University Creates 20 Rotating Professorships for Democracy and Equity

November 15, 2018

November 15, 2018 | Caroline Newman


The University of Virginia will create 20 new Research Professorships in Democracy and Equity to examine underlying causes that fueled the violent white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville and at UVA on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017.

The 20 professorships, awarded on a rotating basis to eligible faculty members for two- or three-year terms, will foster research and teaching innovation around various topics related to democracy and equity.

“This decision reflects the University’s commitment to examining and addressing the underlying causes of the events of Aug. 11 and 12, 2017,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “These professorships will support focused work, rotate through faculty and be used to support both existing faculty who are already doing outstanding research and help recruit new faculty.

“What happened on Aug. 11 and 12 is obviously bigger than UVA and Charlottesville, but we nonetheless have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to help chart a better path forward.”

The professorships follow a recommendation from the Deans Working Group, created last year by UVA President Emerita Teresa A. Sullivan to review UVA’s response to the August 2017 events. In the spring, the Board of Visitors approved the group’s request to set aside $20 million in matching funds to support faculty research and teaching around related social, cultural and political issues.

Each of the 20 professorships will be funded by $1 million in donor commitments matched one-for-one by UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund. They will be spread across UVA’s schools and under the administration of each school’s dean, with supervision by Executive Vice President and Provost Tom Katsouleas.

“We have an opportunity, unique even in higher education, to advance scholarship and education on these critical issues for our society and for our way of life – via a wave of hiring into the classroom,” Katsouleas said.

The rotating professorships are designed to ensure continuity, as the work will rely not just on one faculty member, but on many talented faculty members across all disciplines at the University, for many years to come. The new posts will also complement initiatives like UVA’s Democracy Initiative, an interdisciplinary study of the challenges facing democracies around the world. 

“The white supremacist attacks on the city and the University last year starkly highlighted the urgency of the Democracy Initiative,” Ian Baucom, dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, said. “The new rotating professorships will not only help us design and introduce research-driven Democracy Labs and our new Democracy Forum classes for students, they will help us support the work of Arts & Sciences faculty across all departments and programs pursuing vital research on issues of democracy, race and equality.”

The new positions are part of the University’s ongoing response to the white supremacist demonstrations. Other efforts recommended by the Deans Working Group include expanded scholarship programs supporting underrepresented and underserved student populations; revised and strengthened time, place and manner policies governing groups meeting at the University; an independent review of the University’s security and safety initiatives; and updated policies governing the Academical Village.