By James A. Bacon
Like many other University of Virginia alumni, I was taken aback to hear that the Board of Visitors had granted President Jim Ryan a $200,000 bonus for the great job UVa had done in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic.
Rector Whittington Clement put it this way: “When the situation this year became clearer and we had a highly successful handling of COVID-19, we think the University did as well as, if not better, than any institution of higher learning in making the adjustments necessary to COVID-19, we thought that it was appropriate to give him a bonus.”
I don’t want to prejudge whether Team Ryan has done a great job of addressing COVID-19 or not. To be sure, UVa has resumed in-person learning, but it also has instituted a draconian lockdown, including mandated vaccination for students, the unenrollment of those who did not comply, mask wearing required both indoors and outdoors, and mandated isolation and quarantine for those who test positive and/or been exposed. UVa is a laboratory testbed for the individual-liberties-be-damned approach to public health that some would like to see for the entire country.
Personally, I’m a pragmatist. I see COVID policy as a trade-off between individual liberties and the public good. I am not dogmatic that one should prevail over the other. But if you’re going to sacrifice one for the other, you damn well need to pay attention to the results.