Category Archives: Leftist orthodoxy

Daily Mail Picks up Bettinger Story

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

How the Digital Rumor Mill Fed Incoherent Social-Justice Hysteria

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

“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.


Engaging Differences — or Imposing Conformity?

by James A. Bacon

In its March board meeting, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors addressed the topic of intellectual diversity. The unspoken assumption among some board members was that there is precious little diversity in the philosophical outlook of UVa’s faculty, which skews heavily to the left, or the courses they teach. But Provost Ian Baucom made the case that it is possible to foster a diversity of viewpoints by structuring the curriculum to allow for open dialogue.

As an example, Baucom pointed to the “Engaging Differences” courses for first-year students, which the university website describes as “the cornerstone of the liberal arts experience at UVA.” These courses are designed to “equip our students to articulate provisional analyses that reflect an openness to debate and differing values.”

The aim, Baucom elaborated for the board, is to encourage students “to think about how you argue for or against a position.”

The University lists 15 Engaging Differences courses. You can see the course descriptions here. The overwhelming majority struck me as employing leftist vocabulary, assumptions and frames of reference. The question arises whether the discussion that arises within such ideological frameworks can allow for much genuine diversity of thought.

I will detail my concerns in just a moment. But first I want to give fair time to UVa spokesman Brian Coy. Here is how he responded to my questions: Continue reading

Explaining the Decline in English Majors

by James A. Bacon

Once upon a time, the University of Virginia was known for the excellence of its English Department — one of the most highly regarded in the country. Perhaps it still is. But you wouldn’t know it from the decline in the number of students earning B.A. and graduate degrees.

The number of degrees awarded has declined by almost half — from 404 in the 1999-2000 academic year to 210 in the 2021-22 year, according data contained in the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia database.

To be sure, the precipitous decline in the number of students studying English at UVa reflects a national phenomenon. “During the past decade, the study of English and history at the collegiate level has fallen by a full third. Humanities enrollment in the United States has declined over all by seventeen per cent,” writes The New Yorker in “The End of the English Major.”

The article explores many potential causes. Declining funding for the humanities. The rise of social media and the diminution of of attention spans. The surging cost of a college degree and practical decisions by students to master disciplines with a greater financial payoff. Continue reading

Cavalier Daily Reveals Real Motive for Vilifying Bert Ellis

by James A. Bacon

As a critical vote approaches in the Virginia state senate, The Cavalier Daily has doubled down on its denunciation of Bert Ellis, and in so doing has revealed its real motive for campaigning to block his appointment to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors: Ellis represents a threat to Business As Usual at UVa.

In a Jan. 28 column, the Editorial Board rehashed its absurdly one-sided portrayal of Ellis’ actions as a member of the University Union 50 years ago and the two-and-a-half-year-old thought crime of intending, but never following through, to use a razor blade to cut down the infamous “F— UVA” sign on the door of a Lawn resident. The editors have persisted in their cherry-picking of facts despite the publication of multiple articles providing the full context of these incidents. (To refresh yourself on the details click here.) 

The Cavalier Daily is not engaging in journalism. The editorial, like its previous articles and editorials libeling Ellis as a racist and homophobe, is a partisan polemic. Sadly, as the student newspaper’s charges have been amplified by the UVa Student Council and Faculty Senate and propagated through social media and the rumor mill, they have inspired Democratic Party opposition in the General Assembly to the confirmation of Ellis, who was nominated by Governor Glenn Youngkin last June.

Normally, Virginia’ governors’ nominations for state boards and commissions are lumped together in a single bill and approved en masse. This year, two of Youngkin’s nominations have been stripped out for separate confirmation: State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, who has expressed skepticism of “systemic racism” as a cause of racial differences in racial health outcomes, and Ellis.

Why has Ellis been singled out? Why the grotesque misrepresentations? Why have the CD’s allegations transmogrified into claims so outrageous that even the CD would not recognize them — for instance, that Ellis used a razor blade to assault the young woman who penned the F— UVA sign?

Militant leftists perceive Ellis as a threat to their stranglehold on UVa’s culture and power structures. 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

The Commissars of Charlottesville

Leon Trotsky, People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, 1918

by James C. Sherlock

Leon Trotsky, who headed the Red Army from 1917-22, did not trust it.

On 6 April 1918, he wrote in Isvestia:

The military commissar is the direct political agent of Soviet power within the army. His post is of the highest importance. Commissars are appointed from the ranks of exemplary revolutionaries, capable of remaining the embodiments of revolutionary duty at the most critical moments and under the most difficult circumstances…. The military commissar ensures that the army does not become isolated from the Soviet system as a whole and that individual military institutions do not become breeding grounds for conspiracy.

With commissars at every level of the army, they had their own reporting chain independent of the operational chain of command. And punishments both quick and much to be feared.

Progressives, themselves unwilling to entrust the revolution to those who may subvert it, are fond of similar structures.

Witness the broad and deep Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) system at the University of Virginia. Continue reading

UVa Employee Donations Down to a Mere 91% for Dems

The percentage of campaign donations from University of Virginia employees fell from 95% in 2020 to only 91% this electoral season, according to data compiled from Federal Election Commission records by Walter Smith, a member of The Jefferson Council.

Polls show that Hispanics, Blacks and suburban White women are deserting the Democratic Party in droves this year. Of course, there aren’t many of those constituencies at UVa. The university population represents in its purist form the Whites-with-advanced-college-degrees demographic. When you lose 4% of those people, you know the Dems are in trouble!

What else do these numbers tell us? We already knew in 2020 that, among the university faculty, staff and other employees who made contributions, only 5% swam against the anti-Trump tide of that year. This year we discover that UVa has a swing vote amounting to 4% of employees employee donors. Continue reading

UVa Faculty Senate Censures Ellis for Thought Crime

Bert Ellis. Photo credit: Washington Post

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Faculty Senate has voted to censure Bert Ellis, a Board of Visitors member, for violating the university’s “foundational values” two years ago when he “prepared to vandalize a protest sign” by a resident of the Lawn.

Ellis acquired a paint-scraper razor with the aim of removing a large sign that said, “FUCK UVA,” but did not act upon his intention when two student ambassadors (unarmed volunteer adjuncts to the university police) advised him not to.

The resolution expressed the Senate’s opposition to Ellis’ appointment to the Board and censured him for behavior “which neither reflects the Mission Statement of the University of Virginia nor fosters the safe space requisite for the free investigation, deliberation, and exploration of ideas.”

Sixty-one of 84 Faculty Senate members voted in an online tally after the resolution was proposed last week. Thirty-seven members voted in favor of the resolution, while 15 voted against and nine abstained, according to Senate Chair Tish Jennings.

Ellis was one of four board members appointed in June by Governor Glenn Youngkin to the UVa Board, which was, and still is, dominated by holdovers from the Northam administration. A conservative businessman and alumnus, Ellis is president of The Jefferson Council, which is dedicated to protecting the Jeffersonian legacy at UVa, upholding the dignity of the Academical Village of which the Lawn is a part, preserving the Honor Code, and protecting free speech, free expression and intellectual diversity.  Continue reading