Undergraduate and graduate student leadership, as well as several faculty partners, sent a letter to Sen. Louise Lucas, Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw and Sen. Creigh Deeds Wednesday requesting that they refuse the appointment of Bert Ellis to the University’s Board of Visitors.
Student signatories include Ceci Cain, graduate student and president of Student Council, Jaden Evans, vice president for administration and fourth-year College student, Riley Reynolds, vice president for organizations and fourth-year College student, Gabriela Hernandez, chair of the representative body and fourth-year College student, Annie Sommerville, chair of the Graduate and Professional Council and second-year Law student. Assoc. Art Prof. Eric Ramirez-Weaver, Assoc. Surgery Prof. Philip Smith and Aniko Bodroghkozy, Faculty Senate representative and professor of media studies, also signed onto the letter.
Student Council’s Executive Board previously released a statement in July condemning Ellis’ appointment and its representative body passed a resolution calling for the General Assembly to refuse Ellis’ appointment in September. The Democratic Party of Virginia and University Democrats have also called for Ellis’ resignation or removal, and the Faculty Senate voted to censure Ellis in November.
“The legitimate representative bodies for the faculty and students have made it clear that they oppose this appointment on multiple grounds,” the letter reads. “Ellis has proven, through a clear pattern of conduct, that his own values and behavior do not align with the requisite expectations for this office of trust.”
Since the announcement of his appointment to the Board by Governor Glenn Youngkin in August, Ellis has been at the center of controversy for his role in bringing a eugenicist supporter to Grounds for an event hosted by the University Union in the 1970s, of which Ellis served as one of three tri-chairmen while a student at the University.
A year later, Ellis denied a request for the Gay Student Union and the University Union to sponsor a 1975 event with gay rights activist Frank Kameny. Ellis made the decision without consulting the other chairmen, citing his concerns for the Union’s reputation.
“[Homosexuality] is not an issue viewed highly in the University … It would not help the University Union’s position and prestige,” Ellis said in a 1975 article.
More recently, Ellis came under fire when he traveled to Grounds in September 2020 with a small razor blade and attempted to remove a sign from a Lawn resident’s door that used expletives to describe the University’s history of enslavement and inaccessibility. Two University ambassadors asked Ellis to leave, explaining his act would constitute “malicious damage.”
“Given that students, faculty and community members at the University of Virginia have maximally exercised their voice through available democratic processes, we ask that you now answer to this constituent mandate and not confirm [Ellis],” Wednesday’s letter reads.
The General Assembly convened its 2023 session Wednesday and Ellis’ appointment will be voted on within the next several weeks.