Why Many Conservatives Got It Wrong on UVa

uva.jpgBy any ordinary standard, Teresa Sullivan is the kind of
university president conservatives love to hate. In 2010, after the Board of Visitors
unanimously elected her the first female president of the University of
Virginia, one of her first acts was to endorse and publish the UVA Diversity
Council’s statement expressing commitment in–what else?–diversity. Sullivan had co-authored two books on middle-class
debt with none other than Elizabeth Warren, who famously exploited informal
racial quotas at prestigious academic institutions by falsely claiming Native
American ancestry on the sole basis of her high cheekbones. In short, Sullivan
appeared as a diversity hire interested only in campus diversity at UVA and who
has worked with another diversity hire to produce diversity scholarship. It is as if Sullivan was not born but rather fashioned out of the politically correct
clich

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James Patterson

James Patterson is a visiting assistant professor at Duke.

4 thoughts on “Why Many Conservatives Got It Wrong on UVa

  1. Peter, it is of course important to listen to–and, if possible or practicable, carry out–the wishes of those who employ you. And yes, the taxpayers do employ professors at public universities in some capacity. But does that mean that taxpayers should have the first and last word in matters of university administration (this appears to be what you mean when you suggest that schools ought to be run by taxpayers)? The answer, I think, is no. But that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a venue where members of the public–where taxpayers–can voice their opinions. (Wouldn’t you agree?) And so we have board members who serve as a legislative body and who (hopefully) have the taxpayers’ best interest in mind. Yet it would wrong, I think, to suppose that this clandestine group of three–what I like to call facetiously “the Tyranny of the Three”–had the taxpayers’ best interest in mind and, moreover, that it is somehow inappropriate for teachers and/or professors to voice their concerns and attempt to enact their will or wills (they, after all, pay taxes too!). The point of this article (and here I’ll lay it out for you) is that there IS (but I’ll throw in a “perhaps” in order to be less confrontational) perhaps something more to education than the acquisition of a decreasingly valuable piece of paper. Indeed, one might think of public universities as institutions which marry two, seemingly irreconcilable ends: liberal and practical education. This, at least, is the goal that underlies public, land-grant universities. Yes, the costs of higher education are an issue that need to be dealt with. (If the issue is ignored or dealt with unsatisfactorily, the apparently paradoxical vision of the land-grant act mentioned earlier might be undone.) But does this mean that our only hope of reform stems from our willingness to misidentify a place of learning as a place of business (you use the term “organization” but immediately betray your true intent with the word “business)? This “economic” (not economical) way of thinking needs to become more nuanced before it becomes a psychosis. I’ll end this post with a quote: “That all moneys derived from the sale of the lands aforesaid . . . shall constitute a perpetual fund . . . [for the] the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” Can you guess the origin of this quote? Sure, it uses the phrase “in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe,” but it also uses the term “liberal”, which is derived from the Latin word “liber”, meaning free. A little reflection, please.

  2. Every organization must have a structure. In Virginia as in all other states, corporations must be run by a board of directors or trusees responsible to the “owners” such as the stockholders or, in the case of a public university, the taxpayers.
    The Board adopted policy and hired Sullivan to implement that policy. She ignored it and implemented a policy more to the liking of the staff. The Sullivan – UVA situation clearly shows the problem with education today: the schools are run by the teachers and their unions, not the taxpayers, board or parents.

  3. The Pope Center is not one of those who “offer online education as the last great hope” of education today. In fact, I have written that the pursuit of online revenues, which many universities are doing, is a will ‘o the wisp. What I do see, and what the Pope Center has noted, is that online education is likely to drastically change higher education, and university administrations should understand that. If the price of a college diploma falls dramatically because it is available online, traditional universities are likely to lose enrollment. How they prepare for that eventuality is a test for current university administrators.

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