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Bert Ellis, with two degrees from the University of Virginia, is a loyal alumnus. He has donated more than $10 million to his alma mater, and even co-owns a campus hangout, the Spot.
But he thinks the university is headed in the wrong direction. He objects to its emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion programs — saying the university is already diverse. And he loathes the university’s recent portrayal of its founder, and his hero, Thomas Jefferson.
Mr. Ellis co-founded a dissident alumni group, the Jefferson Council. And when Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, was elected governor of Virginia in 2021, largely on a pledge to overhaul education, Mr. Ellis saw an opening.
“This is our only opportunity to change/reverse the path to Wokeness that has overtaken our entire university,” he wrote in a post for the Jefferson Council.
Now Mr. Ellis, 69, is on the university’s board of trustees, appointed recently by Governor Youngkin.
Mr. Ellis is part of a growing and forceful movement fighting campus programs that promote diversity, equity and inclusion, known as D.E.I.
Politicians, activists and alumni who oppose the programs say they enforce groupthink, establish arbitrary diversity goals, lower standards and waste money that could go to scholarships. Lawmakers in 19 states have taken up legislation to limit or block university D.E.I. programs.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has waged an all-out campaign to dismantle D.E.I. initiatives, calling them “hostile to academic freedom” and demanding their defunding. In North Carolina and South Carolina, lawmakers have demanded that public universities report the costs of D.E.I. In Texas, a new $300 billion state budget approved by the Legislature prohibits university spending on D.E.I.
In Virginia, Mr. Youngkin has chosen a less confrontational approach than Mr. DeSantis, but has moved to change the direction of the state’s flagship university, in part by appointing Mr. Ellis to the board.
A spokesman for the governor did not respond to questions about the administration’s plans for D.E.I. programs at the university but referred to a comment the governor made during a recent CNN Town Hall: “We have to celebrate excellence. We shouldn’t embrace equity at the expense of excellence.”
Attacks on D.E.I. come at a crucial pivot point. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in the next few months against race-conscious affirmative action. At Virginia, where admissions is highly competitive, such a ruling could radically lower the number of Black students, who currently make up about 7 percent of undergraduates, an increase of more than 200 Black students since 2015.
Among other demographic groups on campus, white students make up the largest share, 52 percent. Asian Americans make up 18 percent, and Hispanic American students comprise 7 percent of undergraduates.
Depending on the reach of the court’s ruling, D.E.I. programs could become more crucial in attracting and retaining Black and Hispanic students.
At the University of Virginia, that effort is burdened by its founder’s complicated legacy: Jefferson envisioned an enlightened academic village, yet the campus was built and staffed in part by enslaved laborers.
James E. Ryan, the university’s president, said he believes the majority of alumni feel the way he does — that diversity is desirable and needed.
“I haven’t heard anyone say we should have a community that is monolithic, unfair and unwelcoming,” he said in an interview.
Mr. Ryan said he wonders about the motives of the critics.
“Whether this is an effort to focus on the aspects of D.E.I. that seem to threaten academic freedom and push toward ideological conformity, or whether it’s an effort to turn back the clock to 1965 — it’s hard to know,” he said in an interview.
But for both sides, the D.E.I. debate cuts to a bigger question on many campuses today: What should a university look like, value and honor?
The Diversity Plan
After George Floyd’s murder in 2020, the University of Virginia, like many schools, responded to the call for racial justice. Mr. Ryan appointed a task force on racial equity that recommended investing more in the existing D.E.I. program.
The goals were ambitious, and included endowments for the African American studies center and equity programs, as well as matching funds for donors to support student scholarships.
The university wanted to double the number of professors from marginalized groups, increase the enrollment of students of color, and remove or reframe campus monuments, including contextualizing the university’s historical representation of Jefferson.
The price tag was equally ambitious: nearly $1 billion.
After the university board endorsed much of the plan, the official alumni magazine described it as “more diversity, less Confederacy.”
While the plans have not yet been fully funded or implemented, the university points to progress. The share of Black undergraduates has increased — to 7 percent of the undergraduate enrollment in 2022 from 6.7 percent in 2020. There are four new Black professors in the architecture program. Diversity efforts have become part of hiring and peer review evaluations, and departments are encouraged to train their workers on antiracism.
But at the Jefferson Council, the equity task force proposal “struck many people as really extreme,” said James A. Bacon Jr., executive director of the group, which now claims more than 1,400 members. “It laid out a whole vision for, in their minds, redressing past inequities in bringing a more woke regime to U.Va.”
And some were particularly concerned that the university wanted student enrollment to “better reflect” the state population, which is currently 20 percent Black.
In 2021, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, issued a report attacking the cost and effectiveness of D.E.I. programs and targeting the University of Virginia for “D.E.I. bloat.”
The university, it concluded, was tied for second in the nation, just behind the University of Michigan, in the number of D.E.I. employees, with 94.
The actual number of D.E.I. employees is about 40, according to Kevin G. McDonald, the University of Virginia’s vice president for diversity.
But as D.E.I. programs became a talking point on the right, the University of Virginia had become one of its prime exhibits.
On his first day in office, Governor Youngkin signed Executive Order Number One, banning the teaching of what he called “inherently divisive concepts,” including critical race theory, in public schools.
Two days later, he asked Edward J. Feulner, the founder of the Heritage Foundation, to lead a commission to screen new members for the state university boards.
Dr. Feulner said in an interview that reining in D.E.I. was a priority.
“You’re saying to yourself, ‘How many scholarships could the university give away instead of funding some nebulous department?’” Dr. Feulner said.
When the governor named Mr. Ellis, who heads the venture capital firm, Ellis Capital, as one of his first four board member appointments last year, the campus newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, started digginginto his past.
It reported that, when he was in charge of campus speakers during the 1970s, Mr. Ellis had helped host a debate titled “The Correlation Between Race and Intelligence,” featuring a prominent eugenics supporter, William Shockley, over the objection of some Black students.
Another story revealed that, as a student, Mr. Ellis had turned down a request for a gay speaker.
Mr. Ellis, responding in an interview, said that the newspaper “spun” its coverage to present him as a “racist, a homophobe and a eugenicist.”
In fact, he says, Mr. Shockley debated Richard Goldsby, a Black biologist, who completely undermined his premise. “Goldsby absolutely slaughtered William Shockley in the debate,” Mr. Ellis said.
Faculty and students were more alarmed over a recent campus incident.
In 2020, a student had hung a sign on her dorm room door that protested slavery, genocide and “KKKops” — and included an expletive directed at the university.
Her door faced out, onto The Lawn, a grassy court that was designed by Thomas Jefferson and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Mr. Ellis appealed to Mr. Ryan, the president, to have the sign removed, which the university declined, citing the student’s free-speech rights.
“I decided that, shoot, if the university wasn’t going to take it down, I’d take it down,” Mr. Ellis said.
He said that he got as far as knocking on the student’s door. But after campus representatives asked him to desist, he left without carrying out his mission.
The incident sparked two opposing reactions.
The faculty senate voted in November 2022 to censure Mr. Ellis. The incident raised “the need to respect students’ ability to express themselves and also the safety of students,” Patricia A. Jennings, chairwoman of the senate, said.
For Mr. Ellis and other alumni, the student’s protest, along with the racial equity task force, spurred the formation of the Jefferson Council, according to Mr. Bacon, the group’s executive director.
In January 2023, the council funded another D.E.I. report, which concluded that the university employed 77 D.E.I. administrators, at a cost of $6.9 million. The university also disputes those findings.
The next month, Mr. Ellis’s appointment to the university board was narrowly confirmed by the General Assembly, despite student protests.
The Jefferson Legacy
More conflict is likely in store.
The university plans to add context to a Jefferson statue in front of the university Rotunda.
Mr. Ryan said that he envisions a QR code at the statue with additional information about Jefferson’s legacy. The language will likely include references to Jefferson’s slaveholding.
Still, Mr. Ryan pledged that “as long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson.”
The Jefferson Council is wary and has taken to monitoring campus tours. In a detailed document, itcharacterized the tours as providing an “indefensibly negative account of Jefferson.” Tour guides are “instructed to convey” that Jefferson fathered children by his slave, Sally Hemings, according to the document.
“The history of U.Va. is presented as one long oppression narrative,” Mr. Bacon, of the Jefferson Council, said.
Ceci Cain, who until recently served as the student government president, helped lead the opposition to Mr. Ellis’s confirmation. She said that some in the university community embrace an “unhealthy deification” of Mr. Jefferson, adding, “That can be coded language for a lot of things.”
There are signs that political fissures, driven by the D.E.I. debate, are emerging among members of the university’s board, whose 17 voting members have traditionally been regarded as a rubber stamp for the university administration.
In a March meeting, James B. Murray Jr., a board member, raised questions about the diversity statements requested of new hires. “We seem to be directing viewpoint conformity,” he said. “It’s positively Orwellian.”
Mr. Murray, a venture capital executive, was first appointed to the board by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and reappointed by Gov. Ralph Northam, both Democrats.
Some faculty have also questioned the statements. A recent posting for a creative writing professor, for example, requests a declaration of the candidate’s “teaching philosophy and experience working on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and/or with diverse populations.”
Loren E. Lomasky, a philosophy professor, said the statements undermine the integrity of the hiring process.
“If you’re hiring somebody who is a Shakespeare scholar, it’s what they have to say that’s interesting about Shakespeare that should be taken into consideration,” he said.
Brian Coy, a university spokesman, said the diversity statements are not required. But in several recent job postings, they were part of a package applicants were asked to submit.
In its next meeting in June, the university’s board is expected to receive a full report on the D.E.I. operation, Mr. Ellis announced during a meeting of the Jefferson Council this month.
“It would appear that it’s 100 or more people, all of which have been hired in the last two to three years,” Mr. Ellis said, differing from the university’s official account of its D.E.I. staff. “This is an exploding bureaucracy and they’re reaching into every aspect of our university.”
Mr. Ellis may soon have new allies. By June, Mr. Youngkin is expected to add four people to the university board, controlling a near majority.
At least one member of the Jefferson Council is said to be under consideration.
Audio produced by Adrienne Hurst.
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Now he is on the Board. Bert Ellis, with two degrees from the University of Virginia, is a loyal alumnus. He has donated more than $10 million to his alma mater, and even co-owns a campus hangout, the Spot.What is the diversity breakdown at UVA? ›
The enrolled student population at University of Virginia-Main Campus, both undergraduate and graduate, is 56.8% White, 13.1% Asian, 6.48% Black or African American, 6.3% Hispanic or Latino, 4.52% Two or More Races, 0.0897% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.0702% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders.Who is the dean of diversity at UVA? ›
On October 23, 2018, Arts & Sciences announced the appointment of Keisha John as the College's first Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion.What is UVA known for? ›
The University is an iconic public institution of higher education, boasting nationally ranked schools and programs, diverse and distinguished faculty, a major academic medical center and proud history as a renowned research university.Is UVA public or private? ›
The University of Virginia encompasses twelve schools in Charlottesville, as well as the College at Wise in Southwest Virginia. In 2023, the University was ranked third best public university by U.S. News & World Report.How many students get deferred from UVA? ›
Total OOS defers: 5,507
Deferred students opt in or out of being reviewed and that number will change over the remainder of the application season.
|Undergraduate Students - All - 2022 Headcount|
|African American||1,199 (8.39 %)||1,107 (6.59 %)|
|Asian American||1,599 (11.18 %)||2,854 (17.00 %)|
|Hispanic American||657 (4.60 %)||1,120 (6.67 %)|
Its wealthiest alumni are worth a total of $31 billion. UVA has the highest percentage of self-made ultra high net worth individuals. Notable alumni include talk show host Katie Couric and comedian and writer Tina Fey.Who was the first black student at UVA? ›
Gregory H. Swanson consults with Assistant Law Dean Charles Woltz after registration at UVA on Sept. 15, 1950. he first African-American student admitted to the University of Virginia was a law student who made a historic contribution to ending segregation.Who was the first black graduate UVA? ›
Dr. Walter Nathaniel Ridley (1910-1996), admitted in 1951, became U.Va.'s first Black graduate in June 1953 and the nation's first African-American to receive a doctorate degree from a white southern university.
The answer is yes. In fact, the high University of Virginia rankings indicate UVA's prestige. UVA is also considered one of the “public ivies.” This means that it has near-Ivy League quality academics without the high Ivy League price tag (particularly for in-state students).Is UVA considered Ivy League? ›
Moll's list of the Public Ivies consisted of 15 schools, including William & Mary, UC Berkeley, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Michigan, UCLA, and the University of Virginia.What is a good GPA to get into UVA? ›
Applicants must meet one of the following and have a minimum 2.0 Cumulative High School GPA: High School Class Rank - Top 50% 3.0 Cumulative High School GPA (4.0 Scale) 17 ACT Composite Score or 900 SAT Composite Score (test optional)
The University of Virginia is known for its academics. It's also famous for having a student body that's diverse and knows how to party and lead a Greek life. UVA takes pride in its historic founding and the fact that it's one of the few US institutions that are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.What is the University of Virginia ranked in the world? ›
The University of Virginia rankings in 2023 is #119 in US News- Global Universities rankings.Is UVA a Tier 1 school? ›
Tier 1 schools include: Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, UChicago, Caltech, Columbia, Brown, Northwestern, The University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Duke, Vanderbilt, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Rice.What are the odds of getting in after being deferred? ›
The deferred acceptance rate and number of students accepted can vary by school. Many colleges don't release acceptance data for deferred students. Some estimates say that most colleges will accept at least 5-10% of deferred students in regular decision pools.Is deferred better than waitlisted? ›
A deferred applicant will be considered again before any reconsideration is provided to a waitlisted applicant. As such, being waitlisted at a school is worse than a deferral because the institution has decided not to admit you unless other applicants decline their admission offer and seats become available.Why do I keep getting deferred? ›
If you've been deferred, usually it's because the college wants to see how your application compares with applications submitted by students applying regular decision. After considering your application in the regular decision round, you can be accepted, rejected or waitlisted.Which US University has most Black students? ›
- Southern New Hampshire University (Manchester, NH): 15,800+ students. ...
- Dallas College: 14,500+ students.
- Houston Community College (Houston, TX): 12,600+ students.
- Georgia State University (Atlanta, GA): 12,100+ students. ...
- University of Maryland, Global Campus (Adelphi, MD): 11,700+ students.
|HBCU Rank 2022||US College Rank 2022||University|
|3||383||Xavier University of Louisiana|
From the gardens to the pavilions to the Rotunda, people enslaved by and rented by the University and its residents labored to build and maintain the Academical Village. An estimated 4,000 enslaved persons worked on the Grounds of UVA between 1817 and 1865, when the Union Army announced the end of legal slavery.What college has the wealthiest alumni? ›
Harvard also ranks first in the number of ultra-high net worth alumni with assets greater than $30 million. Harvard's total number of ultra-high net worth alumni is more than twice that of the next highest ranking institution, Stanford. These figures have not been adjusted for the relative size of these institutions.What college has the most millionaires? ›
- Harvard. 7%
- MIT. 5%
- Stanford University. 5%
- University of Pennsylvania. 4%
- Columbia University. 4%
- Yale University. 4%
- Cornell. 3%
- Princeton University. 3%
- Harvard University 17,660.
- Stanford University 7,972.
- University of Pennsylvania 7,517.
- Columbia University 5,528.
- New York University 5,214.
- Northwestern University 4,354.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4,089.
- Yale University 3,654.
The First of Its Kind. On February 25, 1837, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania became the nation's first Historically Black College and University (HBCU).What is the oldest private Black University? ›
The oldest private HBCU in the U.S. was founded in 1856, when the Methodist Episcopal Church opened Wilberforce University in Tawawa Springs (present-day Wilberforce), Ohio, as a coeducational institution for blacks who had escaped slavery in the South through the Underground Railroad.What famous person went to UVA? ›
|Julian Bond||20-year history professor. Civil rights icon|
|Lester J. Cappon||historian, documentary editor, and archivist|
|Dumas Malone||historian; biographer of Thomas Jefferson; received the Pulitzer Prize for history for his six-volume Jefferson and His Time in 1975|
Harvard's first Black graduate, Richard T. Greener, went on to become the first Black professor at the University of South Carolina and dean of the Howard University School of Law.Who is the youngest black person to graduate college? ›
At 13 years old, Elijah Muhammad is the youngest African American to graduate college with a degree in computer science and cybersecurity, according to his family. He made history by crossing the stage as a college graduate at age 13.
Vinegar Hill (originally known as Random Row) was a historically black neighborhood that was razed in 1964 as part of a Charlottesville-led redevelopment program. The neighborhood extended along Main Street from the eastern end of today's Downtown Mall.Which is more prestigious UCLA or UVA? ›
UCLA is more prestigious and more well-known throughout the world.Is Harvard better than UVA? ›
UVA and Harvard are both great schools. Harvard is generally considered more prestigious. Harvard requires a better “resume” to attend. Harvard will generally provide its students with a better network of contacts in most fields.Is UVA a top 10 school? ›
University of Virginia's ranking in the 2022-2023 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, #25. Its in-state tuition and fees are $21,381; out-of-state tuition and fees are $56,837. Founded by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia is located in Charlottesville. It's referred to among insiders as Mr.What's the most difficult college to get into? ›
Niche, a ranking and review site, recently published its list of the “2023 Hardest Colleges to Get Into.” Using data from the U.S. Department of Education on various colleges' acceptance rates and SAT/ACT scores, they found, unsurprisingly, Harvard University to be the most difficult college to get into.What is a hidden Ivy school? ›
The Hidden Ivies are colleges and universities considered to rival the eight Ivy League schools without being part of that prestigious group. These schools offer similar academic opportunities to students but might get overlooked because of their lack of popularity when compared to the famous Ivies.What is the smallest Ivy League school? ›
Dartmouth is the smallest Ivy, with a total enrollment of about 7,000 students.How hard is UVA academically? ›
The average GPA at UVA is 4.32. (Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 4.32, UVA requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants.How hard is UVA to get into? ›
UVA also requires students to either be within the top 50% of their high school class rank, have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA, or receive a composite score of 17 on the ACT or 900 on the SAT.Can I get into UVA with a 3.8 GPA? ›
The average SAT score of the students applying for admission to the UVA college is 1350 to 1500 and an average GPA of 4.0. Thus, as an aspiring candidate, you must have an above-average high school grade and a minimum GPA of 3.75 to 3.83.
While there are no published UVA GPA requirements, the average admitted student for UVA enrollment has a 4.31 GPA. Additionally, 90% of students accepted by UVA admissions are in the top 10% of their high school class and have over a 4.0 GPA.Is UVA worth the money? ›
Below Average Value Nationwide
University of Virginia - Main Campus is ranked #1,926 out of 2,223 for value nationwide. Based on our analysis of other colleges at similar price points, we believe University of Virginia - Main Campus is overpriced for the quality education it provides.
UVA boasts a rich history, prestigious academic programs, and a vibrant campus life that can offer students an exceptional college experience. However, it is essential to weigh these benefits against potential drawbacks such as tuition costs, limited on-campus housing, and concerns regarding diversity and inclusion.What is the #1 private University in the US? ›
Harvard University is a private institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. This Ivy League school is the oldest higher education institution in the country and has the largest endowment of any school in the world.Where is the number 1 University in the world? ›
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. Harvard University is the standard by which all other research universities are measured. No school in recent history has challenged its position as the world's premier academic institution.What degree is University of Virginia known for? ›
The most popular majors at University of Virginia include: Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities; Social Sciences; Engineering; Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services; Biological and Biomedical Sciences; Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services; Psychology; ...What is the easiest class at UVA? ›
- How Theater Works — DRAM 1010. ...
- Teaching as a Profession — EDIS 2012. ...
- Intro to Tibetan Buddhism — RELB 2054. ...
- Theory and Practice of Yoga — RELH 2195. ...
- Criminology—SOC 2230. ...
- Principles and Practices of Arts Administration — ARAD 3100. ...
- Human Biology and Disease — BIOL 1210. ...
- Introduction to Child Psychology—PSYC 2700.
Is Virginia Tech (VT) or James Madison University (JMU) Harder to get into? Which school is easier to get into? If you're looking at acceptance rate alone, then James Madison University (JMU) is more difficult to get into.What percentage of UVA faculty is black? ›
|Faculty - All - 2022 Headcount|
|African American||86 (3.53 %)||120 (4.02 %)|
|Asian American||178 (7.30 %)||376 (12.59 %)|
|Hispanic American||41 (1.68 %)||88 (2.95 %)|
|School Name||Rank||Prior Rank|
|George Mason University||2||2|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||3||3|
HYBLA VALLEY, VA — Hybla Valley ranks as Virginia's most diverse place to live and suburb, according to the best places to live rankings published Monday by Niche. Hybla Valley was first of over 500 places in Virginia on the most diverse places to live list. It was also ranked the most diverse suburb.What is the diversity in Charlottesville VA? ›
The 5 largest ethnic groups in Charlottesville, VA are White (Non-Hispanic) (65.6%), Black or African American (Non-Hispanic) (18.5%), Asian (Non-Hispanic) (7.02%), White (Hispanic) (4.39%), and Two+ (Non-Hispanic) (2.77%).What is UVA with highest distinction? ›
Graduates in the Distinguished Majors Program receive degrees "with distinction" for a cumulative GPA of 3.400 or higher, or "with highest distinction" for a cumulative GPA of 3.750 or higher.Who was the first Black faculty at UVA? ›
Nathan Johnson, was the first black faculty member at the University of Virginia. He had received a doctorate in the education school at the University of Virginia. Spring 1968: James Gay, the first black Student Council representative on Uva's Student Council.What is the #1 most diverse college? ›
- Stanford University.
- University of Hawaii at Hilo.
- University of Nevada Las Vegas.
- University of San Francisco.
- Rutgers University Newark.
- Harvard University.
- Johns Hopkins University.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA - Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Va., has a strong presence of African-American prosperity along their coastal region.What University in Virginia has the highest Latino population? ›
|Most Diverse States in America||Least Diverse States in America|
|1. California||41. Iowa|
|2. Texas||42. Ohio|
|3. Hawaii||43. Utah|
|4. New Jersey||44. Wyoming|
Jersey City, New Jersey
This means it's the most diverse in terms of racial, ethnic, linguistic and birthplace metrics. Besides being located right by New York City, Jersey City is filled with rich food and history.
California ranked at No. 1 overall, with high scores for socio-economic and cultural diversity. Meanwhile, West Virginia came in as the least diverse state with low scores for religious, cultural, and socio-economic diversity.
- White. 68%
- Asian. 21%
- Hispanic. 5%
- Two or more races. 4%
- African American. 2%
- Other race. 0%
- American Indian or Alaska native. 0%
- Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. 0%
There were more than 277,000 Hispanic or Latino Virginians added to the state population over the last ten years, which is a 43.9% jump. Also, the 2020 Census data shows that over 223,000 additional Virginians identify as more than one race, compared to the 2010 Census—this represents a 123.0% surge.Is Charlottesville a red or blue city? ›
Politics. The Charlottesville metropolitan area leans Democratic. Similar to other college towns, Charlottesville is a Democratic stronghold.