Anti-‘Woke’ UVA alum group names first executive director, scaling up operations
A right-wing UVA alum group that claims to want to preserve free speech, promote intellectual diversity and protect the legacy of Thomas Jefferson has appointed journalist and editor James A. Bacon Jr. as executive director.
Bacon, a UVA alum, will head up The Jefferson Council, which launched in 2020 as a response from the right to what its alum members say is the rise of ideological intolerance and suppression of free speech on college campuses.
Bacon is the founding editor of Bacon’s Rebellion, which bills itself as a “politically non-aligned” Virginia public policy blog, and the former editor and publisher of Virginia Business magazine.
He lists as his priorities as the first executive director of The Jefferson Council building a coalition of groups who share the desire for political and ideological pluralism on the grounds, creating an alternative source of news and commentary about governance and culture at UVA, and as a primary focus, locating a Charlottesville office and fleshing out a staff.
“We want UVA to be open and welcoming to everyone, but we believe that demographic diversity should be accompanied by free speech, free expression and intellectual diversity,” Bacon said. “We share Thomas Jefferson’s vision of UVA as an institution based upon ‘the illimitable freedom of the human mind’ where ‘we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.'”
“We envision UVA as a place where ideas collide and diverse viewpoints contend,” Bacon said. “Building upon our rich history, our Honor Code, and world-heritage architecture, we aspire to make UVa the most intellectually vibrant university in the United States, if not the world.”
The appointment of Bacon was announced by Bert Ellis, the president of The Jefferson Council, who was appointed to the UVA Board of Visitors by Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year.
“The hiring of a full-time director manager is a milestone in the evolution of the Jefferson Council from an all-volunteer group to a professionally staffed organization,” Ellis said. “The appointment will position the Council to ramp up its activities in support of the longstanding Jeffersonian traditions of civility, honor, free speech and the open exchange of ideas.”
That all sounds cozy, but this same Ellis, an Atlanta-based venture capitalist, was a bit more direct to his aims in a blog post he published to The Jefferson Council website last December in which he posited that UVA was “overrun with courses that exist for no other purpose but to make a big deal about race and gender and other issues that can only create more oppressed parties trying to tear down anything and everything and everyone that helped create our University.”
These are among “outrageous changes” setting the University of Virginia “on the path to Wokeness,” according to Ellis, who wrote in his December blog post that Youngkin was interested in “re-focusing UVA and other colleges and K-12 schools in Virginia on educating students and not brainwashing them with the Woke/CRT/DEI mantras that have overtaken UVA and almost all other colleges and K-12 schools in Virginia and across our country.”
Among the “outrageous changes” in Ryan’s tenure as president is the Racial Equity Task Force that convened in the summer of 2020, which set out among its goals that UVA double the number of underrepresented faculty by 2030, and develop a plan for having a student population that better reflects the racial and socioeconomic demographics of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The task force also recommended the development of a scholarship program for the descendants of enslaved laborers who worked to build and maintain the University, the review of policies regarding staff hiring, wages, retention, promotion and procurement, in order to ensure equity, and the exploration potential initiatives to recognize and support Native American students and Native American studies.
One final recommendation: the task force called on UVA to develop a series of educational programs around racial equity and anti-racism, including leadership development programs focused on equity, including racial equity.
Ellis isn’t a fan, clearly, and he has made his aims regarding Ryan – who had his contract extended through July 31, 2028, earlier this year – abundantly clear, noting in his December blog post that Youngkin can totally replace the UVA Board of Visitors with his political nominees over the next four years, and that the BOV “hires/fires the President and manages the overall strategy of the University and the University Health System.”
Bacon and his blog may bill itself as “politically non-aligned,” but this Jefferson Council clearly is not.
“We envision UVA as a place where ideas collide and diverse viewpoints contend,” Bacon said. “Building upon our rich history, our Honor Code, and world-heritage architecture, we aspire to make UVA the most intellectually vibrant university in the United States, if not the world.”