The General Assembly typically rubber-stamps a governor’s appointees to the boards of visitors of Virginia’s college and universities.
But after last year’s soap opera surrounding the attempted ouster of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, one appointment is anything but a slam dunk.
Gov. Bob McDonnell decided to reappoint Helen Dragas, the board rector who led the failed effort to oust Sullivan last year. Sullivan resigned, but was reinstated after a backlash from the university community. Some legislators have said they will not support Dragas’ reappointment, which will come up during the 46-day session that starts Wednesday.
But state Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Roanoke County, is not one of them.
Smith released a statement this morning saying he will support Dragas’ reappointment. Smith is a member of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, which has the first crack at voting on gubernatorial appointments before sending them to the full Senate.
“It is essential to the success of Virginia’s state-supported colleges and universities that our Boards of Visitors provide independent oversight,” Smith said. “Mrs. Dragas, who was initially appointed to the Board by Governor Kaine, has provided independent oversight on the UVA Board. Rejecting her nomination would likely signal other Boards that they should limit themselves to being boosters instead of supervisors. Ultimately, that would undermine the quality of Virginia’s institutions of higher learning.
“Over the last thirty years, state college systems, including Virginia, have seen increases in their operating costs handily surpassing the rate of inflation. We need independent oversight at our public colleges to consider efforts at reform and to ensure accountability to taxpayers and to students and their families. Silencing independent voices will discourage that mission.”
– Michael Sluss