Letter to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors from Walter Smith.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I expect you will ignore me, as usual, but, for purposes of establishing a record when the time for your contextualization comes, I must document your many failures and refusal to do your fiduciary duties, because I believe, if you had any honor, you would resign.
You have the distinct honor of being in charge of one of the world’s premier public universities, with an historic legacy few other schools could match: a UNESCO World Heritage site designed by Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third President, author of the Religious Freedom statute, and perhaps history’s greatest proponent of free speech. The University of Virginia was Jefferson’s dream, established as a public university to pursue truth wherever it may lead.
Supposedly, you have been trained in your duties as Visitors. I sincerely doubt it. I have reviewed the Board Manual and the Board Basics booklet. The Board Manual’s first two duties list (1) the preservation of the ideals and traditions of the University and particularly encouragement of the maintenance of the Honor System by the student body and (2) the establishment of general education policy. As the recently released Alumni Association survey showed, support for the Honor System has dropped precipitously over the last 20 years, and the “single sanction” was overwhelmingly defeated in a March vote. Continue reading
The Jefferson Council President Bert Ellis took to the radio waves this morning to address the decline of the University of Virginia’s honor code. Listen to his remarks on WRVA’s John Reid Show.
Open letter from Bert Ellis, president of The Jefferson Council, to members of the University of Virginia community.
Last week will go down as one of the worst weeks in the history of UVA.
The Honor Code is Effectively Dead
By a margin of over 4 to 1, UVA students voted in a referendum to permanently change the Honor System to eliminate expulsion as the sanction for an honor offense in favor of a two-semester leave of absence… the equivalent of a time out.
A 3rd year law student (who’s next stop on his path to save the world is to study global affairs at Beijing’s Tsinghau University) led this effort. In his view, the Honor System is inherently racist because more people of color or more international students are found guilty of honor offenses than their exact percentage of the UVA student population.
He argued, “we can no longer support a sanction that is historically allowed and could prospectively allow the most severe outcome to fall disproportionately on some communities more than others.” Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
In elections this week, University of Virginia students will vote on a measure to reduce the punishment for honor-code violations (lying, cheating, stealing) from expulsion to a two-semester suspension. At least 10% of the student body must participate in the referendum, and of those who vote 60% must vote in favor.
The honor code is administered by students, not the university administration, and it has evolved over time as cultural values have changed. But faculty, administrators and the Board of Visitors traditionally have buttressed the system. For decades, stirring introductions of the honor code were a central part of the student orientation. Benefactors endowed the alumni association with a multimillion-dollar fund to support the system. To this day, the Board of Visitors mission statement lists preservation of the honor code as one of the board’s core duties.
The system has eroded badly. Continue reading
Letter from Bert Ellis, president of The Jefferson Council to All Friends of the University of Virginia.
I am writing this letter as Bert Ellis, a passionate Double Hoo (College ‘75, Darden ‘79) and as a Founder and President of The Jefferson Council. Our University is under attack from multiple sources and at multiple levels. The entire academic and community experience that so many of us shared at UVA is
totally at risk. Our Administration has totally politicized the entire university to the detriment of all that we hold dear.
We at the Jefferson Council have been fighting on behalf of all of us to preserve/promote four major tenets:
1) Open Dialogue throughout the University.
2) Preservation of the Jefferson legacy.
3) Preservation of the architectural sanctity of the Lawn.
4) Preservation and rejuvenation of the Honor System.
We have indeed made some progress on points 1 and 3: The University adopted a set of principles of open dialogue which we think are quite reasonable and the Ryan administration adopted a set of rules limiting signage on the Lawn doors. Mr. Jefferson’s statue – which was in jeopardy — remains in front of the Rotunda, yet to be contextualized. The Honor System still exists but is now under very serious attack such that this could be its very final year at UVA. Continue reading
Britt Hume narrates the 1995 introduction to the Honor Code.
Attached is a link to a video that was sent out in 1995 to all incoming students by the University of Virginia administration under President John T. Casteen and then-Honor Chair Ms. Raya Papp. Many thanks to Van Krebs for finding it in his files.
The 20-minute video, brilliantly narrated by then-ABC Correspondent Brit
Hume explained both the history and workings of the UVa Honor System and
the value of a community of honor.
It is a wonderful video but also a very sad commentary on how far we have fallen since 1995. There are many interviews with students and faculty and administrators supporting the honor system at UVa that would be damn near impossible to get now. The video is way too long for the attention span of today’s students and the background pictures are totally non-PC in today’s world. The letter from Papp is brilliant.
— Bert Ellis
The Jefferson Council
Dear Incoming Student,
On behalf of the Honor Committee, welcome to the University of Virginia. You will soon be able to explore the vast opportunities available at the University — both academic and extracurricular. You will be able to do so in an atmosphere based on mutual trust among students, faculty and administration. Continue reading
TO: All UVA Alumni and Friends Who Care About Our University
FROM: The Jefferson Council
RE: We Are Losing the Soul of Our University
DATE: May 20, 2021
On the eve of Final Exercises at our University, we, the founding members and Board of the Jefferson Council, feel the need to send out this letter regarding very troubling developments at our beloved University. Every aspect of the legacy of UVA is under threat from our President and his hand-picked administration. They have a social justice agenda that is in many cases contrary to the values at UVA that made our institution so unique and so beloved.
We cannot solve everything in one fell swoop. Like the adage about how to eat an elephant, the answer is one bite at a time. Therefore, we have narrowed our focus and set our goals to address four core issues at UVA that we know to have wide-spread alumni support. These four core issues of The Jefferson Council are as follows:
- Open Dialogue: We will fight for the University to adopt and enforce a set of principles providing for open dialogue from all parties within the University. No one should be vilified or physically abused or have their grades docked for expressing a contrary opinion on any issue, political or social.
- Mr. Jefferson: We will fight to protect the legacy of Mr. Jefferson as our Founder and as a Founding Father of America.
- The Lawn: We will fight to remove all signage from the Lawn doors and preserve the sanctity of the Academic Village.
- The Honor System: We will fight to resuscitate and preserve the Honor System at UVA. It has been severely weakened and will only survive with a concerted effort by the Board of Visitors, the Administration, the alumni, and the students.
Dear Rector Murray,
Honor calls us to be honorable to each other not merely by not committing
transgressions, but also by doing reverence to the other in our midst.
— by Professor Michael Suarez, S.J.
Adopted by the Honor Committee
UVa’s Lawn Scandal — Bad Leadership and Worse Lawyering
— by James C. Sherlock
The Jaw Dropping Political Contributions of UVa’s Board of Visitors
— by DJ Rippert
Ryan Wilts in Conversation with [his student]
— by James A. Bacon
GRIM: President Ryan shouldn’t live in a mansion
By Adam Grim
The reasons I decided to return to this debate are all shown above, as well as my review of your last letter. I am deeply concerned about the health of The Honor Code, headlines which demonstrate the reputation of the University has been tarnished, as well as the financial damage caused by lost donations, all of which will continue unless you fulfill your fiduciary duties to the University and the
people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Continue reading
Letter from Hooper Neale, Class of 2017…
I would like to start this letter out by saying that I love the University of Virginia. I attended UVA from August 2013 – May 2017, and those were probably the best four years of my life thus far. Twenty-nineteen was another one of my favorite years, largely because I travelled to Minneapolis in April to see the UVA basketball team win March Madness, and then travelled to Philadelphia the
next month to see the Lacrosse team take home a championship as well.
Everyone who knows me realizes my deep love for UVA and my passion for encouraging others to attend and/or visit the University, in hope that they may experience the same love I have. Unsurprisingly, it has been heartbreaking for me to see what has been allowed at the University during the past month
and a half. Continue reading