The Virginia Senate confirmed College and Darden alumnus Bert Ellis’ appointment to the University Board of Visitors Tuesday. Ellis’ confirmation to the Board comes after months of protest from students, faculty and community members including the Student Council representative body, University Democrats and Faculty Senate.
The amendment to strike Ellis’ name from Senate Joint Resolution 276 — which confirms a number of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s appointments — failed in a 20-20 vote prior to the passage of the resolution. Two Democratic senators, Sen. Lynwood W. Lewis and Sen. Chapman Petersen, broke rank and voted alongside Republicans to reject the amendment in an otherwise party-line vote — Lt. Governor Winsome Earle-Sears cast the tie-breaking “nay” vote.
Youngkin appointed Ellis and three other new Board members July 1, 2022. Since his appointment, Ellis has objected to progressive reforms at the University. In a 2021 year-end update to the Jefferson Council, Ellis painted his mission as a “fight” against the “onslaught” of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on Grounds.
“[Youngkin’s Board appointments are] our only opportunity to change/reverse the path to ‘wokeness’ that has overtaken our entire University,” Ellis wrote in the update.
Prior to his appointment, Ellis was involved in a controversy in 2020 when he traveled to Charlottesville to personally confront a Lawn resident who had hung a controversial sign on her door. Ellis said he was prepared to use a “small razor blade” to remove the sign. During his time at the University in the 1970s, Ellis invited prominent eugenics supporter William Shockley to a debate on Grounds and denied a request to co-sponsor an event with gay rights activist Frank Kameney.
As a member of the Board of Visitors, Ellis is one of 17 appointed officials responsible for long-term planning for the University, including approving funding for initiatives and licensing the University’s system of student self-governance.
Ellis will serve on the Board through June 30, 2026 alongside fellow Youngkin appointees Stephen Long, Education alumna Amanda Pillion and College and Law alumnus Doug Wetmore.