Over the past 9 years, I have faithfully voted for every appointment made by governors of both parties. But today I could not support the confirmation of Ms. Helen Dragas, Rector of the Board of Visitors at the University of Virginia for another term. [She was confirmed by a vote of 29-9 in the Senate; now the House of Delegates will decide whether or not she will ultimately serve another term.]
In fairness to Ms. Dragas, it’s clear that she has been a generous philanthropist and gifted business leader who has gone above and beyond for her customers. After speaking with her, I believe that she sincerely wants to make UVA better. However, those traits do not outweigh her poor leadership at the helm of one of our top universities.
As we all know, Ms. Dragas led the efforts that forced the brief resignation of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, and did so without a full debate, a transparent vote or any public accountability. The single most important job any board has is the hiring and oversight of the president, but under Ms. Dragas’ leadership, the UVA Board failed on this most fundamental challenge of following proper procedure and due process in the oversight of the president.
On her watch, UVA’s accrediting body sanctioned the university with a warning for not following its own governance requirements. The accrediting commission’s president said the warning is a “black mark on an institution.”
An appointment to serve on the UVA Board of Visitors is a rare honor and privilege, and demands equally high standards of accountability. If the House of Delegates confirms this appointee, we will renew an unworkable and dysfunctional dynamic at the University.
This is not a Republican or Democratic issue, but an issue of open and effective governance.
The University of Virginia is a precious asset to Virginia, and we should not reappoint a candidate who has failed to live up to the standards espoused by Mr. Jefferson. There are scores of highly qualified Board candidates who are able and willing to make outstanding contributions to the University. Both Virginia and UVA will be best served if we all moved on, and that day will come only with a new member named to the Board of Visitors. I am disappointed by today's vote and hope that my colleagues in the House of Delegates will reject the reappointment of Ms. Dragas.