President Ryan on Thomas Jefferson

Jim Bacon, vice president-communications for The Jefferson Council, has received the following communication from University of Virginia spokesman Brian Coy. In the spirit of open dialogue, we publish it here for the benefit of our readers.

As you may have seen, there has been some recent media coverage about Thomas Jefferson’s place in the University community.

In case it is useful, I wanted to share a message from President Ryan, first published in October of 2020, which conveys his position on the matter and the University’s policy. Below is a relevant excerpt from his longer statement:

Some members of our community have called for the removal of the statue. This idea gained greater urgency in light of the recent protests across the country this summer.

I do not believe the statue should be removed, nor would I ever approve such an effort. As long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson.

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Letter to President Ryan and the Board of Visitors

August 29, 2022

Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia
President James E Ryan
The University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904

Dear Members of the Board and President Ryan,

As you know, on August 11 the Editorial Board of the Cavalier Daily published an article entitled: To create “citizen leaders,” U.Va. must do more. The Editorial Board states: “There is a reason why Charlottesville’s local Klu (sic) Klux Klan Chapter hosted its inauguration ceremony at Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. There is a reason why white supremacists gathered with torches around Jefferson’s statue on the north side of the Rotunda. There is a reason why they felt comfortable marching through Grounds. Our physical environment — from statues to building names to Jefferson’s overwhelming presence — exalts people who held the same beliefs as the repugnant white supremacists in attendance at the “Unite the Right” rally. These buildings must be renamed and memorials removed.”

One of the four core pillars of The Jefferson Council is to “preserve the Jefferson Legacy.” This legacy has been under assault continuously since the events of August 2017, events which had absolutely nothing to do with the University, much less Thomas Jefferson. Student leaders on the Student Council and Cavalier Daily have relentlessly conflated the assault on the Lawn by out-of-town racists with the University and Mr. Jefferson. Now in the editorial above, they are clearly calling for the total eradication of Thomas Jefferson from the history of the University he founded. Continue reading

As Anti-Jefferson Rhetoric Swells, Ryan Stands Silent

by James A, Bacon

Here is what passes for logic at The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Virginia, a university once reputed for the excellence of its education:

We reject how the University’s physical environment — one that glorifies racists, slaveholders and eugenicists with statues and buildings named in their honor — upholds an enduring culture of white supremacy. There is a reason why Charlottesville’s local Klu Klux Klan Chapter hosted its inauguration ceremony at Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. There is a reason why white supremacists gathered with torches around Jefferson’s statue on the north side of the Rotunda. There is a reason why they felt comfortable marching through Grounds. Our physical environment — from statues to building names to Jefferson’s overwhelming presence — exalts people who held the same beliefs as the repugnant white supremacists in attendance at the “Unite the Right” rally. These buildings must be renamed and memorials removed.

Follow the syllogism: White supremacists rallied at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. White supremacists are evil. (Unstated but necessary to complete the syllogism): Ergo, Jefferson is evil. Therefore, buildings and memorials to him and other white supremacists must be removed.

The CD editorial writers use the rhetorical device of guilt by association to tar Jefferson. Notably, this particular circumlocution holds Jefferson guilty by virtue of association with the Ku Klux Klan, which did not exist in Jefferson’s time, for activities undertaken some 200 years after he lived! The mystic chords of White supremacy, it seems, transcend space, time and causality. Continue reading

Bhattacharya Case Dismissed

by James A. Bacon

A federal judge has dismissed a case against the University of Virginia by a medical student who charged that university officials had retaliated against him for disputing the speaker’s logic in a panel discussion about microaggressions.

The plaintiff, Kieren Bhattacharya, “has nothing more than speculation to support his claim,” wrote Judge Norman K. Moon with the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville. “He has not unearthed even a scintilla of evidence that would demonstrate that Defendants took any adverse action against him because of his protected speech.”

Bhattacharya’s case generated a flurry of attention among conservative media when it was filed more than a year ago. The med school student described an event at which he critiqued the logic of a faculty member opining on the subject of microaggressions. He expressed the view that “a microaggression is entirely dependent on how the person who’s receiving it is reacting” rather than how the statement was intended. The incident prompted a colleague to file a “professionalism concern card,” after which ensued a train of administrative hearings, Bhattacharya’s involuntary commitment to a mental health facility, the issuance of a no-trespass order banning him from the university grounds, and his subsequent expulsion from med school. Continue reading

Free Speech Discredited Racism Better Than Cancel Culture Ever Could

Photo credit: Cavalier Daily

by James A. Bacon

The attacks on Bert Ellis, newly appointed member of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors, continue without letup. The Cavalier Daily, the UVa student newspaper, has published an article resurrecting an event from the 1974-75 academic year in which Ellis, who led the University Union at the time, invited IQ theorist and eugenicist William Shockley to speak at the university.

The article follows a call by Student Council for Ellis’ resignation from the Board of Visitors for the offense in 2020 of thinking about using a razor blade to remove the infamous “F— UVA” sign from the door of a room on the Lawn.

The CD piece does not call Ellis a racist outright, but it invites readers to draw such a conclusion by recounting how he was instrumental in bringing a prominent racist to the university despite the vehement opposition of some African-American students. Continue reading

Want a Woke Version of UVa History? Go on a Student-Guided Tour.

by James A. Bacon

In June 2022 a University of Virginia alumnus took his college-bound daughter to visit Mr. Jefferson’s university. UVa was one of the young woman’s two top choices, and she looked forward to a tour of the Lawn and the Grounds. But disillusion set in quickly. At the orientation, a senior assistant dean welcomed prospective students with a four- to five-minute discourse on how UVa’s land had been stolen from the Monacan Indians and how the University was making amends for this historical wrong. And that was just the warm-up act.

Toward the end of an otherwise engaging tour of the Academical Village, a student guide launched into a “lengthy diatribe” recounting injustices ranging from the building of UVa on the backs of oppressed slaves to the infamous 2017 Unite the Right rally. The young woman was not impressed. If the recitation of left-wing grievances defined the zeitgeist of UVa today, this was not the place for her. She dropped UVa from her list of preferred colleges.

Sadly, the young woman’s experience was not an isolated one. Indeed, denigrating themes are woven through many, if not most, tours. Arguing the need to “tell the whole truth” about Jefferson and UVa, as they put it, student guides frequently cast the University of Virginia in an exceedingly negative light. Continue reading

UVa: Cemetery Not Woke Enough

To: Bert Ellis

My thanks to you for your valuable time and effort to save what we know and love about UVa. Here’s another example of Wahoo Wokeism gone wild. Please help Trula and me if and when you can.

Twenty years ago Trula and I paid for the creation of a self-guided tour brochure for the very historic UVa Cemetery which has been re-printed three times over the years. This self-guided tour brochure has been available to visitors from all-weather dispensers at each cemetery entrance. Today those dispensers are EMPTY. Why is that? Because the UVa Cemetery Committee ruled we could NO LONGER give them away because they do not tell the story of slaves buried OUTSIDE THE WALLS OF THE CEMETERY.

Because of our not telling the story of the burial of slaves outside of cemetery walls all over the world, we must stop educating students about the past accomplishments of those buried within the walls! This is flagrant wokeism and cancel culture which must be CRUSHED. Continue reading

UVa’s YAF Chapter Recognized

The Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) has been honored by the Young America’s Foundation as the 2021-22 National YAF Chapter of the Year. Accepting the award is YAF President Nickolaus Cabrera, who also serves as a student representative of The Jefferson Council. Last year the UVa chapter organized hosted three events with conservative speakers, topped off by former Vice President Mike Pence. The Jefferson Council is delighted to have co-funded the speakers, and we extend our congratulations to Nick and his fellow Yaffers who made it all happen.

Outrage Is No Substitute for Thought

UVa students push back against learning about other viewpoints.

by Shaun Kenney

WARNING! This is a long one . . . so pour your favorite scotch or cup of coffee and be prepared to consider alternate viewpoints that may offend. As the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick remarks, “My thoughts do not aim for your assent, just place them alongside your own for awhile.”


One of the things I deeply appreciated about my time at the University of Virginia was its treatment of the humanities writ large. In short, everyone — no matter what their intelligence or depth — should expose themselves to something more than just their profession. “What good is it to earn your first million at the age of 30,” opined one professor, “only to find out you can’t have a conversation because you are a boring person!

I had the privilege of encountering not just one but two generations of Virginia students. The first was among my peers during the late 1990s; the second when I darkened the towers to pursue my own academic career, which remains an ongoing project to be sure. Continue reading

A Shameful Shallowness of Intellect

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Student Council has called for the immediate resignation of alumnus Bert Ellis from the Virginia Board of Visitors, and chastises Governor Glenn Youngkin’s decision to appoint him as “rewarding behavior that endangers students.”

Ellis stands in a long line of violent racist oppressors, says the proclamation. “From the bondage and abuse experienced by enslaved people, to the violent occupation by Nazis and KKK members, to Bert Ellis — the Lawn is no stranger to racist violence under the guise of ‘Jeffersonian ideals’ in order to maintain power for the white elite.”

No, Ellis hasn’t marched in neo-Nazi rallies. He hasn’t burned any crosses. He hasn’t even used the N-word. His primary offense was a professed intention — never acted upon — to use a small razor blade to cut the infamous “Fuck UVA” sign from the door of a Lawn resident. “Whether or not Ellis used his blade, whether or not Ellis threatened the student directly,” the Council statement declared, “his conduct is reprehensible.”  Continue reading