Author Archives: jimbacon1953

Jefferson Fought Slavery Throughout His Life

by Robert F. Turner

Thomas Jefferson famously declared that “all men are created equal,” yet he owned hundreds of human beings during his lifetime. Does he deserve our respect?

Slavery was obviously a heinous institution and Thomas Jefferson did own slaves. That has led some very decent people to denounce him as a hypocrite and demand the removal of his statues and the renaming of public buildings—including our own regional public library — as we seek a more just and inclusive society. But I believe they are profoundly mistaken. Having studied Jefferson for a half-century, I view him as a hero who should be loved by friends of liberty and justice across political and racial lines and around the globe.

Certainly, his critics are correct that Jefferson owned slaves and that slavery was, in Jefferson’s own words: “a moral and political depravity,” “an abomination,” and a “hideous blot.” But there is much more to the story. When Jefferson inherited slaves upon the deaths of his father and father-in-law, it was illegal to free them. It was Thomas Jefferson who drafted the law in 1769 — ultimately enacted 13 years later — that permitted the manumission of Virginia slaves. Continue reading

The Governor’s Tuition Freeze Request and the Board at UVa – It’s Complicated

Signatures from the first meeting recorded in the Minute Book of the UVa board of visitors, May 5, 1817 – ALBERT AND SHIRLEY SMALL SPECIAL COLLECTIONS LIBRARY, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA

by James C. Sherlock

Much has been made of a recent request by Governor Glenn Youngkin to eliminate a tuition increase at the University of Virginia and the Board’s decision not to honor it.

The tensions between means and ends that have to be resolved in producing a budget at any large and complex university are enormous.

UVa has implemented a Responsibility Center Management (RCM) budget model.

An RCM budget model decentralizes decision-making, provides incentives for innovation, and improves overall financial results and stewardship. It couples distributed program responsibility with meaningful authority over resources.

A central RCM budget product is thus fragile, in that changes have far reaching effects unpredictable at the board level. The later the changes, the bigger the disruptions.

The Governor’s request, while appropriate to his goal to help parents deal with inflation, arrived just before the start of the fiscal year. The board judged it to be too late to be accommodated. Continue reading

Open Letter to Lily West

Double click on image to see legible version of the ad.

Letter from Jefferson Council board member Joel Gardner to Lily West, president of the University of Virginia Alumni Association, Richard Gard, editor of the alumni association magazine Virginia, Whitt Clement, rector of the Board of Visitors, and the university counsel:

As a Board member of the Jefferson Council and a member of the University’s Committee on Free Expression and Free Inquiry, I was astonished and appalled to learn of the Alumni Association’s decision to reject and cancel the Jefferson Council’s most recent submission for an ad in the next edition of the alumni magazine (found above). This decision to blatantly silence the Jefferson Council’s attempt to open a fair and open dialogue throughout the University community concerning the efforts to discredit and vilify our illustrious founder is particularly poignant on the eve of the celebration of Mr. Jefferson’s greatest triumph–our Declaration of Independence.

This striking affront to our freedom of expression is particularly meaningful to me, as I just returned from a three day trip to Philadelphia with my Canadian born and raised wife to visit the foundations of our great and unique republic–the existence of which is so much attributable to our founder Mr. Jefferson. Without his efforts, it is doubtful that our country would exist in the form that it does today–and I realize that there is a good chance I would not be here presently, my ancestors probably having been eliminated by the forces of the Tsar, Hitler or Stalin. Continue reading

Your Alumni Association Dollars at Work

by James A. Bacon

Above is an ad that The Jefferson Council submitted to run in the University of Virginia Alumni Society, Virginia. Before I tell you the fate that befell this ad, please take a moment to read it, and then ask yourself: Is there anything political about it? Is there anything contentious about it? Is there anything inaccurate about it?

Sure, you might disagree with the thrust of the ad. Maybe you think, like many people at UVa do, that Jefferson deserves to be remembered in history as a slave-holding rapist. But, really, do you find anything objectionable about the facts, the quotes or the tenor of the presentation?

Now, you might think that the association representing the alumni of the university that Jefferson founded might be willing to publish a paid ad defending his reputation. And you would be wrong. Continue reading

UVa’s Invasive, Ubiquitous DEI Program, Its President and the New Board of Visitors

UVa President James Ryan Courtesy of the University

by James C. Sherlock

As a public service and a primer for new UVa Board of Visitors members, I will offer here a brief summary of the extent and costs in dollars, time, distraction and suppression of debate by the University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program.

Put briefly, they are everywhere, overseeing everything at the University.

On that subject, Victor David Hanson has written:

“At a time of impending recession, runaway inflation, and climbing interest rates, universities are charging students thousands of dollars in increased tuition and fees to subsidize an unproductive diversity, equity, and inclusion industry. And like all good commissariats, the DEI apparatchiks produce no research, do no teaching, and bully and repress those who do.”

“Their chief legacy is the millions of opportunistic mediocrities emerging from the shadows to mouth wokester shibboleths about climate change, diversity, equity, and inclusion, identity politics, and transgenderism, while damning the customs, traditions, history, and values of a prior society that alone is responsible for their very affluence and leisure.”

A harsh critique, certainly. Perhaps that does not apply to the DEI program at the University of Virginia.

It is up to the Board of Visitors to examine whether Mr. Hanson’s description accurately describes that program and, if so, make changes. Continue reading

UVa Board Meetings Should Get a Lot More Interesting

Bert Ellis

by James A. Bacon

Governor Glenn Youngkin has announced his appointments to the boards of visitors of Virginia’s colleges and universities, at least one of which has the potential to be highly consequential — Bert Ellis, a serial entrepreneur and major donor, at the University of Virginia.

Ellis has been a prominent critic of UVa’s leftward drift under President Jim Ryan. He is president of The Jefferson Council, an alumni organization formed a year and a half ago to preserve free speech, promote intellectual diversity, protect the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, and preserve the dignity of the Jefferson-designed “academical village” centered on the Rotunda and Lawn. (Full disclosure: I am vice president-communications of The Jefferson Council.)

The current board has provided little pushback to Ryan’s policies. Rector Whitt Clement has worked behind the scenes to blunt the worst excesses, but he avoids confrontation. His personal style is to be a conciliator. He has achieved some success on free-speech issues, but has been powerless to halt more fundamental changes in university culture.

In an update to Jefferson Council members in December, Ellis noted approvingly that Governor Glenn Youngkin, Lt. Governor Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares were are all interested in “re-focusing UVA and other colleges and K-12 schools in Virginia on educating students and not brainwashing them with the Woke/CRT/DEI mantras that have overtaken UVA and almost all other colleges and K-12 schools in Virginia and across our country.” Continue reading

A New Classic on Thomas Jefferson and Public Education in Virginia

Courtesy University of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

On April 29, 1962, President John F. Kennedy addressed a group of Nobel Prize winners at a dinner in their honor at The White House.

Kennedy, raised patrician, classically educated and fired in war and politics graciously toasted another such man.

“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

The polymath Jefferson saved the indulgence of a great passion, public education and the creation of a new style of American university, until his last years.

Influenced early by the writings on education of Sir Francis Bacon and John Locke, he completely re-imagined higher education in America from what consisted in 1800 largely of a few colleges teaching religion and the classics under church leadership and funding.

Jefferson’s idea of the university was an institution publicly funded and teaching republican ideals for the preservation of the form of government he and the other founders had labored so hard and risked so much to bring about.

It emphasized education in history, languages, the principles of the Enlightenment and the sciences with graduate schools in law and medicine. Of those he thought history to be the most critical of all to the preservation of freedom. Continue reading

It’s Good to Be King

UVa President Jim Ryan

by Walter Smith

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan has entered into three employment agreements with UVa (technically, the Board of visitors on behalf of UVa). His first agreement was executed in September of 2017, to commence on October 1, 2018, and to last through July 31, 2025. His second agreement, executed as of March 2, 2018, amended his agreement to commence as of August 1, 2018. His third, and current, agreement was executed on March 2, 2022, extending his term of employment until July 31, 2028.

I will summarize its terms for your convenience. This summary will necessarily leave out some of the details, and, if that bothers you, then read the entire agreement yourself! (View the contract and compensation.)

The “term” is set to expire on July 31, 2028, and “renewal” discussions are to commence no later than March 31, 2027, with a desired termination date of discussions by July 31, 2027. In other words, if President Ryan’s employment is not to continue beyond the current term, he desires one year notice of his impending non-renewal. Continue reading

The New Racial Calculus in UVa Admissions


by Walter Smith and James A. Bacon

On March 20, 2022, The Cavalier Daily student newspaper trumpeted the fact that the University of Virginia set a record low acceptance rate, offering slots to only 9,534 applicants, or 19% of the nearly 51,000 total. Of particular note, 52% of the offers went to “students of color” — up from 41% the prior year.

Only a little more than half of students who get accepted to UVa wind up enrolling there, so it’s not known what the ultimate composition of the entering class will be. But it is possible that entering first-year students will comprise the first class in which a majority of students are comprised of racial/ethnic minorities.

That would be no accident. In 2020, UVa recruited a vice provost of admissions, Stephen Farmer, whose most heralded accomplishment at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill had been  setting records for recruiting first-generation students and students from underrepresented minorities. At the time, UVa’s Racial Equity Task Force had recently articulated the goal of building a student body that “reflects the racial and economic demographics of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

An analysis of acceptance numbers, provided by the University of Virginia and summarized in the table above, shows that UVa admissions this year clearly favor African-Americans, in-state students, and legacy students. If you are an in-state African-American applicant whose parent is an alumnus, your odds of getting accepted are roughly four times that of an out-of-state White applicant with no family connections. Continue reading

VMI Alumni Open Letter Raises Governance Issues Relevant to UVA

A couple of weeks ago, Walter Smith raised questions about the lack of accountability of the leadership of the University of Virginia Alumni Association. Graduates of the Virginia Military Institute are asking similar questions about the VMI Alumni Association, whose governing rules allow a hermetically sealed oligarchy to perpetuate itself.

Dissident UVa alumni may find the Open Letter penned by their VMI counterparts to be worth reading.

Once upon a time, nobody cared how alumni associations were governed. As long as they held good reunion parties, it didn’t matter. But alumni associations have evolved into adjuncts of university administrations, becoming critical partners in university fund-raising campaigns, purveyors of pro-administration propaganda, and implicit supporters of “progressive” policies pursued by those administrations. Whose interests does UVa’s alumni uphold — those of the alumni, or those of the UVa adminstration?