On the heels of announcing the creation of a new biotech institute with the help of $150 million in state funding, University of Virginia President Jim Ryan traveled to the Virginia state capitol the other day to discuss how “UVA and the Commonwealth can continue to collaborate.”
Numerous bills affecting Virginia’s public universities, and by extension UVa, have been up for debate — bills calling for more transparency into university expenditures on lobbyists and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion administrators, for example, or mandating that universities with large endowments apply a minimum of 15% of market gains to making tuition more affordable.
The Jefferson Council wondered what else Ryan might have spoken to lawmakers about. Here is what university spokesman Brian Coy told us:
It is very common for university presidents to visit the Capitol during the legislative session to visit with legislators and executive branch officials about matters important to their institutions and the Commonwealth.
On this particular trip, President Ryan focused on a couple different things, including follow-up and next steps after our successful announcement of a new biotech institute here at UVA, the University’s ongoing efforts to build a new Center for the Arts, student mental health, and workforce development.
President Ryan also makes sure to engage the leaders he meets about ways the University can partner with them to better serve the Commonwealth of Virginia.
We had hoped that President Ryan might have wanted to address the character assassination of one of his Board of Visitors members, Bert Ellis, whose appointment confirmation is in jeopardy in the state Senate. Ellis has been widely libeled as a racist and homophobe based upon tendentious reporting of his activity on the UVa Student Union a half century ago. Perhaps it’s not in the UVa president’s job description to engage in politicking. But we are disappointed that only one Board member has spoken on his behalf.
The only person of prominence at UVa to publicly support Ellis is perhaps its most famous faculty member, Larry Sabato. The political science professor wrote the following letter:
To the Members of the Virginia General Assembly
I’ve known Bert Ellis since the 1970s when we were both undergraduates at the University of Virginia. Bert and I have different political takes on quite a few subjects, but I know Bert to be loyal to the University and dedicated to its best interests. He’s proven as much many times.
Bert and I have had some lengthy talks about higher education policy, and I believe his point of view should have representation on the Board of Visitors. I support his continuance on the Board, and I hope the General Assembly will see its way clear to confirm his appointment. Virginians of all ideological persuasions should have confidence that Bert will do his utmost to support the University’s efforts to serve the Commonwealth and her citizens.
Larry J. Sabato
Dr. Larry J. Sabato
Director, Center for Politics
University Professor of Politics
University of Virginia
A final vote to confirm or deny Ellis’ appointment could come as early as today.