RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Democrats’ attempts to block the appointment of Bert Ellis to the board of visitors at the University of Virginia were rejected this week.
Ellis, a businessman and UVA graduate, was appointed to serve on the board until 2026 by Governor Glenn Youngkin. He is also the president of The Jefferson Council, a conservative group that, according to its website, is “dedicated to preserving the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, the Lawn, the Honor Code, and the intellectual diversity one would expect from Mr. Jefferson’s university.”
Gov. Youngkin’s appointment of Ellis drew criticism from UVA students and some Democratic lawmakers, who tried to keep Ellis from staying on a board responsible for approving the school’s budget and policies.
The editorial board of UVA student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, called on the Virginia Senate to reject Ellis’ appointment. The editorial board cited reporting the paper did on Ellis’ time as an undergraduate, writing in the Jan. 28 opinion that he “ignored pleas from the student body and platformed a eugenics supporter under the guise of free speech.”
The Cavalier Daily’s editorial board also pointed to a 2020 incident in which Ellis was “prepared to use a small razor blade,” according to an open letter he wrote published in the Bacon’s Rebellion blog, to remove a “F— UVA” sign from a student’s door at one of the university’s Lawn residences.
State Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), who represents Charlottesville, brought up the incident on the Virginia Senate floor before the chamber voted on rejecting Ellis’ appointment, saying the act alone was enough to deny him from serving on the board.
James A. Bacon, the executive director of The Jefferson Council and publisher of Bacon’s Rebellion, wrote in a Jefferson Council post that “the vendetta against Ellis amounts to character assassination. The portrayal of him is so one-sided as to make him unrecognizable.”
“While student council portrayed Ellis’ action as an affront to free speech, Ellis did not dispute the student’s right to express her views anywhere else. But prominently displaying profanity on her door, he argued, violated the terms of her lease with the university,” Bacon wrote. “While the administration declined to order her to take down the sign, on the grounds that it would violate her free speech rights after its earlier failure to enforce the lease, it tightened the sign-posting policy in Lawn room leases the following academic year.”
When it came time to vote Tuesday, two Democrats, state Sens. Chap Petersen (Fairfax City) and Lynwood Lewis (Accomack), sided with Republicans to deny the effort to reject Ellis’ appointment.
On Thursday, a similar push in the House of Delegates to block Ellis’ confirmation also failed. The vote in the Republican-led chamber was 51-42.
Ellis did not respond to 8News’ request for comment on Thursday.