The year is new, but this conversation is not. In the upcoming days, a committee of state senators will vote to confirm Governor Glenn Youngkin’s recent slate of appointments to the Board of Visitors. Among these appointments is Bert Ellis, Class of 1975 alumnus and president of the Jefferson Council. If confirmed, Ellis seems positioned to try and “reverse the path to wokeness that has overtaken our entire university” — those are his words, not ours. Student and faculty leaders — such as the Student Council Executive Board, Student Council representative body, University Democrats and Faculty Senate — have remained consistent in their opposition to Ellis’ appointment. This community demands better. We, the 133rd and 134th Editorial Boards of The Cavalier Daily, call on our state senators to refuse the appointment of Bert Ellis Jr.
Ellis’s destructive actions speak even louder than his misguided words. We have covered this before, but it bears repeating. During his time as an undergraduate, Ellis ignored pleas from the student body and platformed a eugenics supporter under the guise of free speech. He then turned around and denied a platform to a gay rights activist, conveniently forgetting the importance of free speech. More recently, Ellis raised alarms when he traveled to Grounds with the intention of cutting down a sign hung on a Lawn resident’s door. Ellis has a documented history of racist, homophobic and harmful decisions. This goes beyond politics. Our identities are not up for debate. Any individual who isn’t capable of seeing the humanity in each of us should not be allowed to hold a leadership position within our community.
This poor judgment is not the only cause for concern. Ellis also poses a threat to this University’s tradition of student self-governance. The Board is responsible for licensing our entire system of student self-governance, in part by creating contracts with special status organizations. Any individual appointed to oversee our system should not be opposed to its basic tenets. When these organizations have strayed from Ellis’ narrow conception of acceptable behavior, he has been quick to undermine and attack their efforts. From the condescending language used to criticize the University Guide Service to his plea to encourage the Board to subvert the will of the student body in last spring’s Honor referendum, it is clear that Ellis only cares about the promulgation of his personal views here on Grounds. Such a self-serving mindset is ill-suited to the work students are doing to push the University forward and prepare ourselves to be citizen leaders in the process.
We should not have to say time and time again that we do not want a person on the University’s highest governing body who has tried to tear down a sign from a student’s door. Who thinks free speech excuses racism but permits homophobia. Who claims to be in favor of tradition, but undermines student-self governance whenever it is convenient. We could go on and on — and we have — but the point remains that students, faculty and the broader Charlottesville community deserve the bare minimum. Ellis is not it. No one has even explained why Ellis is best positioned to carry out the requisite duties, and yet, he is days away from potentially receiving a seat at the most influential table at this University. Leaders in Richmond have a chance to prevent this from happening. Ellis may represent our past, but he does not have to be our future.
Senators — we students have done our jobs. We dug through archives, compiled information, passed resolutions and wrote stories highlighting the threat that Ellis poses to our institution. The ball is now in your court.
This has been a joint editorial from the 133rd and 134th Editorial Boards. The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the Executive Editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the two Opinion Editors, their Senior Associates and an Opinion Columnist. The board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.