Student tours as social agitation
by James A. Bacon
The Jefferson Council continues to receive negative reports about the student tours at the University of Virginia. On Nov. 11, 2023, an alumnus posting under the name JBHoo05 wrote the following on the Virginia Sportswar message board.
We had heard the tour at UVA was not good but decided to still go ahead and schedule one today. Even with low expectations, the tour managed to be worse than we expected. Our guide was kind but at times I wondered whether she even really liked UVA despite telling us at the end how much she loved it. We heard about how the dining hall food is not great (a given at a lot of schools but aren’t you supposed to spin things with a somewhat positive light on these tours?), how the school is “mostly safe” (who says that on an admissions tour?), how UVA has won 31 national championships in football (I wish), how almost all your classes will be in this area (we were standing in front of Cocke Hall), and then to top it off – a depressing 15 minute lecture (standing in the middle of the lawn on a beautiful day) on how the grounds were built with enslaved labor and details about the white supremacist rally (we were warned before she started that some of us might need to step away and take a break because we were about to start discussing some pretty hard stuff….what???). I have no problem participating in difficult discussions about UVA’s history but why in the heck would that be on an admissions tour and be one of the longest parts of the tour?
The last time we checked, back in June, University of Virginia officials assured us they were dealing with the problem of UVa-loathing Student Guides turning off prospective students with negative tours. The Admissions Office had hired an associate dean to improve the experience for prospective students, had increased the number of paid interns to give tours with approved scripts, and was engaging in conversation with volunteer Student Guides, who for decades have been entrusted with running the tours. Continue reading
Sonja Santelises, CEO, Baltimore City Schools Courtesy UVa
by James C. Sherlock
I try to keep up in the field of education.
That led me to read “Exploring New Frontiers for K-12 Systems Transformation” produced by the UVa Partnership for Leaders in Education (UVA-PLE), a long-existing joint project of the Darden School of Business and the School of Education and Human Development.
I read it hoping to see if perhaps Darden could rub some of the rougher edges off of the uber-progressive ed school and offer some good ideas.
Bad guess. Continue reading
UVa’s Interfaith Student Center. Courtesy UVa.
by James C. Sherlock
The University of Virginia has not lost all sense of perspective. They know exactly what they have been doing.
For this they had to try to thread a needle. They missed.
From the University of Virginia Division of Student Affairs:
“Our Division’s focus remains on supporting and caring for our students and their well-being.
Our Division provides direct OUTREACH AND SUPPORT OF STUDENT LEADERS in the Jewish and Palestinian community, including the Jewish Leadership Council, Chabad at UVA, and Muslim Students Association.”
“The Division owns places and spaces across Grounds for students to meet in community: Continue reading
“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” — Daniel Patrick Moynihan:
Dear President Ryan, Provost Baucom, and the Board of Visitors,
The former New York senator’s famous quotation perfectly describes the October 8 statement posted by the “Students for Justice in Palestine at UVA” on its Instagram page.
I firmly and unequivocally believe in the First Amendment. Any individual student or group must be allowed to speak their mind, as long as their statements do not violate University policy or Virginia law. However, there are numerous falsehoods in the SJP statement. I will cite three particularly egregious ones:
- “Students for Justice in Palestine unequivocally supports Palestinian liberation and the right of colonized people everywhere to resist the occupation of their land by whatever means they deem necessary.”
- “While the Israeli government publicly declared war today, the war and genocidal campaign began over 75 years ago.”
- “The people of Gaza are denied freedom of movement, are under calorie restrictions, and are routinely bombed and brutalized by Israeli forces.”
The three statements above are both factually wrong and morally outrageous. Below are the facts: Continue reading
Image credit: Bing Image Creator
by James A. Bacon
The latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stirred up emotions at the University of Virginia more than any event since the George Floyd riots. Not only are students holding demonstrations and counter demonstrations, faculty, parents, and alumni are chiming in.
Eighty University of Virginia professors signed an open letter proclaiming themselves to be “unsettled” by the tone of a statement previously issued by President Jim Ryan concerning events stemming from Hamas’ October 7 terror attacks on Israel. Ryan expressed sorrow for the atrocities inflicted upon Israeli citizens, the writers aver, but did not acknowledge the sufferings of the Palestinian people.
Meanwhile, more than 15o parents and alumni have signed a letter expressing concern for the safety of Jewish students in an atmosphere of increasing antisemitism nationally. The university, they say, needs to create a task force to eradicate antisemitism within the UVa community.
The Jefferson Council members with whom I am in contact — and I have heard from many — are unanimously supportive of Israel. The Jewish state is far from perfect when measured against a utopian ideal of pluralistic, democratic, rights-respecting nations, but Hamas, a terrorist organization masquerading as a state, bears no comparison. It is in the same league as the Huns, Vandals, Goths, Vikings and other ancient barbarians who laid waste to the settled societies around them. Council members have chosen to side with the heirs of Western Civilization and against those who seek to destroy it. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
UVa and Harvard are the two campuses most often cited by the national and world press as homes to the worst actors after October 7.
It is easy work.
I posted a column on Saturday making a series of recommendations for actions by the University of Virginia to protect its Jewish community and rid itself of those that threaten it.
That was my response to the infamous support of UVa-funded organizations for the slaughter of innocents in Israel by Hamas, a group designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.
Kill Jews “by any means necessary” they wrote.
Read the column. I named them.
Now I have been told by the Executive Director of Hillel at UVa, Rabbi Jake Rubin, that the President’s office and local law enforcement “have been incredibly responsive, helpful, and present during this difficult time.”
Good start, and Virginians thank them for it, but it does not answer the questions about enforcement of state and federal laws.
So, there is more to do. Continue reading
Scene from “Clockwork Orange”
by James A. Bacon
There is a widespread notion among militant leftists at the University of Virginia, as there is in universities across the Commonwealth, that exposure to objectionable ideas causes “harm” to those who hear them and, thus, should be suppressed. This logic is a totalitarian wolf in sheep’s clothing. While I do not countenance the banning of speech — even the speech of those who would happily ban mine — I do believe this leftist trope must be combatted forcefully in the marketplace of ideas.
We observed this thinking in the run-up to the speech by Abigail Shrier, author of “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” which highlights the role of social contagion in the spread of transgender identity among teenage girls and the potentially irreversible damage of hormone treatments and sex-change surgery.
Shrier is Public Enemy No. 1 to transgender activists, and their social media accounts lit up once word got out that the Jefferson Council and its partners were hosting a Q&A event with her on the Grounds. I won’t bore you with the serial misrepresentations of Shrier as a transphobe and a hater. Rather, my intent here is to explore the logic that speakers with views like hers are unwelcome at UVa.
“Unfortunately, knowing that the university is OK w allowing hateful ppl to come to this school (pence, pompeo, other hateful republicans) it is clear that ‘free speech’ and ‘bipartisanship’ is valued over the safety of their students,” messaged one writer in a QSU (Queer Student Union) account. (My bold face.) Continue reading
Anna Kriebel, a third-year student in the University of Virginia’s Political Philosophy, Policy and Law program, has had a column published in National Review. She describes the dehumanizing, anti-Israeli rhetoric of the pro-Palestinian students at UVa, and contrasts it with the timid defense of Israel by Jewish students unwilling to sign their names to a column in the Cavalier Daily newspaper. We can replicate the first few paragraphs here, but you’ll have to visit the National Review website to read the whole thing. — JAB
The dehumanizing rhetoric of a student group at the University of Virginia flies in the face of the school’s Jeffersonian principles.
Six years after Unite the Right, an insidious new brand of antisemitism has taken hold in Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia. Shortly after Hamas launched its brutal attack on Israel, the group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UVA released a statement declaring its unequivocal support for resistance “by whatever means they deem necessary.” In essence, it justified the slaughter of Israeli civilians.
I sympathize with those experiencing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and don’t pretend to condone every military decision made by Israel, the United States, or any other country, for that matter. However, I am deeply unsettled by the antisemitic implications of many of my peers’ statements, as well as their attempts to stifle free discourse. Read the whole thing.
by James A. Bacon
A week ago the Students for Justice in Palestine at UVA created a furor by publishing a statement defending Hamas’ attack on Israel. “Yesterday’s rebellion was not ‘unprovoked,’ as many have claimed, but is the consequence of years of mass killings, ethnic cleansing, and oppression from Israel,” the group wrote. “The events that took place yesterday [October 7] are a step towards a free Palestine. … We stand in solidarity with Palestinian resistance fighters and all oppressed people around the world seeking freedom and a better world.”
The same group organized a demonstration yesterday at the steps of the Rotunda in the shadow of the statue of Thomas Jefferson. I made a point of attending to hear what the protesters had to say and observe what transpired. I had one major question: Who were these people? What kind of person living in free society could defend the atrocities perpetrated upon Israeli civilians of all ages? What could they possibly be thinking?
As executive director of the Jefferson Council, which is dedicated among other things to free speech and free inquiry at UVa, I supported the right of the pro-Palestinians to hold their rally and make their case. But the Council also stands for viewpoint diversity, which is under threat from the steady leftward drift of the faculty and staff and the slow extinction of professors openly professing conservative, libertarian and independent views. While the far left is a distinct minority at UVa, it is a highly vocal and influential one. How representative, I wanted to know, were the Students for Justice in Palestine at UVA? Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
I learned a lot about transgender activists and advocates at the Abigail Shrier event at the University of Virginia last night. Some are bitter, angry people who hurl non-stop invective. Some are close-minded but willing to engage in rational conversation. But at least one is courteous, friendly and willing to engage in a thoughtful, one-on-one exchange. I look forward to having lunch with her next week.
Shrier, the author of “”Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” was herself polite, charming and attentive. Even as more than 100 protesters were chanting and demonstrating outside Minor Hall, she remained unflappable inside the auditorium under questioning that ranged from skeptical to hostile.
Shrier is the object of venom in the transgender community because her book dared to ask questions that many do not want to be asked. While acknowledging the gender dysphoria is real and those who suffer from it deserve compassion, she argues that much of the transgender “craze” is a social contagion mainly affecting teenage girls, that “affirmative” treatment such as testosterone shots and top surgery are fraught with ill-understood risks and dangers, and that a legion of affirming educators, counselors, and even medical doctors have abandoned science in favor of ideology. She elaborated on those themes in a Q&A session hosted by the Jefferson Council in partnership with the Young Americans for Freedom and the Common Sense Society. Continue reading