After a hiatus last spring stemming from a hacked server, The Jefferson Independent is publishing again. Not only does UVa’s alternative student publication provide sports coverage (Cavaliers losing to Tennessee), it dishes out news and views on a variety of current topics.
The First Republican Debate – Minus One Special Someone
If you’re a close follower of politics, you may have tuned in to the first GOP Presidential Primary Debate hosted by Fox News on August 23 of this year….
American Outlaw: Not Even a Mugshot Stifles Donald Trump’s Rise From the Ashes
In just a single instant—one soft push on the shutter release and a lightning flash—the state of modern America was immortalized in a photograph. The mugshot of….
Oliver Anthony Sings for the Souls of Millions
Search “Rich Men North Of Richmond” into YouTube, and you’ll find a man named Oliver Anthony singing the country tune alone in the woods and in front of a….
Middle Grounds: Artificial Intelligence
Our second article in the Middle Ground series focuses on the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on the future. While AI has its roots dating back….
The tragic tale of Morgan Bettinger’s abuse at the hands of a Twitter Outrage Mob and the subsequent failure of the University of Virginia’s judicial processes continue to garner national attention.
Last week The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal covered the story in “A ‘Canceled’ Student Strikes Back.”
Referring to Bettinger’s lawsuit against the University of Virginia, author Graham Hillier writes: “To read that complaint now is to come face-to-face with the human cost of the guilty-until-proven-innocent ‘justice’ now common on American campuses.”
National Review quotes the Martin Center article in a brief post headlined, “UVA Student Maligned by Her University Seeks Justice.”
The Jefferson Council lauds Rector Thomas Hardie, President Jim Ryan, and Honor Chair Hamza Aziz for their ringing endorsement of the Honor Code in the letter below.
Dear members of the University community:
In light of recent reforms and as the academic year begins, we collectively write to ask for your help in upholding and supporting the Honor Code and the Honor System.
The University of Virginia Honor System is one of the most significant and enduring aspects of a UVA education. At its best, the Honor System fosters a culture and a community and is internalized as a way of life. The Honor System is more than sanctions or a system of punishment for infractions. It is a shared value and commitment; it is fundamental to our ethos. It is an indelible characteristic of a Virginia graduate, and it sets our graduates apart from many others. And the Honor Code itself is an especially important part of this preparation: don’t lie, cheat, or steal. These values are the foundation of our community of trust, and this is why, each year at Convocation, incoming students sign the Honor Pledge. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
As the University of Virginia Board of Visitors grapples with contentious issues such as equity, inclusion and racial preferences, it could benefit by knowing how well the policies of the Ryan administration have succeeded or failed in making UVa a more welcoming place for students across “every possible dimension” of diversity, to use President Jim Ryan’s words.
The administration possesses considerable data to answer the question. During the final year of the Sullivan administration, 2018, the university conducted a comprehensive, in-depth “campus climate” survey. Since then, the university has participated in biennial surveys conducted under the auspices of the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) consortium, which, th0ugh less comprehensive than the 2018 effort and fraught with discontinuities in the questions asked, does contain useful information.
The university’s office of Institutional Research & Analysis posted results for 2022 for public viewing in August. The graphic below summarizes student responses to the statement, “I feel I belong at university.”
Three of five (60%) students agreed or strongly agreed with the sentiment that they belonged at UVa. Seventeen percent expressed various degrees of disagreement.
Is that a good finding or a bad finding? It depends on context. Continue reading
Inflation-adjusted percentage increase of UVa E&G expenditures (in millions of dollars) compared to those of all 15 Virginia public four-year higher-ed institutions.
by James A. Bacon
Always alert for opportunities to arm the University of Virginia Board of Visitors members with statistics they don’t see in their board presentations, the Jefferson Council presents the table above, compiled from data published by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
The takeaway: UVa boosted overall E&G (educational & general) spending faster than Virginia’s other public four-year colleges and universities between fiscal 2011-12 and fiscal 2021-22, but UVa funds were more likely to flow to faculty and staff and less likely to go to student instruction, student services, or research support.
E&G expenditures represent spending on an institution’s core educational mission. Under SCHEV’s accounting methodology, E&G strips out spending on athletics, dormitories, food service, and auxiliary enterprises. The Council’s data portal adjusts for inflation over the 10 years displayed above, so these figures reflect real spending, not funny money.
SCHEV breaks down E&G expenditures by seven broad categories so the public can get a clearer idea of where the money is going. The data is consistent with the interpretation advanced by the Jefferson Council in previous posts that UVa has experienced excessive growth in administrative overhead. Continue reading
Military memorobilia at the Veterans Center. Photo credit: WVIR-TV
by James A. Bacon
The Student Veterans of America (SVA) at the University of Virginia notched up a small win Friday when Student Affairs officials reversed a decision to expropriate some of the Veterans Center space at Newcomb Hall. But the veterans’ battle for recognition and respect at UVa is far from over.
What they need most, student veterans say, is for Student Affairs to designate someone with specialized knowledge of the G.I. Bill and other veterans issues to help them through UVa’s bureaucratic maze.
Veterans comprise a tiny fraction of the undergraduate student body at UVa. SVA leadership estimates there are only 60 veterans among the 17,000 undergraduates. That count may not have identified every undergraduate veteran, but Tomas De Oliveira, president of the club, says it represents most.
“It’s a chicken-or-egg problem. There aren’t enough vets to justify a significant commitment of UVa resources,” De Oliveira says. But the lack of support makes it difficult to recruit veterans cycling out of the military. UVa vets have friends. Word gets out. “Why would I recommend UVa?” Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
In two recent stories about administrative bloat and faculty bloat at the University of Virginia, I published inaccurate information. I stated that annualized full-time-equivalent student enrollment between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2022 increased 1.1%. The correct figure was 8.8%. The result of the error was to exaggerate the degree to which the increase in salaried staff and teaching faculty outpaced the increase in student enrollment.
However, the larger point of the articles stands: The increase in staff and faculty exceeded that of enrollment by a wide margin. The headcount of salaried staff increased 25.4% over the same period and the headcount of tenure-track faculty, instructors, and lecturers increased 25.7%.
I regret the error and moved to correct it as soon as it came to my attention.
by James A. Bacon
A key cost driver at the University of Virginia is the increasing size and declining teaching productivity of its faculty. The topic appears to be taboo.
The Board of Visitors hasn’t discussed it, and there is no indication from publicly available sources that the university administration has engaged in any introspection. The slender evidence available to the UVa community is found on the website of UVa’s office of Institutional Research & Analytics (IR&A), a 17-person office deep within the bowels of the university. While that office does publish limited data online, it has not released any reports of an analytical nature.
Employee salaries, wages and benefits comprise roughly half of the university’s cost structure. While a 25.4% surge in salaried staff accounts for much of the growth in UV’s cost structure between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2022 (see our article, “Hard Numbers on Administrative Bloat“), a 9.5% increase in “faculty” was a significant contributor as well. If we count teaching faculty only (tenure-track professors, lecturers and instructors) and exclude departmental-level administrators, whose numbers have been slashed, the “faculty” headcount bounded ahead by 25.7%.
By contrast, annualized FTE enrollment rose 8.8%. Continue reading
The Cornell Free Speech Alliance (CFSA) has published a masterful critique of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion programs at Cornell University, “Lifting the Fog: Restoring Academic Freedom & Free Expression at Cornell University.”
The issues identified in Cornell are common to other elite higher-ed institutions, including the University of Virginia. The Jefferson Council is pleased to join the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, fellow alumni groups, and allied organizations in endorsing the report.
Among the recommendations:
Adopt the Chicago Principles of free speech. UVa has already adopted its own version of this document.
Adopt the Kalven Committee Report regarding the university’s role in political and social activism. The Kalven Report asserts, “The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.” UVa, which purports to be “great and good” is, as an institution, exporting its social activist ideals to the surrounding community. Continue reading
That bloated feeling. Image credit: Microsoft Image Creator
by James A. Bacon
A number of University of Virginia Board of Visitors members have expressed concern about UVa’s runaway costs. Administrative bloat has swollen the university’s cost structure, they say, and higher costs have been cited in turn to justify tuition increases. So far, the fiscal hawks have been unable to force a discussion of the topic during regular board meetings. Indeed, simple requests for data on headcounts and salary costs have gone unanswered.
The refusal of UVa leadership to share the data is all the more remarkable in that the statistics are readily available. Indeed, much of it is maintained on the UVa website by the office of Institutional Research & Analytics (IR&A). The 17 members of the IR&A staff have the mission of supporting “the University community” — which, presumably, includes the Board of Visitors — in “assessment, planning, and decision-making.”
As it turns out, the IR&A data confirms the suspicions of the fiscal hawks. Between the 2011-12 academic year and the 2021-22 year, UVa’s academic division (excluding the healthcare division) saw the ranks of salaried staff grow dramatically — at twice the pace of faculty — even as enrollment barely budged.
Student enrollment (full-time-equivalent): +8.8%
Total faculty: +9.5%
Total salaried staff: +25.4% Continue reading