by James A. Bacon
Well, the article could have been worse. The Cavalier Daily asked if a reporter could attend the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Jefferson Council. We had been none too pleased with the CD’s coverage of Bert Ellis’s nomination to the Board of Visitors, but we agreed. While the CD had demonized Ellis, we reasoned that a reporter observing a six-hour event with multiple speakers and questioners would hear a broad range of voices that would be hard to ignore.
And that’s kinda, sorta what happened.
The resulting story written by Avery Donmoyer focused mostly on a negative theme at the Annual Meeting — opposition to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion as practiced at the University of Virginia — rather than our positive emphasis on free speech and intellectual diversity. But the story’s sub-head hit the right note.
DEI frequently attacked at second Jefferson Council annual meeting
Jefferson Council members are engaging in a “fight for free speech culture”
Overall, the Jefferson Council comes across in the article as naysayers, not a group working toward a positive vision. But the article represents progress over past coverage. Donmoyer quotes speakers who provide rational reasons for their views on DEI, which is more than we’ve seen from the CD in the past.
I would have framed the article differently: Speakers at the Jefferson Council annual meeting champion free expression and viewpoint diversity against leftist intolerance and the rise of a DEI bureaucracy.
But that’s OK. The Jefferson Council endorses debate, open dialogue and tolerance of views we don’t like. We’re glad that the CD chose to send a reporter to our event and we’re happy that she described the proceedings without materially misrepresenting them. We hope to continue a reasoned exchange of views regarding DEI and other pressing issues in academe.
It will come as no surprise to TJC members that the CD picked the most combative comment made by Ellis during his two appearances behind the podium. Referring to the ordeal of his appointment to the UVa Board of Visitors, he said, “[The Virginia State Senate] lost the chance to shoot me in the head, so they’ll be loaded for bear and we’re gonna have to work on that.”
Donmoyer could have quoted Ellis as describing how he is fighting to hold down tuition & fees by scrutinizing the expense of UVa’s growing administrative apparatus, of which DEI bureaucrats are but one component. Perhaps that’s a bridge too far.
She also quoted Conner Murnane with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression as comparing DEI to a “cancerous tumor.”
“These students arrive at college primed with [social justice] attitudes and demand that the administrators shield them from the kinds of non-physical harm which they have been taught to believe in,” Murnane said. “DEI admin often oblige, reaffirming the students’ victim narratives.”
Which happens to be true.
And she quoted from keynote speaker Glenn Loury’s critique that DEI turns African Americans into passive victims without a sense of control over their destiny.
“Don’t patronize me,” Loury said. “I’m not a child. Don’t treat me like a child, don’t treat me like a ward. Don’t treat my son and my daughter like a ward… [Affirmative action] is not equality. This is patronization. This is treating people like they’re children.”
Loury nailed it.
Again, we would have written the story very differently. But we’re delighted that our views are percolating through the CD to the larger university community.