By introduction, I am a graduate of The College and Darden. I continue to believe the University is the most special place in the world, for all the reasons that I’m sure you and your friends & colleagues share.
My oldest son is a junior in high school, and is interested in UVa. We went to Charlottesville this past weekend and naturally, signed up for an Admissions Tour. I still remember my tour in the Fall of 1992, which was hugely important in conveying the “specialness” of UVA and what Mr. Jefferson created. I walked away this past Friday thinking “This was nothing like the tour I remembered, nor what I expected.” Some high (low) lights:
- Tour began in Newcomb Hall (I understand they’ve moved the starting location from the Rotunda due to size and other considerations, which is unfortunate). All tour hosts introduced themselves first & foremost with their pronouns. There is a HUGE difference between Newcomb Hall and the Lawn, as you know. Felt like I could have been at any large state school.
- Meandered through Clark Hall, the McIntire School and ultimately ended up on the West-facing Porch (it was raining all day, so that created some difficulties).
- It was at that point that our guide first mentioned Jefferson’s name, to make the point that Jefferson contributed “some” to the founding of the University. WAIT!!! WHAT??? But she then went on a 5- to 10-minute diatribe about the 300 to 400 slaves who were housed in the basements of the pavilions, with walls tall enough to hide them, that really built the University.
- She tied this into the 2017 Unite the Right rally, and then most shockingly, gave us her view that the University leadership knew and implicitly approved of what went on, because they should have done something to stop/avoid it.
- And that was that. Ninety minutes of my life that I unfortunately can’t get back.
We never heard/saw many things that I think make the place special:
- Why did Mr. Jefferson found the University? What is the Academical Village concept and why does the Lawn look like it does? Why is that important in the education of a 21st-century university student? The Jefferson Legacy, as you highlight it.
- We never set foot inside the Rotunda! (or went around the front to see that statue either!)
- No mention of the architectural genius Jefferson employed. I ended up meeting a professional architect there by the Rotunda and conversed with him instead.
- Secret societies, Greek life, 1st year experience
Don’t get me wrong — I appreciate that Jefferson and UVA have a complicated history and relationship with slaves. I read & discussed books about the topic while I was studying there — I get it. History is history and no one is trying to re-write it to diminish the truth. But without context, a lot of history can be misconstrued, as seems to be happening more and more. It sure seems like the U Guides (if they are still called that) have made a decision to replace conveying the excitement, wonder and uniqueness of UVa with a political agenda which would seem to value inflammatory opinions/radical views versus actual history & facts. I walked away sad that for a lot of people, that is their first impression of UVA. Given my background, I obviously was able to provide a different perspective than that with which we were presented, and provide context to a lot of what was said. But I was still fairly shocked at the tour and what I heard.
I live in a state where we’ve been a bit more sheltered from a lot of the “woke” happenings in other parts of the country. This was eye-opening for me. I mentioned it immediately to one of the folks who works for the Jefferson Scholars, who said “we are hearing this a lot and it is an issue.” I realize the Jefferson Council’s mandate is a bit broader, but as it pertains to preserving Mr. Jefferson’s legacy, I can tell you that the Admissions Tour I went on would seem to be working in the opposite direction.
— Name withheld by request
The Jefferson Council should not let this go unaddressed. Members living in C’ville should go on the tours and attempt to correct the tour guide and add relevant information.
How about this is brought up formally in a letter to President Ryan?
Already has been. Multiple times. See above. Ryan has to go.
If I did I doubt I would be allowed one single word in rational discussion.
The tours have been like this for at least 5 years – some worse than others. Being a U-guide, which I’m assuming this person was (?), used to be a high honor and required a lot of knowledge beyond selected current events and talk of slavery and opinions of leadership at UVa. So many in a state I used to live in, have no desire to send their kids here. They’re choosing colleges and universities like Vanderbilt, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss. Maybe not the “#2 university” but a nice balance of academics and sanity. Wondering if this parent spoke up and asked questions or just let the tour ride out. Either way, another good mission the TJC.
The author withheld his name and so I doubt he said one word in opposition.
“Felt like I could have been at any large state school.”
I expressed the same sentiments last month to a Univ fundraising officer I met with when he was in town.
I specifically showed him a TV commercial UVA aired 10 years ago emphasizing history, heritage, & the Univ being “an idea born of our nation’s greatest thinker.”
Ten years ago we aired commercials only UVA could come up with. Today our commercials show ball games, science research, just like ads for Virginia Tech or Ohio State, except we happen to be located in Central Virginia.
Link to commercial below:
Who oversees the guide service, monitors their itinerary, and approves their dialogue of grievance? Sounds like the DEI crowd who contribute nothing but overhead.
In two separate instances friends of mine who do not know each other, but who both know of my love for UVA, relayed to me the negative impressions of UVA created by the student guides. In both cases prospective students who had been accepted by top tier universities including The University decided not to attend UVA, deleting The University from their “list” based almost entirely on the tour. In one case it was a friend’s niece who lived in Illinois and I believe the other was a grandchild who lived in Virginia. They indicated that the guides at other schools were much more “professional” and encouraging about their schools.
Good for them. If I had to send my children to university in this climate they would be sending them to Hillsdale.
It’s deliberate. See my comment above.
President Ryan has a BA from Yale. You think he encourages their tour guides to stress founder Elihu Yale’s slave trading past? Hold your breath. Doubt it.
Male no mistake. Jimmy Ryan came back south to destroy Mr. Jefferson’s University. He’s doing a pretty damn good job.
I have news for Mr. or Mrs. Name Held by Request…UVa is now nothing more than another large state school and has been for the last 20 years and now it is a not very good state school My name is not to be withheld.
How to lead from behind
Everyone I know who has taken their kid on an admissions tour in the last 3 years or so has had basically the same experience. Plus, the guides seemed disinterested and rather sloppy. I’m a product of the early-mid 90s and this would have been anathema back then :-(.
I took a visiting friend on a Rotunda tour that continued to the Lawn about 5 or 6 years ago. That tour was similar to the one described, talking about slavery and not saying many positive stories or highlights. Being from Charlottesville for the last 38 years and having worked for UVA, I asked her about the students saving Jefferson’s statue during the fire. I also asked questions about the architecture which Jefferson brought from overseas. I saw prospective students and their parents on the tour and wondered what they thought when it was over because I was horrified. It was not a positive experience.
There is so much incredibly unique and positive history to be disseminated during these tours. Focusing on a biased woke and ill-informed diatribe is a disservice to the University. That this situation continues unabated is a reflection of poor leadership.
Look up to the resident of Carr’s Hill. It’s President Ryan’s vision of “great and good.”
The new Gov. Youngkin appointed BOV must remove him. As soon as possible. He’s a cancer that needs to be excised.
Something is seriously wrong with whatever body is in charge of the Guides program. It needs to be addressed and soon, before UVa comes to be regarded as a joke!
Going from deifying Jefferson as in the past to demonizing him in the present is certainly not an improvement. Both are simplistic and totally inaccurate.
Sounds like today’s guided tours contain very little of valiue. If they can’t do better than that maybe the program should be discontinued.
The ironic thing is that for all the focus on DEI, these types of tours are likely to have the opposite affect on recruiting diverse students.
I think it would work the other way. Turn off the legacy and US and Jefferson positive types, and attract people more interested in destroying Jefferson and “Old South” as stepping stones to Washington and the Founding. And JR and his administrative apparat probably give generous scholarship money to the destroyers. Then, when the hand-selected destroyers do their destroying, the Great and Good One will make like Pontus Pilate and wash his hands of it, saying it was a student decision.
The Lawn tour guides asinine diatribes were directly pointed out to both President Ryan and current BOV Rector Whitt Clement for the past 2 years by The Jefferson Council. Ignorance was claimed of their messages. Promises were made to rectify this.
Nothing has happened. Obviously, they either lied or deliberately want this to happen.
Why? Because they don’t want conservative kids to matriculate at UVA. They want woke kids who hate Jefferson and UVA to make it President Ryan’s vision of “great and good.”
Not my vision.
There is no reason to support the University, which we love, financially, while this asleep to history “Woke-ism” persists. Diamond Jim Ryan needs to recognize the facts of Jefferson’s contributions and appropriately contextualize them.
I wonder how much the alumni participation rate in annual giving has gone down in the last few years?