UVA profs quit program over hiring of former Trump official

Two University of Virginia (UVA) history professors announced their joint resignation from the Miller Center to protest the hiring of former Trump administration official Marc Short.

In a letter to William J. Antholis, director of the Miller Center, professors William Hitchcock and Melvyn Leffler announced their mutual resignation from the program in protest of Trump administration advisor Marc Short’s appointment as a senior fellow.

The Miller Center is a nonpartisan UVA affiliate that studies political discourse and policy, with a particular emphasis on the presidency.

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The letter was made public when Hitchcock published it on Twitter, writing, “I resigned from a think tank at UVa today because I felt it betrayed its principles in giving a senior fellowship to Trump advisor Marc Short. It is a sad day for me but I’ll continue to work at UVa with brilliant colleagues in the cause of civil discourse.”

In the letter, the professors state that the hiring decision was made “without adequate faculty discussion, deliberation, and a vote,” and that the appointment of Short “violates the values of the Center” due to its nonpartisan stance.

The letter claims Short “has associated himself with the rhetoric and policies that have empowered and emboldened white supremacists” and “led to spectacular increases in racist and misogynistic talk and behavior.”

“It seems especially egregious to appoint Mr. Short as we approach the one-year anniversary of the neo-Nazi riots of August 11-12, 2017,”  the letter continues, noting that Trump “failed to repudiate the alt-right and its street thugs” and that Short did not “distance himself” properly.

“By not speaking out at the time, by not emphasizing the threats to human decency posed by the public display of Nazi symbols and racist diatribes in our own neighborhood,” the letter argues. “Mr. Short  was complicit in the erosion of our civic discourse and showed an appalling indifference to the civility of our own city and university.”

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The letter concedes that Short “has a right and should be given an opportunity to present his views at The Miller Center,” but argues that hiring someone as “notoriously partisan” as Short without allowing faculty and staff to air their opinions “violates the practices” of the center.

“We must not normalize or rationalize hateful, cruel, and demeaning behavior. We should not reward and honor those who defend such behavior,” the professors write. “When we see things we believe to be wrong, we must speak out and take a stand. We do so now by tendering our resignations from the Miller Center.”

Hitchcock and Leffler’s resignations only apply to their positions at the Miller Center, however, and both will remain tenured professors at UVA.

The resignations are the latest in the wave of criticism UVA has received from Short’s appointment, including a petition signed by UVA students and faculty members that demands the reversal of Short’s appointment. The petition had surpassed 3,000 signatures as of press time. 

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In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Antholis describes his rationale in offering Short a position at the Center, arguing that Short “can help Miller Center scholars better understand the Trump presidency and the challenges facing American politics.”

“Marc will help us think through how to capture the Trump presidency through our signature Presidential Oral History Program,” Antholis points out. “In addition, he will contribute to an ongoing research undertaking and conference that will explore how the presidency, Congress, and political polarization are combining to create policy and legislative gridlock. His contributions will help keep Miller Center scholars at the cutting edge of their research field.”

“Those who know Marc gave him high marks for his intelligence and effectiveness, not to mention his integrity and collegiality,” Antholis observed. “The decision to make this appointment was ultimately mine.”

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UVA referred Campus Reform to the Miller Center’s official statement from Antholis on the matter.

“The loss of any Miller Center faculty or staff member saddens me,” Antholis stated. “As much as I respect the depth of feelings on this issue, the Miller Center’s core focus on the presidency, our commitment to nonpartisanship, and our demonstrated ability to promote civil discourse must remain our principal responsibility, especially in trying times.”

Campus Reform reached out to William Hitchcock, Melvyn Leffler, and William J. Antholis but has not received responses.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Grace_Gotcha