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Miller Center's appointment of former Trump legislative director comes under fire

The petition was signed by faculty, students and alumni

<p>Marc Short formerly served as President Donald Trump's director of legislative affairs.&nbsp;</p>

Marc Short formerly served as President Donald Trump's director of legislative affairs. 

The University’s Miller Center for Public Affairs has come under fire for hiring Marc Short, President Donald Trump’s former director of legislative and intergovernmental affairs, as a senior fellow. Short is set to begin Aug. 1.

Short — who earned his MBA from the Darden School of Business in 2004 — will contribute to Center publications and engage with University students and faculty, according to a release from the center. Before joining the Trump administration, Short served as a senior aide to then-vice presidential candidate Mike Pence.

Soon after the announcement, U.Va. faculty and students circulated a petition calling for Short’s appointment to be revoked.

“The university should not serve as a waystation for high-level members of an administration that has directly harmed our community and to this day attacks the institutions vital to a free society — the very thing that the University of Virginia, as an institution of higher education, is meant to protect,” the petition reads.

At press time, the petition on Google Docs had garnered 150 signatures, while the auxiliary petition had just over 1,800. 

The petition’s first signatory, Miller Center and History Prof. William Hitchcock, said he objected to the Center’s appointment of a partisan figure without faculty input.

“[The Center] did not provide any faculty consultation before making that appointment, and that violates the spirit of collegiality and faculty governance,” Hitchcock told The Cavalier Daily in an interview. “But more important, Mr. Short is a very ardent partisan. He is a very skilled, able exponent of President Trump's policies and views, and therefore he has no place at a nonpartisan, scholarly center such as ours.”

Hitchcock added that he doesn’t object to public lectures, seminars or interviews with Short — but he shouldn’t be paid for them.

“I would really like to know about his experiences,” Hitchcock said. “I think it would be fascinating. I embrace debate and I embrace his right to speak his mind, and I would personally invite him and participate in any discussion he would like to engage in. However, speakers such as that are not paid, and they are not hired, to be official members of the University staff.”

In a statement to The Washington Post, Short said he was disappointed by that the petition was being signed by University faculty.

“There is an irony at Thomas Jefferson’s university that professors are seeking to silence debate instead of fostering civil conversation,” Short said.

The Executive Board of the College Republicans at the University agreed, releasing a statement Friday condemning the petition and other public backlash against the Center’s decision to hire Short.

“This petition goes beyond reasonable objection — it highlights the animus those on the left possess for anyone affiliated with conservatism,” the statement reads. “It transcends hatred for President Trump. The most concerning aspect is the petition’s endorsement by members of the University faculty. Faculty members should be welcoming new voices on our Grounds, not attempting to eradicate them.”

The executive board expressed concerns of “dismantling dialogue” at the University and “intolerance for any right-of-center idea” and affirmed their support for the hiring of Short.

“Mr. Short is an excellent addition to the Miller Center faculty and we emphatically support the University’s decision to hire him,” the statement reads. 

In a statement to The Cavalier Daily, the Miller Center’s Director of Communications Howard Witt defended the appointment as academically sound. 

“The addition of Marc Short, a senior Trump Administration official with intimate knowledge of interactions between the White House and Congress, deepens our scholarly inquiries into the workings of the American presidency,” Witt said. “We understand and respect those UVA faculty members and other critics — even some from within the Miller Center — who disagree with the decision to name Marc Short a senior fellow.”

The Center currently employs several former figures from both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, Witt added, a practice Hitchcock said “should come under review.”

“It may be that it is inconsistent with [The Center’s] nonpartisan charter,” Hitchcock said. 

A spokesperson from the University did not respond for comment.