A series of posters and social media posts were scattered around Grounds this morning calling on students to help block the confirmation of Bert Ellis to the UVA Board of Visitors. The post,—advertised by the Student Council, UVA Dissenters, and the Minority Rights Coalition at UVA— included a graphic of the Rotunda burning, and called Ellis a bigot.
These posts coincide with the meeting of the Board of Visitors taking place Thursday and Friday. The captions say UVA students should contact their Virginia State Senators and tell them to vote no on the confirmation of Ellis.
The posts list several points describing why Ellis should not be confirmed by the Virginia State Senate. One of those points references Ellis’s involvement in the inviting William Shockley, a eugenicist to a debate night event, while leading the University Union as an undergraduate student in 1974. The debate, between Shockley, a eugenicist, and Richard Goldsby, led to much controversy on Grounds— even prompting the Black Student Alliance to call for its cancellation. However, many community members ended up attending, and watched as Shockley’s arguments fell flat.
Another bullet says “in 1975, Bert rejected the Gay Student Union’s request to co-sponsor Frank Kemeney, a prominent gay rights activist.”
These posts include quotes from The Jefferson Council’s blog, where Ellis is the President. The quotes were about the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs at UVA and a remark about the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election results.
This call to action ends with a description of Ellis’s response to the “F UVA” sign that was posted on a Lawn resident’s door during part of the 2020 school year. Ellis said he planned to modify the sign to remove the vulgar language from the Lawn door by using a razor. He took no action after speaking with two ambassadors on the Lawn.
In coordination with the flyers, Beta Bridge was painted with the phrase “Bigot on Board of Visitors? Block Bert!” A picture of the slogan on Beta Bridge was also posted on social media by UVA’s Young Democratic Socialists of America CIO.
At the bottom of each picture, the graphics include a function of the UVA Board of Visitors. The Board of Visitors is in charge of setting the standards and goals for the University, including controlling tuition and admissions rates, providing scholarships, planning housing and development projects, and onboarding staff— including the president of the University.
The governor of Virginia is responsible for choosing members of the Board. Youngkin nominated Ellis for UVA’s Board of Visitors in June.
Thank you for publishing this article as a counterpoint to the biased CD editorials.
I’d also like to add a few points that further show how one-sided and erroneous their articles on Bert Ellis were:
1) You neglect to mention that Richard Goldsby, the man whom Bert and the University Union brought in to debate the racist William Shockley, was a prominent African-American biologist. Therefore, he was more than able to eviscerate Shockley’s radical eugenicist arguments purporting the black race’s inferiority. Goldsby annihilated Shockley in the debate.
2) The whole reason the debate was held was to do just that, namely, publicly shame Shockley. Therefore, Ellis’ and the University Union’s core premise was to counter Shockley’s racist arguments, not to support and defend them.
3) The CD articles led its readers to conclude that Ellis was and is a racist. The exact opposite is true, since this debate proved how absurd William Shockley’s arguments were. That was the whole point of the debate.
The polite term to apply to the CD editorial staff is they are showing overt bias in their relentless attacks on Bert Ellis. The perhaps more accurate term is they are committing libel. I believe it’s the latter, although obviously no one will sue them for their untruthful accusations. Sadly, the Washington Post, Richmond Times Dispatch, and Daily Progress have followed the CD’s articles and produced similar editorials with no mention of Richard Goldsby, the debate or the refutation of Shockley’s racist assumptions. This is “yellow journalism” at its worst.
Lastly, I would like to share two articles from The Jefferson Council website that frame these arguments well:
I hope you can print my comment in the interest of providing your readers the full story.
Treasurer and Co-Founder of The Jefferson Council