by James A. Bacon
Jim Sherlock, a Bacon’s Rebellion columnist, offers his take on the Diversity, Equity& Inclusion presentation to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors scheduled to take place this afternoon. Based on the PowerPoint deck to be used as the basis of the presentation, he concludes that the administration intends to deflect the conversation from the main issue, which, he maintains, is using the DEI bureaucracy to impose political and ideological control.
Read his essay here. You might want to check out the comments section in which Ryan administration sympathizers and critics engage in a lively (and mostly civil) back and forth.
Sherlock published his essay yesterday before another important presentation took place. Anticipating criticisms like Sherlock’s, the administration stressed the value it places on “free speech,” “free inquiry” and “diversity of viewpoints.”
In its spring meeting, the Board of Visitors adopted a statement endorsing free speech and viewpoint diversity. The session yesterday was designed to show the Ryan administration’s commitment to those principles.
Leslie Kendrick, a law school professor who headed a committee that devised an earlier free-speech statement, described the university’s rules and regulations governing free speech, as well as measures that the administration takes to ensure that students get the message. She summed up the philosophy as “everybody gets heard, but nobody gets hurt.”
Melody Barnes, who heads the Karsh Institute for Democracy, recounted initiatives her organization is taking to promote civil dialogue and the free exchange of ideas, such as Talking Across Differences, which brings together student Democrats and Republicans, Democracy Dialogue dinners, which promotes amicable discussion of contemporary issues, and the One Small Step program, a StoryCorps initiative that brings liberals and conservatives together in deep dialogue. Karsh is also working with the Youngkin administration to host a free-expression summit.
“Karsh,” she said, “is building the kind of community we think we want.”
The Jefferson Council has praised these initiatives as useful first steps but argues that they don’t go far enough to create a culture of tolerance and respect for partisan and ideological differences. Of special concern is the leftward drift of the faculty — conservative professors are an endangered species — and the extensive self-censorship that conservative students engage in.
Board member Doug Wetmore asked Barnes a pointed question: What is Karsh doing to ensure more ideological balance in the faculty?
“We don’t have faculty on board” at Karsh, Barnes responded. But the Institute does “intersect” with conservative faculty members, mentioning by name Mary Cate Cary, Jim Ceaser, and Gerard Alexander, political scientists who put on programs designed to engage conservative students.
There’s a lot more to the story about Karsh, but we’ll leave that for another time.