A Shameful Shallowness of Intellect

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Student Council has called for the immediate resignation of alumnus Bert Ellis from the Virginia Board of Visitors, and chastises Governor Glenn Youngkin’s decision to appoint him as “rewarding behavior that endangers students.”

Ellis stands in a long line of violent racist oppressors, says the proclamation. “From the bondage and abuse experienced by enslaved people, to the violent occupation by Nazis and KKK members, to Bert Ellis — the Lawn is no stranger to racist violence under the guise of ‘Jeffersonian ideals’ in order to maintain power for the white elite.”

No, Ellis hasn’t marched in neo-Nazi rallies. He hasn’t burned any crosses. He hasn’t even used the N-word. His primary offense was a professed intention — never acted upon — to use a small razor blade to cut the infamous “Fuck UVA” sign from the door of a Lawn resident. “Whether or not Ellis used his blade, whether or not Ellis threatened the student directly,” the Council statement declared, “his conduct is reprehensible.” 

The Student Council also takes umbrage at Ellis’ outspoken opposition to the way in which Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is being implemented at the University. Without detailing any of his specific concerns with DEI — such as mandatory diversity statements, the hiring of a vast diversity bureaucracy, the lack of any measurable goals for success, the intolerance of dissenting views — the Council declares his values to be antithetical to those of the university community.

One might think that a deliberative body such as the Student Council might make an effort to acquaint itself, at least superficially, with the thinking of  the person it is denouncing. Sadly, it is evident that the Council made no such effort and shows no such understanding. The statement is so cartoonish in its view of Ellis that it indicts itself.

A less histrionic statement by the Cavalier Daily editorial board raised other issues. Aside from citing the razor-blade incident, the editorial characterized Ellis’ opposition to recent changes to the Honor Code as an assault on the university’s system of student self government and attacked his criticism of DEI. “This is not your University. It is ours,” say the editorial writers. “It is and will continue to be an increasingly diverse place — whether or not Ellis and Youngkin choose to embrace that is up to them.”

It is a canard to suggest that either Ellis or Youngkin oppose racial/ethnic diversity. That is a blatant falsehood, and the editorial board can cite no evidence to support it. Ellis and Youngkin do oppose DEI initiatives that compel admissions applicants, faculty and staff to pay obeisance to a left-wing vision of diversity dividing the country between White oppressors and “People of Color” victims, and they do worry to see UVa deteriorate into a Woke intellectual monoculture.

For evidence of the creeping intellectual monoculture, the Student Council statement and Cavalier Daily editorial could count as Exhibits One and Two.

If these two statements reflect the caliber of analysis and thinking by UVa’s student leaders, UVa leadership should be ashamed. President Ryan and his coterie have utterly failed in their jobs as educators.

Full disclosure: Jim Bacon is vice president-communications of The Jefferson Council, an organization of which Bert Ellis is the president.

5 2 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

22 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Matt Cohen
Matt Cohen
4 months ago

Has Jim Ryan said anything about this student council statement yet?

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt Cohen

Not yet.

Bill Richmond
Bill Richmond
4 months ago

I stand with Governor Youngkin and Bert Ellis. Elections have consequences. And, by the way, it is my University, too, along with thousands of other alumni/alumna.

Donald Smith
4 months ago

“WHAAAAAAAAAAH!!!” cried the Snow-flake Students, “I may not get my way!!!!!”

Last edited 4 months ago by Donald Smith
Practicing Lawyer
Practicing Lawyer
4 months ago

Thank you for the news, Jim. A review of the Executive Board’s web page provides comfort that, if any person ever worked in the past 5 decades to ‘maintain power for the white elite’ at UVA, they did a very poor job of it. Like the young student in 38 E. Lawn, who accused UVA of racism only after she broke her ankle and did not get acceptable attention, these students are immature enough to believe that people do not see contrived accusations of bigotry for the cynical tools that they are. This means they are young enough to learn better – if they are provided a healthier culture in which to grow. This gives me optimism that Bert, and those visitors who value actual diversity, can make a real difference. It is, however, obviously a long-term project. As for student attitudes, The Cav Daily is incorrect. The University does not belong to them. They are attending an institution established and maintained by the citizens of Virginia. Like valued guests, they should feel welcomed, but not entitled.

Bill Richmond
Bill Richmond
4 months ago

Exactly!

Patrick Alther
Patrick Alther
4 months ago

Well, hot blooded youth will engage in that sort of thing. I attended UVa in the late 60s when a lot of exaggerated, hyperbolic statements were made that sound absurd in retrospect. Probably even made a few myself!
I do remember there were protests demanding the resignation of one C. Stuart Wheatley from the BOV because he alledgely supported massive resistance while in the General Assembly.
But I have little use for the current rage for “sensitivity training” type stuff in workplaces and academe. So often its shallow twaddle. Remember I had to attend some sessions of it at my last workplace and I actually resented it. Being told that ” bigotry was bad” in a very simplistic format having been one who marched in the street for causes J supported and who received verbal and even pbysical abuse for supporting civil rights. When I attended UVA liberal stances were not appreciated in many quarters.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
4 months ago

You nailed it!

Mark Clarkson
Mark Clarkson
4 months ago

What is the most impactful forum for us as UVA Alumni (x2 in my case) to express our sincere disapproval of the direction in which University leadership is steering the ship? We may not be able to pierce the mindless groupthink demonstrated over the past too many years, but the sane amongst the UVA family need to be heard to encourage the silent and disheartened.
Mark Clarkson CLAS ‘87, MED “91.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Clarkson

Mark Clarkson, see my message below. I’d like to see the BOV inundated with emails criticizing this absurdly biased and totally fallacious statement.

Clarity77
Clarity77
4 months ago

Should they so choose the student statements certainly serve as Exhibits A & B of an unfortunate misguided and entrenched intellectually incestuous woke monoculture upon which the BOV and administration can deliberate in their next meeting.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
4 months ago

I encourage all who object to the Student Council and Cavalier Daily’s outrageous statement to email the BOV: https://bov.virginia.edu/visitors-staff. It is now more clear than ever that the BOV must take the lead on forcefully setting the cultural tone at UVA.

As of now, true intellectual diversity and civility are dead. The Ryan Administration will hopefully take the BOV lead. I trust that Rector Whitt Clement will strongly condemn this type of baseless, erroneous ad hominem attack on his newest BOV member.

Bill Richmond
Bill Richmond
4 months ago
Reply to  Wahoo74

I think it may be more effective if one of our more articulate members drafts an email and we garner as many signatories as we can. Just a thought.

walter smith
walter smith
4 months ago
Reply to  Bill Richmond

Back in January, when UVA bumped its mandate for the 3rd Covid shot from Feb 1 to January 14 (and having NOTHING to do with Glenn Youngkin and Sears and Miyares being sworn in on the 15th), there was a petition to Ryan et al with over 200 “signers” – mostly parents as the kids are terrified of doing anything that they can be canceled for. I am not aware that anyone received a response.
I think individual messages to as many people in leadership as you know or were of your era would be more effective to show that a growing number of alumni want UVA to get out of virtue signaling and back into education, lowering costs, etc.
https://bov.virginia.edu/visitors-staff
UVA has too much money and is controlling it all and all of the processes for Leftist political ends. Faculty contributions to federal campaigns run 95% to Democrats, yet UVA’s own non-discrimination statement says it does not discriminate on the basis of “political orientation.” Do you believe that? Can you believe that? And the few faculty who may be more in the center would commit suicide to raise their hands. And now, as part of peer review, faculty will be required to affirmatively list what they have done to promote DEI initiatives. It is compelled speech. It is un-Jeffersonian. It is McCarthyist (but that appears to be bad only when aimed at Communists and not at the 5% faculty who are not hard-Left – so they can be outed!).
Joel Gardner advocated strongly on the “free speech” committee for Kalven principles – which basically can be summarized as an educational institution should not take official political positions – these sort of things are the essence of the purpose of a University and should be debated fully.
That climate does not exist at UVA, founded by history’s greatest proponent of free speech…

Bill Richmond
Bill Richmond
4 months ago
Reply to  walter smith

I can understand a petition to Ryan et.al. re Covid shots going unanswered, although it certainly shouldn’t have. But a petition to the BOV (with a similar number of signatures) regarding the lack of free speech and the wokism immersion may be hard to ignore. But I am ok either way.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
4 months ago
Reply to  Bill Richmond

Agree, Bill. The Jefferson Council will be responding and we hope alumni like you will also email Whitt Clement and the BOV. They need to hear from a large number and we want Whitt to condemn this statement.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
4 months ago
Reply to  walter smith

Agree, Walter. Many individual are better than one with multiple signatories.

Wahoo'74
Wahoo'74
4 months ago
Reply to  Bill Richmond

Bill I just sent the email below to President Ryan and the BOV. Their emails are readily available on the UVA website. Please forward this to friends and encourage them to also email Ryan and the BOV.

Dear President Ryan, Rector Clement, and the Board of Visitors,
 
I am writing to express my outrage concerning the Student Council Executive Committee statement demanding the immediate resignation of newly appointed Board of Visitors member Bert Ellis. There are many slanderous and inaccurate accusations throughout the statement, but I will cite what I perceive as the most egregious: “From the bondage and abuse experienced by enslaved people, to the violent occupation by Nazis and KKK members, to Bert Ellis — the Lawn is no stranger to racist violence under the guise of “Jeffersonian ideals” in order to maintain power for the white elite. This event reveals the hypocrisy, and thus false pretense, by which Ellis selectively leverages free speech discourse to advance his own political agenda against students.
 
These student “leaders” (sic) are perfectly within their rights to express their opinions in a public forum. That is what intellectual diversity is all about. However, this does not preclude the adults in charge of Mr. Jefferson’s University from voicing their displeasure concerning this slanderous, inaccurate attack on an illustrious alumnus just appointed to the BOV who has not even attended his first meeting. In that statement above, the Student Council Executive Committee conflates Bert Ellis with the August 2017 torch bearing neo-Nazis who marched down the Lawn (and had no connection to UVA, much less Bert Ellis) and the KKK. Mr. Ellis is a Phi Beta Kappa Class of 1975 and Darden alumnus, was a Lawn resident himself, student leader, and the member of several honorary societies while at UVA. He has had a very successful business career and is a respected executive in the media industry. I know Mr. Ellis and can assure the misguided students who composed this scurrilous missive that he is the polar opposite of their characterization. He seeks intellectual diversity on the Grounds with tolerance for all viewpoints, something that he and I and thousands of concerned alumni, parents, and students believe is sorely lacking at the present time.
 
There can be honest disagreement with what Mr. Ellis and others believe. There should not be public shaming with simply inaccurate accusations from student leaders that go unchallenged if the Administration is truly desirous of the University being both “great and good.” Are statements like these “good?” Do President Ryan and Rector Clement believe baseless, ad hominem attacks on an illustrious alumnus just appointed to the BOV advance intellectual diversity and civility on the Grounds?
 
The Student Council Executive Committee has every right to express whatever opinions they want, no matter how wrongheaded. However, President Ryan, Rector Clement, and the BOV are the stewards in charge of Mr. Jefferson’s University and legacy. They have an equal obligation to express dismay at the false accusations and intensely vicious tone of the Council’s statement. If you do not issue some sort of public statement defending Mr. Ellis, then the June 2021 “Committee on Free Expression and Free Inquiry” (https://news.virginia.edu/content/statement-committee-free-expression-and-free-inquiry) that promised tolerance for divergent viewpoints and civil discourse at the University is rendered meaningless.
 
President Ryan and Rector Clement, thousands of students, parents, and loyal alumni await your response to this public attack on a BOV member.
 
Sincerely,
 
Tom Neale
College’74
 

Senior Flyer
Senior Flyer
4 months ago

Lots of useful ideas here to respond to this baseless and reckless attack on a new BOV member that has served less than four weeks and won’t attend his first meeting until next month. Shameful intolerance indeed!

Bill Richmond
Bill Richmond
4 months ago
Reply to  Senior Flyer

Along with a great deal of hubris.

thomas dugan
thomas dugan
4 months ago

I stand with Bert Elllis The University needs new leadership badly Tom Dugan ’63 and ’66

Wahoo76
Wahoo76
4 months ago

Has President Ryan responded? Will the Jefferson Council be responding? Does anyone have a template we might use to email the BOV? Thanks.