“Our Life Is Always Threatened”

Insult to dead White man inspires outcries against racism by campus radicals. Photo credit: Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

Last week an unidentified White man draped a noose from the statue of Homer at the University of Virginia. Without any evidence of the perpetrator’s motive, University Police and President Jim Ryan promptly proclaimed the incident a hate crime. Yesterday, a group of 60 or so students gathered near the statue of the ancient Greek poet to protest racism and White supremacy, and The Daily Progress, Charlottesville’s newspaper, was there!

In the resulting 19-paragraph story, the newspaper gave full voice to the protesters’ rhetoric without a single dissenting view.

“For Black men and Black women here on this campus and in this country, our life is always threatened. There’s always a noose around our neck,” said one Black UVa student organizer. “This is nothing new for us. I was hurting, especially when it first happened.”  Continue reading

Presumed Racist Until Proven Innocent

by James A. Bacon

Around 11:15 p.m. last Wednesday, a White male dressed in dark clothing climbed the statue of the blind poet Homer on the grounds of the University of Virginia and hung a noose around its neck.

The next day University President Jim Ryan declared the incident to be a “hate crime” and vowed to track down the perpetrator. Ryan said he wanted to assure every member of the UVa community that he was “working to keep you safe and to make the University of Virginia a place where everyone is welcome” regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology.

“A noose is a recognizable and well-known symbol of violence, most closely associated with the racially motivated lynchings of African Americans,” Ryan said in a prepared statement. “The combination of those factors led University public safety officials to determine that this incident met the criteria of a hate crime and that a community alert was required.”

Proclaiming the incident to be a hate crime seems premature. Given the facts available, I would not call it unreasonable to suspect that noose might have been meant to intimidate African-Americans — let’s call it a working hypothesis — but one must ask, if someone is trying to send a racist message, why hang the noose around the neck of an ancient Greek poet? Why not hang the noose from a tree branch? Or vandalize the shrine to UVa’s slave laborers? Continue reading

Va. Colleges Fare Pretty Well in Free-Speech Rankings

Click on table for more legible image.

by James A. Bacon

Three Virginia Universities scored in the top 25 institutions in the 2022-23 College Free Speech Rankings published this week by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

The College of William and Mary scored 12th among the 203 institutions ranked in the national survey of 44,900 undergraduate students. George Mason University ranked 17th, and the University of Virginia 24th.

Washington & Lee University ranked 70th, placing it in the top half, but Virginia Tech achieved a dismal 150th-place ranking, making it among the worst in the nation for free speech.

Institutions with the best rankings tended to score well in their formal, written speech codes, as determined by FIRE research based on formal university policies. Those policies are not necessarily honored in practice, however. Of potential concern to Bacon’s Rebellion readers, for example, W&M and UVa students expressed far less tolerance for conservative outside speakers than liberal speakers. Continue reading

Virginia Association of Scholars Readings, Week of Sept. 5

Nadine Strossen on the importance of academic freedom and freedom of speech:  https://academicfreedom.org/seeking-justice-seeking-truth-a-conversation-with-nadine-strossen/

Conflicting goals of public education:  https://www.manhattan-institute.org/new-yorks-parents-are-exercising-their-school-options

Ohio law moves universities to support free speech:  https://campusreform.org/article?id=20075

Heritage report on DEI takes similar approach to ours:  https://www.heritage.org/education/report/diversity-university-dei-bloat-the-academy Continue reading

Jefferson Council Adds Higher-Ed News Feed

We at the Jefferson Council do our best to keep you informed about University of Virginia events bearing upon our four pillars: upholding Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, preserving the dignity of the academical village, protecting the honor code, and promoting free speech and intellectual diversity. Through our friends at the Virginia Association of Scholars (VAS), we come across many articles bearing on those and related topics from around the country.

Given your interest in the University of Virginia, we thought you might be interested in staying informed about similar issues elsewhere in Virginia and nationally. On the other hand, we do not want to inundate your in-box with unwanted email.

As a trial, we will post VAS news feeds on The Jefferson Council blog. Please let us know through the comments section if this material is welcome or a distraction.

— JAB

A Letter to President Ryan on Jefferson’s Legacy

Lee Habeeb, Law School class of ’91, has given The Jefferson Council permission to republish his letter, first appearing in Newsweek, that we referenced in an earlier TJC post. — JAB

James Ryan
President
University of Virginia

Dear Jim,

I’m a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where I spent two of my three years studying the Constitution, property rights, contract law and federalism with you in Charlottesville. We studied important things that our Founding Fathers thought about and debated in the 18th century and that we’re still debating today.

I’ve been reading with great worry about efforts by students and faculty alike to remove the statue of Thomas Jefferson that stands in front of the Rotunda and remove all positive references in official university communications about the man who founded our beloved university. To your credit, you defended Jefferson’s presence. “I do not believe the statue should be removed, nor would I ever approve such an effort,” you wrote in UVa Today not long ago. “As long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson.” It was a clear statement, but you didn’t go far enough.

Jefferson, to put it plainly, was one of the greatest political visionaries in human history. No less a visionary than Reverend Martin Luther King—himself a flawed man worthy of honor—thought that was true. “Never before in the history of the world has a sociopolitical document expressed in such profound, eloquent and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth of human personality,” King declared on the Fourth of July in 1965 while speaking about the Declaration of Independence. “The American dream reminds us—and we should think about it anew on this Independence Day—that every man is an heir of the legacy of dignity and worth.”

We are all heirs of the work Jefferson and our founders did in the 18th century. But like any inheritance, it’s easy to squander. Continue reading

Sorry, Lefties, But Racists Don’t Invest In Black Enterprise


by James A. Bacon

The broadsides against Bert Ellis are going national. Inside Higher Education, the higher-ed trade publication, has published an article highlighting the growing controversy over Ellis’ appointment to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. The article quotes Eva Surovell, editor-in-chief of The Cavalier Daily, whose articles sparked the furor, as saying that developments at UVa reflect the larger campus culture wars across the country.

That observation is true enough. Unfortunately, Surovell goes on to say this: “We’re just not unique in that really conservative voices are nostalgic for a time when women, when Black people and when other people of color were either banned or much less of a population here at UVA.”

Translation: Ellis and his alumni allies are reactionary racists and sexists.

I’ve got news for Ms. Surovell: Bert Ellis is CEO of Johnson Energy Storage, a developer of solid-state energy storage solutions founded by African American inventor Lonnie Johnson. Racists don’t invest in minority-owned enterprises. Racists don’t serve as CEOs of companies founded by minority entrepreneurs. Continue reading

Jefferson, a Man for All Time

Lee Habeeb

Lee Habeeb, best known as host of the “Our American Stories” podcast network, graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1991. Newsweek has just published his letter to President Jim Ryan defending Thomas Jefferson’s legacy. The Jefferson Council cannot republish the letter here without permission, but we recommend it to you. Read the letter here.

Habeeb has been keeping up with the Jefferson bashing that occurs at UVa, and he makes a powerful case for continuing to honor his legacy. Defining Jefferson by his status as a slave-holder devoid of any historical context is a huge mistake, he says.

“Millions of men around the world in our founders’ time owned slaves; only one authored the Declaration of Independence,” he writes. “This doesn’t make Jefferson’s slave ownership less odious or hypocritical; it makes Jefferson a man of his time. The declaration, however, made him a man for all time. A man ahead of his time.”

How a Lie Is Born

by James A. Bacon

It is horrifying to watch in real time how the media generates falsehoods and then spreads them without correction. About two weeks ago The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Virginia, published an article about a 47-year-old controversy in which Bert Ellis, who then was a tri-chairman of the student union and now sits on the UVa Board of Visitors, invited William Shockley, a racist and eugenicist, to speak at the university. The story, shorn of critical context, spread to the Democratic Party of Virginia, then to the Washington Post editorial board, and most recently to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Insinuated but not stated baldly, is that Ellis is a racist. In its latest mutation, the lie is used to build a case that Governor Glenn Youngkin, who appointed Ellis to the board, is, in the Post’s words, “racially obtuse.”

Bert Ellis is a colleague of mine. We serve together in the leadership of The Jefferson Council, which is dedicated to upholding the Jeffersonian legacy at UVa. I don’t know him intimately, but I have gotten to know him pretty well. I have heard him speak candidly on a host of incendiary issues, and I’ve never heard him utter a racist sentiment.

With this column, I’m putting Virginia’s mainstream media on notice: Stop it! You’re treading dangerously close to libel. You can no longer claim innocence of the facts. If you persist, you deserve to be sued. Continue reading

Woke Limbo: How Low Can You Go?

by James A. Bacon

The bar for triggering Virginia Democrats gets lower by the day. The latest limbo contortion is a call by the Democratic Party of Virginia and the University Democrats at the University of Virginia for the resignation of Bert Ellis, a recently appointed member of the UVa Board of Visitors, who has yet to utter a single public word in his capacity as a board member. In a joint statement, the two organizations cite three particulars, each of which exceeds the other in triviality.

According to the joint statement, Ellis’ sins can be traced back to the 1974-75 academic year when he was chairman of the University Union, which put on concerts, brought in speakers and organized other events at UVa.

That year, the Union and Ellis held an event entitled The Correlation Between Race and Intelligence, featuring William Shockley, an unabashed racist, white supremecist (sic), and eugenicist. This event is a stain on the University’s past, especially due to the event’s intentional scheduling during Black Cultural Week. As the University continues to grapple with its history of slavery, racism, and eugenics, Mr. Ellis’ appointment is not only regressive, but also directly insulting to countless students and student organizations who have worked relentlessly to make Charlottesville more equitable.

Neither the Cavalier Daily, in its article raising the controversy, nor the Democratic Party, in its joint statement, acknowledges that Shockley, whose theories were widely circulated in the 1970s, was invited to debate Richard Goldsby, an African-American biologist. Neither Ellis nor the Student Union endorsed Shockley’s racist views; they invited public scrutiny. Continue reading