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. pic.twitter.com/HsH1pw2hXK— William Hitchcock (@WillHitchUVA) July 30, 2018
Two distinguished professors have left a University of Virginia think tank over that organization’s decision to hire as a paid fellow a former member of President Donald Trump’s administration.
Professors William Hitchcock and Melvyn Leffler, who penned an open letter explaining their choice to leave the Miller Center of Public Affairs on Monday, will still remain on staff at UVA in Charlottesville in their roles as professors. But they couldn’t, in their opinion, remain in their positions with the think tank upon the appointment of Marc Short to a fellowship.
Short served with the Trump administration in the role of legislative affairs director. He left earlier this year, citing his distress over the “diminishing returns” of proposals he was able to get through the Republican-controlled Congress on behalf of the president.
Hitchcock and Leffler made clear that their decision to leave was because of Short joining the think tank.
“By associating himself with an administration that shows no respect for truth, he has contributed to the erosion of civil discourse and democratic norms that are essential to democratic governance and that are central to the mission of the Miller Center,” their open letter read.
Officially a nonpartisan group, the Miller Center prides itself on being an organization that seeks to inspire “America's leaders with nonpartisan insights, especially on the presidency, that advance democratic institutions and the public good.”
Knowing how loose Trump plays with the facts — not to mention how he has actively worked to diminish democratic institutions, such as his attacks on the media and his administration’s attempts to discourage immigrants from using their rights to due process — these professors are absolutely correct in the statement they have made. Trump’s administration stands staunchly opposed to the very ideals of advancing “democratic institutions” that the Miller Center purportedly wants to promote.
By granting one of Trump’s former administrative officials a fellowship, the Miller Center seems to be sending a different message: that those ideals are no longer relevant to their mission.
More actions like those of professors Hitchcock and Leffler will undoubtedly occur in the years ahead. Acts of civil disobedience, resignations, and more should be seen as principled stands against indecency and abuses perpetrated by this administration. And efforts to label them as partisan should be rejected; it’s not because Trump is a Republican, but rather because he wishes to act like an autocrat, that these actions are taken.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Yuri Gripas