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Billboard truck on Grounds calls for resignation of Board of Visitors Rector Robert Hardie

The truck was first seen parked at Gilmer Hall at 9:30 a.m.

<p>At the recent March 1 Board meeting, Hardie and Board member Bert Ellis <a href="https://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2024/03/full-board-discusses-divestment-referendum-student-self-governance-at-board-of-visitors-meeting"><u>argued</u></a> when Ellis insisted on bringing up the subject of antisemitism and Jewish student safety on Grounds. &nbsp;</p>

At the recent March 1 Board meeting, Hardie and Board member Bert Ellis argued when Ellis insisted on bringing up the subject of antisemitism and Jewish student safety on Grounds.  

This morning, a small truck with LED screens on all sides calling for the resignation of Robert Hardie, rector for the Board of Visitors, parked in front of Gilmer Hall near the first-year dormitories on McCormick Road. The truck was outside of Gilmer Hall at 9:30 a.m., but was gone by 10:20 a.m. It was later seen on McCormick road around 12:30 p.m. and on the street outside the University Chapel around 2:40 p.m. One of the truck’s screens read “Rector Robert Hardie won’t confront antisemitism” while another said Hardie is “unfit to lead U.Va.”

According to University Spokesperson Bethanie Glover, the University is working to identify the person or organization that hired the truck. Glover described the message on the truck as false and offensive, and said that the Board of Visitors and the University administration are committed to combating antisemitism and discrimination.

“There are groups outside of the University community who have a political interest in distorting the reality of how the University is supporting our students, faculty, and staff in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and ensuing war in Gaza,” Glover said.

According to Glover, the Board recently received a briefing at Hardie’s request with updates from the Task Force on Religious Diversity and Belonging, which is responsible for developing a better understanding of the experiences of religious students and faculty at the University. 

Hardie and Bert Ellis, Board member and College and Darden alumnus, argued when Ellis tried to discuss antisemitism and the safety of Jewish students on Grounds during the open session of the Full Board’s March 1 meeting. Hardie reassured Ellis that these issues would be discussed during the Board’s closed session, and he insisted that Ellis must wait until the closed session to continue discussing matters which pertain to student safety on Grounds. Ellis continued to speak despite Hardie’s interjections. Hardie eventually told Ellis he would be reprimanded if he were to continue raising the issue in the public session, and Ellis told him to “bring it on.” 

Since then, the Jefferson Council, of which Ellis is co-founder and president emeritus, has criticized Hardie and University President Jim Ryan for their refusal to engage with the subject in the open meeting. In a blog post, James Bacon, executive director of the Jefferson Council, questioned the legality of discussing the issue in a closed session. He made reference to Virginia state laws that require public institutions, including the Board of Visitors, to have their meetings be open to the public barring select exceptions. 

Virginia’s state code permits public bodies to meet in closed sessions to protect various types of sensitive information, such as information pertaining to individual student records. 

A week after the March 1 Board meeting, Thomas Neale, president of the Jefferson Council, began circulating a petition arguing that Jewish students are being discriminated against and criticizing the University for remaining silent amidst a “tsunami of antisemitism.” 

Glover said that the University is working aggressively to investigate reports of conduct that may violate University policy or Virginia law. She encouraged anyone with information about cases of alleged discrimination or bias to contact the University as soon as possible. 

This is a developing story. Updates will be made to this article as additional information becomes available. 

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