Why Is UVa Hiding Its Campus Survey Results?

… but you can’t see them! (Image credit: scwgl.org.uk)

by Walter Smith

Jim Bacon recently posted an article urging Governor-elect Youngkin to take full advantage of his higher-ed Board of Visitors appointments if he wishes to remain true to the education reform momentum that played a big part in his election. Bacon’s bits (pun intentional!) on the Boards as political plums with a go-along-to-get-along chumminess seemed dead on to me. In truth, academia is a different world. A far different world.

I came out of the corporate world. I worked as counsel in an NYSE company and a private equity company for large insurance brokerages. Governance from the academic world is something I intend to address in a complete, and fair, manner later, after gathering a great deal more info. In the meantime, permit me to share one example of how governance works — or doesn’t work — in academia.

After the 2017 Unite the Right riot in Charlottesville, the University of Virginia took many actions in response. One result was the Racial Equity Task Force report. Another was the formation of the Deans Working Group, headed by Risa Goluboff of the law school. Goluboff made four proposals to the Board in March of 2018, all of which were approved.*

One of those approvals allocated $80,000 to a “university-wide campus climate survey.” This survey, paid for by Virginia taxpayers, has never been released. Why? Given the BoV approval, does it not belong to the public? Continue reading

Mr. Youngkin, Pay Heed to Your University-Board Appointments

University of Virginia board room.

by James A. Bacon

Glenn Youngkin’s winning campaign issue in the 2020 gubernatorial election was expunging Critical Race Theory from Virginia’s public school system. An endlessly repeated trope of the Left is that CRT is an academic legal theory not taught in schools. I (and others) have explained that “CRT” is short-hand for policies based upon the precept that the nation’s institutions are systemically racist. Whatever. People will believe what they want to believe. But there’s one place where even the Left acknowledges CRT is taught… and that’s law schools. Indeed, few would dispute that CRT now saturates higher education generally.

Youngkin will have his hands full rolling back “CRT” in Virginia public K-12 schools, where the ideology is deeply entrenched in official policies, bureaucratic processes, and pervasive attitudes among teachers and administrators. It will be even more difficult rooting out this profoundly destructive ideology in Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

Making the job difficult is the governance structure of higher education in Virginia. The system is decentralized, and public higher-ed institutions enjoy tremendous autonomy. Youngkin cannot dictate his policy preferences. State government has only two tools to implement change in public colleges and universities. One is budgetary: the General Assembly provides funding to colleges and universities. The other is the power of appointment. If Youngkin is to have any impact on higher ed during his four years in office, he needs to use that power aggressively. Continue reading

The Stunning Wealth of UVa’s Nonprofits

by James C. Sherlock

As an alumnus of the University of Virginia, I like to check in occasionally to see how my alma mater is doing financially.

Not the actual University, but the wealthy and proliferating nonprofits set up for its off-the-books support. When I say wealthy, I mean $13,568,527,649 wealthy.

OK, rich.

All of them tax exempt. Continue reading

Jefferson Defended

by James A. Bacon

I was proud of the University of Virginia last night.

The Young Americans for Freedom organized an event, “Defending Thomas Jefferson,” featuring National Review editor Rich Lowry and Texas Congressman Chip Roy, both UVa alumni. Organizers believe it was the first time that conservative speakers from outside the university had been invited since former Senator Rick Santorum had appeared four or five years ago. (It’s been so long that memories were hazy about the details).

Many posts on social media had been critical, and there were rumblings that a protest might be organized. But university police posted outside the Newcomb Hall lecture room provided security, and nothing remotely unpleasant occurred.

More than 150 people attended the event, which easily met expectations. What I found most encouraging was the healthy contingent of Black students who came to hear what the defenders of the university’s founder might say. One could deduce that many were not sympathetic to the views of the speakers because they sat silently through the applause lines. But they listened respectfully and, when the time came for questions, a number asked questions that were pointed but polite. (I am pleased to note that one Black student, who spoke with an African accent, said that she found Jefferson inspiring.)

The event was exactly what a great university should be doing — exposing students to different perspectives and facilitating the civil exchange of views. I am delighted that the Jefferson Council played a role in helping make it happen. Continue reading

This Is It! Act Now to Save the Honor Code, or It Dies

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

Alumni Power

Image credit: Brent Nelson, Flickr

by James A. Bacon

The university alumni rebellion, which first took root in Virginia, is going national.

Washington & Lee University was the first higher-ed institution in the country, to my knowledge, where alumni organized to fight the leftward drift of their alma mater. The W&L group, known as the Generals Redoubt, was followed quickly by The Jefferson Council (to which I belong) at the University of Virginia and The Spirit of VMI at the Virginia Military Institute.

Now the W&L and UVa groups have joined with newly formed alumni organizations at Princeton University, Cornell University and Davidson College to form the Alumni Free Speech Association. While each institution has its unique, parochial issues, they share a common resolve to stand up for free speech, free expression, independent inquiry, and intellectual diversity in the face of a doctrinaire “woke” ideology that, in increasingly totalitarian fashion, dictates the permissible range of opinions people are allowed to express.

Continue reading

Alumni of the World Unite!

The Free Speech Wall in downtown Charlottesville

This press release was issued today by the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, of which The Jefferson Council is a founding member. I serve as vice president-communications of the Council. — JAB

Millions of college and university alumni around the country are dismayed by the intolerance of unpopular viewpoints at their alma maters, and many have begun to fight back.

Alumni have organized groups at five of America’s most prestigious higher-ed institutions — Cornell University, Davidson College, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the Washington & Lee University – to defend free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity in college campuses. Today those groups are announcing that they have joined forces under the banner of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance to launch a national effort to mobilize alumni.

“Free speech and academic freedom are critical to the advancement of knowledge and to the success of our colleges and universities,” said Edward Yingling, a co-founder of the Princeton alumni group. “Yet these basic principles are under attack today at schools across the country.”

(See the column co-authored by Yingling that was published in today’s Wall Street Journal.) Continue reading

With a $14.5 Billion Endowment, Are UVa Leaders Accountable to Anyone But Themselves?

This graph shows how UVIMCO divvies up its $14.5 billion endowment from an investment perspective.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia endowment racked up a breathtaking 49% investment return in the year ending June 30, 2021, bringing the total value of the university’s investments to $14.5 billion, reports the University of Virginia Investment Management Company (UVIMCO) in its 2020-21 annual report.

I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

On the one hand, powerful investment returns supports initiatives such as the recently announced allocation of $50 million dollars for merit-based scholarships and aid to needy undergraduate students. On the other hand, such spectacular financial performance — almost $5 billion in a single year — makes the university leadership less accountable to tuition-paying students and parents, to the Commonwealth of Virginia which funds millions in state support, and to alumni whose individual donations are paltry by comparison.

Come to think of it, I’m even agnostic on whether the $50 million in new scholarship money is a good thing or not. Continue reading

How Not to Create a Diverse, Welcoming Workplace

Michelle Vermillion

by James A. Bacon

Michelle Vermillion was raised an old-fashioned liberal. She grew up thinking that people should be treated as individuals, judged, as Martin Luther King once dreamed, by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. She supports civil rights causes and endorses diversity in the workplace. Getting to know people of different backgrounds at work, she believes, is key for America to move beyond its racist past. When you get to know your coworkers as fellow humans, she says, you learn they want basically the same things you do.

But as a library staffer working at the University of Virginia Library, Vermillion felt increasingly increasingly ill at ease in the past few years. Rather than seeing a person’s race as an incidental part of his or her identity, the UVa Library administration began putting racial identity front and center. Town hall meetings and training programs made race a person’s defining characteristic.

“I’m not the one who changed,” Vermillion says. UVa changed. The traumatizing 2017 Unite the Right Rally in which white supremacists (almost all from out of town) clashed with counter-protestors, precipitated a bout of introspection about the role of slavery and segregation in the institution’s past. The Ryan administration doubled down on a commitment to recruit more Black students and faculty with its “Inclusive Excellence” program. The end result: library administrators today are fixated on race, and they are dedicated to imposing their ideological framework derived from Critical Race Theory upon library staff. Continue reading

Intellectual Enslavement at UVa

UVa memorial to enslaved laborers

by Jock Yellott

“This year, members of the Class of 2025 are required to attend a historical tour and debrief discussion centered around the history of enslaved
laborers at the University.”
— Sydney Hertzog, Cavalier Daily, Sept. 22, 2021.

Why does this rankle? The University of Virginia, after all, has many mandates:

• Social Sciences – 6 credits from two different departments
• Humanities – 6 credits from two different categories
• Historical Studies – one 3 or more credit course
• Non-western Perspectives – one 3 or more credit course
• Natural Science and Mathematics – 12 credits from two different
departments

Why shouldn’t 1st years also be forced to “learn about the University’s
history of white supremacy and enslavement that has been suppressed for
many years”?

If any students objected, they were smart enough not to say so. To the contrary, according to the Cavalier Daily. Students “really enjoyed going on the tour because it has given them context of where they go to school.”

This is not Woke faculty indoctrination, or at least not directly. Says the Cavalier Daily: “This program was built purely by students.”

Why should it bother us? Continue reading