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LETTER: In defense of Bert Ellis, Governor Youngkin Board of Visitors appointee

I know Mr. Ellis and can assure the misguided students who composed this scurrilous missive that he is the polar opposite of their characterization

<p>&nbsp;There should not be public shaming with simply inaccurate accusations from student leaders that go unchallenged.&nbsp;</p>

 There should not be public shaming with simply inaccurate accusations from student leaders that go unchallenged. 

I am writing to express my outrage concerning the University’s Student Council Executive Board statement demanding the immediate resignation of newly appointed Board of Visitors member Bert Ellis. There are many slanderous and inaccurate accusations throughout the statement, but I will cite what I perceive as the most egregious — “From the bondage and abuse experienced by enslaved people, to the violent occupation by Nazis and KKK members, to Bert Ellis — the Lawn is no stranger to racist violence under the guise of “Jeffersonian ideals” in order to maintain power for the white elite. 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.”

These so-called student leaders are perfectly within their rights to express their opinions in a public forum. That is what intellectual diversity is all about. However, in its statement above, Student Council’s Executive Board conflates Bert Ellis with the August 2017 torch bearing neo-Nazis who marched down the Lawn — and had no connection to the University, much less Bert Ellis — and the Klu Klux Klan. 

Bert Ellis is a Phi Beta Kappa Class of 1975 and Darden alumnus, was a Lawn resident himself, student leader and the member of several honorary societies while at the University. He has had a very successful business career and is a respected executive in the media industry. I know Mr. Ellis and can assure the misguided students who composed this scurrilous missive that he is the polar opposite of their characterization. He seeks intellectual diversity on Grounds with tolerance for all viewpoints, something that he and I and thousands of concerned alumni, parents and students believe is sorely lacking at the present time.

There can be honest disagreement with what Mr. Ellis and others believe. There should not be public shaming with simply inaccurate accusations from student leaders that go unchallenged. Student Council’s Executive Board has every right to express whatever opinions they want, no matter how wrongheaded. I am defending Mr. Ellis and expect that The Cavalier Daily will publish my opinion in the spirit of University President Jim Ryan’s June 2021 “Committee on Free Expression and Free Inquiry” that promised tolerance for divergent viewpoints and civil discourse at the University.

Thank you for your consideration.

Tom Neale

College ’74

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