Have you been watching the attempted coup at the University of Virginia? The Board of Visitors has attempted to oust UVa’s president. The Board is comprised primarily of big campaign donors to the previous and current governors, Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Bob McDonnell. There is no UVa faculty representative, and one non-voting student member. The rest are corporate executives, attorneys, and two hospital executives (UVa has a hospital and medical school).
The coup was led by the Rector (Board Chair), Helen Dragas, a UVa alum and real estate developer from Virginia Beach. She employed subterfuge, and it’s blown up in her face.
Rather than call a full board meeting to air the “philosophical differences” between President Teresa Sullivan and the Board, Dragas and her allies worked one on one with the board members, building support for removing Sullivan. Once she had commitments, and without ever calling a board meeting (which would have resulted in a full discussion), Dragas told Sullivan the Board was prepared to remove her.
Sullivan took Dragas at her word, and resigned immediately rather than face a board fight.
We’ve never gotten a straight answer on why the Board is doing this. Nefarious rumors fly, of intrigues among big donors (hedge fund millionaires and the like). Could Dragas be doing the bidding of Goldman Sachs and its for-profit online division? Was it a play to spin off the hospital? Who can say yet? Those who know are not talking, or talking through Hill & Knowlton PR (looking at you, Rector Dragas). The vice rector resigned early on, and has remained silent.
I think this might be the tip of the iceberg where massive corporations, big money, and public education intersect. UVa gets only 7% of its funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but plunder of public goods is not a new topic. We live in an era of unprecedented institutional fail.
So this whole debacle bears watching. I am enjoying the pushback. There will be a student-led rally on the University’s Lawn this afternoon at two, and I am there in spirit. The students feel their Rector’s activities do not meet the standards of UVa’s much admired honor code.
It’s my hope that President Teresa Sullivan is reinstated and Rector Helen Dragas sent packing, if she won’t resign. Dragas’ term is up very soon, on July 1, and one would think she’s too radioactive for [aspiring GOP VP] Bob McDonnell to re-appoint.
FWIW: Helen Dragas was appointed by Tim Kaine, former Democratic governor and current senatorial candidate. He supports reinstating President Sullivan, and — like everyone who’s gone on record, including current Governor Bob McDonnell — does not approve of the Board’s process (or lack thereof). Dragas has contributed to Democratic candidates.
Charlottesville’s alt-weekly, The Hook, has been doing stellar reporting on this. http://www.readthehook.com/
The Washington Post has also been excellent, and how often can you say that these days? The Post published a series of email correspondence between Dragas and her allies, which UVa’s student newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, obtained via FOIA request.
Here’s a link to the Cavalier Daily. http://www.cavalierdaily.com/
Lots to wade through, if you are so inclined.
This may seem a parochial topic, but huge issues lie under the surface. Now if they will just rise, for a full public airing …
The UV Board of Visitors: