by James A. Bacon
College Simply‘s 2023 Best Value Colleges in America ranks the University of Virginia as the 2nd “best value” among public colleges and universities in the United States in 2023. The best-value distinction is conferred upon institutions that provide students the most academic prowess for the money (defined as net tuition after financial aid to the student).
When critics of UVa governance accuse the university of supporting excess administrative overhead, a common response is: If UVa is so bad, how come it’s the second-best value among all public institutions?
That’s a fair retort and well worth exploring. In this column, I suggest that UVa has restrained the highly visible and politically sensitive metric of undergraduate in-state tuition not through budgetary belt-tightening but by pursuing two strategies: (1) maintaining a favorable ratio of students who pay the full freight versus those who require financial assistance, and (2) increasing enrollment for out-of-state post-graduate students who pay higher tuition than in-state students. Much if not all of UVa’s perceived superior value comes from tuition-and-admissions engineering. Continue reading →
by James A. Bacon
Tis the season for Virginia’s universities to announce how much they are raising tuition & fees for the upcoming academic year. Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors has jacked up tuition by 4.9% and the College of William & Mary by 4.5%. Virginia Commonwealth University is considering an increase of 4% to 5%, George Mason University 3%. After a bout of inflation that peaked around 9% and is still running about 6%, putting both university and family budgets under stress, the pressure on governing boards is intense.
At the University of Virginia a tuition increase has been baked into the cake since November 2021 when the Board of Visitors approved a two-year increase of 4.7% in 2022-23 and 3.7% in 2023-24. Under pressure from Governor Glenn Youngkin to hold down charges, UVa issued a rebate to in-state undergraduate students to offset last year’s increase. But there has been no indication that the Board will reconsider a refund in 2023-24. In-state undergrads could well find themselves paying 8.4% more next year.
UVa officials, like their peers at the state’s other public universities, blame the failure of state support for higher education to keep pace with growing enrollment and the escalating Consumer Price Index. In the past, UVa’s board has rarely questioned that claim. But now some board members want to dig deeper into the numbers. Continue reading →
Protesters harass Morgan Bettinger in her car after rumors circulated that she said they’d made good “speed bumps,” a supposed allusion to the Unite the Right rally three years previously in which a neo-Nazi ran his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one. Photo credit: WUVA News by way of The Daily Mail.
The Morgan Bettinger case is gaining national notoriety. After Reason magazine detailed the travesty of the University of Virginia student who was punished for using the words “speed bumps” in a way that militant leftist protesters construed as threatening, the Daily Mail has picked up the story. The Daily Mail does not add much new information, but it does crystallize the insanity of the episode, in which rumors spreading on social media panicked UVa officials into running Bettinger through a flawed student disciplinary system.
As the Daily Mail summarized the travesty: “Celebrated BLM activist ruthlessly destroyed white student’s life by accusing her of saying racial justice protesters would ‘make good speed bumps’ — only to later admit she may have MISHEARD.” The chief accuser was Zyahna Bryant, who had been awarded numerous honors in recognition of her student activism. She spread vitriol against Bettinger online, and then demanded that UVa discipline her.
Although UVa’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights (OECR) found no evidence to confirm the allegation that she had verbally threatened the protesters, the student-run judiciary committee compelled her to write an apology to Bryant and perform social justice-related community service if she wanted to graduate. Continue reading →
Graphic credit: Reason Magazine
by James A. Bacon
When Emma Camp was a student at the University of Virginia in 2020, she heard the tale of Morgan Bettinger, another UVa student, who was said to have approached left-wing protesters in downtown Charlottesville and threatened to make “speed bumps” of them.
The story, says Camp, was repeatedly endlessly on social media — group chats, Instagram posts, and viral tweets — and then leaped to local television and print media. Bettinger was criticized, ostracized, made to fear for her safety, and ultimately punished by UVa’s student judiciary committee.
After graduating, Camp became an assistant editor of Reason magazine. In that capacity, she has written an in-depth article in the June 2023 issue demonstrating that the story she’d heard at UVa was a fabrication– the outgrowth of social-media rumor mongering run amok.
The article. “How an Ill-Informed Internet Mob Ruined a UVA Student’s Life,” does a brilliant job of tracing the trajectory of that lie from the actual events through the social-media postings by militant UVa activist Zyahna Bryan, to the amplification of the charges by other local activist groups, local journalists and even UVa faculty.
“This is the story of a rumor mill that rushed to collective judgment, a pervasive climate of anger and outrage, a weak campus administration, and a unique higher-ed justice system that faltered just when it was most needed,” Camp writes. “It’s the story of a woman who was informally ostracized and formally sanctioned for a story that seemingly everyone on campus had heard and believed, but which was never proven.” Continue reading →
Bert Ellis. Photo credit: New York Times
by James A. Bacon
Kudos to Stephanie Saul for her front-page article in The New York Times this morning. She quotes Bert Ellis and me accurately and in context in an impressively even-handed account of the brewing controversy over Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the University of Virginia.
Followers of the Jefferson Council will find that the article, which explores DEI issues at UVa through the prism of Ellis’ appointment to the Board of Visitors, covers familiar ground. However, it does contain nuggets of news, mainly by putting UVa President Jim Ryan and other university officials on the record on issues about which they have been largely silent so far.
Most astonishing are the quotes from Ryan, who comes across as totally clueless about the aims of his critics.
James E. Ryan, the university’s president, said he believes the majority of alumni feel the way he does — that diversity is desirable and needed.
“I haven’t heard anyone say we should have a community that is monolithic, unfair and unwelcoming,” he said in an interview.
Mr. Ryan said he wonders about the motives of the critics.
“Whether this is an effort to focus on the aspects of D.E.I. that seem to threaten academic freedom and push toward ideological conformity, or whether it’s an effort to turn back the clock to 1965 — it’s hard to know,” he said in an interview.
Continue reading →
Credit: Bing Image Creator
by James A. Bacon
The woke witch trials of the 21st century don’t burn their victims at the stake, but they still do immense harm.
We previously told the story of how Morgan Bettinger, a 4th-year student who ran afoul of the University of Virginia’s social-justice warriors, was vilified on social media, investigated by university authorities, and required to perform social justice-related community service to atone for supposed threats she never uttered.
What we haven’t told before but can now thanks to a lawsuit asking for the expungement of disciplinary sanctions on Bettinger’s college record, is what it’s like for a student to endure the assaults of the Woke Mob.
The question every UVA alumnus, student, parent, professor and member of the UVa community must ask is this: How can freedom of speech and expression thrive in an environment where students are treated this way?
The lawsuit cites the following testimony Bettinger gave in a recorded interview with the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights. Continue reading →
by James A. Bacon
According to a new report by the Virginia Association of Scholars, the University of Virginia in 2021 employed 77 people as part of the a vast and growing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) bureaucracy at a cost of nearly $7 million a year. Many questions arise from this revelation. What do all these people do? What are their goals? Are they improving the university climate? What is the effect of DEI on freedom of speech, inquiry and expression?
We will address these question in future posts. For now, we want to make it clear that the $7 million cost is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The authors of the VAS study make it clear that they are counting only positions that are explicitly tied to DEI-related programs, and it counts only salaries. Not benefits. Not office overhead. Not outside consultants, speakers, or events. And perhaps most importantly, not the impact on faculty productivity.
The fixation on DEI suffuses every aspect of University life. Not only does the university administration have a DEI staff, not only do each of its 13 schools and colleges have DEI staffs, but the DEI ethic permeates down to the departmental level as reflected in planning sessions, training programs, departmental-level reading groups, the hiring of new employees, and the granting of pay raises, promotions, and tenure decision-making.
An extraordinary amount of activity at UVa is devoted to DEI, and that activity sucks faculty, students, and non-DEI staff into the vortex. Continue reading →
The producer of The School of Limmy, a Korean-American neuroscience major at Duke University, posts short videos about colleges admissions on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. One of his schticks is reading the qualifications of student applicants and listing the colleges that accepted and rejected them.
The applicant described in the video above was valedictorian of his class, scored perfectly on the ACT exams and 155o on the SAT, took several AP and Honors courses, had a 4.7755 grade point average, was captain of the lacrosse team, wrestled, ran cross country, was a Boy Scout troop leader, was a youth council leader, served on student council, and belonged to a math club… which he founded.
The applicant was accepted to eight universities, including Princeton and Washington & Lee University (which he ended up attending), but was rejected from several others… including the University of Virginia.
This makes you wonder what UVa is looking for in a student applicant. Obviously, it’s more than SAT scores, the submission of which is now voluntary, and good grades. Continue reading →
Pop up memorial. Photo credit: WTOP
by James A. Bacon
The shooting of five University of Virginia students Nov. 13 on a bus back from a field trip in Washington, D.C., was understandably traumatic for the young people who witnessed the horror, as it was for family and close friends of the victims, three of whom died.
Indeed, the event was a trauma for the entire UVa community, and the administration treated it as such. The University responded by launching into full therapeutic mode: canceling events and classes, giving students a pass/fail option in their courses, mobilizing counselors, and creating safe spaces.
“There is still profound sorrow and loss that we’re all feeling,” President Jim Ryan said Friday in briefing the Board of Visitors about the administration’s response to the shooting. The horror impacted far more than the homicide victims and those who witnessed the shootings, he said. The circle of those affected included medical professionals who responded to the shooting, football teammates, friends, roommates and students who sheltered in place during the search for the killer. “This had a large ripple.”
Ryan listed key actions the administration took. Classes were canceled for two days. Events were canceled or rescheduled. Gathering spaces were set up where students could commiserate. Walk-in counseling was made available along with therapy dogs to comfort those in grieving. A basketball game was canceled, as was the remainder of the football season.
Provost Ian Baucom explained that the administration was concerned that the impact might linger and affect students’ ability to function academically. He asked faculty to provide maximum flexibility to allow students to deal with their grief and get them through the exam season, which wound up last week. Continue reading →
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 →