UVa Donations Skewed More Democratic Than Ever in 2022

Graphic credit: Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

You’ve finally heard it from someone other than the Jefferson Council: Political donations by University of Virginia employees skew overwhelmingly to the left. In the 2022 election cycle, found Daily Progress reporter Luke Fountain, “UVa faculty and staff favored Democratic candidates over Republican candidates, based on donations, by a ratio of 30 to 1.”

“During the 2022 election cycle, Democratic candidates received 96.1% of donations, Republican candidates received 3.3% and Libertarian candidates received 0.6%,” writes Fountain in an article exploring the implications of a discussion during the June UVa Board of Visitors meeting regarding the desirability of tracking viewpoint diversity at the university.

Campaign donations are only one way of measuring viewpoint diversity. In 2018 the University of Virginia conducted an extensive survey of attitudes among students, faculty and staff that measured, among other things, respondents’ left-right political leanings. If it is impractical to conduct such an extensive and expensive survey every year, tracking political donations is a readily available proxy for attitude surveys.

As Fountain’s data shows, those motivated enough to contribute to political candidates overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2022. Although the dollar size of the contributions dropped that year, a non-presidential election year, the disparity has grown dramatically since 2000 when donations to Democrats began a two decade-long surge.

Political donations are not a perfect indicator of political sympathies. They measure the sentiments of the most highly motivated partisans accounting for only a small percentage of the university community. It is conceivable that a large silent majority is apolitical or undecided in its political sympathies. Indeed, the 2018 survey showed that almost 40% of the UVa community (faculty, staff, students) classified themselves as either moderate or conservative. On the other hand, donations, as economists might say, show “revealed preferences” — preferences as reflected in real-world actions, not in responses to surveys, which are subject to a variety of biases.

We at the Jefferson Council contend that UVa once enjoyed a true diversity of political and philosophical viewpoints but is increasingly gripped by leftist orthodoxy, especially on issues relating to “social justice” and climate change. In a faculty of more than 3,000, professors willing to openly identify as conservative number fewer than a dozen — literally. During the June Board of Visitors meeting, administration officials were able to name only three conservatives — one of whom was an instructor engaged on a year-to-year contract, not on the tenure track.

Fountain raises an interesting question: If UVa began tracking data on political diversity, what would the university do with it? “Will it cause them to hire or fire specific faculty?” he asks. “No one will say.”

It’s less a matter of “no one will say” than “no one has thought it through that far.” The Jefferson Council has published campaign-donation data to illustrate how uniformly leftist the university community is becoming. Our goal is to push back against policies — such as Twitter outrage mobs, DEI statements and social justice-laced university tours — that make UVa an inhospitable place for the non-woke. Board member Doug Wetmore raised the issue of how to measure viewpoint diversity in response to the Ryan administration’s claims that it values diversity “in all its dimensions,” including viewpoint diversity.

The Council has not yet addressed the question of how to transition from a leftist monoculture into an institution with diverse intellectual perspectives. We’re still trying to persuade people that the monoculture exists.

As I told Fountain, “The idea is not to put a tag on individual professors, and the idea is not to create a kind of new ideological litmus test that you have a certain percentage of new conservatives.” The purpose of tracking viewpoint diversity, I would suggest, would be to see how severely out of balance the faculty is and to inform the board, from a strategic perspective, whether or not corrective action is called for.

The Ryan administration appears to believe that viewpoint diversity is not a problem. As Provost Ian Baucom has argued, whatever a professor’s personal political views, he or she can build diverse perspectives into a course. In theory, that is true. In our observation, many professors are not overtly political. But we have abundant evidence that the intellectual climate becomes more pervasively leftist with each passing year as retiring Boomers with diverse attitudes retire are replaced with more a more militantly leftist younger generation.

If viewpoint diversity is something the Ryan administration sincerely wants to foster, it should find a way to measure it — just as it measures gender and racial/ethnic diversity. If the Ryan administration drags its feet, the Board of Visitors should act.

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James B Newman
James B Newman
10 months ago

An excellent and important article. It underscores the importance of diversifying both the faculty and administrative employee base. If it is important to have many voices at the table it is equally important to have many voices executing the will of the University. Thus it is imperative for the new Board of Visitors to be quickly impaneled so that they can get to the business of “bringing things back to center”.

joseph a miller lll
joseph a miller lll
10 months ago
Reply to  James B Newman

Well spoken, maybe the ship won’t always be turned to Port if the Captain stays in the channel on issues that don’t need course correction to Port.

Sheree Gravely
Sheree Gravely
10 months ago

The implications for a Wahoo education based on critical thinking is significant impacted by this news. I am hitting a paywall on the Daily Progress so can you provide how they sourced this data?

walter smith
walter smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Sheree Gravely

You can also easily (well, sort of, took some practice for me) do this from the FEC database. You can pick the election cycle(s) and then list employers to search – University of Virginia and UVA seems best, then you have a fair number of false hits – like Uvalde or West Virginia, etc…but you end up with a list that can be easily divided – ActBlue and WinRed are 90% of the contributions with the final 10% being fairly easily identifiable as D, L or R. There were ZERO contributions in 1980. The numbers crept up over time and skewed from balanced to more D, but Trump in 2016 did cause Trump Derangement and the numbers have exploded since then. UVA still is suffering TDS – the Mueller report and Bob Mueller teaching a course at the Law School…on a total fake…no contrition from UVA Law, they then hired Insurrection Liz ($100K for 2 nights), and they routinely refer to J6 as an “insurrection.”

I wish I knew of a comparable database to do the State contributions…

Clarity77
Clarity77
10 months ago

Thank you James for your expose’ on this sad and current situation at UVA, to which Jefferson would certainly be aghast to think his university would have so devolved. I have personally met with administrators right into the president’s office who have admitted and voiced the presence at UVA of a self admitted “groupthink” culture. Sure enough like you quote Baucom they then resort to a bizarre defense entailing the ability of hard core leftist professors to somehow espouse views for the other side. Astonishing to personally have experienced such a nonsensical response from what one would assume, given their University positions, to be intelligent people. And then most galling to personally listen to Larry Sabato, of all people the director of the Center for Politics, admit in a seminar after the 2016 presidential election he knew of absolutely no one within his personal circle of friends, colleagues, etc.who had voted for the winning candidate. The diagnosis resoundingly clear, UVA now an Orwellian, groupthink monoculture(yes, cult!)antithetical to the Founder’s vision for his national university and only catering to the mindset of what numerous polls identify as barely 30% of the national population. UVA is currently a very sick patient. Thank you Mr. Bacon and others on TJC for clearly exposing the telling symptoms.

John Hunt, MD
10 months ago

So here’s a couple of questions: Why would we want our children or grandchildren to attend a college that will assuredly be an indoctrination center into progressive fascism, that we will then need to work very hard (and may fail) to re-educate the kids into sane ethical thinking? Why pay money to destroy their ethics and cognitive skills, and teach them to become defensive, self-deluding, indoctrinated and stupid? Then, why would alumni give to a college whose major product is to turn out good progressive fascists who are trained to lie to themselves and others. Makes no sense to support most any college until they’ve eliminated the progressive brainwashing.

Wahoo'74
Wahoo'74
10 months ago

The irony is true conservatives would not want 98% Republicans either. Viewpoint diversity is just that. Baucom is a smooth, clever liar.

Wahoo 76
Wahoo 76
10 months ago
Reply to  Wahoo'74

Absolutely!

Legacy Grad 69"
Legacy Grad 69"
10 months ago

Joseph Goebbles would be impressed. Such conformity without coercion. Perhaps the 98% could all dress alike too.