Author Archives: jimbacon1953

Cabrera Speaks to Congressional Free Speech Roundtable

Nick Cabrera, president of the University of Virginia Chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom and member of the Jefferson Council Board of Advisors, participated in the second Congressional Free Speech Roundtable yesterday. The event was organized by Congressman Greg Murphy (R-N.C.).

In his remarks, which begin at the 1:11:00 mark in the video above, Cabrera discussed the free speech environment at UVa. We post his more extensive written commentary below.


Good morning, thank you Congressman Murphy and everyone for inviting me to this year’s 2nd annual roundtable. I am Nickolaus Cabrera, current third-year student at the University of Virginia. There I serve on the advisory board of The Jefferson Council and President of the Young Americans for Freedom. I also serve on the National Board of Governors for Young Americans for Freedom.

I chose to attend the University of Virginia because it was and is Mr. Jefferson’s. Now, Thomas Jefferson is frowned upon and seen as evil by many. His founding principles of a university that simply sought to advance human knowledge, educate leaders and cultivate an informed citizenry seem to vanish as we speak. Continue reading

The UVa Track Record on Graduation Rates

Click on graphic for more legible image. Source: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia’s University of Virginia profile.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia has the highest graduation rate of any public university in the country, a record it can be proud of. Some analysts contend, however, that UVa’s exception performance can be attributed to the fact that it admits a lower percentage of students from low-income families, who are at higher risk of dropping out. Others counter that UVa’s emphasis on merit-based admissions is appropriate for Virginia’s flagship university. It is too early yet to tell if recent changes in UVa admissions policies, such as dropping the requirement to submit SAT scores, will impact graduation rates.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) publishes a breakdown of six-year graduation rates by race/ethnicity for the 2015 entering class (seen above). Though small in number, students who identified as American Indian scored a stellar 100% graduation rate. Among major groups, Asians performed the best, with a 95% graduation rate. Whites followed with a 93% rate, and Hispanics close behind with a 92% rate. By contrast, only 84% of Blacks graduated.

The lower graduation for Blacks at UVa should be a source of concern. 

Continue reading

SCHEV’s Study on College Completion Rates Is… Incomplete

by James A. Bacon

The dirty secret of the higher-ed industry is the high rate at which students drop out of college. The six-year graduation rate for full-time, in-state students entering Virginia’s public four-year institutions in 1995 was 60%, implying a drop-out rate of 40%, according to State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) data.

After Virginia institutions made strenuous efforts to improve performance, the rate increased to 73% for the 2015 entering class — a big improvement. But there is still a long way to go — and it’s not yet clear from the published data what impact the COVID pandemic had on completions.

(The University of Virginia has the highest six-year graduation rate of any public university in the country: 92.1% at last count. But the rate varies by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. See the following post for details.)

A high drop-out rate is a major social issue. Thousands of Virginia students spend tens of thousands of dollars, often borrowed, on tuition, fees, room, and board without ever acquiring a credential to improve their job prospects. Recognizing the problem, SCHEV has issued a report, “What Matters Most,” which explores how Virginia higher-ed can get better results.

The report contains some useful perspectives. But, as one might expect from a document compiled with input from university administrators with vested interests and sacred cows to protect — deans of students, vice presidents of student affairs, vice presidents of admissions, student support services administrators, and unspecified “subject matter experts” —  it has blind spots as well. Continue reading

Proposed Topics for President Ryan’s Podcast

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan hosts “Inside UVA,” a podcast designed to highlight the “inner workings” of the University of Virginia. Over the past two seasons, he has chatted with figures ranging from Rector Whitt Clement to alumni such as Katie Couric, administrators such as Provost Ian Baucom, and students such as Lauren Kim, chair of the University Judiciary Committee — 22 in all, so far. You can see the list here.

The “Inside UVA” promo bills the podcast as featuring “candid, open conversations.”

No one from The Jefferson Council has been invited to appear… yet. But if President Ryan is interested in having a candid, open, civil conversation with someone who wishes UVa well but questions current policies and priorities, we’d be happy to volunteer. We’d even be willing to suggest some topics.

What does he mean when he says that UVa can be both “great and good”? Does being “good” encompass anything beyond “social justice” and “sustainability”?

What are his thoughts on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion? Does he believe America is systemically racist? Is UVa systemically racist? Does he share Ibram Kendi’s definition of “anti-racism”? Does he share Robin DiAngelo’s definition of “white privilege”? How does it improve students’ sense of “belonging” when DEI policy places a premium on racial, sexual and gender differences? Continue reading

UVa GOP, Dems Back on Speaking Terms

College Republicans, University Democrats pose with President Jim Ryan and Institute of Democracy Executive Director Melody Barnes at the “Talking Across Differences” dinner.

Kudos to the Karsh Institute of Democracy for organizing an event, “Talking Across Differences,” that brought young Republicans and Democrats together for a bridge-building dinner of conversation at the Colonnade Club. Kudos also to President Jim Ryan for giving his imprimatur to the initiative by dropping by, and kudos to UVA Today for highlighting this example of pluralism at the University of Virginia.

On Oct. 10, five members of the College Republicans’ executive board and five members of the University’s executive board met to get to know each other as people, not political foes.

“Politics is very important to me and of course I have strongly held beliefs and things like that, but, at the end of the day, we are all Americans,” said College Republican President Jack Forys. “And in this instance, we’re all students at the same university.” Continue reading

New Momentum for the Jefferson Council

Joe Thomas, host of WCHV’s “Morning Catch Up” interviews Jim Bacon about his new job as executive director of The Jefferson Council.

Bacon Appointed Executive Director of The Jefferson Council

CHARLOTTESVILLE—The Jefferson Council, an alumni association devoted to upholding the Jeffersonian legacy at the University of Virginia, has appointed James A. Bacon Jr. as executive director.

“The hiring of a full-time director manager is a milestone in the evolution of the Jefferson Council from an all-volunteer group to a professionally staffed organization,” said President Bert Ellis. “The appointment will position the Council to ramp up its activities in support of the longstanding Jeffersonian traditions of civility, honor, free speech and the open exchange of ideas.”

Bacon is the perfect individual to manage the day-to-day operations of the Council, Ellis said. “As a university alumnus, a life-long Virginia journalist, including 16 years as editor and publisher of Virginia Business magazine and then founder of the Bacon’s Rebellion public policy blog, Bacon has a depth of knowledge of UVa’s challenges that few can match.”

Founded two years ago, the Jefferson Council is one of the first alumni associations in the United States to organize in response to the rise of ideological intolerance and suppression of free speech on college campuses. It is one of five founding members of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, and a leader in the alumni rebellion sweeping the United States. Continue reading

UVa Mourns

Memorial service for Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry.

Update on Federalist Society Speaker

The Jefferson Council has received a response to its inquiries why a speech at the University of Virginia law school featuring Erin Hawley, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, was canceled.

The Federalist Society made the decision “out of respect for the tragedy that occurred Sunday night,” said Julia Jeanette Mroz, president of the UVa chapter. “As a student group, we felt it appropriate to follow the University’s lead in designating today a Day of Observance.”

Left-wing student groups had denounced the speech on the grounds that the Alliance is a “hate” group and Hawley’s presence would make members of the LGBQT+ community feel uncomfortable.

Those denunciations were not a factor in the decision to cancel the event. “No other circumstances bore on this decision,” said Mroz, adding that she hopes can be rescheduled to the spring semester.

We have updated our post about the event, accordingly.

Religious-Rights Speaker Stirs Controversy

by James A. Bacon

Three days ago the National Lawyers Guild at UVA condemned the invitation of Erin Hawley, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, to a Federalist Society event previewing a U.S. Supreme Court case touching upon religious freedom. The “progressive” law student group cited Southern Poverty Law Center designation of the Alliance as an anti-LGBTQ+ “hate” group.

In the aftermath of the triple-murder shooting at the University of Virginia Sunday night, the Federalist Society canceled the meeting “out of respect for the tragedy,” said Julia Jeanette Mroz, president of the UVa chapter. “As a student group, we felt it appropriate to follow the University’s lead in designating today a Day of Observance. No other circumstances bore on this decision.”

The Society is working with Hawley to reschedule the event this spring.

The Federalist Society, a group of mostly conservative and libertarian law school students, invited Hawley to a discussion of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a pending Supreme Court case.  The Alliance Defending Freedom represents the plaintiff in that case, Lorie Smith, who believes on religious grounds that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and refuses to design websites for LGBTQ+ couples.

The National Lawyers Guild (NGL) at UVA “condemns the views of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as well as the Federalist Society’s decision to give them a platform by inviting them to speak at an event at the law school,” stated the NGL Facebook page in a post that garnered 88 “likes.” Continue reading