Author Archives: jimbacon1953

Lords of the Lie

by James A. Bacon

I never imagined it possible to exceed the vitriol heaped upon University of Virginia board member Bert Ellis over the past few months. I thought for sure that the nastiness would die down. I was naive. Yesterday the Democratic Party of Virginia labeled him a “eugenicist” — an advocate of the philosophy of sterilizing the genetically unfit. The philosophy was adopted by racists to purge the gene pool of Jews, Blacks, Roma and other groups deemed undesirable. In so doing, the attack groups Ellis with the worst racists of history.

The charge appears in a press release lambasting Governor Glenn Youngkin’s education policy, primarily in K-12 education. While most of the criticisms were tendentious and wrong-headed, at least they were directed toward Youngkin’s policies and actions. But in Ellis’ case, the Democratic Party of Virginia engaged in a vicious personal attack with zero factual foundation. Indeed, the DPV elevated previous libels of Ellis as a “white supremacist” to new heights of malice.

Here is what the press release says.

Appointment of a Eugenicist to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors Continue reading

Being “Pissed Off” Is Not a Solution

by James A. Bacon

Last week an unidentified group distributed a pamphlet addressed to the Board of Visitors: “We’re Pissed Off. You Should Be Too.” The tract argued that the governance structure at UVa is undemocratic, that faculty and student workers are underpaid, and that Board of Visitors member Bert Ellis (and Jefferson Council president) is an abomination who should be expelled from the board or, at the very least, be removed from his board committee assignments.

The authors did themselves no credit when referring to Ellis as “a known racist, homophobe, and bigoted asshole of a human being.” (The bold face is in the pamphlet.) That is not an invitation to a creating a dialogue and working out differences.

Having countered the slanders against Ellis elsewhere, I will not address them here. Rather, my intention is to take seriously the “We’re Pissed Off” critique of UVa’s governance structure. As puerile as its language is, the pamphlet is the only analysis we’ve seen (other than our own) that questions how UVa is run.

You will never see the issues raised by “We’re Pissed Off” in UVa Today, the mouthpiece of the Ryan administration, or in Virginia, the house organ of the University of Virginia Alumni Association. Such perspectives are rare even in the pages of the Cavalier Daily, which fixates on issues of racial, sexual and gender identity rather than how the university is governed.

We think the authors of “We’re Pissed Off” are wrong on almost every count. But occasionally they make a valid point. And other than their unhinged personal attacks on Ellis, they address important matters that warrant an open and honest discussion. These include such questions as: Continue reading

TJC Applauds Honor Code Reforms

The vote by University of Virginia students March 2 to overhaul the Honor constitution was an important step in the revitalization of the Honor System, most notably for reversing a ban on the expulsion sanction that students had voted last year to eliminate, Jefferson Council President Bert Ellis said today.

“The new constitution provides for a tiered system of sanctions in which the punishment matches the offense and streamlines administration of the Honor Code to bring about a speedier resolution of cases,” said Ellis.

“We are highly complimentary of Gabrielle Bray and her team for thinking through what the Honor Code needed and gaining its approval,” he added. “This an excellent example of student government, a hallmark of UVa since its inception.”

As summarized by Richard Gard with the University of Virginia Alumni Association, the new constitution: Continue reading

Empty Gesture? UVa Board Endorses Diversity of Thought.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors did more than endorse free speech on university campuses Friday when it voted to adopt a Council of Presidents statement on free speech: It endorsed the principle of viewpoint diversity.

In 2012 the Board had embraced a 2021 statement on free speech by a commission appointed by President James Ryan. But that statement alluded only vaguely to the value of “exposure to a range of ideas.” If the ideas discussed at UVa consisted only of different strains of leftism, the declaration on free speech wouldn’t amount to much.

The statement of the Council of Presidents, which was crafted at the request of Governor Glenn Youngkin, made it clear that the exercise of free speech and the diversity of ideas are intertwined, and it implied that a wide range of ideas should be encouraged. (My emphasis added below.)

As presidents of Virginia’s public colleges and universities, we unequivocally support free expression and viewpoint diversity on our campuses. Free expression is the fundamental basis for both academic freedom and for effective teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom. Our member universities and colleges are bound to uphold the First Amendment. We are committed to promoting this constitutional freedom through robust statements and policies that are formulated through shared governance processes and through actions that reflect and reinforce this core foundation of education. We value a scholarly environment that is supported by a diversity of research and intellectual perspectives among our faculty and staff. We pledge to promote and uphold inclusivity, academic freedom, free expression, and an environment that promotes civil discourse across differences. We will protect these principles when others seek to restrict them.

Ryan told the board that he wants the Council of Presidents statement to “inform what we do at UVa.”

The challenge for Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom will be implementing those principles in an institution marked by a left/right ideological imbalance of roughly ten-to-one; in which a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion bureaucracy suffuses university policies with a leftist understanding of “equity” and requires employees to express their views of DEI in “diversity statements”; and in which many students and the faculty self-censor for fear of igniting a social media storm, sparking social ostracism, or suffering administrative punishment. Continue reading

Douglas Murray Revealed!

The next best thing to Douglas Murray live is Douglas Murray online! His brilliant defense of Thomas Jefferson and Western Civilization, co-sponsored by the Jefferson Council and the Common Sense Society at the University of Virginia, is now available.

Ceaser Crosses the Rubicon, Refuses to Give DEI Loyalty Oath

Jim Ceaser

by James A. Bacon

Jim Ceaser runs the Program for Constitutionalism and Democracy at the University of Virginia, which provides civic education on American ideas in politics and political economy. The courses are unusual these days in surveying the thought of mostly dead white men: from Aristotle and Montesquieu to Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville. The courses are remarkable also in giving equal time – in many instances even more than equal time — to thinkers whom most today consider conservative and whom, he believes, receive less attention than they merit.

Ceaser is a fully tenured professor, which provides significant protections against being fired. As for the program he directs, which reaches a large number of students, all of the funding comes from private donors and foundations from outside the university. Having started teaching in 1975, he’s reached retirement age.

If not cancel proof, he is cancel-resistant. That makes it easier for him to refuse to fill out questions in a “peer review evaluation form” that probe his thinking about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Continue reading

Lawn Applications Down… Again. Why?

Photo credit: The University of Virginia

by James A. Bacon

Forty-seven University of Virginia students have been offered a room on the Lawn for the 2023-24 academic year. They were selected from a pool of 152 applicants, reports The Cavalier Daily. The number of applications was down from 189 last year and 221 two years ago.

Why the decline?

There was a time when residence on the Lawn was a coveted honor. Does the fall-off in applications reflect a sentiment among UVa students that life on the Lawn is less of a privilege than it once was? Are students today more likely to find the living conditions — such as the necessity to walk outside to reach a bathroom — too primitive for comfort? Alternatively, do some students believe the Lawn selection is stacked and see no point in applying?

The Cavalier Daily does not ask the question. Those of us who are not part of the selection process are left to speculate.

Here’s a clue: The newspaper article reports the demographic make-up of the Lawn residents. The collection and dissemination of such data reflects upon the priorities of those involved in the selection process. As the old saying goes, you manage what you measure. Continue reading

Explaining the Decline in English Majors

by James A. Bacon

Once upon a time, the University of Virginia was known for the excellence of its English Department — one of the most highly regarded in the country. Perhaps it still is. But you wouldn’t know it from the decline in the number of students earning B.A. and graduate degrees.

The number of degrees awarded has declined by almost half — from 404 in the 1999-2000 academic year to 210 in the 2021-22 year, according data contained in the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia database.

To be sure, the precipitous decline in the number of students studying English at UVa reflects a national phenomenon. “During the past decade, the study of English and history at the collegiate level has fallen by a full third. Humanities enrollment in the United States has declined over all by seventeen per cent,” writes The New Yorker in “The End of the English Major.”

The article explores many potential causes. Declining funding for the humanities. The rise of social media and the diminution of of attention spans. The surging cost of a college degree and practical decisions by students to master disciplines with a greater financial payoff. Continue reading

Global Warming Debate


The Jefferson Council is pleased to join other alumni free speech organizations in sponsoring a debate about climate change organized by the Cornell Free Speech Alliance in collaboration with the Steamboat Institute as part of the nationwide “University Open Inquiry Forum.”


Nationally recognized scholars Steven Koonin of New York University and Robert Socolow of Princeton University will debate the proposition: “Climate science compels us to make large and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” Socolow will argue in the affirmative and Koonin in the negative. The debate will be moderated by Sarah Westwood, a reporter with the Washington Examiner.

The free event will be live-streamed and open to all.
Time: 5:45pm – 7:15pm ET
Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2023

To register, click here.

Viewpoint Discrimination in Hiring at UVa – “Presumptively Unconstitutional”

University of Virginia Counsel James Iler

by James C. Sherlock

The University of Virginia engages today in in-your-face viewpoint discrimination in hiring.

The counterfactually named University of Virginia Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR) declares itself responsible for:

Recruitment and Hiring: facilitating and monitoring faculty and staff recruitment and hiring and training faculty and staff regarding applicable laws and best practices for search and hiring processes.


OECR has turned viewpoint discrimination into a science by considering contributions to inclusive excellence” in hiring. Do yourself a favor. Open that page and click to open each section.

OECR helpfully offers hiring officials and search committees phrases as “examples of what could be added” to job applications at UVa.

[Faculty] “Candidates should also describe how their courses, research, and/or service have helped, or will help, students to develop intercultural competencies or otherwise advance excellence through diversity, equity, and inclusion within the institution.”

Those requirements are not viewpoint neutral because diversity, equity and inclusion as practiced at the University of Virginia are not viewpoint neutral. The DEI bureaucracy, including OECR, there is authoritarian, and proud of it. Continue reading