve on), the Spirit of VMI, and the General’s Redoubt — as well as allied groups in Princeton, MIT and other nationally known universities about the erosion of free speech on college campuses.

Svrluga doesn’t squeeze our statements into a left-wing narrative, she doesn’t mischaracterize our concerns, and she quotes us fairly. accurately and in context. To be sure, she gives space to those who minimize our allegations about the state of higher-ed today — as it is her obligation to do. It’s important for readers to know that not everyone agrees with us.

The contrast with Ian Shapira, The Washington Post author of repeated hit jobs on the Virginia Military Institute, is dramatic. Shapira epitomizes the new school of journalism. He started with his narrative of VMI as a systemically racist institution, uncritically repeated information that confirmed his belief and ignored or sought to discredit information that did not. He did go through the motions of producing pro forma statements for the “other side of the story,” but he never let them interrupt his pre-determined narrative.

So, kudos to Svrluga for letting us tell our story.

While I am grateful for Svrluga highlighting the new alumni-led free-speech movement, I do believed that she missed a critical angle. By way of preface, I need to quote UVa spokesman Brian Coy and renowned political scientist Larry Sabato. Continue reading

$8 Million a Year for Higher-Ed’s Non-Lobbyist Lobbyists

by James A. Bacon

When Donald J. Finley retired from the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) earlier this year, Virginia’s higher-ed industry lost one of its most effective advocates in Richmond. As Charles Kelley with McGuire Woods Consulting tweeted at the time: “Don is the best example of a true public servant, and he’s undoubtedly the single-most important factor in silently but masterfully making Virginia’s #highered system the powerhouse it has grown into over the last half century.”

The goal of the Council is to support “higher ed investment” in Virginia toward the goal of building a world-class workforce. Last month the organization issued a press release applauding the General Assembly for its “historic vote” that would provide “more than $1 billion in new state funding focused on college affordability and talent development.”

The higher-ed lobby is one of the most powerful in Richmond. Not only can universities mobilize the support of business organizations such as Virginia Chamber of Commerce and call upon powerful alumni for assistance, they field a small army of government relations (GR) employees. By one count, Virginia’s public universities alone account for 50 state employees who are compensated (not counting benefits) $8.6 million a year — not counting paid lobbyists. Continue reading

In Defense of Jefferson… and Free Speech

The following letter was sent by The Jefferson Council to the UVA Alumni Association Board of Managers.

Dear Board Member and fellow Wahoo,

We are writing to make sure you are aware of the recent action taken by the Alumni Association to reject our proposed advertisement in the forthcoming issue of the Virginia Magazine. We believe this action is totally improper, is inconsistent with the spirit of our Alumni Association, is in violation of the recently adopted Statement of the Committee on Free Expression and Free Inquiry, and is legally in violation of our First Amendment rights.

As some background, if you are not acquainted with the Jefferson Council, we are a quickly growing group of UVA alumni, students and faculty who are dedicated to preserving the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, the integrity of the Lawn, the vibrancy of the Honor Code and insuring the existence of intellectual diversity on Grounds.

We had an introductory full page ad in the last edition of the Magazine: Continue reading

Hey, TJC, Fight the Jefferson-Paternity Lie!

The most blatant example of activity at UVA initiated by politically motivated faculty, especially in the history department and in the alumni magazine, is the lie that says Jefferson fathered Sally Heming’s children. After months of study, it is clear to me that this lie is bogus and is repeated purely to prove how slaves were mistreated. Promulgation of this lie has blackened Jefferson’s reputation and has led to calls to “cancel” his memory.

I have watched The Jefferson Council attack not very significant happenings at the University from people with the same kind of motivations while ignoring the biggest travesty of all. You seem to be pursuing capillaries while ignoring the hemorrhaging of the  main artery. Continue reading

Coping with the Affordability Crisis in Virginia Higher Ed

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s state-funded colleges and universities are too expensive. Tuitions are the headline numbers. But student fees and food and housing costs are as important to the budgets of families and individual students as tuition.

Costs within the college system have gone up because of a general lack of management systems and data to support oversight. They are going up further because of inflation in the economy.

Demand is going to plummet starting in 2025 as the “demographic cliff” of a 15 % drop in freshman prospects approaches due to the decline in birth rate in the 2008 recession that lasted for years thereafter. The missing babies from 2008 would have begun entering college in 2025.

Not a rosy scenario for the colleges. They all talk about it a great deal internally. Some will have to get smaller to maintain student quality admissions standards or, alternately, lower those standards along with those of the programs of instruction. Continue reading