By Bert Ellis, this first appeared in Bacon’s Rebellion.
Open letter from Bert Ellis, president of The Jefferson Council, to members of the University of Virginia community.
Last week will go down as one of the worst weeks in the history of UVA.
The Honor Code is Effectively Dead
By a margin of over 4 to 1, UVA students voted in a referendum to permanently change the Honor System to eliminate expulsion as the sanction for an honor offense in favor of a two-semester leave of absence… the equivalent of a time out.
A 3rd year law student (who’s next stop on his path to save the world is to study global affairs at Beijing’s Tsinghau (sic) University) led this effort. In his view, the Honor System is inherently racist because more people of color or more international students are found guilty of honor offenses than their exact percentage of the UVA student population.
He argued, “we can no longer support a sanction that is historically allowed and could prospectively allow the most severe outcome to fall disproportionately on some communities more than others.”
However, as the voting margin suggests, he was not alone.
The following editorial by a UVA student likely reflects the view of honor by the current student body:
He ridicules the community of trust, calls honor an “abstract, arbitrary concept” that “should not and cannot be tolerated” and says lying, cheating or stealing is “in actuality a crisis of mental health and student wellness.”
He concludes “eliminating the Honor Committee would promote equity in our community.”
As you can see, the battle cry to kill the Honor Code was “equity.”
The Board of Visitors Failed
“The Board approves the policies and budget of the University and is entrusted with the preservation of the University’s many traditions, including the Honor System.”
It is a very sad fact that neither incoming UVA students nor incoming members of the faculty have had a proper orientation to the UVA Honor System since the hiring of Teresa Sullivan as our President.
No student, other than those of us that graduated many years ago, understands the value of a community of trust and therefore no one understands the responsibilities necessary to maintain such. The Honor System has been weakened year after year by this total abdication of responsibility by the Board and successive administrations.
Nonetheless, in spite of their joint acquiescence to the demise of the Honor System with President Ryan, our BOV also decided to extend Ryan’s employment agreement for UVA for another 3 years. It was no coincidence that this motion to extend his contract was passed unanimously by the BOV on the very same day the students voted to eviscerate the Honor System. The only ray of hope for us that care about our University is the new BOV members that Governor Youngkin can and will appoint starting this June. New BOV members can change this.
The New McCarthyism Has Reappeared on The Grounds… Open Dialogue is Not Tolerated
Joel Gardner has explained how the administration’s focus on “diversity, equity and inclusion” has not only stifled free speech but may be, at least in part, unconstitutional:
Lest you think Joel exaggerates, please note the following opinion piece in the NYTimes by a current 4th year UVA student:
She writes, “Our universities cannot change our social interactions. But they can foster appreciation for ideological diversity in academic environments. Universities must do more than make public statements supporting free expression. We need a campus culture that prioritizes ideological diversity and strong policies that protect expression in the classroom.”
She says it is unreasonable to expect the students to change the current culture on their own. In other words, the students need adult leadership from the administration to promote a culture of civility and intellectual diversity. They are not getting it.
This is what we at the Jefferson Council are fighting for – a revival of honor and the community of trust, free speech, diversity of thought.
The students need and deserve our help. Please join our cause. Go to www.theJeffersoncouncil.com to learn more and register to be a member.
Furthermore, The Jefferson Council is sponsoring a dinner at Alumni Hall on April 5th to discuss all that is happening at UVA and all that we are doing now and can do in the future. Professor Ken Elzinga and Attorney General Jason Miyares will speak. Please go to the website (www.thejeffersoncouncil.com) and sign up to attend. Space is limited to 200 persons so act now and register.
The Jefferson Council