Marc Short

Marc Short

A previous version of this story said Short had appeared on "American Forum." He was never a guest on the show.

Weeks before Marc Short, a former White House aide, is scheduled to begin as a fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, faculty are petitioning for a rollback.

More than 800 faculty, students, staff and alumni have signed a petition asking the university to revoke Short’s appointment and review his hiring process. According to the petition, President Donald Trump’s administration does not align with the values of a university and has encouraged white nationalists.

 “No one should be serving at the highest levels of this administration, daily supporting and defending its actions one week, then representing UVa the next,” the petition reads.

The petition also notes Trump’s statements about white supremacists after the deadly Aug. 12 car attack, in which he said “there were very fine people on both sides.”

“… It is unconscionable that we would add to our university a person who served in a high-level position for the administration that first empowered, then defended, those white nationalists,” the petition reads. “We are a community still in the process of healing, and someone who defended the president’s remarks after the violence here is a barrier to that process, a source of trauma in a still-traumatized community.”

Short, who received an MBA from UVa’s Darden School of Business and has been a guest speaker in the school’s business and governmental relations course, told Politico on Thursday that he understands the Charlottesville area’s pain and believes the administration could have done a better job expressing sympathy.

Doug Blackmon, an incoming Miller Center fellow, signed the petition. Blackmon said he would have been happy to host Short on his popular “American Forum” TV show and to work with him at the center once Short was a few years removed from the administration.

“As far as I know, Marc Short hasn’t said racist things, but he did say Trump’s statements about Charlottesville were appropriate,” Blackmon said. “Anyone who has had the opportunity to make clear that the president’s initial remarks about Charlottesville were hugely inappropriate, and who hasn’t taken up the opportunity to do so, is problematic.”

Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor in presidential studies at the center who signed the petition, said she found out about Short’s appointment the day it was publicly announced.

Hemmer studies media relations and conservative movements. She said she believes the Trump presidency does not represent American democracy and has upended the political order.

“The sides are no longer liberalism versus conservatism, but liberalism versus illiberalism,” Hemmer wrote in an email. “The protest against Short’s appointment drives that point home.”

Hemmer said many conservatives and liberals from both parties have worked toward the center, and said she highly values working with people from the right. The petition is not about partisanship, she said — Short’s hiring is an institutional and moral crisis.

“[Short’s hiring] should make clear that the issue is not a rejection of bipartisanship or nonpartisanship, but rather a real violation of the norms of a center and a university dedicated to defending and promoting an open society,” Hemmer wrote.

Howard Witt, a Miller Center spokesman, shared an emailed statement that defended the center’s choice. Short would help the center understand the Trump presidency, he said.

“We understand and respect those UVa faculty members and other critics — even some from within the Miller Center — who disagree with the decision to name Marc Short a senior fellow,” Witt wrote. “One of our core values is fostering robust, but civil, debate across our nation’s bitter partisan divide.”

The campus conservative group Young Americans for Freedom said Friday that the petition discriminates against conservative viewpoints.

 “Administrators and faculty members who have signed this petition are making a statement that conservative ideas and perspectives are not welcome in the UVa community,” a statement on the group’s website reads.

Tanner Hirschfeld, a third-year student who has been involved in Republican campaigns, said he was ashamed that faculty and students were trying to block Short’s hiring.

“The fact that students and faculty members hate the president so much that they are willing to block the hiring of a good man and UVa graduate shows much immaturity,” Hirschfeld said.

Blackmon said the petition wasn’t a matter of liberal faculty opposing a conservative, but of a deeper concern that Short wouldn’t be able to discuss governance and policy objectively.

 “This is a first, to have a warrior coming straight out of the political battle and coming straight to the university,” Blackmon said.

Harvard University also faced backlash after it revoked a fellowship to Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army analyst who leaked classified documents, but maintained offers to Sean Spicer and Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former press secretary and campaign manager.

Short could not be reached for comment Friday.

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Ruth Serven is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, rserven@dailyprogress.com or @RuthServen on Twitter.

Ruth Serven Smith is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, rserven@dailyprogress.com or @RuthServen on Twitter.

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