Governor Bob McDonnell has put his stamp on the University of Virginia Board of Visitors, reappointing its lightning-rod Rector Helen Dragas, replacing five old board members and appointing two “senior advisors.”
“Cognizant of the need for varied and wide-ranging voices, I have appointed competent professionals to the board who come from the fields of academia, business, law and technology, and who can, while bringing different backgrounds and philosophies to the table, work well together in finding common ground and forging a shared path for Mr. Jefferson’s University,” McDonnell said in a prepared statement.
Newcomers include Linwood Rose, former president of James Madison University; Edward Miller, dean of the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University; and Victoria Harper, CFO of Gannett Company. Senior advisors whose role will be “to provide the board with wise counsel on an array of matters and to assist the university in solving strategic and communications challenges,” include William H. Goodwin, a Darden School graduate and the most successful entrepreneur in Richmond, as well as Leonard W. Sandridge, the university’s highly respected CFO before retiring last year.
By any objective measure, the newcomers represent an impressive addition to the board. There are no light weights. And they aren’t all big Republican donors.
Regarding the controversial Dragas, McDonnell said, “Ms. Dragas’s serious critique of the challenges facing the university is a voice that must be heard, and can help, in ensuring UVa remains one of the world’s foremost institutions of higher learning.”
Just as I was disappointed to see the lack of transparency and communication surrounding the request for the resignation of the first female president of UVa, I am also concerned that the first female rector seemed to become the sole target of recent criticism. While there is no doubt that the board made several mistakes in its actions, which it has publicly admitted, this is not a time for recrimination. It’s a time for reconciliation. I have been heartened by recent statements made by president [Teresa] Sullivan, the Board of Visitors and by the faculty senate chair about their ability to work with the rector.
Yesterday I opined that, given the animosity she had engendered, Dragas probably would have to go. I questioned whether McDonnell had the guts to reappoint her. But I do agree with the governor’s s decision to keep her. As I wrote when the controversy first began, “Dragas gets it.” Higher education in America is facing an existential crisis. The university needs strong leaders and a bold vision. McDonnell has assembled a powerful team to lead the university forward.