The University of Virginia (UVA) spent $32,500, or about $541 per minute, to host prominent critical race theorist Ibram X. Kendi for an hour to discuss “racial equity,” The Daily Wire has learned.
UVA contracted with Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau, according to an agreement obtained by The Daily Wire through the Freedom of Information Act. The virtual event took place on April 21 of last year, and according to the university, 876 people attended. It was a Q&A, free to attend, and open to the public.
“The University of Virginia welcomes speakers from a broad array of perspectives to our Grounds every academic year and we often do pay speakers fees or other compensation,” UVA spokesperson Brian Coy told The Daily Wire. “Offering our community access to a diverse set of speakers and points of view is an important part of our academic mission.”
Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a conservative youth group that brings speakers to college campuses through its own funding, told The Daily Wire it is “not familiar” with UVA “bringing conservative speakers” and paying them or promoting the events. The university notably refused to officially recognize YAF’s campus chapter in 2017, before changing course on the heels of a letter from the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom alleging violations of state law and the First Amendment.
“It’s shameful that a public university would spend tens of thousands of dollars for such a racist figure to speak to their students,” YAF spokesperson Kara Zupkus said.
Kendi, who appeared as part of UVA’s Racial Equity Speaker Series, has written controversial books like “How to Be an Antiracist” and drawn criticism for promoting the ideas of systemic racism and white privilege. He argues that whites must acknowledge their privilege and implicit bias, as well as America’s systemic racism, to oppose racism.
Other 2020-2021 series speakers were thinkers who have argued America is systemically racist, including Duke University professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva — a sociologist who has claimed that America has normalized “the standards of white supremacy.” A separate contract obtained by The Daily Wire shows UVA’s diversity, equity, and inclusion division sponsored Silva’s November 2020 Zoom event for $10,000. Silva did not return a request for comment.
Penguin declined to comment, referring The Daily Wire to Kendi, whose media representative also did not respond to multiple emails. Neither the Silva nor Kendi events were recorded, UVA said. But such concealment is nothing new.
As reported by The Federalist in December 2021, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee paid $45,000, or about $207 per minute, for Kendi to promote his books and train faculty and students. The three-and-a-half-hour event was hidden through an “audiovisual recording addendum” Penguin had the school sign. Kendi’s remarks were then removed from a private server.
Similarly, Kendi spoke at the University of Michigan in November 2020, as reported by Campus Reform. The agreement between Penguin and the school said Michigan “shall not make an audio or video recording” and must send a video or audio copy to the agency within 30 days. Penguin had the university delete any recordings after 14 days, “unless otherwise agreed upon by the agency.”
UVA, meanwhile, has continued to make strides toward implementing racial equity on campus.
In summer 2020, a task force appointed by President Jim Ryan published a report calling for “more anti-racist education,” while recommending UVA make diversity initiatives “a central focus of leadership and governance” that “should pervade all decision-making.” The task force’s recommendations have led to a campus statue removal of revolutionary war officer George Rogers Clark — as well as the renaming of academic buildings.
Dave Gordon, director of the anti-critical race theory (CRT) political action committee Virginia Project, told The Daily Wire no “government institution” should be teaching or promoting any sort of “race-based philosophy.”
“The right to equal protection under the law and race-based government are wholly incompatible,” he said. “For any CRT stuff, you automatically have a constitutional question that is front and center. It’s a modern version of a KKK rally. The Democrats have their little terror group on the ground level to attack political opponents and intimidate their ideology into stone.”
A public records analysis by The College Fix in March 2021 showed campuses spent at least $300,000 in past years for Kendi lectures. The author founded and runs Boston University’s Center for Anti-Racist Research, and this upcoming June, he is set to publish a children’s book titled “Goodnight Racism.” It is billed as a “social justice toolkit” for kids.
Other groups, including YAF, expressed that Kendi should not be barred from speaking on campus but that an institution should not be promoting social issues like CRT. The Jefferson Council, a UVA alumni nonprofit, told The Daily Wire it is for open dialogue but also equal representation. “I think it’s wrong for them to bring speakers that promote only one point of view,” said President Bert Ellis, chairman and CEO of a venture capital firm based in Atlanta.
UVA’s College Republicans club expressed a similar sentiment.
“Instead of giving time and money to academically unserious ideologues, the university should use its substantial resources to promote genuine learning,” said Ian Schwartz, a spokesperson and junior studying history and politics. “If the University wants to encourage substantial debate about current policy issues, they ought to also give a platform to prominent conservative figures.”
“Unfortunately, I have seen no evidence of their willingness to do this, nor do I expect to at any point in the near future.”
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