Student Council’s Executive Board released a statement denouncing Governor Glenn Youngkin’s recent appointment of College and Darden Alumnus Bert Ellis to the University Board of Visitors. Executive Board members called on Ellis to resign, characterizing the appointment as “reckless, ill-intentioned, and threatening to the safety of marginalized students at this University.”
“On behalf of the student body, we reject the appointment of Bert Ellis and we reject Youngkin’s decision which is either negligent or willfully rewarding behavior that endangers students,” the statement reads.
Student Council's Executive Board is made up of the president, vice president for administration, vice president for organizations, chief of cabinet, chair of the representative body, director of support and access services, director of university relations, director of funding reform and director of coalition engagement.
Jaden Evans, vice-president of administration for Student Council and rising fourth-year College student, said the group felt motivated to speak out as an organization that aims to protect all students.
“We have felt that we had a duty to condemn this appointment and immediately urge Ellis to resign his position,” Evans said.
Youngkin first announced the appointment of four members to the Board — including Ellis — earlier this month. The group is scheduled to take their seats during the Board’s retreat in August.
Ellis serves as president of The Jefferson Council, a conservative group of alumni and stakeholders who aim to preserve the “legacy of Thomas Jefferson” and “intellectual diversity.” He also holds executive positions in three Atlanta-based businesses and is a co-owner of White Spot, a restaurant located on the Corner.
The Student Council statement draws attention to a specific incident in 2020, when Ellis traveled to the University following controversy over signage on Lawn room doors that criticized the University's history of inaccessibility and enslavement. Per a statement made by Ellis himself, he was “prepared to use a small razor blade” to remove part of the sign before two University ambassadors explained this would be considered “malicious damage” and asked him to leave.
“This event reveals the hypocrisy, and thus false pretense, by which Ellis selectively leverages free speech discourse to advance his own political agenda against students,” the statement reads.
Evans added that prior to Ellis’ appointment to the Board, Student Council was aware of his conduct toward students. At that time, however, he was only an alumnus with no power over the well-being of the University community.
“Going forward, of course, we hope that by condemning Ellis, we are drawing the attention of the University community to this inappropriate appointment and to Ellis’ ongoing pattern of threatening behavior towards both administration and students,” Evans said.
This article has been updated to reflect that the director of funding reform is now a position on Student Council's Executive Board.