Melvyn P. Leffler and William Hitchcock, two professors in the University’s Corcoran Department of History, have resigned from their positions at the Miller Center of Public Affairs in protest of Director Bill Antholis’s decision to hire controversial former Trump aide Marc Short.
Until July 20, Short served as the White House Director of Legislative Affairs, and his start date for his position as a senior fellow at the Miller Center is Wednesday, August 1. In response to Short’s hiring and Antholis’s defense of the appointment, Hitchcock and Leffler publicly released their joint resignation letter on Monday morning.
“The appointment of Mr. Short runs counter to the Center’s fundamental values of non-partisanship, transparency, openness, a passion for truth and objectivity, and civility,” the letter reads. “Mr. Short has been a partisan activist during his entire professional career. He has associated himself with people and institutions who disregard, circumvent, and even violate the norms and laws that are fundamental to civil discourse and democratic politics.”
Hitchcock, who worked as both Director of Academic Programs and the Randolph P. Compton Professor at the Miller Center, shared with his followers on Twitter that he was unhappy to leave.
“I resigned from [the Miller Center] at UVa today because I felt it betrayed its principles in giving a senior fellowship to Trump advisor Marc Short,” Hitchcock wrote. “It is a sad day for me but I’ll continue to work at UVa with brilliant colleagues in the cause of civil discourse.”
He and Leffler, Edward Stettinius Professor of History and a former faculty fellow at the Miller Center, copied incoming University president James Ryan on the message.
Controversy over Short’s hiring erupted earlier this month as over 2,000 students, alumni and faculty signed an online petition to urge the University to reverse its decision. “The Yellow Journal,” the University’s student-run satiric publication, papered the Miller Center’s front entrance with its most recent issue, headlined, “MILLER CENTER PRAISES MARC SHORT AS ‘PROFESSIONAL’ AND ‘WIDELY-RESPECTED’ ENABLER OF RACISM.”
Antholis responded to the criticism by publishing an open letter to the University community, where he explained his decision to grant Short a senior fellowship.
“Marc’s experience and expertise only strengthens our ability to understand and explain [the Trump] administration, including in its most difficult and divisive moments,” Antholis wrote. “Marc brings a missing critical voice — one that represents members of Congress and the Republican Party who continue to support the president in large numbers. Nearly all of my colleagues — including most of those who disagree with this appointment — share my belief that service in the Trump Administration should not be a bar to service at the University of Virginia or the Miller Center.”
Leffler and Hitchcock acknowledged the need for the Center to welcome scholars with diverse political ideologies, but took exception with Antholis’s assertion that Short will provide a “missing critical” perspective, especially given his connection to the Trump administration’s comments on the deadly “Unite the Right” rally last summer.
“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 professors’ resignation letter reads. “Until his appointment at UVA, Mr. Short did not distance himself from President Trump’s August 11-12…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.”
More coverage of the Marc Short controversy is still to come. Bill Antholis, Director and CEO of the Miller Center, gave WUVA News an exclusive interview on his decision to hire Short. Check back soon for updates.