The Revolution Consumes Its Own

by James A. Bacon

Militant students and faculty held an online gripe session today skewering President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom, and their rhetoric — including calls for Ryan’s resignation — is more heated than ever. While I support the actions Ryan and Baucom took to shut down the UVA Encampment for Gaza, where protesters were flouting university regulations and spoiling for a confrontation, I have to say that the failure of University leadership to consistently enforce its rules makes it partially to blame for the mess.

For example, Team Ryan has long tolerated political messaging on Lawn room doors in violation of occupants’ lease terms. We’ve been through this drill before. The infamous “F— UVA” sign in 2020 was a trigger for furious alumni to organize and create the Jefferson Council. Ryan allowed the sign to remain on the Grounds that taking it down would violate the student’s free speech. But he promised to enforce new lease rules, which limited signage to a small bulletin board on the doors, in the future. Enforcement faltered, and the signs blossomed. Now, just in time for graduation ceremonies, a new “F— UVA sign” (shown above) has been taped to a Lawn door.

Ryan defends his action shutting down the pro-Palestinian tent compound last Saturday on the grounds, maintaining that there are limits to free speech based on “time, place and manner.” I agree. He did the right thing. But why should campus militants have taken him seriously? Lawn room residents had been flouting the rules for months — as the Jefferson Council has repeatedly documented.

We’ve also documented that student guides acting in collaboration with university authorities are giving “historical” tours that amount to half-hour recitations of past evils at the University of Virginia — slavery, racism, eugenics, etc. — with only passing mention of Thomas Jefferson as founder of the University and architect of the Academical Village. At least one person has complained that a tour for prospective students and their parents took on the same tone — even though we were assured that the Admissions Office would clean up the tours for prospective students.

We’ve also documented how Ryan and Baucom have overseen recruiting policies that have allowed the political center of gravity among faculty and staff to move steadily to the left. They applied to the Mellon Foundation, for example, to hire extreme left-wing faculty members under the guise of “anti-racism.” The Education School has gone so far as to create a Critical Whiteness Studies Group to research “how whites operate under white supremacy and how that operation then impacts people of Color.” Militants they hired were denigrating “systemic racism” at UVA — not just in the distant past but today — long before the Hamas invasion of Israel. Perhaps it has escaped the attention of Ryan and Baucom but… they are White.

It should come as no surprise that one or more faculty members hired during the Ryan era acted as spokespersons for the Encampment for Gaza and were swept up in the crackdown.

The revolution consumes its own, as the saying goes. Although they are not bomb-throwing radicals themselves — they enjoy the perks and rewards of high office at UVA too much — Ryan and Baucom helped create the conditions that are now destabilizing the University. Like the Mensheviks of Russian fame, they worked peacefully to bring about revolutionary change. Like the Bolsheviks of yore, UVA militants have turned upon them with a vengeance.

James A. Bacon is former executive director, and now contributing editor, to the Jefferson Council. The views expressed here are his own. This column has been republished with permission from his blog Bacon’s Rebellion.

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7 days ago

My husband and I, both alumni, walked grounds earlier this week astounded by the messaging on doors. We visit fairly often and scoff at the political statements but this trip showed a new level of the blatant disrespect and disregard for UVA administration and the institution as a whole. Signs comparing university police to Nazis and KKK, others warning onlookers to “enroll in the university at your own risk” littered many of the lawn doors. It was not only a sad sight to see but left us wondering how such defamation and claims don’t break some clause of the honor code or at least student conduct protocol. We were beyond disappointed to see these and hope Ryan will step up to address such awful and flagrant opposition to the same institution these students are benefitting from AND representing as lawn students.

Fernando Sandoval
Fernando Sandoval
3 days ago

We also got the student led tour of grounds with all the stories of racism, the problem of colorblindness, the difficulty of getting hot water in some dorms and how the food and most of the sports teams “suck”. We dismissed it because all the good stories we had heard from friends and alumni.
Another area that we should also take a look at is the “engagements pathway” for first year students. During orientation they mentioned that if UVA wanted to become a better school this was the way to go and that this program was implemented by all the Ivy League schools. The UVA website state that “the engagements are the highlight of the general education curriculum. They comprise a yearlong sequence of courses that celebrate learning while introducing first year students to the liberal arts and sciences “. Take a look of the names of some of these courses:
The Art of Vulnerability
Sounds of Resistance
Rebels with a Cause
Should people be wealthy
The ideology of slavery
You can look at the course descriptions in the website. I really don’t see the point of taking any of these courses and how they can benefit the students.
My daughter is finishing her second year at UVA and she is very happy. She has a great group of friends and enjoys life on grounds and is very proud to be a Cavalier, but she has to be careful in choosing her classes and the professors to steer away from the activism and indoctrination.