Category Archives: Intellectual diversity

Student Vets Win Back Their Space

Military memorobilia at the Veterans Center. Photo credit: WVIR-TV

by James A. Bacon

The Student Veterans of America (SVA) at the University of Virginia notched up a small win Friday when Student Affairs officials reversed a decision to expropriate some of the Veterans Center space at Newcomb Hall. But the veterans’ battle for recognition and respect at UVa is far from over.

What they need most, student veterans say, is for Student Affairs to designate someone with specialized knowledge of the G.I. Bill and other veterans issues to help them through UVa’s bureaucratic maze.

Veterans comprise a tiny fraction of the undergraduate student body at UVa. SVA leadership estimates there are only 60 veterans among the 17,000 undergraduates. That count may not have identified every undergraduate veteran, but Tomas De Oliveira, president of the club, says it represents most.

“It’s a chicken-or-egg problem. There aren’t enough vets to justify a significant commitment of UVa resources,” De Oliveira says. But the lack of support makes it difficult to recruit veterans cycling out of the military. UVa vets have friends. Word gets out. “Why would I recommend UVa?” Continue reading

UVa Donations Skewed More Democratic Than Ever in 2022

Graphic credit: Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

You’ve finally heard it from someone other than the Jefferson Council: Political donations by University of Virginia employees skew overwhelmingly to the left. In the 2022 election cycle, found Daily Progress reporter Luke Fountain, “UVa faculty and staff favored Democratic candidates over Republican candidates, based on donations, by a ratio of 30 to 1.”

“During the 2022 election cycle, Democratic candidates received 96.1% of donations, Republican candidates received 3.3% and Libertarian candidates received 0.6%,” writes Fountain in an article exploring the implications of a discussion during the June UVa Board of Visitors meeting regarding the desirability of tracking viewpoint diversity at the university.

Campaign donations are only one way of measuring viewpoint diversity. In 2018 the University of Virginia conducted an extensive survey of attitudes among students, faculty and staff that measured, among other things, respondents’ left-right political leanings. If it is impractical to conduct such an extensive and expensive survey every year, tracking political donations is a readily available proxy for attitude surveys. Continue reading

New York Times “DEI” Article Prompts Questions About Ryan’s Views

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.

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“Here’s the Campus Left-Wing Brainwash”

“Thought reform” at American universities is real and terrifying.

Stanley K. Ridgely, a former military intelligence officer and now a full professor at Drexel University, has delved into the extensive literature on how leftists use DEI training and other tools to brainwash university students into accepting the woke catechism that they enjoy white privilege, should feel guilt for that privilege, and can absolve that guilt by becoming “allies” in anti-racism. The article, published by the Martin Center for Academic Renewal, is well worth reading. Money quote:

The brainwash is employed exclusively by the progressive Left on college campuses. These persons reject traditional models of education, especially the Weberian notion of classroom neutrality. Instead, extremist progressives practice “critical pedagogy,” in which they embrace the notion that the professor should become a “scholar-practitioner” and participate in the social activism of particular movements.

While the brainwashing described here is commonplace, it is not necessarily universal. The Jefferson Council has no tangible evidence of this kind of brainwashing taking place at the University of Virginia, but we will be alert to signs that it is.


Proposed Topics for President Ryan’s Podcast

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan hosts “Inside UVA,” a podcast designed to highlight the “inner workings” of the University of Virginia. Over the past two seasons, he has chatted with figures ranging from Rector Whitt Clement to alumni such as Katie Couric, administrators such as Provost Ian Baucom, and students such as Lauren Kim, chair of the University Judiciary Committee — 22 in all, so far. You can see the list here.

The “Inside UVA” promo bills the podcast as featuring “candid, open conversations.”

No one from The Jefferson Council has been invited to appear… yet. But if President Ryan is interested in having a candid, open, civil conversation with someone who wishes UVa well but questions current policies and priorities, we’d be happy to volunteer. We’d even be willing to suggest some topics.

What does he mean when he says that UVa can be both “great and good”? Does being “good” encompass anything beyond “social justice” and “sustainability”?

What are his thoughts on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion? Does he believe America is systemically racist? Is UVa systemically racist? Does he share Ibram Kendi’s definition of “anti-racism”? Does he share Robin DiAngelo’s definition of “white privilege”? How does it improve students’ sense of “belonging” when DEI policy places a premium on racial, sexual and gender differences? Continue reading

UVa GOP, Dems Back on Speaking Terms

College Republicans, University Democrats pose with President Jim Ryan and Institute of Democracy Executive Director Melody Barnes at the “Talking Across Differences” dinner.

Kudos to the Karsh Institute of Democracy for organizing an event, “Talking Across Differences,” that brought young Republicans and Democrats together for a bridge-building dinner of conversation at the Colonnade Club. Kudos also to President Jim Ryan for giving his imprimatur to the initiative by dropping by, and kudos to UVA Today for highlighting this example of pluralism at the University of Virginia.

On Oct. 10, five members of the College Republicans’ executive board and five members of the University’s executive board met to get to know each other as people, not political foes.

“Politics is very important to me and of course I have strongly held beliefs and things like that, but, at the end of the day, we are all Americans,” said College Republican President Jack Forys. “And in this instance, we’re all students at the same university.” Continue reading

Religious-Rights Speaker Stirs Controversy

by James A. Bacon

Three days ago the National Lawyers Guild at UVA condemned the invitation of Erin Hawley, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, to a Federalist Society event previewing a U.S. Supreme Court case touching upon religious freedom. The “progressive” law student group cited Southern Poverty Law Center designation of the Alliance as an anti-LGBTQ+ “hate” group.

In the aftermath of the triple-murder shooting at the University of Virginia Sunday night, the Federalist Society canceled the meeting “out of respect for the tragedy,” said Julia Jeanette Mroz, president of the UVa chapter. “As a student group, we felt it appropriate to follow the University’s lead in designating today a Day of Observance. No other circumstances bore on this decision.”

The Society is working with Hawley to reschedule the event this spring.

The Federalist Society, a group of mostly conservative and libertarian law school students, invited Hawley to a discussion of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a pending Supreme Court case.  The Alliance Defending Freedom represents the plaintiff in that case, Lorie Smith, who believes on religious grounds that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and refuses to design websites for LGBTQ+ couples.

The National Lawyers Guild (NGL) at UVA “condemns the views of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as well as the Federalist Society’s decision to give them a platform by inviting them to speak at an event at the law school,” stated the NGL Facebook page in a post that garnered 88 “likes.” Continue reading

A Reminder of Why UVa Needs the Jefferson Council…

Hosted by UVa’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:

Here are some other suggestions for the Division of DEI:

Tim Scott, U.S. Senator from South Carolina
Candace Owens, author and activist
Ben Carson, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
John, McWhorter, author
Condoleeza Rice, former Secretary of State
Deroy Murdock, columnist
Larry Elder, talk radio host
Wilfred Reilly, author
Allen West, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas
and the legendary Thomas Sowell, one of the greatest intellectuals in modern America

Haha! There will be blizzards in Hades before UVa invites any of these leading lights. Your donations to the Jefferson Council will help us bring conservative speakers — such as conservative African-Americans such as Mia Love, who spoke last year — to Mr. Jefferson’s University.

What Is Free Speech Without Intellectual Diversity?

by James A. Bacon

Eleven days ago the Editorial Board of the Cavalier Daily, the University of Virginia student newspaper, opined that it could not condone the “platforming” of former Vice President Mike Pence by allowing him to speak on the university grounds.

The blowback has been gratifying to see.

While some students have expressed support for suppressing ideas deemed hateful and hurtful, others have denounced the editorial. Crucially, UVa President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom weighed in in favor of free speech, stating in a CD piece that “all views, beliefs, and perspectives deserve to be articulated and heard, free from interference.”

Let us praise the Ryan administration when plaudits are due. But let us also recognize that at UVa “free speech” is a sub-set of a larger issue: an ever-narrowing range of permissible viewpoints. Threats to free speech spring from intellectual monocultures, which is exactly what UVa is becoming. A defense of free speech would not be necessary in a university that fostered more intellectual diversity. Continue reading

Youngkin Decries Higher-Ed Cancel Culture

Governor Youngkin at a Jan. 27 press conference. Image credit: Associated Press

by James A. Bacon

Glenn Youngkin didn’t have much to say about “cancel culture” in Virginia’s colleges and universities when he was on the campaign trail, aiming his fire instead at radical social-justice policies in K-12 schools. But at a speech delivered at the University of Virginia law school Friday, he criticized intolerance in higher education and made the case for intellectual diversity on college campuses.

Vladimir Putin is a tyrant, Youngkin said in an address to The Federalist Society, but the greatest threat to American democracy does not come from abroad. Said he:

The greatest threat to our democracy comes from a growing tendency to loathe rather than listen. It comes from a desire to bully and not persuade. Such a culture of contempt, this cancel culture, is toxic to our democracy, and unless the schools that exist to teach our young people take responsibility for being a solution, our democracy will indeed be in danger.

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