Miller Center won't back down on appointing former Trump administration member

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- University of Virginia professors and students are still not happy with the appointment of a former member of the Trump Administration, Marc Short. The Miller Center is standing by its decision.

An online petition is almost at its 2,500 signature goal in an effort to stop Short from joining the Miller Center. William Hitchcock, a professor at the Miller Center and a history professor, is one of the thousands of names and counting that have signed the petition.

"I think there's a sense of real dismay and concern and frankly alarm over this appointment," said Hitchcock.

Short was working by President Donald Trump's side when he made the comment that, "there was blame on both sides," after the white nationalist protests of last year. Now, Short is being appointed a one-year fellowship at the Miller Center.

"This is a tone-deaf action on the part of the administration to allow such a prominent Trump spokesman to come to the University as a paid official just at a moment we're trying to come together and reflect on the events of Aug. 12," said Hitchcock.

Hitchcock also said that, as a member of the Miller Center himself, he was shocked faculty was not included in the conversation to bring Short on board.

"It was a quiet, secret decision, and it was not subject to careful scrutiny by the faculty or anybody else," said Hitchcock.

William Antholis, director and CEO of the Miller Center, stands by his decision to have Short join UVA.

"The real reason to do this, and the exciting thing that this presents," said Antholis, "is an opportunity to talk about some of the really hard issues presented by the Trump presidency."

Antholis said that Short will not hide from the conversation about Trump's statement on Aug. 12.

"He himself has said that the administration should absolutely have handled the situation better and we all look forward to talking to Marc about that when he arrives," said Antholis.

Antholis also said that appointing Short for a fellowship does not make him an employee, which is why he did not reach out to more faculty like Hitchcock to discuss Short. However, he did make the decision with others help.

"In this case, I consulted a wider and deeper group of people both in the University and outside the University," said Antholis.

Hitchcock said that he believes the best thing Short can do is not take the position.

"It would be a kindness for Mr. Short to withdraw from the position and to perhaps come back to UVA...give a few lectures and let us hear what he has to say and build bridges and repair some of the wounds we all still have from the events of last summer," said Hitchcock.

Antholis put out a personal letter, justifying his decision to appoint Short. He said service in the Trump administration should not be a bar to service at UVA or the Miller Center.

Short will be joining UVA on Aug.1

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