Letter from Bert Ellis, president of The Jefferson Council to All Friends of the University of Virginia.
I am writing this letter as Bert Ellis, a passionate Double Hoo (College ‘75, Darden ‘79) and as a Founder and President of The Jefferson Council. Our University is under attack from multiple sources and at multiple levels. The entire academic and community experience that so many of us shared at UVA is
totally at risk. Our Administration has totally politicized the entire university to the detriment of all that we hold dear.
We at the Jefferson Council have been fighting on behalf of all of us to preserve/promote four major tenets:
1) Open Dialogue throughout the University.
2) Preservation of the Jefferson legacy.
3) Preservation of the architectural sanctity of the Lawn.
4) Preservation and rejuvenation of the Honor System.
We have indeed made some progress on points 1 and 3: The University adopted a set of principles of open dialogue which we think are quite reasonable and the Ryan administration adopted a set of rules limiting signage on the Lawn doors. Mr. Jefferson’s statue – which was in jeopardy — remains in front of the Rotunda, yet to be contextualized. The Honor System still exists but is now under very serious attack such that this could be its very final year at UVA. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
In the fall convocation ceremonies at the University of Virginia this week, President Jim Ryan said many things that once upon a time would have been considered unremarkable. The purpose of a UVa education, he said, is to pursue the truth. The search for truth is unending, and progress toward the truth is predicated upon free speech and open inquiry. UVa is a place for honest and respectful conversations between those who disagree, Ryan said. UVa is a place where civil dialogues can take place.
An alumnus in the audience, Bert Ellis, was reassured by Ryan’s words. Ellis is president of The Jefferson Council, a group dedicated to upholding the Jeffersonian legacy at UVa that has catalogued the suppression of free speech and expression and the drift toward intellectual conformity, and he was primed to be skeptical.
“All in all, I liked his remarks,” says Ellis. “I was pleasantly surprised by his references to and respect for Mr. Jefferson and his legacy and with his very strong support for open dialogue and for the Honor System. I hope his actions over the upcoming school year will be as strong as his words.”
Here follows the transcript of an entirely fictional videoconference between University of Virginia President Jim Ryan and his Executive Cabinet. The author is not intending to be satirical. He is illuminating the issues that any honest effort to implement a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion agenda will encounter. — JAB
by Jon Jewett
President Ryan: I have called this meeting to address the most important problem facing the University today — systemic racism. It is imperative that we make significant progress towards a solution during the 2021-22 academic year. In view of their critical roles in determining how we as a university address this problem, I have asked Greg Roberts, Dean of Admissions, Ian Baucom, Dean of Arts and Sciences. Risa Goluboff, Dean of the Law School, and David Wilkes, Dean of the School of Medicine, to join us.
I trust that by now you have all read Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist. If not, you should. Make that “must.’ Kendi’s basic message can be summed up as “No More Excuses.” We all know that all races are equal. Yet there are huge disparities between whites and blacks in this country, and in this University. Supposedly we have been working to eliminate those disparities at least since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, but they have barely changed over the last 50 years. What we have been doing has simply not worked, and it is time to recognize that reality. Kevin McDonald, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Partnerships, will first explain what our goals must be if we are to have an anti-racist university, and then I will call on others to explain how we will achieve those goals. Kevin? Continue reading
by Walter Smith
What is the mission of the University of Virginia’s Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
You can try reading the Office’s “Mission” here, but that won’t clear anything up. The document is so loaded with jargon and fuzzy thinking that it won’t mean much to anyone untrained in diversity speak.
I have a few questions. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The memorial to the slaves who labored at the University of Virginia is a quiet, dignified and moving tribute to the Virginians whose contributions to the university went unappreciated and unrecognized for too long. Yesterday my wife and I visited the memorial, which was dedicated almost a year ago, for the first time. It is a wonderful example of the “additive” approach to remembering our past — adding new layers of understanding — as opposed to the purgative approach of blotting out the remembrance of those who made significant contributions to society but whose association with slavery, the Confederacy or segregation offend modern-day sensibilities. Continue reading
The University of Virginia perpetuated the damaging stereotype of African- American society as an intellectual monoculture today with the release of speakers in its upcoming Racial Equity Speaker series. The three speakers represent a narrow range of black views on the issue of racism in America. Continue reading
by Walter Smith
The Virginia Magazine newsletter recently featured this article on two newly formed commissions: one to articulate the university’s commitment to free expression and inquiry, the other to pursue recommendations of the Racial Equity Task Force regarding the renaming of buildings and memorials.
Regarding the first commission, the fact that an internationally respected institution founded by Thomas Jefferson, perhaps history’s greatest advocate for free speech, finds it necessary to study the issue is damning on its own terms. No further comment needed.
My primary complaint dwells on the naming and renaming commission. To start with, I cannot believe a name of an inanimate building, thing or place is truly “harmful” to any thinking person. You could name the buildings after Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Nebuchadnezzar, Genghis Khan, or any other offensive person you can think of, and I would not be “harmed.” I might think you were stupid, but I wouldn’t be harmed. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
It is deemed a great honor to be one of the 47 fourth-year students at the University of Virginia awarded a residence on the Lawn, Thomas Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece and World Heritage site. A committee of 60 students selects the residents from a pool of applicants, in theory based on their record of “unselfish service and achievement in their respective fields of activity and academics.”
But when the Cavalier Daily published an article yesterday providing the racial/ethnic background of the individuals who were offered a spot on the Lawn next year, it didn’t emphasize their accomplishments. Rather, drawing from data provided by Dean of Students Allen Groves, the article focused on the increased demographic “diversity” of the Lawn residents.
“Students of Color” received nearly 60% of the offers this year, compared to only 30% last year, reported the student-run newspaper.
The dramatic one-year shift in the racial/ethnic composition of Lawn residents raises the question of whether race and ethnicity has become an explicit but not-stated-publicly criteria for selection. Continue reading
by Walter Smith
“Lifetime learning” sounds pretty innocuous, right? Maybe even charitable and aspirational?
To be fair, the University of Virginia lifetime-learning program does offer some courses that provide an opportunity to learn something. The two offerings by Professor Ragosta on Patrick Henry look interesting.
But there is a difference between “learning” and “indoctrination. And the “Governor’s Summit on Equitable Collaboration,” hosted by UVa’s lifetime learning program, is shaping up to be an embarrassment for an institution of higher learning whose purported goals are to be “good and great.”
The toolkit for “transforming community spaces” sounds more like the manual for a Red Guard reeducation camp than a lifetime learning experience. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
Sometimes things come together that confirm one’s worst fears but improve hope for the future simultaneously. Such a turning point happened with me not long after UVa’s alumni magazine, Virginia (Winter Edition 2020), arrived at my house earlier this month.
The first story in the magazine was a piece written by Richard Gard (Col ’81), alumni association vice president for communications and editor of Virginia. It was titled “BOV Blesses Racial Equity Plan — More Diversity, Less Confederacy.” Catchy.
It purported to update alumni on “Audacious Future: Commitment Required,” the report of the University’s racial equity task force, and the Board of Visitors’ specifically partial and entirely unfunded endorsement of that report.
The members of that task force were:
- Kevin McDonald, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Partnerships
- Ian H. Solomon, Dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
- Barbara Brown Wilson, Assistant Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning and co-founder and Faculty Director of UVA’s Equity Center