Bert Ellis, the anti-“Wokeness” critic appointed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors last year, acknowledged at a Friday BOV meeting the insulting texts about his BOV colleagues, University administrators and UVA student leaders that have since been made public.
“As the elephant in the room, may I once again to all of my colleagues offer my apology,” said Ellis, a UVA alum who heads an investment company based in Atlanta, and is the co-founder and president of a militant far-right alumni group that styles itself The Jefferson Council.
The apology came as Ellis got his hand caught in the cookie jar when the disparaging texts were uncovered in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Richmond author Jeff Thomas, who then shared the texts with the Washington Post.
“You know, those were private and confidential messages that were still out of place. I am emotional, and I have occasion to do things that I would never expect to be on the front page of the Washington Post. I have learned my lesson about FOIA, but I can’t put the genie back in the bottle. So, all I can say is I’m sorry,” Ellis said.
You can consider the not-really-an-apology not accepted, from the reaction of Whitt Clement, the board’s rector, who was among Ellis’s targets.
“The rhetoric of those messages, particularly ones that disparage students, faculty and staff, really run contrary to the values that Thomas Jefferson sought to instill in this community and which we as members of the University’s governing board, in turn, try to impart on our students,” said Clement, who was appointed to the BOV in 2015 by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Ellis, in one of the Ellis texts, characterized a letter from Clement to emeritus members of the Board of Visitors detailing progress made by the board and University administration as a “damn whitewash.”
“Not even a mention of the demise of the Honor System…. on his watch I might add. No mention of the crap from the University Guides,” Ellis wrote in the text. “Everything is hunky dorey which is how he and the rest of the schmucks in Ryan’s office view things. This we got to change.”
So, Clement, UVA President Jim Ryan and top University administrators are “schmucks.”
Keep in mind that the first stated goal of Ellis’s Jefferson Council, according to that group’s website, is to “promote an academic environment based on open dialogue throughout the University.”
“Schmucks” is apparently an attempt at promoting “an academic environment” and “open dialogue.”
Another is “numnut,” the pejorative Ellis employed to describe Louis P. Nelson, a vice provost who oversees community engagement, public service and academic outreach programs,.
Nelson, to Ellis, is a “numnut” who “has nothing to do but highlight slavery at UVA.”
That’s certainly one way to characterize Nelson, a professor of architectural history and an award-winning scholar, whose research has informed what we know about buildings and landscapes that shaped slavery in West Africa and the Americas, including at UVA.
Others who get the label “numnut” are the editors and staff at the student-run newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, and the UVA Student Council, both of which strenuously opposed Ellis’s appointment to the Board of Visitors.
“These numnuts at the CD and Student Council will not stop until the Administration removes everything on the Grounds,” Ellis wrote in another text. “At some point they will bitch that all the red brick that Mr. Jefferson used is racist and needs to be replaced. I am not sure if ignoring them or confronting them is the right strategy but they are definitely gearing up for a fight.”
Asked Friday if he was planning to apologize to the student groups that he had targeted, Ellis responded, “No, that was fine.”