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The UVA Board of Visitors

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Who are these people that ousted Teresa Sullivan? The Post has a nice graphic. Every single member is a businessperson. Including Pat Robertson’s son. Not a single seat is reserved for someone with a different background. It’s quite clear–give a bunch of money to the governor, be rewarded with a seat on the University Board of Visitors. And for these people, the humanities have zero value. Says The Athenaeum:

I notice that every single member of the university’s Board of Visitors is a business person. This is true whether the member was appointed by Kaine or McDonnell. What is happening at Charlottesville appears to be part of a state wide effort to convert the state’s many fine colleges and universities into trade schools to support industry and the business community generally. The process has had a certain elegant simplicity Wealthy business people give a lot of money. They then are appointed to governing boards. Afer that they begin to agitate for “pragmatic” reforms. This generally means attacks on the Humanities. These are deemed to be “dreaming of the past” rather than studies in which critical, independent thinking is nurtured and fed on the experence of mankind. .English departments are converted into institutions that de-emphasize literature and teach rhetoric (reading, writing and public speaking). History and Philosophy are marginalized. If such desiderata are fulfilled, then the money continues to flow in. In short the business community and the moneyed class are buying the universities just as the same people are buying political power with the help of the Citizen’s United SCOTUS decision.

Other than Sullivan not doing enough to eviscerate the humanities, it’s pretty easy to see why this Board of Hacks wouldn’t like Teresa Sullivan. Before she became president of UVA, what was Sullivan best known for? Possibly for co-authoring this book with one Elizabeth Warren. H/T to Davis X. Machina on this.

I’m certainly not saying that there was some right-wing conspiracy where getting rid of someone who wrote a book with Elizabeth Warren played a role. Rather, publications like this means that for the capitalist extremists on the Board of Visitors, Sullivan is one of us academics who can’t be trusted. Remember that conservatives have been attacking the academy for years because it was the one spot in American life they did not control. They control the media, the churches, the sporting world, much of K-12 education, the airwaves, etc. It’s just Hollywood and the academy and Hollywood doesn’t actually make liberal movies that people watch. Turning the academy into a conservative training ground is part of the point here; if they can teach young people that there is no alternative to fundamentalist capitalism, if they can get rid of the courses and majors that teach critical thinking and skills not directly applicable to the marketplace, then conservatives have won a huge victory.

Now it does seem increasingly likely that the coup will fail. The Board is presently paralyzed and with the campus in an uproar, it’s hard to see how the coup leaders move forward. Governor Bob McDonnell is telling the Board to either resolve the problem or he will remove all of them, but given that this is McDonnell, that would only mean a more intransigent BoV to replace them. The money line in this story about McDonnell’s threat is here: “He derided “vitriolic comments” directed at Dragas, as well as vandalism on the campus and threats to refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the interim president.” However, it will be difficult to resolve this in any way that doesn’t lead to Sullivan’s return.

But even if Sullivan does return, it is only a small loss for the capitalists. They are doing this at every state school across the country. Most of the time, they can slash funding for the humanities and push colleges and universities toward serving as capitalist training camps without even the slightest peep of public notice. As the United States goes through its own Shock Doctrine, capitalist-caused crises to the economy become excuses to give more power to the capitalists at the expense of working people. This same dynamic goes for the universities–as capitalist anti-tax fervor dries up state budgets, states disinvest from higher education, giving capitalists complete control over universities. People accept it because they either believe the Capitalists Know Best rhetoric or they don’t see any other option and feel defeated and hopeless.

That’s why I said earlier that we are all the University of Virginia. Because what’s happening there is happening at every public school I’ve ever been associated with–the University of Oregon, University of Tennessee, University of New Mexico, and University of Rhode Island. And virtually every other school as well. Capitalists can fight a war on public higher education on thousands of fronts at once so a loss in Charlottesville is only a small defeat in their perfidious campaign.

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