Miller Center senior fellow Marc Short appointed as Mike Pence’s chief of staff

Short served as White House legislative director before assuming his position at the University

Marc Short joined the Miller Center faculty in Aug. 2018 and was met with criticism and resistance by the University community. Megan O'Rourke | Cavalier Daily

Marc Short — a senior fellow at the University’s Miller Center of Public Affairs and former director of legislative affairs for President Donald Trump — has left his one-year fellowship with the Center to return to the White House as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff.

The addition of Short to the Miller Center faculty in Aug. 2018 was met with criticism and resistance by the University community. Many critics, including History Prof. William Hitchcock and historian Melvyn Leffler called Short an “especially egregious” decision to make just one year after the violent Unite the Right rallies, when white supremacists marched on the Lawn and downtown Charlottesville and 32-year-old counterprotestor Heather Heyer was killed. Following the rallies, Trump received heavy criticism for saying that there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville. 

Pence announced the decision in a tweet Tuesday morning, which said Short will be joining the staff in March. A press release from Miller Center communications director Howard Witt described Short as someone who “contributed valuable insights about the Trump administration” at the Center. Short is one of five former public officials on the Center’s staff of 13 senior fellows — among other contributors are George H.W. Bush’s speechwriter Mary Kate Cary, George W. Bush’s undersecretary of defense for policy Eric Edelman, cabinet secretary and assistant to Barack Obama Chris Lu and Melody Barnes, domestic policy advisor to Obama. 

“During his fellowship at the Miller Center, Short participated in public panels and events, engaged with students and faculty across the University of Virginia, and offered candid insights about the Trump Administration and our current political system that helped inform Miller Center research,” the release said.

In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Witt said Short’s presence at the Miller Center contributed to the work of the Center’s presidential scholars, who interpret the administrative actions of the executive branch — such as the legislative affairs Short himself aided in the Trump administration.

“Those who worked with him were certainly better for it,” Witt said of the Miller Center scholars who experienced Short’s close understanding of Trump. 

The Miller Center’s release also included input from Miller Center director and CEO William Antholis, who congratulated Short and lauded his contributions to the Center.

“The Miller Center congratulates Marc on his new appointment with Vice President Pence,” Antholis said. “Marc helped Miller Center scholars and UVA students better understand the Trump administration from multiple angles, giving us a clear-eyed insider’s view of a White House operation that is often difficult to grasp — including both the administration’s accomplishments and controversies. He did so with a spirit of honesty and collegiality that is essential to civil discourse.”

Short, who received his master’s degree from the Darden School of Business, held other previous involvements in politics. Short served as then-congressman Pence’s chief of staff from 2009 to 2011 and as Pence’s communications advisor during the 2016 presidential campaign.  In his role as legislative director to Trump, Short provided close aid in efforts to reverse Obama-era regulations — specifically, the Affordable Care Act — and in implementing Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

A petition was circulated throughout the University community shortly after Short’s arrival at the Miller Center and has over 4,000 signatures to date.  The first signatory was Hitchcock, who soon after announced his resignation from his professorship with the Center along with Leffler. Leffler and Hitchcock said the hire did not align with the Center’s stated nonpartisan values. Both professors continue their work within the history department in the College of Arts and Sciences. 

“Mr. Short has been a partisan activist during his entire professional career,” Leffler and Hitchcock wrote in their letter of resignation from the Miller Center. “He has associated himself with people and institutions who disregard, circumvent, and even violate the norms and laws that are fundamental to civil discourse and democratic politics.”

The Miller Center responded to the widespread backlash, releasing a statement that said Short was hired for his ability to contribute his firsthand experiential knowledge to the Center’s study of the American presidency.  In a statement to The Washington Post, Short responded to critics saying he was troubled by this opposition to the views he would bring to the Center.

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

Short will be replacing Nick Ayers, who resigned from the vice president’s chief of staff position in December. Pence’s announcement came in accordance with Trump announcing a round of staffing hires for his communication team in preparation for the 2020 election.

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