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
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.
There are still islands of intellectual diversity at the University of Virginia. One of them is an active Federalist Society. On March 4 & 5, the society is hosting an event, “The Federalists Vs. the Anti-Federalists: Revisiting the Founding Debates.” States the event summary:
Many who study the Founding focus only on The Federalist Papers. Of course, the Federalists “won” in that they supported the eventually ratified Constitution. But the Anti-Federalists were the other half of the story. Their concerns framed the debate. And, although they “lost,” they are responsible for our Bill of Rights. This symposium will provide an opportunity to revisit the founding debates and discuss the arguments for and against our Constitution.
The symposium will host six debates/panels on significant constitutional issues: Continue reading
The Jefferson Council has heard from a tenured University of Virginia professor who has been required to submit a statement detailing his contributions to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) in his teaching, research and service. In response, he has composed the following parody. Seeking to avoid administrative retribution and social ostracism, he asks to remain anonymous.
I pledge allegiance to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and to those People for whom it represents, without liberty and justice for all.
I promise to discriminate by preferencing certain demographic groups over others, and to stereotype by identifying some demographic groups as “oppressors” and others as “victims,” regardless of individual differences. Continue reading
Editor’s note: The curators of the Jefferson Council blog have frequently observed how rarely UVA Today profiles faculty or students who profess conservative, or even moderate, political or philosophical views. We are pleased to note an exception to that rule, in which the University of Virginia’s house organ republished a piece by Mary Kate Cary, a lecturer in the University of Virginia’s department of politics and a self-described conservative, opining on Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election. Especially heartening is her observation that the young people she teaches are eager to hear a diversity of viewpoints. — JAB
by Mary Kate Cary
I teach political speech writing. My students know that earlier this year I served on a committee that wrote the University of Virginia’s statement on free speech and free inquiry, which stated that “All views, beliefs, and perspectives deserve to be articulated and heard free from interference.”
I’m also a conservative who recently co-taught a 2020 elections class with a liberal colleague – and we both managed to survive. In my class, the mainly liberal students know they can speak freely about what’s important to them. Being open about your political views is important – but so too is listening generously to those of others. Read more.
by James A. Bacon
I was proud of the University of Virginia last night.
The Young Americans for Freedom organized an event, “Defending Thomas Jefferson,” featuring National Review editor Rich Lowry and Texas Congressman Chip Roy, both UVa alumni. Organizers believe it was the first time that conservative speakers from outside the university had been invited since former Senator Rick Santorum had appeared four or five years ago. (It’s been so long that memories were hazy about the details).
Many posts on social media had been critical, and there were rumblings that a protest might be organized. But university police posted outside the Newcomb Hall lecture room provided security, and nothing remotely unpleasant occurred.
More than 150 people attended the event, which easily met expectations. What I found most encouraging was the healthy contingent of Black students who came to hear what the defenders of the university’s founder might say. One could deduce that many were not sympathetic to the views of the speakers because they sat silently through the applause lines. But they listened respectfully and, when the time came for questions, a number asked questions that were pointed but polite. (I am pleased to note that one Black student, who spoke with an African accent, said that she found Jefferson inspiring.)
The event was exactly what a great university should be doing — exposing students to different perspectives and facilitating the civil exchange of views. I am delighted that the Jefferson Council played a role in helping make it happen. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Rich Anderson, Virginia GOP chairman, is unhappy with the partisan bias of University of Virginia political-science icon Larry Sabato, whose tweets have turned bitingly anti-Trump. Anderson contends that eight of Sabato’s tweets from the past year appear to violate the university’s mission statement and faculty code of ethics.
“A reasonable taxpaying citizen can readily conclude that Dr. Sabato is demonstrating the rankest form of bitter partisanship,” Anderson wrote in a letter to University of Virginia President Jim Ryan. “In order to have faith in our institutions, it is essential that Virginians hold accountable those public employees and officials who violate institutional values, codes of conduct, and other guidelines of professional behavior.”
Anderson is entitled to his opinions, of course, as is Sabato. The question is whether the answer to Sabato’s bias is suppression of his viewpoint. Continue reading
Note: This column is republished from The Washington Times.
by James A. Bacon
A committee appointed by University of Virginia President Jim Ryan issued a statement this May outlining the university‘s policy on free speech. As befitting the university founded by Thomas Jefferson, a champion of individual liberties, the committee stated its unequivocal “commitment to free expression and free inquiry.”
The statement of abstract ideals was reassuring. The trick, as Mr. Ryan himself acknowledged, will be applying those principles in real-world situations. And that likely will be easier said than done. Mr. Ryan will have to challenge the university‘s culture of left-wing intolerance and expand the range of permissible viewpoints on such ideologically charged issues relating to social justice.
Faculty members addressing the committee recounted undergoing mandatory “training” sessions in which they were pressured to regurgitate officially sanctioned platitudes. Others spoke of reining in words that might be construed as micro-aggressions. Kenneth Elzinga, a popular economics professor who has taught more students than any other in the history of UVa, described students “who tell us they are afraid to express their views in the classroom.” Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
There was an old joke back during the Cold War. An American diplomat was talking to a Russian diplomat. The American diplomat praised the superiority of the American way of life: “In our country, we are free to criticize President Reagan.” To which the Russian diplomat replied, “In our country, we are also free to criticize President Reagan.”
That old saw came to mind when I read The College Fix‘s re-cap of a controversy over a University of Virginia webinar in which the panelists expressed boundless contempt for white evangelical Christians. Here’s what one panelist had to say: “Because they are being selfish and because they don’t care, their racism, their sexism, their homophobia, their lack of belief in science, lack of belief and common sense may end up killing us all.”
Jim Sherlock wrote about the panelists’ hate speech in Bacon’s Rebellion, and then posted UVa President Jim Ryan’s written response, in which he said, ““I assure you we’re taking this matter seriously and looking into it.” Continue reading
Risa Goluboff, dean of the University of Virginia Law School
by Ann McLean
Earlier this week UVA Today touted the addition of 17 high-profile professors — packed with former U.S. Supreme Court clerks, Rhodes Scholars, and even a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship genius grant recipient — to the University of Virginia Law School.
“Our new and incoming faculty are either already academic superstars or superstars in the making,” said Dean Risa Goluboff. They are “highly influential voices in their fields whose scholarship will have an impact at UVA Law, both inside and outside of the classroom, and well beyond it.”
The law school’s run of prestigious hires, who include nine women and seven “people of color,” have sparked envious praise on Twitter, gushes the article, written by Eric Williamson, associate director of communications for the law school. “I feel like they must be amassing this incredibly all star faculty for a reason,” one woman is quoted as tweeting. “A new Marvel series? Avengers: Endgame 2?”
The article omitted one salient fact of interest to the broader UVa community — there is no intellectual diversity in the group. Every new hire tilts to the left ideologically. There’s not a conservative among them. Continue reading