UPDATE: An additional page of Ellis’ text was released Wednesday, detailing a conversation between Board member Doug Wetmore and Ellis about coverage from The Cavalier Daily and The Washington Post which details Ellis' role in bringing a eugenicist speaker to Grounds while he was attending the University in 1975.
“Would like to strategize on how to deal with the CD, WaPO and any others that decide to get into the fight,” Ellis texted. “I am fine ignoring them if that suits [Youngkin]. I am also happy to wade in a debate/fight these numnuts.”
In the same text, Ellis says that The Cavalier Daily has the “story all wrong” and that he offered to explain what happened to Youngkin.
Ellis had not responded to a request for comment at time of publication.
Board of Visitors member Bert Ellis anticipates a “battle royale” over the soul of the University, per texts obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by author and transparency advocate Jeff Thomas, who shared the documents with The Cavalier Daily.
“This is going to be a battle royale for the soul of UVA and a microcosm of what must happen across America to save the soul of our country,” Ellis wrote after an individual congratulated him on his appointment to the Board. “We need to build this into a big Army to fight agst [sic] the UVA Adm [sic].”
In over 20 pages of texts between Ellis and various other members of the Board and University officials, Ellis is largely unfiltered in critiques of everything from the behavior of upper-level administrators to the University Guide service.
Many of the texts — a large majority of which were sent prior to Ellis attending his first Board meeting in August — include fellow Board members Stephen Long, Amanda Pillion and Doug Wetmore, all of whom were appointed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin July 1.
“We have to raise hell with the [Board] about this whole ‘Get Jefferson’ movement by [The Cavalier Daily] and the super liberal faculty,” Ellis said to Wetmore Aug. 26, four days after their first Board meeting.
University spokesperson Brian Coy said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that University President Jim Ryan and University leadership “take seriously their responsibility to work collegially” with the Board.
“These text messages demonstrate a disappointing disregard for the hard work of U.Va. faculty and staff, as well as the University’s core values of civil discourse and honor,” Coy said.
Thomas also provided The Cavalier Daily with an additional set of documents which show a text Ellis sent Dec. 11 to previous Board Rector Jim Murray in which Ellis says he is concerned with the size of the “U.Va. Strong” signs put up on Lawn room doors to honor the victims of the Nov. 13 shooting.
“Examples of the mess on the Lawn doors,” Ellis texted. “The U.Va. Strong signs should be made to fit the message boards.”
In many of the texts, Ellis specifically singles out high-level administrators at the University, including Rector of the Board Whitt Clement. In a text to Pillion sent July 20, Ellis accused Clement of disregarding issues on Grounds in a letter Clement sent to emeritus faculty including the “demise of the Honor system” and “crap from the University Guides.”
“Such a d—n white wash,” Ellis wrote. “Everything is hunky dorey which is how [Clement] and the rest of the schmucks in Ryan’s office view things… This we got to change.”
In a text message between Ellis and Pillion sent July 22, Ellis shared a link to the bio of Architecture Prof. Louis Nelson, who is also the vice provost for academic outreach.
“Check out this numnut who works for Baucom and has nothing to do but highlight slavery at U.Va.," Ellis texted. “This bloated bureaucracy has got to be slashed.”
Nelson declined to comment.
Student organizations were not exempt from Ellis’ demeaning language, either.
In a message dated Nov. 1, Board member Steven Long sent Ellis a link to a previous edition of The Cavalier Daily’s daily newsletter, “Notes from Newcomb,” which includes a story about the removal of the Whispering Wall inscription — the structure was named after Confederate soldier and Virginia politician Frank Hume, who had no connection to the University.
“These numnuts at [The Cavalier Daily] and Student Council will not stop until the Administration removes everything on the Grounds,” Ellis responded. “I am not sure if ignoring them or confronting them is the right strategy but they are definitely gearing up for a fight.”
Ceci Cain, Student Council president and graduate student, said she was “disappointed but not surprised” about Ellis’ texts. Cain and the Student Council executive board and representative body have called for Ellis' removal from the Board on multiple occasions.
“I’m not surprised at all because it’s an extension of this well-established pattern of behavior that he has with acting very inappropriately with regards to students,” Cain said. “It’s not a coincidence that these texts were released following [Ellis’] confirmation to the Board.”
In many of the texts, Ellis shared links to articles that align with his platforms against “woke” culture and disapproval of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at the University, including a Fox News article about an elementary school changing its name from Jefferson Elementary School on account of Jefferson’s history as a slave owner.
In a text with members of The Jefferson Council sent July 1, a redacted individual suggests that Ellis record a phone call with “Gard,” in reference to Editor of Virginia Magazine Richard Gard. The text is unclear as to what exactly the group hopes to gain from recording the call.
“I don’t know Gard, but if he is not a tenured professor he can be replaced,” the text reads.
Per reporting from the VPM Media Corporation, James Bacon, executive director of The Jefferson Council, said that the group never actually planned on recording the phone call.
“I can say categorically that the suggestion made by a third party to record Richard Gard’s phone call was never entertained by The Jefferson Council, that Bert Ellis never made such a call and no such recording was ever made,” Bacon said.
Thomas first filed a petition against the University requesting text messages in reference to Ellis’s public service Aug. 22. The University initially agreed to the petition but then failed to produce the messages. Thomas filed a lawsuit on Sept. 13 in response and won the injunction.
Ellis serves as president of The Jefferson Council which is “dedicated to preserving the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.” Bacon pointed The Cavalier Daily in the direction of his statement released on the Jefferson Council website today.
Ellis had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Avery Donmoyer contributed reporting to this article.