UVa Board Should Demand Transparency on Racial-Preference Initiatives

Last week Jefferson Council President Tom Neale sent the following letter to University of Virginia Rector Robert Hardie, members of the Board of Visitors, and selected UVa administrative officials. 

July 25, 2023

Dear Mr. Hardie:

I am the President of The Jefferson Council for the University of Virginia, and am writing you regarding what we believe to be an egregious contravention of academic governance by Provost Ian Baucom.

In a presentation to the Faculty Senate on October 11, 2022, Provost Baucom described between $20 and $40 million in initiatives to recruit graduate students and faculty from “under-represented” racial/ethnic groups. When describing these and other academic initiatives to the Board of Visitors in its March 2023 meeting, however, he never alluded to the scope of the programs, or the racial preferences embedded in them.

For most of the year, the U.S. Supreme Court was widely expected to issue a ruling restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions. Mr. Baucom had been cognizant enough of the debatable legality of the programs to seek guidance from the University Counsel, yet he failed to mention these concerns – or the nature of the University Counsel’s guidance, if any — in his presentation to the Board.

Over and above the legal issues, expenditures totaling as much as $40 million are highly material financially and should have been shared with the Board. To put the magnitude of the expenditures in perspective, $40 million would cover the entire yearly tuition for approximately 2,000 in-state students. Put another way, this is roughly eight times larger than the sum expended upon Diversity, Equity & Inclusion administrator salaries as enumerated by DEI Diversity Dean Kevin MacDonald in the July 1, 2023 BOV meeting.

You can familiarize yourself with Mr. Baucom’s description of the race-based recruiting initiatives by reading the detailed account written by TJC Executive Director Jim Bacon here: https://thejeffersoncouncil.com/info-wars-at-uva-who-decides-what-the-bov-needs-to-hear/.

Should you desire to see for yourself what Baucom told the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, you can video the video excerpt here.

The Board of Visitors needs to decide if the Provost’s omission of critical context regarding multimillion-dollar faculty and graduate-student recruitment programs was an acceptable practice or was a deliberate effort to keep the Board in the dark regarding one of the most pressing and controversial issues it faces. Put starkly, will the Board exercise oversight and accountability over the use of racial preferences, or will it cede the issue to the Faculty Senate and Administration?

Let me be clear: The issue we are raising in this letter is not the rightness or wrongness of the racial preferences, it is whether the Board wants to have an open and honest discussion of those preferences. An honest discussion requires access to all the facts. If the Board does not insist upon hearing all the facts, no meaningful discussion is possible.

It is the statutory responsibility of the Board to exercise oversight and accountability over major capital programs for all UVA departments. The University community expects no less. Specific to Ian Baucom and the Faculty Senate DEI initiative, the BOV must now be mindful of the Supreme Court mandate to admit students and hire faculty based on merit, not DEI mandates.

Thank you for your consideration, and we welcome your response.

Sincerely,

Thomas M. Neale

University of Virginia Class of 1974
President and Co-Founder
The Jefferson Council

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James B Newman
James B Newman
9 months ago

Jim is right in indicating that the subject expenditures are very material to the financial reporting relative to the financial condition of the University. Provost Baucom is essentially willfully hiding the extent of these expenditures from the governing authorities both as to the University and the relevant Commonwealth oversight entities. The BOV should step in, and conduct audits where needed before the State Attorney General does. This getting very much out of hand.