Teaching Race at UVA

Incoming! … Duck, T.J.!!

Ever wonder where the University of Virginia’s research dollars are going? Here’s one new initiative: “Teaching Race at UVA.”

The following missive was distributed to UVa faculty by Provost Thomas C. Katsouleas and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Kerry Abrams:

Faculty from all schools and departments at UVA are invited to participate in the first cohort of a faculty development seminar called “Teaching Race at UVA.” The seminar, sponsored by the Office of the Provost, will provide UVA faculty with an in-depth understanding of the history of race at UVA, in Charlottesville, and in the context of Virginia and the United States more broadly. The goal of this initiative is to equip a cohort of faculty from across UVA to be able to teach in their disciplines effectively in relation to the history and present reality of race and racism both locally and nationally.

All participants will receive $3,000 in research funds, with an additional $1,000 available to those who turn in revised syllabi that incorporate seminar content. These additional funds can be used to support site visits, guest speakers, research projects, or other aspects of the newly developed course. Please see the Call for Applications for more details about the program and for information about how to apply to participate.

The UVa website provides more details about the seminar itself:

All participants will be expected to incorporate at least part of the seminar content into an existing or new course.

The seminar will include the historical periods of early colonial Virginia, the founding of UVA, the history of enslaved laborers here and regionally, Emancipation, Reconstruction and Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, and struggles for justice and equity by African Americans at UVA and in Charlottesville. We will connect historical events and struggles with contemporary concerns such as health, educational, and economic disparities, as well as white supremacist discourse and actions and present efforts toward justice and equity. Sessions will include a combination of site visits, presentations by subject matter experts, and discussions with colleagues.

Hmmm… Am I wrong to assume that the only non-politically correct points of view to be presented will be those of white supremacists? Will views of mainstream conservatives and libertarians be explored?

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but this initiative looks like an effort to inject a social-justice-warrior perspective into a broad cross-section of courses that have nothing to do with race and race relations. I can think of nothing more damaging to the university than this. If the incoming administration wants to alienate a large swath of its alumni base and friends in the legislature, this is just the ticket.

I desperately hope my fears are unfounded. I will endeavor to find out more from UVa.

(Hat tip: Steve Haner)

Update: UVa spokesman Wesley Hester provided the following response to my questions regarding who would teach the courses, how much the initiative would cost, and whether journalists could attend the seminars:

The seminars are offered as part of UVA’s faculty development programming and will be taught by UVA faculty members and other subject matter experts, primarily scholars of history. The faculty members will offer historical perspectives on race and encourage open dialogue among the seminar participants. The Provost’s Office has not set a total budget yet as planning is ongoing. At this time, we are anticipating seven seminar sessions that range from three hours to half a day in length.

More details about the seminars will be announced as faculty proposals are reviewed and plans are finalized.

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16 responses to “Teaching Race at UVA

  1. Hat tip anonymous. Somebody threw it over my transom and I just forwarded it…I’m not on any UVA insider lists.

    My intro anthro teacher in 1972 spent weeks on a segment focused on the fallacy of race, the fact that of the millions of biological variations in the human species, categorizing people by one (skin tone) or a handful of them had no basis in science, made no more sense than grouping people by hair color. The whole construct is instead a matter of culture, economics, tribalism – but not biology. His goal was to diminish the focus on race (the long lost MLK colorblind ideal) but the academic goal now seems to be the deepen the divide and impede any actual progress. For a thousand bucks in extra budget, will faculty work racism and privilege themes into math, chemistry, mechanical engineering? If you are already having students read Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird, do you get the money?

  2. So, this is Jim Bacon’s and Steve Haner’s contribution to Black History Month?

    And if there’s really no such thing as race, I assume there’s no such thing as racism?

    Double ouch!

  3. My teacher’s point was there was no biological basis for classification by “race” – it was anthropology class of course so the point was the cultural construct we’ve created for ourselves. But in reality, human is human. ‘Tis but to dream….You know, that “content of their character” idea that we’ve abandoned….

  4. >>So, this is Jim Bacon’s and Steve Haner’s contribution to Black History Month?>>

    Ah, yes. The Socratic variant of the ad hominem attack.

    >>And if there’s really no such thing as race, I assume there’s no such thing as racism?

    Ah, yes. The Socratic variant of the Sophistic argument and the verbal fallacy of equivocation.

    C’mon, Peter. If you’re going to engage in this crap, you’re going to get challenged. The last time this happened you took your marbles and went home, abandoning the blog as too rancorous, or some such description. So are you going to complain now? Seriously, you risk approaching what Andy Ngo writes about at Portland State in today’s A section of WSJ. https://www.wsj.com/articles/antifa-rages-against-googles-dissident-1518739509
    Jim says you’re a good writer. I can’t comment on that as I don’t count myself a good writer, but I’ll take his word for it. In any event, I hope in future you’ll address the issues raised by Jim’s post rather than engage in affectingly snarky but ultimately illogical comments. Heck, LarryG does better than that. I even agree with him sometimes. 😉

  5. Crazy,
    Ha Ha. So I caught Bacon and Haner on something. We all came out of the same cookie cutter. Steve emails Jim something who runs with it. Then Steve realizes that Jim has taken it over the limit, so Steve issues a “non-denial denial.” As I say the two emperors have no clothes. And I don’t want to get into some long boring and irrelevant right wing debate about how recognizing America’s racist past has anything to do with research and development in basic and applied science.And their imagined overfunding at Virginia’s great public universities.
    Got’em!!!Clean ’em and fry’em!!!

  6. hmmn… was that GUTem , clean em and fry em?

    yes Jim seems all too willing to engage in that kind of “crap”… indeed.

  7. >>And I don’t want to get into some long boring and irrelevant right wing debate about how recognizing America’s racist past has anything to do with research and development in basic and applied science.>>

    I’m obviously missing something since I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about here. Could you explain what the connections are? What did you catch them on?

  8. well ,… WHERE did THIS come from:

    ” Hmmm… Am I wrong to assume that the only non-politically correct points of view to be presented will be those of white supremacists? Will views of mainstream conservatives and libertarians be explored?

    Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but this initiative looks like an effort to inject a social-justice-warrior perspective into a broad cross-section of courses that have nothing to do with race and race relations. ”

    not what I “saw”… funny isn’t it?

  9. Not feeling the frying pan, Peter. I think what UVA is doing is stupid and counterproductive if the goal (which is not your goal) is to get past all this nonsense as the generations infected with racism pass off the scene. There are those who do not want progress and I guess I count you among them. And your move to immediately assault me doesn’t exactly encourage any open discussion – but ad hominem is the refuge of the weak minded. I really don’t know why a chem or algebra class should include lectures on slavery or racism. And I’m sure the American history and European history and sociology classes where it is relevant are already covering the topic.

  10. re: ” .. get past all this nonsense as the generations infected with racism pass off the scene.”

    just taking a quick look around… I don’t think we are at the “post racial” world just yet… for instance BLM is still a “thing” both on and off campus … and depending on who you are – racially or politically, you may or may not understand that movement which the polls reveal – diverse views of it.

    Conservatives these days typically seem to have a far different view of where society is on race than liberals. I just don’t see further examination of these issues as particularly more stupid nor counterproductive than say other discussions, perhaps about gender and whether higher ed is unconsciously oriented to male learning styles..

    When I see folks react in a huge way – negatively against something like this – I’m flummoxed… I clearly do not see
    what they see…. It’s almost like it’s some sort of stealth conspiracy… to push some sort of nefarious agenda… geeze..

  11. Steve,
    I am kidding you and am sorry you took offense. Bacon knows better than to take me too seriously. But I do agree with LarrytheG that it is a bit early to declare racism as over.

    • Peter,

      >>But I do agree with LarrytheG that it is a bit early to declare racism as over.

      That’s like the EPA saying pollution is not over in the James River because we need to take out the last few parts per million. Pollution can and should be reduced to noise levels, but it is bad policy to have the EPA go after the last few parts per million because of the cost.

      By that same kind of thinking, racism can never be over, even though it is reduced to noise level. I would submit that BLM is closer to noise level than not, that BLM is more politically driven than race driven. I became generally convinced of this some time ago, when I attended a weekend seminar entitled “An Honest Conversation about Race and Jurisdiction” It became very clear, very quickly that the conversation was not about race, it was about left wing politics and the need for more government money for every left wing goal. It is this kind of dishonesty that has colored by view ever since.

      • Good discussion. Actually, I would argue that under today’s Progressive political agenda, that racism has been been weaponized to be used as a wedge issue to aggregate political power, no matter what the race, or religion, for that matter too.

        Hence, to my mind, the Federal Government is rampantly racists. That is obvious fact. Look at all the government forms, racists on their face. Every time you turn around, your Federal Government demands to know your race. This plants and nurtures racism in our society. How thus can we become colorblind with such a racist Federal Government? We obviously can’t, based on recent history.

        And so racism spreads. Particularly to places like UVA that is neurotic, and feeds on its own obsessive compulsive neurotic behavior, whether it be race, or gender, or memes, or whatever else its CFO can conjure up in his head to keep people angry, and divided, so he can exercise perverted power, or imagine he is doing it.

  12. Racism isn’t over. Neither is it to be cured by indoctrination in the history of racism in Charlottesville or the techniques of heightened race-consciousness. Apparently someone believes the faculty will choose not to attend these “seminars” in reverse racism unless bribed to do so. I’d like to know where the $3000-$4000 attendance bonuses come from: were they donated by some external group with specific criteria for disbursement, and if so by whom, or is this an internally-generated, internally funded University initiative?

  13. I just don’t see it as “indoctrination” per se. Lots of workplaces now require some level of “training” to learn to be more accepting of other cultures and lifestyles – to actually conduct themselves as a workplace to be more accepting of different folks.

    And in terms of “indoctrination” – let’s look at the institution that was among the first for race – and actually kicked off this whole racial upheaval and that is the US Military which basically said to all in it that everyone would be treated the same – and there was no “special” seminars – it was – “do it or get out”.

    Perhaps that’s why UVA should have done instead? Just sent out a memo with words to that effect? 😉

    By the way , I’m awaiting the commentary on the Black Panther thing… sounds a little like a kids variant of BLM? 😉

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