A State Senate committee said no on Monday to controversial University of Virginia Board of Visitors appointee Bert Ellis.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin had appointed Ellis, the CEO of Ellis Communications, an Atlanta-based, early-stage venture capital firm and an investor in The White Spot, a popular Corner restaurant, last summer.
Ellis, a UVA alum, is also the president of a group called The Jefferson Council, a far right alum organization whose members claim to want to preserve free speech, promote intellectual diversity and protect the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.
Cloaked in those lofty ideals is a push from the far right to reverse the push led by previous BOVs and UVA President Jim Ryan for increased diversity, equity and inclusion on Grounds.
Ryan, who was appointed to serve as the university’s ninth president in 2018, convened a Racial Equity Task Force in 2020 that set out among its goals that UVA double the number of underrepresented faculty by 2030 and develop a plan for having a student population that better reflects the racial and socioeconomic demographics of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The task force also encouraged UVA to assist related organizations in the development a scholarship program for the descendants of enslaved laborers who worked to build and maintain the University, and to develop a series of educational programs around racial equity and anti-racism, including leadership development programs focused on equity, including racial equity.
Ellis wrote in a blog post after Youngkin’s victory in the 2021 gubernatorial election that the Board of Visitors was “responsible for letting the University make the outrageous changes that have been made over the tenures of Presidents Sullivan and Ryan,” and that UVA is “overrun with courses that exist for no other purpose but to make a big deal about race and gender and other issues that can only create more oppressed parties trying to tear down anything and everything and everyone that helped create our University.”
The UVA Student Council and the Faculty Senate had both opposed Ellis’ appointment, which requires the confirmation of the Virginia General Assembly.
State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, proposed an amendment to a resolution confirming Youngkin appointments to a number of state boards, agencies and councils that was reported out of the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections on Monday by a unanimous 14-0 vote.
The bill as reported out of committee moves next to the Senate floor for consideration.