Category Archives: Leftist orthodoxy

Anatomy of an Intellectual Monoculture

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia employees who donated to Democratic Party candidates between 2017 and 2022 outnumbered Republican donors by an 18-to-one ratio, reports a National Association of Scholars case study.

Professors favor Dem candidates over GOP by a 24-to-one ratio, and staff by a 16-to-one ratio. The only sub-categories that came close to parity were “blue-collar staff (1.4-to-one) and sports team coaches (7-to-4). Twenty-one of 39 academic disciplines included not a single Republican donor.

Compared to other elite higher-ed institutions, the ideological imbalance at UVA is “moderate,” writes author Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor at Brooklyn College. At some institutions, it’s almost impossible to find any Republicans. However, the imbalance is getting worse, not better.

“In the past decade, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) politics, including expensive DEI officers, DEI compliance requirements, and litmus tests for professors have further skewed university cultures,” Langbert writes. “Identity studies departments, such as gender studies, have also influenced universities’ organizational cultures and personnel policies.” Continue reading

“Crash the U.S. Settler State”

Dr. Tiffany King, a tenured professor in the University of Virginia’s Department of Women, Sexuality and Gender, spoke last week in a virtual symposium hosted by Hunter College’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies.

The symposium, “At the Edge of Each Other’s Battles: Puerto Rican, Palestinian, Black & Indigenous Futures,” explored the “mutual solidarity” that is believed to exist between these communities. King and a Hunter College professor closed out the symposium with their panel, “Letters for Palestine: Storytelling as Praxis.” We have excerpted clips from that even for this blog post, but we have made the entire discussion available for viewing should anyone wonder if we are taking comments out of context.

King believes that the Palestinian Resistance inspires Black and Indigenous feminists to “crash the U.S. settler state.” Continue reading

UVA As a “Maze of Predatory Systems”

by James A. Bacon

If you visit the latest exhibit at the University of Virginia’s Ruffin Gallery, “EscapeRoom,” it takes no more than five or ten seconds for the artists’ message to sink in — the amount of time it takes to read the signage at the entrance:

The University of Virginia (UVA) is a site of reckoning. The legacies of slavery and white supremacy reverberate throughout its built environment. EscapeRoom confronts the frameworks of injustice that contemporary audiences inhabit and inherit in relation to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. … EscapeRoom charts critical routes through a maze of predatory systems.

Inside, the exhibits contributed by multiple artists elaborate upon the white-supremacy theme. Five 3D-printed pieces of porcelain, for instance, are described as giving “materiality, scale and dimension to the many ‘tools’ that mediate state violence visited upon Black victims: horses, batons, guns, tear gas, and more.”

A mobile made of steel sheet metal “examines violence visited upon Black people at the hands of the American state. It attends to the paradoxes of Black life and death in this anti-Black world.”

To set foot in the EscapeRoom is to enter a world of victimhood that would have been entirely justified a century or two ago but seems tragically out of date 60 years after the passage of Civil Rights legislation, the enactment of the Great Society’s war on poverty, and the dramatic transformation of attitudes toward race in America — not to mention the implementation of Racial Equity Task Force recommendations at UVA itself that made the exhibit possible in the first place. Continue reading

“Rest as Resistance,” the “Nap Ministry,” and Thanksgiving as White Supremacy

Editor’s Note: Today we profile Melody Pannell as an illustration of the intersectional-oppression ideology — colloquially referred to as wokeness — that permeates the University of Virginia. To avoid letting our biases creep into this and other profiles, we let the subjects express themselves in their own words. Sometimes the informally spoken word does not translate well into the written word as seen in a transcript, so we have done our best to render Pannell’s statements more intelligible by means of punctuation and excisions. Readers can judge from the video clips if we have done a fair job. — JAB. 

Meet Melody Pannell, UVA Health’s Director of Diversity & Community Engagement. Her job, says the UVA Health website, is to “cultivate an inclusive community, address social disparities and health inequities, and empower others. She also develops diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings.”

Pannell described herself and the struggles of her work in a video dialogue with Kimberly Barker, the Librarian for Belonging & Community Engagement at UVA’s Health Sciences Library.

Said Pannell: “As an activist, accomplice … DEI work, all kind of stuff like that, I’ve had my times where I lean in. … And sometimes I just have to retreat and say rest is resistance. Part of my work is actually making sure that I’m still here.” Continue reading

Assigning Extra Credit for Attending Pro-Hamas Event

Tessa Farmer

by James A. Bacon

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion staff at the University of Virginia downplayed concerns about Tessa Farmer, an anthropology professor who last fall offered extra credit to students to attend a Students for Justice in Palestine-organized teach-in, reports The Washington Examiner this morning.

The purpose of the event was to show solidarity with Palestinians resisting Israeli “occupation” and demand that the United States withdraw its support for Israel. 

“Internal emails show DEI staffers were apparently unperturbed by this professor’s promotion of a Students for Justice in Palestine event despite the group’s radical rhetoric,” the newspaper quoted Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of federal-spending watchdog OpenTheBooks, as saying. OpenTheBooks worked with the Examiner on the Freedom of Information Act requests that recovered the emails. The group also collaborated with the Jefferson Council to publish recent findings that UVA spends $20 million on salary and benefits for DEI staff at UVA. Continue reading

What “Viewpoint Diversity” Looks Like at UVA

by James A. Bacon

An email from the Karsh Institute for Democracy arrived in my computer this morning, highlighting upcoming events at the University of Virginia. One event seemed to offer the potential for being non-ideologically loaded. Harvard historian Serhii Plokhy will explore American-Soviet relations through the prism of Soviet and American airmen on U.S. air bases in the Ukraine during World War II.

But if you’re looking for a variety of perspectives on the challenges and promises of democracy today — not a tangentially related curiosity from 80 years ago — you won’t find it at Karsh this April.

There is nothing in the smorgasbord of democracy-related events that explore such themes as, say, the conditions required for wealth creation, the rise of America’s cultural elites and concomitant alienation of the working/middle class, the government role in suppressing “misinformation,” the political weaponization of the justice system, the impending fiscal collapse of the federal government, or other themes that — agree or disagree with them — are serious narratives raised by the non-left. One wonders if UVA’s faculty and administrators even know such perspectives exist.

A review of other events highlighted by Karsh shows vividly how UVA has become an intellectual monoculture that explores only ideas that fall within a narrow partisan and ideological range. Join me as I tour the intellectual offerings provided by a university whose leadership touts its commitment to “viewpoint diversity.” Continue reading

In Their Own Words: Christa Noel Robbins

Christa Noel Robbins teaches art history at the University of Virginia. On Feb. 26, she wrote an email, which was forwarded to the Jefferson Council, explaining her reasons for canceling class. The art historian said she was motivated by solidarity with the “Yes on Divest Walkout.” The walkout organizers endorse a student referendum demanding that managers of the University of Virginia $14 billion endowment purge its holdings of corporations benefiting from business with the “apartheid” regime of Israel.

Dear Class,

I’m writing to let you know that I am canceling class today in solidarity with the “Yes on Divest Walkout” that the UVA Apartheid Divest coalition organized. I realize this issue is polarizing right now, so I want to take a moment to let you know why I made this choice. As we’ve discussed in class, cultural heritage and community integrity has everything to do with place. You just finished watching Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, where you saw that Gaza (a strip of land around 25 miles long and no more than 7.5 miles wide at its widest point, that once held over 2 million people) has been under a blockade since 2007. You heard Hagai El-Ad, an Israeli LGBT and human rights activist, describe Gaza as a “Third World country on the way to collapse” and you saw a group of young students describing Gaza as a prison and expressing their regret that they cannot travel the world because they cannot freely move in and out of Gaza. Continue reading

UVA Students Want Vote on Israel Divestment

by James A. Bacon

A student group at the University of Virginia is petitioning the student-run University Board of Elections at the University of Virginia to hold a referendum calling for an audit of UVA’s endowment funds to determine how much are invested in companies “engaging in or profiting from the State of Israel’s apartheid regime and acute violence against Palestinians and to immediately divest all funds so identified.”

The petition is backed by UVA Apartheid Divest (UVAAD), which seeks to unite UVA students in the struggle against “imperialism, colonialism, and militarism in pursuit of collective liberation.”

The organization’s vision states, “We envision a free Palestine, where everyone can live as free and equal citizens. We necessarily envision a world free from colonialism and imperialism, and from all the interrelated systems of oppression that hold them.” The initiative mirrors other BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) initiatives aimed at Israel taking place at other universities around the country.

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that the referendum had been scheduled. Continue reading

Now They’re “Decolonizing” Therapy

Natoya Haskins

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development maintains a program, Youth-Nex, that is dedicated to “supporting developmental science that is not only anti-racist but is in the service of dismantling white supremacy.”

Youth-Nex is currently highlighting the work of Natoya Hill Haskins, a UVA associate professor of counseling and lead author of an article published in Counselor Special Education and Supervision, “Teaching anti-racist counseling theories: Black liberation narrative therapy.” From the article abstract:

Counseling theories created by White theorists have traditionally failed to consider the religious or spiritual experiences of Black clients. Integration of Black liberation theology [BLT] and narrative therapy provides a novel approach to support counseling trainees in meeting the needs of Black clients. Decolonizing therapeutic strategies are presented along with counselor educator recommendations.

Write the authors: Continue reading

How Open Is “Political Dialogue” at UVA?

by James A. Bacon

There is widespread concern among critics of higher education in America that elite universities are squelching free speech and open dialogue in the pursuit of social justice. There is ample evidence that such is exactly the case. But institutions vary, and what occurs at Harvard or Yale may or may not be indicative of reality at the University of Virginia. It is incumbent upon us at the Jefferson Council to draw conclusions about the state of free speech and civil discourse at UVA based on what is happening at UVA, not what we read of horrors elsewhere.

Fortunately, in the age of the Internet, the partisan and ideological proclivities of college faculty are more transparent than ever — even if administrators are not. Professors leave abundant evidence in their writings and in digital recordings. Insofar as we have time, we will profile cases we come across.

We first became interested in Rachel L. Wahl, an associate professor of education at UVA who is affiliated with the Karsh Institute for Democracy, because she was one of eleven appointees to the Religious Diversity Task Force charged with addressing religious bias on the Grounds. If a purpose of the task force is to facilitate dialogue between hostile religious groups, appointing Wahl was likely a good idea. Not only does she encourage respectful dialogue, she researches what it takes to achieve it. Continue reading