Author Archives: jimbacon1953

UVa Makes Progress in Restoring Free Speech

You know The Jefferson Council and its allies are having an impact at the University of Virginia when you read items like this in “UVA This Month”:

Free speech flourished on Grounds in April. Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke at Old Cabell Hall. UVA President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom wrote eloquently about cancel culture. And a panel including students and professors explored the topic in a candid discussion on the West Range.

There’s no mention in this blurb of The Jefferson Council or the Young America’s Foundation, which sponsored the speech, much less the Young Americans for Freedom, the conservative student group that organized the event. Even the in-house news article to which “UVA This Month” linked neglected to credit those who invited Pence and paid the speakers fee.

That’s OK. The Jefferson Council can take satisfaction in knowing that we are helping change the terms of debate. Free speech was not a preoccupation of the Ryan administration a year ago. We’re delighted that it is now — at least in high-profile events like former vice presidents coming to visit.

Now… if we can just get the administration to address compelled speech. We’ll have more on that shortly.

Miyares Names Iler as UVa’s University Counsel

Cliff Iler

by James A. Bacon

Attorney General Jason Miyares has selected Clifton M. Iler as the University Counsel for the University of Virginia. As the university’s lead attorney, he will supervise a team of nine other attorneys, including three for the health system.

The press releasing announcing the appointment stressed Iler’s experience in higher-education and healthcare law. He comes from the University of Kentucky, where he served as Deputy General Counsel for Faculty, Students, and Research. Like UVa, the University of Kentucky has a medical school and healthcare system.

“Cliff is a brilliant attorney with over a decade of experience in higher education and healthcare law. I am confident he will be an excellent addition to the University of Virginia and serve the students, faculty, staff, and Commonwealth well,” said Attorney General Miyares in the prepared statement.

Miyares caused a media kerfluffle when he sacked the previous university counsel, Timothy Heaphy, for vaguely worded reasons relating to the circumstances of his appointment and his legal reasoning. There followed a wave of speculation that Miyares had fingered Heaphy because he had taken a leave of absence to lead the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 mob scene at the U.S. Capitol. Continue reading

Fisking the Washington Post’s Free Speech Column

by Walter Smith

The Washington Post recently featured an opinion piece, “Why the University of Virginia is becoming a battleground for speech,” which portrayed members of The Jefferson Council as a group of old white guys desiring to preserve their hegemony of white privilege while skirting around the actual facts of the free-speech debate. In this rebuttal, I aim to fill in the missing facts and context.
Let me say by way of preface, that we appreciate the “hit piece” from The Washington Post. If you are drawing fire, you must be over the target. This opinion piece affirms that our efforts are being noticed.

The author, Peter Galuszka, set the scene for his diatribe by recounting the recent speech by former Vice President Mike Pence: “On April 12, hundreds of well-scrubbed, mostly White young people thunderously applauded former vice president Mike Pence as he espoused ‘free speech’ at the University of Virginia.”

That paragraph and the following two were largely true. Pence did say, “I am a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican in that order.” He did say he had accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior (which is an orthodox statement among people who are evangelical Christians). He did criticize The Cavalier Daily student newspaper for its editorial which wished to deny him the right to speak at the 851-seat Old Cabell Hall auditorium. Young Americans for Freedom at UVA did organize the event, which is part of a national speaking tour for Mike Pence. Perhaps it is accurate to have said the purpose was to push a possible presidential bid in 2024. Continue reading

A Virginia-Centric History of the Honor Code

The modern honor system took form under the leadership of Robert E. Lee at Washington & Lee University.

This essay about the evolution of the honor system at Washington & Lee University was published by The General’s Redoubt and is republished here with permission. — JAB

by M. Neely Young

Honor systems in higher education are difficult to trace as they are usually unwritten and based upon tradition. The concept of honor, itself, is difficult to define as it is organic and implicit and changes over time. A working definition of honor is the idea or ideal of a bond between an individual and society as a quality of a person as a quality of a person that is both of social teaching and personal ethos and that manifests itself as a code of conduct. Originally, honor was practiced only by certain groups or classes of individuals within society, but over the last few hundred years, honor has become more democratic and egalitarian in the West and in the United States and today anyone can behave in an honorable manner.

Almost all societies have some concept of honor. In Japan, the Bushido Code or code of the Samurai developed, and in China the Confucian system promoted the idea of the chun-tzu or gentleman who practiced moral rectitude and proper behavior. In the west, the concept can be traced to the ancient Middle East. It then flowed through Greece and Rome to Medieval Europe. In the Middle Ages, honor was associated with the chivalric code and was associated only with the warrior class and the nobility. Christianity came to have a moderating influence on the warlike concept of chivalry by calling for protection of the weak, the promotion of peace, and the “just war.” Beginning in the Renaissance, particularly in England, honor came to be associated with the rising gentry class who aspired to the rank and marks of nobility. They practiced gentility which gave rise to the term “gentleman.” Gentility became synonymous with dignity or integrity, and this ideal was transferred to the new colonies in America. Continue reading

Washington Post Takes Dim View of Jefferson Council. The Sentiment is Reciprocated.

University of Virginia students protest Mike Pence’s April 12 speech. Photo credit: The Washington Post.

It’s nice to see that The Washington Post finally has acknowledged the presence of The Jefferson Council as a player in the University of Virginia community. Friends and members might take umbrage at how author Peter Galuszka portrays us, but as the old saying goes, the only worse thing than bad publicity is no publicity.

The article, which is pegged on the free speech controversy surrounding former Vice President Mike Pence’s recent speech, describes the Council as “a small group of right-wing alumni” and insinuates that it is comprised of misogynists, xenophobes and racists. Writes Galuszka: “Once a bastion of preppy White men, [UVa] long ago admitted women and has expanded to more foreign students and non-Whites. That apparently seems threatening to the Old Guard, which is critical of the university’s attempts to extend its diversity outreach.”

Alluding to the 2017 Unite the Right rally of “hard-right fascists,” the article segues to the observation that “this most recent reactionary iteration seems to begin with [Bert] Ellis.” Galuszka describes Council President Ellis as a “wealthy television mogul based in Atlanta.” Yup. Just one step removed from advocacy of fascism and White supremacy! (Next time you get a chance, ask Ellis about the most recent entrepreneur he bankrolled.)

This is what we’re dealing with, folks!

At least the article quoted Ellis accurately.

I open the floor to comments from readers of this blog to detail the article’s most grievous transgressions. Have at it, folks!

In Defense of an Inviolable Honor Code

Dishonesty is the root cause of all human evil. The Honor System at the University Of Virginia attempts to get to the very heart of our problem. Honor is your adherence to the truth.

Dishonesty starts with your being dishonest with yourself about yourself, and your being dishonest with yourself about Reality. Living in a world you created: You choose fantasy, and, consequently, dishonesty.

Jefferson honored the phrase, “The Truth Will Make You Free.” Jefferson could see that if all people were honest, there would be no cheating, no crime, no war. Personal honor — honesty — is the foundation of civilization.

— Piers Woodriff College, 1971

The Jeff Celebrates a Full Year of Publication

The Jefferson Independent celebrated its first full year in publication yesterday, the same day as Founder’s Day.

As the only student-run conservative, libertarian, and independent publication at the University of Virginia, “the Jeff” is committed to preserving the “illimitable freedom of the human mind,” protecting and encouraging free speech, and following the truth “wherever it may lead.”

Among the Jeff’s tangible accomplishments: subscriptions now exceed 500, and it has been quoted in Breitbart News.

Check out some of its recent articles:

Young Conservatives Give the Vice President Hope for the Future

“Think Again” Event Discusses the State of Free Speech at UVA

President Ryan Speaks Out About Women’s Swimming Controversy

From Grounds to the White House, and Back Again: Professor Mary Kate Cary

The Fight of the Century: Pro-Life Activist Gavin Oxley


The Pence Speech

Free Speech Lives at the University of Virginia!

by James A. Bacon

Former Vice President Mike Pence came to the University of Virginia last night, attended two receptions, and delivered his speech, billed as “How to Save America from the Woke Left,” without a hitch.

The Pence event created a national stir when the editorial board of The Cavalier Daily student newspaper said that Pence should not be allowed to speak because his conservative views would prove offensive and hurtful to many. The editorial generated a tidal wave of response in support of Pence’s right to give the speech and students’ right to hear it. Seventeen faculty members of diverse political views signed a letter in defense of the speech. President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom published an op-ed in a higher-ed trade journal defending free speech.

Political science professor Larry Sabato, perhaps UVa’s best known faculty member, has been highly critical of President Donald Trump, but he hosted a reception for Trump’s vice president in a pavilion on the Lawn before the speech. The veep attended a second reception across the Lawn, hosted by the Young America’s Foundation, which, in partnership with The Jefferson Council, underwrote the cost of the event.

It was a pleasant spring evening, and throngs of students were hanging out on the Lawn, but there was no unpleasantness to be seen. The University had created an area where protesters could gather, which a modest number did, but they were peaceful and barely noticed by the hundreds of visitors as they lined up security checks outside Old Cabell Hall. Continue reading

The Jefferson Council Annual Meeting

By all accounts, the inaugural meeting of The Jefferson Council was a tremendous success, bringing together alumni, students, faculty members, and parents in support of free speech, intellectual diversity, and the Jeffersonian tradition.

We have posted videos on the blog as they came available. If you would like to watch them in the order of the program, follow this table of contents.

Opening remarks — Bert Ellis, Jefferson Council president, provides an overview of the inaugural annual meeting and summarizes the four pillars of the Council — freedom of speech and intellectual diversity, preservation of the Jeffersonian legacy, revitalization of the Honor Code, and upholding the dignity of the Lawn as a World Heritage site.

Case study: Nick Cabrera, president of the University of Virginia branch of the Young Americans for Freedom, describes his up-close-and-personal encounters with the free speech-stifling radicals of the UVa student government.

Case study: Buddy Weber, Jefferson council board member, recounts the Kafkaesque journey of his client Morgan Bettinger through the University of Virginia’s woke student justice system.

The New McCarthyism: Joel Gardner, Jefferson Council board member, describes how conservative voices are stifled at the University of Virginia.

Free speech: Connor Murname with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education tells how FIRE fights for free speech and free expression on college campuses.

Video Greeting from Governor Glenn Youngkin

“Our University: Things that Change and Things that Stay the Same.” Kenneth Elzinga, UVa’s legendary economics professor, lists the changes at UVa over the past half century that please him and the changes that dismay him.

Keynote speech: Jason Miyares. Speaking from the perspective as the son of a Cuban immigrant, Virginia’s Attorney General defends the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and his contribution to human freedom.