Ryan Appoints Board to Craft University-Neutrality Policy

After vetting the idea with the Board of Visitors in December, University of Virginia President Jim Ryan has announced the creation of the Committee on Institutional Statements to develop principles to guide official university statements on national and global events.

Twelve individuals — nine faculty members, one student, one alumnus and one member of the Board of Visitors — will serve on the Committee. John Owen, a political science professor, will chair the group.

“It seems like a simple question: When, if ever, should ‘the University’ comment on political and social events?” Ryan said, as quoted in UVA Today. “But answering that question is more complicated than it seems, and it brings up a range of additional questions and knotty issues.”

Some of those knotty issues became apparent after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. Ryan condemned the terrorism but pro-Palestinian groups criticized him for not expressing sufficient remorse for the loss of Palestinian lives. Pro-Israel groups criticized Ryan for declining to condemn genocidal “from the river to the sea” rhetoric of the Students for Justice in Palestine and allied groups on the Grounds.

Presumably, the Committee will consider a policy akin to the University of Chicago’s Kalven Principles, which declared that universities should create an environment in which students and faculty members should be free to speak out on issues of the day but university officials themselves should refrain from comment. Ryan has spoken out on current events on numerous occasions in the past. This is the first time he has gotten extensive pushback.

In other actions, Ryan has tried to defuse Palestinian-Israel antagonisms at UVA by appointing a religious diversity task force and  highlighting an array of courses, seminars, and discussions to study the conflict from an academic perspective.

In addition to Owen, the committee includes:

  • Melody Barnes, executive director of UVA’s Karsh Institute of Democracy.
  • Kevin Gaines, Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice; professor of African American history.
  • John Griffin, alumnus; former Board of Visitors member; founder and president of Blue Ridge Capital investment firm.
  • Michael Kennedy, professor of special education; chair of Faculty Senate.
  • Jeanne Liedtka, United Technologies Corporation Professor of Business Administration.
  • Paul Manning, Board of Visitors member; chair and CEO of PBM Capital.
  • Lillian Rojas, fourth-year student; student member of the Board of Visitors.
  • Frederick Schauer, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law.
  • Allan Stam, University Professor of Public Policy and Politics.
  • Dr. Sana Syed, associate professor of pediatrics.
  • Sarah Turner, University Professor of Economics and Education; Souder Family Professor.

— JAB

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A Schneider
A Schneider
22 days ago

Hopefully the answer is never. Who cares what some academics opinion is on anything? Stick to your educational mission

Joseph Andrew Miller,Esq BA '70
Joseph Andrew Miller,Esq BA '70
22 days ago
Reply to  A Schneider

“Loose lips sink ships,” ours is taking on water.

Legacy Grad Arch 69'
Legacy Grad Arch 69'
22 days ago
Reply to  A Schneider

RIGHT ON!!!

H Lamon
H Lamon
22 days ago

Does this mean that finally Sabato will have to reign in his propagandist rhetoric?

Geoffrey Close
22 days ago

Shouldn’t the Jefferson Council or YAF have a seat on the council to ensure a balance

Peter LeQuire College '65
Peter LeQuire College '65
22 days ago

Aren’t committees the destination of legislation, rule making, or any institutional action, about issues that no one wants to, or can, resolve? Forming a committee seems a way to moving a contentious issue out of sight to a place where it will silently go away – as the adage says, “It died in committee.”

James B Newman
James B Newman
22 days ago

As long as Ryan is President DEI at the University will be a problem. His administration has not acted honestly on the subject nor will it ever. It is hoped that the Board of Visitors will take the lead. Ryan will only play “stall ball” until a Democratic Governor is appointed and the BOV is changed back.

walter smith
walter smith
21 days ago

I don’t hate Jim Ryan. I’ve never met him. He seems likable enough. UVA is rolling in money.

I hate what Jim Ryan (and his cohort) is doing to UVA.

Unfortunately, in the last 4 years, I have become too well versed in the language of academia, in its current format, to ignore what is actually being said and what is actually being done. Suffice it to say ,in general, language is used to imply the opposite of what is intended. People not familiar with this special language think the words have the normal meaning, and when a “normie” pushes back, the wily Marxist retreats to of course it is the normal meaning (but it isn’t). Diversity equity and inclusion do not have the “normal” meanings of those words.

Jim Ryan did the “free speech” committee under duress, and as a fig leaf. And the fig leaf has worked. UVA was ranked 6th for free speech, with a score of 68(!!!), largely on the basis of the free speech statement and UVA’s supposed “unequivocal” support for free speech.

That committee specifically rejected Kalven Principles, which would be far more conducive to a free speech environment. The act of a University taking a political side is inherently chilling of speech from the other side. Institutional neutrality is the key, and let the academics have at it – rough and tumble – in their own opinions. That’s how it should work.

Just in the last 5 years, has any faculty member denounced any aspect of UVA’s Covid policy? The lawfare and impeachments against Trump? I can understand that an academic might despise Trump. but he isn’t entitled to due process? The charges aren’t trumped up and crazy? Hillary Clinton gets “no reasonable prosecutor” and Biden gets he’s a demented old affable man for not being charged, while Trump gets his treatment? Why is there no medical or history or econ prof on the Covid policy and no law prof on the many travesties of justice being imposed on Trump? To ask the question is to answer it – if maybe a handful exist, they know raising their hands to object would be an academic death sentence. That’s also why there was no real pushback against mandated DEI statements.

So Jim Ryan appointed a committee, where he knew what he wanted as the outcome and appointed the people to effect just that, totally to quell the F UVA Lawn brouhaha, hiding behind free speech, but issuing the statement as a fig leaf to keep the fat cat wallets open. He could have said, like a real leader, and not a climbing Leftist academic, “While Ms. Azher has every right to express her opinion, her manner of expression, after being accorded the honor of a Lawn room, was wrong, inconsiderate to visitors, immature and violated the terms of her lease to the Lawn room. (UVA’s lack of enforcement was UVA’s fault). He didn’t say that, because he mostly agrees with her, AND he knew if he denounced her, his rise in academia from the Left would end. So the free speech statement was threading the needle for the problem at the time…and has worked so far.

I think if he had been on the Congressional Committee he may have gotten caught as well, just like Liz Magill. None of them could just denounce evil – no enemies to the Left! SJP is an ally. And even though that ally believes in killing gays and lesbians in Palestine, here in the US, the assemblage of activists Leftists of grievance requires solidarity.

So this committee is another attempt to thread the needle. Advancing in that world requires virtue-signaling that you are an “ally,” and being silenced might end Ryan’s ability to virtue signal when necessary – he has willingly done so in the past. So this committee will give Ryan the excuse that he can’t speak for the institution, but will preserve some extraordinary loophole giving him the flexibility to do the necessary virtue-signal (as he calculates to ensure his rise to headship of an Ivy eventually).

The simple solution – no committee necessary – is “Just say no.”

Why aren’t we doing the simple solution? Again, to ask the question is to answer it.