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Youngkin's likely next pick for UVa Board of Visitors another controversial figure

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is close to appointing four new members to the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, according to sources close to the governor. And Joel Gardner, a vocal critic of UVa — especially its diversity initiatives — is slated to be one of those appointees to the body that governs the school, those close to the decision-making process told The Daily Progress.

Gardner, a double Hoo, has written essays calling for greater intellectual diversity among students and faculty. He also said that diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, policies have reached “quasi-religious status at UVA” and voiced support for those who have written about the “Downside of Diversity.”

Gardner also has linked the increasing rate of depression and anxiety in UVa’s student body to “increased politicization” of campus and more social justice inanities.

“Apparently, social justice agendas frown on having fun when there are so many social evils to redress,” Gardner wrote in an article for the Martin Center for Academic Renewal in November 2020. “In its own way, this result may be the most damaging for the future well-being of our society.”

Gardner did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Progress.

Gardner received his undergraduate degree in history in 1970 and a law degree in 1974. He is now a senior managing director at investment firm Burnham Securities.

Since graduating, he has remained connected to the university, including serving as a member of the Committee on Free Expression and Free Inquiry. Also, in 2018, Gardner released “From Rebel Yell to Revolution,” a book about his time at UVa.

Outside of his official capacities, he has been an outspoken critic of diversity initiatives at UVa. He has written for the Jefferson Council, a conservative alumni group that has been critical of DEI initiatives at UVa, likening policies at the school to “McCarthyism.”

He was previously listed as a member of the advisory board to the Jefferson Council but stepped down in the past year. Gardner stepped down to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, according to members of the Jefferson Council who requested anonymity.

Gardner, if appointed, would signal a more conservative turn for the board at UVa.

Last June, the governor appointed four new members who have advanced conservative ideals on the board. Most of the appointees had long donated to conservative candidates and causes, and perhaps the most controversial of all, Bert Ellis, co-founded the Jefferson Council and once served as its chairman.

While on the board, these new members have clashed on numerous policies surrounding political ideology and student and faculty diversity with the board’s majority of members who were appointed by and supported Democrats.

Gardner has outlined policies he thought the board should adopt in the past and is expected to push for them if appointed. Most notably, he has been a vocal supporter of UVa adopting the so-called “Chicago Principles” of free speech.

The principles are a set of standards for campus free expression developed by a Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago in 2015. They say that “it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”

For his part, Youngkin has remained silent on potential appointments. His office was tight-lipped about the names of future appointees.

“Governor Youngkin will make four appointments to the Board of Visitors at the University of Virginia this year to begin on July 1, 2023,” Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told The Daily Progress on Friday. “Our Administration will make a formal announcement on these appointments soon.”

In all likelihood, many close to the governor have indicated that his appointments will likely come in the next week. He has until the end of the month to make the appointments.


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