by James C. Sherlock
UVA has forged yet another academic/political merger and named it, with characteristic modesty, the Karsh (major donors) “Institute of Democracy”.
To those who say the university has more “institutes” and “centers” than bricks, I say give this one a chance until a closer look.
The executive director is Ms. Melody Barnes. Ms. Barnes’ biography and CV reveal her to have an impressive education and to be well left of center politically. Like nearly every member of the UVa faculty.
Not that there is anything wrong with that.
But let’s leave her to it. There is more to assess.
The institute has an advisory board. The chairman is Larry Sabato. His balanced and temperate perspectives on democracy can be found on his Twitter account.
The professor’s work includes A More Perfect Constitution, in which he recommends 23 changes. Survey them for yourselves. One would increase the number of Senators to 136 and the House to nearly 1,000 members. I guess we can credit him with fresh thinking.
But electing him as chairman is a bit of a woke fireworks display. Hard to miss.
Advisory board member James Murray is a moderate Democrat. Mr. Murray is also a Northam appointee to the UVA Board of Visitors who served as the immediate past chairman of that organization. I know him well. He is temperate, smart, fair, very accomplished in his personal pursuits and experienced in board leadership.
His chairmanship of the institute’s advisory board, or that of another member in his mold, would have sent an entirely different signal.
The Vice Chair is School of Law Dean Risa Goluboff. Her appointments exclusively of leftists to law school faculty positions have cemented her credentials.
So be it. The outspoken Mr. Sabato, Dean Goluboff and Ms. Barnes are who they are. They show what the university expects from this institute. And therefore what the rest of us can expect.
Now to my favorite part of the story. There is a video that introduces everyone to the new institute.
James Ryan, the University President, first speaks at the 55 second mark. He provides narration to a video clip of a statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of the rotunda.
One can easily shoot a video of the rotunda without the Jefferson statue in the scene, but the producers of this video did not. The editors have positioned Mr. Jefferson as a symbol of the university’s heritage and prestige. I agree. But cue the faculty outrage.
At the 1:22 mark, Mr. Ryan instructs us that the University today stands “at the intersection of … conservative and liberal.”
Really. He said that.