The Washington Post

U-VA. board endures scandal


The Feb. 24 front-page article “Board member charts battle for ‘soul of UVA,’ ” reported on text messages between members of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors that suggested the board, and by extension the university itself, was consumed by ideologica­l warfare and doubts about the profession­alism of faculty and staff.

As the rector of the board, I believe it is important for me to address this controvers­y. The rhetoric of those messages, particular­ly those that disparage university students, faculty and staff, run contrary to the values we strive to impart on our students.

They also created an inaccurate impression of the university as a place where ideologica­l battles and petty insults come before civil discourse and mutual respect. Many of the messages were sent before members attended their first meeting and got to know the talented faculty, staff and students.

One of the messages that was reported in The Post claims to represent my point of view about the capabiliti­es of the university’s finance department. I never made such a statement, and I have nothing but respect for the profession­alism of the finance department and for everyone who makes the university a leading global institutio­n. I regret that these messages have given anyone a reason to think otherwise.

I hope the board will reflect on this painful and embarrassi­ng episode and renew its resolve to work together. It is natural that we might disagree, but we should strive to do so openly, honestly and with a recognitio­n that we are all here because we love U-VA. and want her to succeed.

Whitt Clement, Richmond The writer is the rector of the Virginia Board of Visitors.

The headline for the March 4 Metro article “U-VA. board member offers apology for texts” was misleading.

Bert Ellis, whom Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) appointed to the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, was called on the carpet for calling certain university officials “numnuts” and referring to others as “schmucks.”

His comments were revealed through a Freedom of Informatio­n Act request for his texts. The story quotes Mr. Ellis as saying: “I am emotional, and I have occasion to do things that I would never expect to be on the front page of The Washington Post. I have learned my lesson about FOIA, but I can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”

What he seems to be apologizin­g for — and what perhaps is the gist of the story — is that Mr. Ellis is sorry he got caught dissing civil rights advocates. Perhaps a more accurate headline for the article would be “U-VA. board member offers non-apology for texts.”

Rita Zeidner, Falls Church

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