The Jefferson Council commends to readers’ attention two essays published in The Jefferson Independent, the University of Virginia’s alternative student publication of news and commentary. We are delighted to see students tackling the weighty issues of free speech and diversity in admissions. Please take a look. You’ll be impressed by the quality of writing and reasoning. — JAB
UVA’s FIRE Ranking Released: Grounds is alive with self-censorship, not civil discourse. Lauren Horan, president of the College Republicans, argues that UVa’s #6 free-speech by the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reflects official policies, not real-world practice. Writes Lauren: “Grounds is alive with self-censorship, not civil discourse.”
Affirmative Action is Sugarcoated Discrimination. Mira Ramachandran examines the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on race in admissions from the perspective of an “Asian” student. “There is nothing moral about elite colleges penalizing Asian students on the SAT for performing too well,” she writes.
Screen capture from UVa’s “Common Application” form. UVa no longer has a checkbox for race — but it does ask if applicants belong to a Virginia-recognized Indian tribe and if they identify as a “sexual minority.” The applications also invite applicants to share their “personal or historic connection with UVa,” including legacy status and descent from “ancestors who labored at UVa.”
by James A. Bacon
When University of Virginia President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom announced the university’s new admissions policy last week, they made a point of saying that they had sought input and guidance from “leaders across the university,” including members of the Office of University Counsel.
But one key group was not consulted: the Board of Visitors.
That’s noteworthy because state code says the Board of Visitors sets the university’s admissions policy.
Describing the powers and authorities of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), state code notes that the SCHEV shall prepare enrollment projections for Virginia’s public colleges and universities. However, “the student admissions policies for such institutions and their specific programs shall remain the sole responsibilities of the individual governing boards.”
Not university presidents — the governing boards. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The University of Virginia will eliminate the race/ethnicity checkbox on admissions applications but will allow students to describe how their “personal experiences” — including but not limited to race or ethnicity — “shaped their ability to contribute,” announced President Jim Ryan in an announcement emailed to the University community Monday.
The change in admissions policy represents Ryan’s first tangible response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions. Ryan had previously signaled his intention to “admit a class of students who are diverse across every possible dimension and to make every student feel welcome and included here at UVa.”
The tweaks to UVa’s admissions policy incorporated input from “leaders across the University,” including the Office of University Counsel, Ryan said.
Ryan’s announcement boiled down the changes to several bullet points: Continue reading
I have cross-posted this article about Virginia Tech’s admissions policy from Bacon’s Rebellion. Tech is a peer institution, and its restatement of admissions policy sets an expectation that the University of Virginia should as well. The views expressed here are my own, not those of the Jefferson Council. — JAB
by James A. Bacon
In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Virginia Tech has announced that it will eliminate race and legacy status as factors in admissions. Information about an individual’s race/ethnicity will no longer be visible during the application process.
“Much of our recent success in attracting and graduating students from underrepresented minority and underserved backgrounds (including low-income, first generation and veteran students) has been achieved by lowering barriers to admissions, creating effective pre-college programs, and supporting our students while on campus,” said President Tim Sands. “We will increase our emphasis on those programs and support mechanisms going forward.”
These changes strike me as a reasonable compromise in response to the Supreme Court ruling. Dropping race and ethnicity as factors in admissions ends the invidious practice of explicit discrimination on the basis of race. It represents a huge defeat for “anti-racists” who believe that the only antidote to past discrimination against minorities is reverse discrimination in their favor.
Tech has coupled that decision with a formal end to favoring legacies. Given the fact that legacies are disproportionately White, the symbolic value is huge. Continue reading
Last week Jefferson Council President Tom Neale sent the following letter to University of Virginia Rector Robert Hardie, members of the Board of Visitors, and selected UVa administrative officials.
July 25, 2023
Dear Mr. Hardie:
I am the President of The Jefferson Council for the University of Virginia, and am writing you regarding what we believe to be an egregious contravention of academic governance by Provost Ian Baucom.
In a presentation to the Faculty Senate on October 11, 2022, Provost Baucom described between $20 and $40 million in initiatives to recruit graduate students and faculty from “under-represented” racial/ethnic groups. When describing these and other academic initiatives to the Board of Visitors in its March 2023 meeting, however, he never alluded to the scope of the programs, or the racial preferences embedded in them.
For most of the year, the U.S. Supreme Court was widely expected to issue a ruling restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions. Mr. Baucom had been cognizant enough of the debatable legality of the programs to seek guidance from the University Counsel, yet he failed to mention these concerns – or the nature of the University Counsel’s guidance, if any — in his presentation to the Board. Continue reading
Credit: Bing Image Creator. Letters lighter than air.
by James A. Bacon
After the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling restricting the use of race as a higher-ed admissions criteria, University of Virginia President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom released a statement proclaiming that they would do everything in their power to admit a class of students that is “diverse across every possible dimension.” That commitment extended not just to race, ethnicity, and gender, they proclaimed, but “geography, socioeconomic status, first-generation status, disability status, religion, age, sexual orientation, viewpoint, ideology, and special talents.” (My italics.)
Some of those dimensions have occasioned far more attention than others. For example, UVa has put into place a large Diversity, Equity & Inclusion bureaucracy to advance racial/ethnic diversity. By contrast, far from promoting viewpoint and ideological diversity, university practices — hiring of left-of-center faculty, mandatory DEI statements and Student Guide tours — serve to drive off prospective students and faculty who are conservatively inclined.
In this post, I will argue that the Ryan administration pays little more heed to the geographic and socioeconomic criteria on its checklist than it does to viewpoint and ideological diversity. Students from poor households and rural households are severely underrepresented. But UVa does not care enough to even track their numbers. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
As the University of Virginia community debates the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling restricting the use of race in higher-ed admissions, the Jefferson Council is publishing publicly available data that provides context for the discussion.
UVa’s office of Institutional Research and Analysis publishes three types of admissions data (applications, admissions, and yield) broken down by race/ethnicity back to the 2016-17 academic year. Three trends stand out:
- Once a dominant majority of UVa students, Whites officially became a minority (47%) of the entering 1st-year student body in 2023.
- Asians were the fastest-growing racial/ethnic group at UVa, applying in greater numbers, being accepted in higher percentages, and (other than Whites) accepting those offers in higher percentages.
- Despite applying and being accepted in growing numbers, the percentage of Blacks accepting their offers actually declined slightly, in contrast to the other racial/ethnic groups.
Credit: Bing Image Creator. Pry the data from my cold dead digital fingers.
by James A. Bacon
It will be exceedingly difficult to hold an honest conversation in Virginia about the role of race in higher-education admissions and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. College administrators are the gatekeepers of data critical to the discussion and they will not share it.
I have been stymied twice this week in my efforts to acquire admissions data: once by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and once by the University of Virginia. SCHEV and UVa officials cite various justifications for being unable to supply the numbers, but I believe the underlying reason is that university administrators simply don’t want to make the data available. Why? Because he who controls the data controls the narrative.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling restricting the use of race as a factor in admissions, I have embarked upon the mission of laying out the data available in the public domain: How have admissions and enrollment patterns evolved over the past 1o to 20 years? How have preferential policies for selected minorities fared, as tracked by measures of student thriving such as feelings of “belonging,” drop-out rates, student-loan debt burdens and post-graduate income?
In recent posts, I have documented that males and Whites are slightly under-represented in entering classes at UVa, while my colleague Walter Smith has described UVa’s use of the Landscape platform to provide school- and neighborhood-specific “context” for applicants. Last year Smith shed light on the new racial calculus in UVa admissions by showing how offers to applicants vary by race/ethnicity and legacy status. The Office of Admissions, which was commendably open with its data last year, stopped providing it after we published his article.
The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) maintains a searchable online database of higher-ed statistics regarding enrollment, admissions, tuition & fees, financial aid, student debt, retention rates, and degrees awarded. SCHEV breaks the data into dozens of different reports that are searchable by individual institution. It is an invaluable resource for anyone analyzing higher-ed in Virginia. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
As the debate unfolds about how to apply the U.S. Supreme Court ruling restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions, it would be helpful for the discussion to be rooted in reality. At the University of Virginia, any dialogue should be based upon the recognition that admissions policies have transformed the racial/ethnic profile of the undergraduate student body over the past 10 years.
According to enrollment data published by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), the racial/ethnic make-up of students entering UVa for the first time (as first-year students or community college transfers) has changed significantly between the fall of 2013-14 and the fall of 2020-23:
Remarkably, the percentage of undergraduate White students has declined from 59.3% of the entering class at UVa to 46.9% over a single decade. Non-Hispanic Whites are now a minority. Continue reading
Credit: Bing Image creator. College landscape in the style of William Constable.
by Walter Smith
With the recent U.S. Supreme Court restricting “affirmative action” in college and university admissions, an all-consuming question in Charlottesville is how the University of Virginia might change its policies and guidelines for admitting students.
While prohibiting the use of race as a decisive factor in admissions, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts allowed for holistic reviews that took into account race as part of an applicant’s sum-of-life experiences. Harvard University announced it intends to drive a truck through that loophole. Likewise, UVa President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom, who last week proclaimed their intent to ignore the ruling as much as possible, have not only lined up a truck but are revving up the engine.
The admissions process at UVa is opaque. The administration has refused, repeatedly, to provide me data concerning students admitted for the fall of 2023 or to answer my deep-dive questions for admissions in 2022, regarding which the Admissions Office was very cooperative… until it wasn’t. In particular, the Office has not been forthcoming about its use of a tool, “Landscape,” developed by the College Board, the same people who administer the SAT exams. Continue reading