UVA Put "On Warning" by Accrediting Body; Calls for Dragas' Ouster Grow

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Did you think that the mess surrounding the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors, and particularly Rector Helen Dragas, was over? Well, think again.
The University of Virginia's accrediting body has placed the elite public flagship "on warning" for allegedly violating two compliance standards when members of the school's governing board covertly planned an ouster of President Teresa A. Sullivan, privately asking her to resign in early June and then unanimously reinstating her 18 days later.The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which accredits schools in 11 Southern states, had accused the U-Va. Board of Visitors of compromising the university's integrity, not having a formal policy for involving faculty in decision-making, and not following its governance requirements, which forbid a small number of members from controlling the board.
Commission trustees announced Tuesday that they found the university was not in compliance in two of the three cases - those concerning faculty involvement and following governance requirements.
The reaction to this move? So far, from what I can tell, there have been two: 1) the university itself put out a statement (see the "flip") essentially saying this is no biggie, nothing much to see here, please go back to your holiday shopping; and 2) the reaction of everyone else. For instance, from the UVA Facebook page, there are currently 37 comments on the status update about this situation, of which around 30 are negative (mostly towards Helen Dragas), a few are neutral or inscrutable, and only 1 or 2 seem (possibly) supportive of Dragas. A few sample comments include:*"Can't we just get rid of Dragas instead of being put on double secret probation?"
*"Dragas is a disgrace!! Any balls in the [General Assembly]???"
*"This is disgusting. The fact that Dragas is still on the Board is an outrage and the students, alumni and faculty have a responsibility to pressure her to resign immediately"
*"Sadly, this sanction was well deserved. Thanks Helen."
*"It is more clear than ever. The resignation of Rector Dragas is the only acceptable resolution to this ongoing debacle. Has she no respect for the institution she claims to love but continues to humiliate?"
*"et the Virginia General Assembly know how you feel:"
Getting the picture? Need more? Then check out the comments on the Washington Post (where the top-rated comments all seem to be along the lines of "In addition to having no judgment or leadership skills, Helen Dragas apparently also has no shame. She needs to acknowledge the harm she is causing to the University and resign, now.") or the Richmond Times Dispatch, etc. There's also a strain of criticism, by the way, of Gov. McDonnell, for politicizing the board and for reappointing Dragas following last summer's debacle. The question now is, will the General Assembly show some "balls" and take action or not? I'm not holding my breath, that's for sure.
P.S. The president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is Belle Wheelan, who served as Virginia Secretary of Education under Gov. Mark Warner.