On Friday, the Governing Council of the University’s Miller Center of Public Affairs released a statement in support of Director Bill Antholis‘s decision to hire Marc Short as a senior fellow. Short, the Trump administration’s former director of legislative affairs, inspired a petition with over 3,400 signatures from students, faculty and alumni, who urged the University to retract their offer of a fellowship. History professors William Hitchcock and Melvyn Leffler resigned from their posts at the Miller Center in protest of the former Trump advisor’s hiring.
The Governing Council of the Miller Center, however, made it clear that they support Antholis in his choice to welcome Short, who began his work at the University on August 1.
“Marc, in his former role as the director of legislative affairs in the Trump White House, was the key intermediary between the White House and Congress,” the Council’s statement read. “While the current administration certainly has created a fair amount of controversy, and despite the intense response to this appointment from both sides, we support the decision to bring Marc Short on as a senior fellow at the Center and feel he will bring valuable insights to our work.”
The Council’s website explains that while the Miller Center is “an integral part” of the University, its governors follow their own bylaws and oversee the work of the institution autonomously. In its correspondence with the press, the Council responded to the assertion that hiring Short ran counter to its values.
“The balance of fellows from ‘both sides of the aisle’ is no accident, as it is important to our mission,” the statement continues. “Our full-time scholars and the shared faculty with the University of Virginia form the backbone of the Miller Center and create the intellectual content that makes us unique…We believe the Miller Center is the leading institution focused on studying and understanding the presidency, which includes the study of all presidents, not just certain ones.”
The University’s new president, James Ryan — who assumed office on Wednesday, August 1 — told local news media at his opening press conference that he also stands behind Antholis, though he is sympathetic with the petitioners‘ concerns.
“I have friends on both sides of this issue,” Ryan said. “I understand how and why people disagree, [but] I support the decision. I recognize that there are many in this community who do not support President Trump or his administration, and are deeply distressed by what they’ve seen, and I respect that view. But the Miller Center studies the presidency, and tries to understand the presidency, and the opportunity to have someone who has been on the front lines of the presidency seems to me consistent with that mission.”
The Center’s Governing Council appeared to share Ryan’s respect for those who opposed Short’s designation as a senior fellow.
“A number of our scholars and subsequently other members of the community reacted strongly to Marc’s appointment,” the Council wrote. “Indeed, two of our esteemed scholars from UVA’s Department of History have resigned their Miller Center affiliations in protest. The Governing Council deeply regrets this. We appreciate the outstanding scholarship these individuals have brought to the Center over many years. We wish them well and hope the Center can collaborate with them in the future.”
The Council’s statement also explained the nature of Short’s appointment, pointing out that his post is temporary, and does not qualify as a professorship.
“Senior fellowship positions are part-time, non-faculty appointments, one year in duration, in the Center’s Presidential Studies program,” the governors wrote. “Marc joins a list of other practitioners, from both Democratic and Republican administrations, who form a critical bridge for our scholars to the policy-making community, and vice versa.”
For more on Marc Short’s hiring at the Miller Center and the surrounding controversy, click here.
To read more about the reasoning behind the resignations of Leffler and Hitchcock, click here.