The Miller Center, a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia dedicated to presidential scholarship and public policy, has taken the bold step of hiring an outgoing member of the Trump administration, Marc Short. The Center is experiencing predictable blowback from campus leftists who regard the hiring of anyone from the Trump team as an abomination.
This morning more than 300 professors, librarians and students had signed a petition on Change.org, invoking the emotionally charged, upcoming anniversary of the Unite the Right rally to object to Short’s appointment.
As we approach the first anniversary of the white nationalist violence against this university, this town, and our friends, neighbors, students faculty and staff — all of whom are represented among the injured — it is unconscionable that we would add to our university a person who served in a high-level position for the administration that first empowered, then defended, those white nationalists.”
The university should not serve as a waystation for high-level members of an administration that has directly harmed our community and to this day attacks the institutions vital to a free society. … While we do not object to dialogue with members of this administration, we do object to the use of our university to clean up their tarnished reputations. No one should be serving at the highest levels of this administration, daily supporting and defending its actions one week, then representing UVA the next.
Not only should the appointment be revoked, says the petition, “a full review [should] be held to understand how this appointment was made.”
The petition presented no evidence that Short, a White House liaison to Congress and a frequent administration spokesman on television, had “supported” or “defended” white nationalists himself. Indeed, a CNN article on Short’s departure highlighted his role in legislative matters such tax cuts, Supreme Court nominations, Obamacare repeal, not the divisive culture-war issues raised in President Trump’s tweets.
Last night, the Miller School was hanging tough. Howard Witt, director of communications, said in an email to Politico that the Miller study is nonpartisan, bipartisan, and employs former officials from both Republican and Democratic administration.
“We understand and respect those UVA faculty members and other critics — even some from within the Miller Center — who disagree with the decision to name Marc Short a senior fellow. One of our core values is fostering robust, but civil, debate across our nation’s bitter partisan divide,” said Howard Witt, director of communications and managing editor at the Miller Center, in an email.
Witt said the addition of Short “deepens our scholarly inquiries into the workings of the American presidency. And his presence reinforces our commitment to nonpartisan and bipartisan dialogue among scholars and practitioners of good will who may nevertheless hold strongly opposing personal political viewpoints. Moreover, Short can offer insights into the Trump administration that are not currently available to our scholars or the public at large.”
Bacon’s bottom line: Kudos to the Miller Center for sticking to its commitment to foster dialogue across the partisan divide. In a nation where political polarization intensifies daily, institutions that support open dialogue are more indispensable than ever.
It comes as no surprise that UVa leftists are trying to derail the appointment. Enforcing orthodoxy by shutting down dialogue is in their DNA. Lions hunt, hyenas scavenge, parasites infect, and leftists purge dissenting views.
This controversy bears watching. The stop-Short campaign started just yesterday — the Change.org petition went live around 6 p.m. — so it hasn’t had much time to build momentum. If the opposition gains steam, it could become a huge test for Jim Ryan, who becomes UVa’s new president Aug. 1. Bacon’s Rebellion will be watching. Alumni will be watching. And Virginia legislators will be watching.