A Shameful Shallowness of Intellect

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Student Council has called for the immediate resignation of alumnus Bert Ellis from the Virginia Board of Visitors, and chastises Governor Glenn Youngkin’s decision to appoint him as “rewarding behavior that endangers students.”

Ellis stands in a long line of violent racist oppressors, says the proclamation. “From the bondage and abuse experienced by enslaved people, to the violent occupation by Nazis and KKK members, to Bert Ellis — the Lawn is no stranger to racist violence under the guise of ‘Jeffersonian ideals’ in order to maintain power for the white elite.”

No, Ellis hasn’t marched in neo-Nazi rallies. He hasn’t burned any crosses. He hasn’t even used the N-word. His primary offense was a professed intention — never acted upon — to use a small razor blade to cut the infamous “Fuck UVA” sign from the door of a Lawn resident. “Whether or not Ellis used his blade, whether or not Ellis threatened the student directly,” the Council declared, “his conduct is reprehensible.”

The Student Council also takes umbrage at Ellis’ outspoken opposition to the way in which Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is being implemented at the University. Without detailing any of his specific concerns with DEI — such as mandatory diversity statements, the hiring of a vast diversity bureaucracy, the lack of any measurable goals for success, the intolerance of dissenting views — the Council declares his values to be antithetical to those of the university community.

One might think that a deliberative body such as the Student Council might make an effort to acquaint itself, at least superficially, with the thinking of the person it is denouncing. Sadly, it is evident that the Council made no such effort and shows no such understanding. The statement is so cartoonish in its view of Ellis that it indicts itself.

A less histrionic statement by The Cavalier Daily editorial board raised other issues. Aside from citing the razor-blade incident, the editorial characterized Ellis’ opposition to recent changes to the Honor Code as an assault on the university’s system of student self-government and attacked his criticism of DEI. “This is not your University. It is ours,” say the editorial writers. “It is and will continue to be an increasingly diverse place — whether or not Ellis and Youngkin choose to embrace that is up to them.”

It is a canard to suggest that either Ellis or Youngkin opposes racial/ethnic diversity. That is a blatant falsehood, and the editorial board can cite no evidence to support it. Ellis and Youngkin do oppose DEI initiatives that compel admissions applicants, faculty and staff to pay obeisance to a left-wing vision of diversity dividing the country between White oppressors and “People of Color” victims, and they do worry about UVa deteriorating into a Woke intellectual monoculture.

For evidence of a creeping intellectual monoculture, the Student Council statement and Cavalier Daily editorial could count as Exhibits One and Two.

If these two statements reflect the caliber of analysis and thinking by UVa’s student leaders, UVa leadership should be ashamed. President Ryan and his coterie have utterly failed in their jobs as educators.

Full disclosure: Jim Bacon is vice president-communications of The Jefferson Council, an organization of which Bert Ellis is the president.