Dragas Criticizes UVa “Slush Fund”

dragasHelen Dragas, former member of the University of Virginia Board of Trustees, has made an extraordinary charge in a Washington Post op-ed published yesterday.

At our June meeting, administrators revealed their coffers include a $2.3 billion pot of reserves, surpluses and earnings that for years has been hidden in plain sight, loosely labeled as necessary to support operations. Now, through financial maneuvering, this treasury has been liberated expressly to support strategic initiatives that will enhance the university’s reputation. As administrators requested a series of board actions to facilitate that change, members were not apprised of the large sum at stake. Only later did we learn that these moves had created a $2.3 billion slush fund.

Privately referred to as “unfound money” (that is, unfound by legislators, the press, and — as a result — the general public), this astounding sum could run the entire University Academic Division for a year and a half. …  A conservative estimate of its annual earnings potential — $100 million — could be used to cut the tuition of all in-state undergraduates by 70 percent.

Dragas, a former rector and an outspoken critic of the university’s priorities, credits current Rector William H. Goodwin with “tenaciously pressing administrators” for transparency about the accumulation. The revelation of what she describes as a “multi-billion-dollar slush fund for pet projects” comes as the university continues to aggressively raise tuitions for in-state and out-of-state students, putting a quality education increasingly out of reach for middle-class students too rich to qualify for student financial aid and too poor to pay the ever-escalating bills.

The abbreviated format of the op-ed did not give Dragas the space to detail how the “found money” was hidden and how the administration liberated it. But if Virginia’s newspapers have any gumption at all, they will get to the bottom of what could be a major scandal. Dragas has handed them the story on a silver platter. 

Update: The Richmond Times-Dispatch has followed up with an article noting Dragas’s “slush fund” criticism and including a response from University spokesman Anthony P. de Bruyn: The funds in question, he said, support the Cornerstone Plan, enabling “strategic investments in our faculty, academic programs, clinical enterprise, research infrastructure and physical space needs that will continue to benefit future generations of students while also minimizing tuition increases.” For the coming academic year, he added, U.Va.’s tuition increase of 1.5 percent for continuing in-state undergraduate students is the lowest of all public institutions in the state.

Let us see if the T-D digs any deeper than “he-said, she said” coverage.

Update: Rector William H. Goodwin has issued a statement: “The monies have always been included in the University’s audited financial statements. … I have asked the University administration to provide details over the next few days regarding our work to date on this matter.”

Click here to read the full statement. 

— JAB

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34 responses to “Dragas Criticizes UVa “Slush Fund”

  1. I share Dragas’s objection to the privatization direction of UVA, and that makes these funds important. Accruing $2.3B in undesignated funds, while jacking up the cost of attendance feels very wrong. Alums want to elevate the reputation of UVA, excited when UVA tickles the bellies of the Ivies in certain ratings, but raising the cost of attendance is a disservice to Virginians who need a degree. Sounds like Dragas is the only one who understands her role as Visitor. They have a fidiciary duty to General Assembly and the taxpayers, so if the administration is vague, someone needs to start asking some very specific money questions.

  2. This is a serious allegation. I am not sure that it is a surprise, or a new allegation.

    Roughly four years ago (as best I remember), I wrote a long comment to an article posted by Jim Bacon on this website. His article referred to UVA’s new strategic initiative on promoting Stem and related scientific and engineering research, to turn UVA into a “world Class research institution” through several initiatives. This included UVA partnering with private corporations and public institutions like the Federal government on ground breaking research, and importantly, the application of that reseach to private and public entrepreneurial initiatives.

    This program was said to provide UVA and its professors a platform to generate funds from practical applications of their work in the defense industry and a slew of private and public concerns such as global warming for example.

    Thus UVA was plunging headlong into a game played by many elite research institutions such as Stanford, MIT, and the like. I read the UVA proposal in detail. Hidden within its many pages was the creation of a Slush Fund that raked dollars off the top of grant producing activities for the private use of the Administrators of UVA. I suggested that this slush fund circumvented the Board of Visitors, among other safeguards.

    Whether or not this is the same slush fund or variation thereof, I am not sure.

    • University spokesman Anthony P. de Bruyn words reek.

      There’s an iron law of institutions – the more grandiose its claims, the more it has to hide. It’s secrets mount daily.

      Thus after our best efforts in trying to digest the indigestible “enable strategic investments in our faculty, academic programs, clinical enterprise, research infrastructure and physical space needs that will continue to benefit future generations of students while also minimizing tuition increases,” we are left yet again skating the thin ice of UVA’s latest definition of “Modern Honor.”

  3. Of course the ying and yang is – do you want UVA to have the ability and flexibility to innovate and become a more diverse and stronger entity or do you want it strictly controlled to do only a static mission?

    I realize one can turn this around into undisciplined and unprincipled idiots going rogue – also.

    These days on so many issues – it seems that many of our institutions – govt, NGO and quasi – are damned in you do and damned in you don’t.

    There are certainly vibrant and dynamic universities in this country but there are also moldering ones. I see UVA with a medical center, a top notch business school, a highly credible education group that have created PALs and other and even an Engineering competence that easily punched holes in a totally bogus VaTech “analysis” of CPP. On the other hand – there are no shortage of critics of UVA – either – on a wide scope…but sometimes I wonder if “malcontent” has become a profession…. at times.

    I think Dragas had the opportunity to be a good force for change – but she lacked the patience and temperament to help UVA change and evolve and instead saw herself as a protagonist – a “reformer” and that usually ends not well more than triumphant.

    Too many firebrands these days – impatient and willing to tear down and damage if they can’t get the change they want -when they want it -just burn it down.

    There’s a good reason why the Board of Visitors is more than one person and appointed on a staggered basis. That ensures that change moves by consensus – and provides ample opportunity for leadership but also ensures that lone-wolf types who don’t want to collaborate – will fail.

    In that regard – all leaders are failures – who learn from failing and some eventually master the skills needed to succeed so who knows -Dragas may be somewhere on that continuum and maybe we see an encore.

    • I agree with the need for institutions to be dynamic and much of that requires action by management. But when the institution is public, the basic policy decisions need to be made with policy input from state government and the board of visitors/directors. That would include policy and oversight related to the institution’s finances.

      And, of course, dealing with a larger and diverse board is a challenge for any executive.

      • UVA’s obsession with keeping secrets and covert maneuver for private advantage long precede the current crew offering up their toxic brew.

        Take today’s offering:“… enable strategic investments in our faculty, academic programs, clinical enterprise, research infrastructure and physical space needs that will continue to benefit future generations of students while also minimizing tuition increases,”

        Whatever be its disguise and origins, whether from nature or nurture, UVA’s culture as manifest today was long ago baked into the genes of the beast.

      • Actually I do not disagree with TMT’s words but they are so generic as to be meaningless because these days everyone seems to have a different idea of what “input” means including Dragas who wanted to impose her own ideas of mission and management on UVA and if she could not convince them and could not get most of the Board of Visitors to agree – was more than willing to engage in destructive actions that sought to tear down rather than reform.

        And now days – no matter what institution we are talking about – the same tactic is used.

        ” Either you change or we will tear you down” – that’s the approach –

        rather than – ” we have a group of people who have issues with the way you operate – and we have agreed – as a group – to convince you to make these changes we are proposing”.

        Whether it’s METRO, or UVA or public education or many other things – it’s become a contest to block, stall, damage, and tear down.

        Dragas is a good example. She never marshalled support from the Board of Visitors and other stakeholder to promote change – but rather the threat of attack and injury if the change she wanted was not pursued on her basis… and when she could not win folks over – her response was to burn it all down -bridges included – so that – at the end – nothing but animosity remained and she leaves – not with anything more than just a parting shot.

        You see this behavior now in our politics.. she’s just an example of it.

        • Fair criticism, Larry. Input is a broad term and somewhat intentionally. A board should set basic policy decisions and provide oversight of managers and the institution. It should not micromanage.

          The state provides input through statutes, appropriations and riders, oversight through committee hearings and JLAC, as well as by the Governor’s appointments to the boards of visitors and action on legislation. And of course, judicial review and original lawsuits are available on occasion.

          Institutional management must be expected to operate within guidelines, policy statements, legislation, rules, etc. When this does not occur, management should be replaced. The managers and employees of a university or WMATA do not own that institution and must follow policy in a reasonable manner.

  4. I can’t read this without thinking that Senator Sanders has been really right when he talked about the too-high cost of higher education. I’m so glad that Ms. Clinton is moving in his direction on that matter. When you talk about remedies, though, I imagine the states can make a difference faster than even a willing Washington.

  5. Today – there are innumerable and countless ways to get an excellent education for those who are driven to do so – and it doesn’t need to put you deep in debt either. That’s actually a choice that people make.

    Germany and other OECD countries do offer “free” college but it’s the core education only – no room and board, no big time College sports, no “ivy-league” “experience”.

    Neither Bernie nor Clinton should offer “free” UVA-style soup-to-nuts “college’ in my view – ONLY the CORE education – the rest is your choice and your financial responsibility.

    It never really made sense logically or fiscally for any Ivy League college to be publicly-funded – in the first place – it’s simply not fiscally sustainable to offer EVERYONE a free “Cadillac” – a Kia or Corolla – yes.

    No one is “entitled” to full-boat College with all the “extras” and it’s a road to ruin for both govt and individuals.

    No one in their right mind in this day and age of so many ways to gain an education should be going into heavy debt to start with – and getting govt to take that debt is going to drive the country into another financial disaster.

    College loan debt already tops a trillion dollars – the sub-prime crisis was about 4 trillion.

    So yes – we should offer “free” college to all – but only the core and even then only the curricula that meets a known need – a demand – in the economy.

    everything else is optional – a choice – and not debt the govt should back.

    that’s one of the faults I have with Dragas.

    Did we ever know what her real goals were – and if they were about College Education in Virginia in general or just some personal bone to pick with UVA specifically?

    Will Dragas go on to become a voice of reform of Education in Va or will she just disappear into the sunset writing sour grape editorials on the way?

    • Larry, given that many parents and some students or former students have made significant financial sacrifice to pay college tuition, both currently, doesn’t it seem unfair to give future generations of parents and students a free ride? To my way of thinking, the Sanders-Clinton proposal creates winners and losers. Shouldn’t my wife and I get some type of financial adjustment because of all the tuition we paid and are paying? How about the students and families who face large debt when others get a free ride?

      I think “free” college education, even when limited to the core as you reasonably suggest, has the potential to create more resentment, division and anger in American society because it treats people very differently just because of the age of the students.

      • TMT – they haven’t made that investment – taxpayers have – higher ed is so heavily subsidized that it’s a joke.

        if taxpayers ARE going to subsidize it – then let’s do it better than we have by NOT subsidizing college sports, room and board, and curricula that do not have a demand in the economy. Let’s NOT subsidize debt either for anything other than core education!

        I’ flummoxed that you think paying only for core education creates disparities that will cause resentment.

        I see it exactly the opposite. Genuine equal opportunity for everyone.

        what we have now is an unequal system that subsidizes for some at the expense of others.

        Germany has it right. everyone has the same opportunity at a core education. that’s fair and equitable. If you want “more” – can can afford it – fine – pay for it – but let’s not have taxpayers paying for extras.

        • Larry, my wife and I paid out of state tuition to the state of North Carolina for our daughter and are paying instate tuition for our son. If, after paying tens of thousands of dollars, I see others getting a free ride and not paying tuition for the same education we paid for, you better believe I’d be very angry and resentful.

          And if Americans want to move to Germany, more power to them. My wife’s ancestors left Germany.

  6. Jim, I love your blog, but you have some frequent posters who seem plagued by ADD, unable to stay on the topics you present! This piece is asking questions about the propriety of $2.3B of public money being manipulated around a state budget without public view. If I’m a legislator, I want to know more. If I’m a Visitor, I want to know more. If I’m a student trying to get a degree at a Virginia school (even one other than UVA because perhaps UVA didn’t need as much of the HE pie this year) or the parents, I want to know more.

    And Larry, you’re clinging to a narrative about Dragas that is patently false. Unfortunately, it’s one that got sucked up into the media cycle and it widely held by the media consumers, but it is nevertheless, false. Repeating it ceaselessly doesn’t make it true.

    • Lift, thanks for keeping the focus where it belongs.

      There are two big questions that need answers:

      (1) What are the particulars of the $2.4 billion in slush funds? Where did the money come from? What was UVa proposing to do with it? To what extent is Dragas’ “slush fund” characterization a fair one?

      (2) Assuming her characterization was a fair one, to what lengths did UVa administrators go to hide what it was doing? Did the administration actively try to keep the Board of Trustees in the dark? And if so, is that acceptable behavior? Should there be consequences?

      If I didn’t have my hands full with other commitments, I would be all over this story. I hope the mainstream media does its job.

      • The truth is we’ve been talking about this for years. And get the same old garage run around giving the public the finger, while they tout their virtue. And nobody does a damn thing. Much less stay on topic. Or review facts well known and expressed before. And now lost back in the archives for lack of interest, although easily recovered. ADD on steroids.

    • @Lift – I’m all for more transparency and accountability – and for change that actually works – rather than the never-ending scandal-a-day mindset we now have – that supplies no answers – no path forward -just endless criticism and a willingness to damage and tear down rather than preserve and reform.

      and the proof with Dragas is what she accomplished.

      what did she accomplish? what positive changes was she part of?

      this is what I mean. She did nothing of benefit to anyone other than to thoroughly poison whatever opportunity there was for any change at all.

      that’s NOT how you go forward! What is her record of accomplishment towards her self-professed goals?

      Your “slush” fund is someone else’s strategic initiative.

      yes there is room for disagreement but to start off with it being characterized as something wrong without any proof what-so-ever other than an accusation – without scant background and evidence to support the accusation is little more than more of the same hate and discontent being spouted the seemingly always disaffected of which Dragas chose to be.

      The first place I DID go to was the Auditor of Public Accounts Audit of UVA that they did last year.

      How about the critics here do something along those lines to back up their assertions?

      I can be convinced by real info, evidence – where is it? where was it – all the years that Dragas was supposedly doing her job? She just “discovered” it as she was leaving? Who else has made this assertion and provided evidence to support that claim? Anyone?

      Jim cites the “media”. Isn’t this the very same media he accuses of being in bed with liberals most days ?

      so . when it suits.. and want to attack UVA.. then you call in those lefty news guys to back up Dragas sour-grape parting shot? Good Lord!

  7. re: ” Institutional management must be expected to operate within guidelines, policy statements, legislation, rules, etc. When this does not occur, management should be replaced. The managers and employees of a university or WMATA do not own that institution and must follow policy in a reasonable manner.”

    Again – I agree with your statement. My question is who decides that this is not done and what happens when even the critics can’t agree on the things that are wrong much less agree among themselves what needs to be done instead?

    that’s where we seem to be with things today.

  8. The University’s response https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/07/08/u-va-answering-critic-says-it-is-committed-to-affordable-excellence/ Sounds to me like exactly what Dragas described. While alums will rejoice to hear that their alma mater is in the hunt for higher and higher ratings, the access for in-state families will diminish. How many times is UVA called a great educational bargain? Sure, for those who can afford $29K per year, it’s looking good next to the $55K privates. But for a household that cannot swing $29K they will be less excited about the new $50M initiative in the Nursing School. I stumbled into this piece which gives an excellent explanation of the cycle in which UVA also finds itself http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/08/us/public-colleges-chase-out-of-state-students-and-tuition.html?mwrsm=Email&_r=0

    Jim, I don’t think we’re talking about a scandal of misdeed or fraud so much as an intentional decision not to share information about the accumulation and accrual of $2.3B. Changing the name from Operating Funds to Strategic Funds to Strategic Investment Fund is enough to keep all but the most observant in the dark. Goodwin noticed it, demanded explanation, and Dragas is blowing that whistle. Like you, I hope the FOIA requests start flying and that these questions are answered, openly.

    • “Jim, I don’t think we’re talking about a scandal of misdeed or fraud so much as an intentional decision not to share information about the accumulation and accrual of $2.3B. ”

      With all due respect, your comment reflects a major part of the problem.

      UVA is a public state institution!

      Just how low does lack of common decency, ethics, morals, and fiduciary duty have to go before it becomes scandal? A red flag? A demand for straight talk, all relevant details, and honest answers? Must our culture collapse before act?

      We do nothing in the face of this abomination. We are so corrupt, we are blind to its corruption. No wonder we stand at the edge of an abyss. And are now jumping into it at warp speed without a clue that it looms at our feet.

      • No no, I’m with you on the scale of the seriousness, what I meant is that, as it’s been reported, it doesn’t sound like someone stole $2.3B and ran down the Lawn with it. One of the tensions is that Helen Dragas has taken her oath a little more seriously than other Visitors, and gets punished for paying attention. The other voices of discord, RJ Kirk and Ed Miller quit, deeming the Board not worthy of their continuing efforts in an echo chamber. I’m just not sure how to sound my concern in an effective way. Maybe this is a case for letter-writing to my General Assembly representatives, asking them not to ignore the matter. Any other suggestions?

  9. By choosing the words “slush fund” she’s intentionally using language that suggests wrong doing. (“The mayor used a secret slush fund siphoned off from traffic ticket payments to pay bribes and wine and dine his mistresses.”) A less loaded (and probably more accurate) term would be “discretionary endowment” or funds. These are funds the university can direct to what it views as most needed or strategic. Typically, a significant percentage of endowment funds are usually tied to a specific cause (e.g. a professorship or a scholarship) and cannot be touched.

    UVA, like all schools that are in the ratings race, is looking to boost its standing by targeting specific areas to build a reputation, and that is likely what they want to do with this money. Many alumni would support that as they view college as an investment and they want to see ratings maintained or improved.

    Dragas simply doesn’t agree with this priority. She’d like to see the discretionary money used to lower tuition. I understand her view, but others would say this would be like unilaterally disarming in the competition with other universities. They are pushing forward, investing in STEM, stealing faculty from UVA, etc. If something isn’t done systemically in higher education, UVA would likely fall (or continue to fall) in USNews rankings with her approach.

    UVA (and similar public institutions) are in an extraordinarily difficult position. UVA has a sizeable endowment, but the institutions it competes with do as well, and the private ones can collect higher tuition and some of the public ones (like UNC) get substantially more from the state.

    Competing against the likes of Princeton ($25B endowment for 8,000 students), Harvard, Stanford, Duke, etc. is daunting if not impossible. Match Harvard’s investment of $1B on STEM construction at their new campus? Isn’t going to happen. Develop a research and innovation hub that matches Silicon Valley / San Francisco, RTP, Boston, or Austin? Isn’t going to happen. Match Princeton (and other privates) on financial aid and scholarship packages? Fool’s errand. Make UVA a player in Massive Open Online Courses vs what MIT and Stanford are doing (a Dragas pet project)? Unlikely.

    As daunting as this is, I would bet most alumni would still expect the university to try to maintain or improve its standing, and the discretionary funds would likely be key to this. Dragas’s approach, again, would be unilateral disarmament. The systemic issue of too much money in higher education have to be solved first.

    I don’t have an issue with the cause Dragas is pushing. Costs are out of control. But I do think she has hurt UVA and done it a disservice in the way she pushes her views.

    • Izzo, you make some valid points. The words “slush fund” may be too strong to describe the moneys that Dragas is talking about. The phrase implies that administrators can dip into it any time and for any purpose they wish. I doubt that’s the case. On the other hand, it seems apparent that the administration was not up front about the money, indeed that the UVa brass was evasive and perhaps non-responsive about it. The lack of transparency before the Board of Visitors should set off alarm bells.

    • re: ” Dragas simply doesn’t agree with this priority.”

      re: ” I don’t have an issue with the cause Dragas is pushing. Costs are out of control. But I do think she has hurt UVA and done it a disservice in the way she pushes her views.”

      agree.

      I actually AGREE with some of what Dragas is saying but NOT HOW she is saying it or her way of going about change.

      She starts off suggesting scandal and wrong-doing rather than making an effective argument and she’s out there all by herself rather than working to gather and consolidate those who want better from UVA.

      And, finally, she’s not at all adverse to causing real harm in retaliation for her own failure to lead and collaborate CONSTRUCTIVE change.

      we already have way too many of the ” I don’t like it and I’m going to blow it up” folks running around these days. We need adult leadership -those who know there is stinky stuff going on but are capable of holding their noses as they go about fostering real reforms.

      You’d never ever have someone like Dragas be the leader of UVA and there is good reasons why. I’m no apologist for the folks there – they got their own issues – and no doubt a circle-the-wagons mentality…

      I don’t condemn Dragas – it’s entirely possible as she goes along that she will adjust her style to be more constructive – and if, in her retirement from the UVA BOV – she becomes an independent and respect voice of reform of higher ed in Virginia – I’ll give her credit and kudos!

      but I’m sick and tired of the “tear-it-down-it’s a total loss” folks… we need some folks who want to repair and build… re-build – do good things.. two steps forward, etc.

  10. The finances of an institution like UVA could be described as Byzantine, but that might not be a strong enough word and a bit unfair to those Roman bureaucrats of old. I doubt very much that the reserve fund she describes is the only one, or even represents a significant fraction of the funds squirreled away in various pots – public and private, operations and foundations and endowment. Adding to all this is the state’s usual willingness to allow the schools to keep excess funds at the end of the fiscal year. I doubt anybody outside the inner sanctum knows the full picture. I doubt the president knows about it all. I doubt the Department of Planning and Budget or State Treasurer know about it all.

    • UVA is being stolen slowly, year by year, from the residents of Virginia, the people and Commonwealth that built it.

      This is a theft of monumental proportions, a hoist of the peoples heritage and cultural treasure, that includes their children’s ability to get an education, is going on under the nose of the Board of Visitors of UVA. And most everyone there, from top to bottom running the place, is silent, afraid to speak, or too self interested to refuse to play along.

  11. William H. Goodwin has just released the following statement:

    STATEMENT FROM RECTOR WILLIAM H. GOODWIN JR.

    Over the past several years, current and former members of the Board of Visitors and the University of Virginia administration have dedicated countless hours and numerous meetings to develop and implement a strategic plan and long-term financial plan that will position the University to remain one of the greatest public universities in the Commonwealth and the nation.

    Our long-term work in this regard aligns the University’s strategic goals with funding that will enable important investments in our students’ experience, faculty, academic programs, Medical Center, physical space and research infrastructure.

    All of the board’s actions regarding the strategic plan and the long-term financial plan have been discussed and voted on in public session. The monies have always been included in the University’s audited financial statements, which include the operations of the UVA Medical Center, representing more than half of the University’s operating revenues.

    I should also note that such long-term planning and financial management is prudent for any large and complex organization and is a practice the Commonwealth encourages public institutions to follow.

    I have asked the University administration to provide details over the next few days regarding our work to date on this matter and the process that is currently being undertaken by a faculty committee that has been charged with reviewing proposals by the deans.

    The University’s strong financial position will enable the University to make these strategic investments while minimizing tuition increases so that UVA continues to provide its students with an affordable, accessible and world-class education.

    We remain excited about the great strides we have taken to ensure our strong financial footing, and the great work that will continue to take place to propel the University into its third century better poised to fulfill its mission to the benefit of the Commonwealth and the nation.

    • Thank you for posting this. My first thought upon reading your post and the Times Dispatch article was about Bill Goodwin. I viewed her statements as a back handed besmirching of his tenure as Rector. It’s good to hear his side of the story. He’s one of this state’s best businessmen. I have a hard time believing he didn’t know about 2 billion dollars or that university administrators hoodwinked him and the entire BOV. His statement and today’s Times Dispatch story sheds a lot more light on these allegations.

      I suppose there are a few questions that could determine the credibility of Ms. Dragas’s allegations:

      She states that a December 31, 2015 financial report displayed these funds as operating funds. I’d like to know about previous financial statements. Did they also show these funds as operating funds? Or did they magically appear on 12/31/15? If they didn’t just “magically appear” on 12/31/15, I think she loses a lot of credibility b/c her allegation reads as if somehow university administrators were hiding this money from the BOV. If the money was on previous financial statements, and the BOV voted to transfer the funds at their February meeting, I’d love to know how that is a story or why the Washington Post would print it.

      Also, let’s assume (though I doubt it) that this money did magically appear on 12/31/15 as operating funds. Did she make any motion at the February BOV meeting to take these operating funds and use them for tuition decreases? She certainly has the authority to make such a motion.

      Also, before her Washington Post editorial: Did she talk to any university administrators or BOV members about her concerns about this “slush fund”? No backpedaling either, if you’re going to call it a slush fund to the Post with maximum outrage, did she use such terminology with university administrators or BOV administrators? My suspicion is she will say that she opposed using this money for strategic purposes. That destroys her credibility in my opinion. You can’t have a calm conversation about a transfer of funds from one category to another category and then run out in a nat’l publication and proclaim there’s a secret slush fund.

      Why didn’t she make any public comment about these funds while she was still on the BOV?

      Does she plan to run for public office?

      • I am not sure that the new Rector’s statements contradict Ms. Draga’s statement. Nor do not I believe that it answers Ms. Dragas concerns. Or my own suspicions for that matter, either. For example, the Rector’s statement:

        “I have asked the University administration to provide details over the next few days regarding our work to date on this matter and the process that is currently being undertaken by a faculty committee that has been charged with reviewing proposals by the deans. ”

        This statement is surprising. And pregnant with questions.

        I also believe that Ms. Dragas’ covers many of the concerns that you raise with regard to her conduct.

        On a related subject:

        My understanding of past events at UVA over the last 6 years leads me to believe that a great deal of power has recently shifted from the BoV over to UVA’s Administrators and/or the Federal Government. This was one fallout from the earlier removal of Sullivan Debacle that shifted power to the Administrators.

        Meanwhile the Federal Government has since then in a whole host of ways has taking power away from Administrators and Board. Paradoxically this gross and ever expanding intrusion by the Federal Gov. oversight works to vastly increase the Administrators functions, and thus it too drains power away from the Board of Visitors. Most Administrator are only too happy to milk this teat for all its worth. For them that is were the jobs, money and bureaucratic power is. Its why an ever increasing number of Administrators (in number and percentage) and Faculty too are also working directly for the Feds in practical affect on a whole array of new duties, including now to what nobody talks about – the Fed takeover of accreditation in addition to grant funding of expanding sorts of functions, as well as oversight of sexual activities and how people behave on campus, Green Initiatives, and of all sort. For Bureaucrats its mindless stuff is manna from Heaven. And for the Research faculty who now do Federal grand work on an exploding array of subjects, often now in partnership with other private and public entities who are hopping aboard the gravy train in record numbers.

        The whole thing is mind boggling, bringing profound change to America. And very few in the media or elsewhere want to talk about it, or even consider it a threat to the state of Virginia or its taxpayer, or citizens, control of their own public state institutions, or even their private ones.

        Why?

        One reason is certain types of Administrators welcome this takeover that can create a bonanza of new jobs and cash flows into their own pockets. Some hopefully now, however, are seeing this for what it is, as a Faustian bargain with the Devil giving what going on with Title IX horror show.

        The Administrators with moral courage should fear the Federal Government far more than the Board. Those without moral courage or substance will keep jumping on and riding hard what they consider to be the Federal Gravy Train with the hopes of riding off with control of UVA into the sunset of state control so as to serve the nation, the world and their new Federal political masters.

        That is where this whole mess is headed and it going slowly at first but likely is faster now. Like the Fed Takeover of Accreditation of higher public education institutions after destroy the for profit ones. And most nobody raises a peep. The Board of Visitors at UVA are rapidly becoming figure heads.

        • For those who might be inclined to a serious discusson of accreditation generally in the US and UVa in particular – its history and status to 2012, one could start with three articles on the subject published on this website, two in 2011 and one in 2012, namely:

          Who Runs UVa?
          http://www.baconsrebellion.com/2012/11/who-runs-uva.html

          The Puppet Masters of Decatur
          http://www.baconsrebellion.com/articles/2012/11/accreditation.html

          Inquisitor, Investigate thyself
          http://www.baconsrebellion.com/articles/2012/11/accreditation3.html

          After reading these articles, consider that the US President attached a supplement to his 2013 State of the Union Address that manifested his intent for the Federal Government to seize control of, and jurisdiction over, the higher education accreditation process in the United States that had been in place since the 19th century.

          Since 2013 the President has largely succeeded in this takeover, using wide variety of tools both overt and covert.

          Meanwhile, the media in the US has raised hardly “a peep.”

          The leaders of academia by and large have hopped gleefully aboard the Federal Government’s coup plot and now ride the takeover train. To date, their former masters, the Boards of Trustees of these institutions who are now being stripped of their power, acquiesce to their demise, collapse, or stand helpless before the onslaught.

          Congress as usual remains either clueless or incompetent or co/conspirators to the President’s plot. The Supreme court also remains incompetent to stop the takeover. Or it wilts before the executive coup as with so most else of the Presidents revolutionary takeover of the entire Federal Government, and states’ power under the Constitution, using a vast and clever array of political gambits.

          It is breathtaking to watch the President’s masterful display of candor and deceit that work to achieve his goals. And our own inability to see, much less understand and appreciate what is happening, and how it threatens our future. Much less halt and reverse that threat.

      • well – she said this:

        ” But to consider hoarding a multi-billion-dollar slush fund for pet projects doesn’t reflect reality. By way of example, one recent proposal suggested a $50 million program for self-care training to include journaling, meditation and yoga for nursing students.”

        and this :

        ” Governor McAuliffe and the General Assembly should make strengthening transparency and accountability a priority for the 2017 session through a few simple measures. First, they should ensure that the women and men appointed to serve our public colleges understand and pledge to uphold their primary duty to Virginia citizens. Requiring significantly more rigorous orientation and training delivered by independent, objective sources would help board members see through a wider lens than that of administrators. ”

        But I’m not sure she would have ever know about the fund had the administration not disclosed it.

        it’s not uncommon in Va for these citizen oversight boards to not only not have much expertise on things like audits and they end up being reliant on the administration to provide the data – and lots of opportunity to depict how it gets presented and what is disclosed and not.

        In the bigger scheme of things – I suspect that relationship between administration and BOV is not much different for other Virginia higher ed..

        Perhaps that’s the way the General Assembly wants it – otherwise – they could empower all BOVs to commission their own independent audits of the Universities they oversee.

        That would sure put real teeth into transparency and accountability!

  12. In her WaPo editorial – Dragas also invokes Brexit and draws parallels to Brexit from UVA “slush fund” policies.. e.g “the folks ain’t going to take it anymore”! good lord. is there no place anymore where ideology has to infest and pollute any and all issues?

    GMAB!

    I try to find a perspective from Dragas that applies to all higher Ed tuition costs and policies in Virginia – and/or something uniquely out of proportion or uniquely with UVA and over and over what I find is that she apparently has a problem specifically with UVA – on issues that have a lot of commonality with higher ed policies in general in Virginia and across the nation – namely that costs have gone up – higher than inflation coupled with the simple fact that many folks have taken financial versions of stupid pills and gone deep into debt – to pay – not just for “education” – but for rooms, food, student fees.

    People are going into debt – to pay for food. They making loan payments for decades – to pay for food they ate in college. How responsible is THAT?

    Dragas, a Conservative, if I understand her right, blames UVA specifically for policies that are really little different than a dozen or more other Colleges and Universities in Va that – while certainly problematic in terms of affordability – do not and should not “force” anyone to go into debt to pay for things like food and a room. Have folks gone nuts?

    She apparently wants UVA to do something different from other colleges and universities – but even if they did – it would not really cut costs THAT MUCH anyhow and certainly not for all other students in Va either.

    And that’s because , in my view, – it’s the debt itself that is driving the issue.

    All colleges and universities are more than happy to make it “easy” to “afford’ by gladly helping students to go deep into debt rather than encourage them to go look elsewhere for lower priced alternatives – which very much do exist – not only in the US but other countries like Germany.

    It bears an unseemly resemblance to predatory loan companies and for-profit college scams.

    The difference is – that while German offers a virtually free education -they do NOT offer free room and board or big time sports or other goodies and amenities. It’s a bare-bones but quality education and food and lodging and other non-education costs are the student’s responsibility and anyone with half a brain – should not be borrowing money to pay for food and lodging if the result of doing that is decades of paying back debt – such that it even keeps one from being able to afford to buy a home in the future.

    Anyone in their right mind – in my admittedly very opinionated view that thinks the Govt should be providing “free” room and board or “debt-free” room need their head examined – and I would have hoped that folks wo call themselves Conservatives would also take a similar stance – including Dragas – really focus on students (and parents) irresponsible financial behaviors that contribute – probably encourage colleges to charge whatever they think the “market” will bear and the awful truth is – we’ve now got a culture that says it’s “okay” to go into debt up to your eyeballs – because the govt is going to bail you out. This is little different that others who receive entitlements that Conservatives often point fingers at ….

    By the way, I DID READ her editorial and I DO AGREE with her assertion that staff costs are out of control – both in terms of numbers and in terms of actual compensation – it’s obscene – but the problem is – it’s not unique to UVA – they’re just another one of the bad boys doing what others are doing. They have a “brand” and people are willing to pay for it – to go deep into debt to pay for it – so why not add more and more employees and boost up salaries to attract the best and brightest? It’s a perfect symmetry.

    But when Dragas more or less personalizes this to UVA only – it walks and talks like a vendetta and it truly erodes her own credibility on the much more important bigger issue – when she does not link these issues at UVA with Higher Ed in general – across Va and the US.

    Finally – I’d like to ask – if Dragas has gone to elected officials to urge they consider legislation to require more open and transparent financial records as well as other legislation to address the unwarranted increases in costs over and above the inflation rate?

    Is she, in fact, a real player in the issue beyond just her angst with UVA in particular?

    Using terms like “slush fund” and Brexit makes me wonder but again, I’m more than willing to give her the benefit of the doubt – if indeed – she goes on and becomes an independent voice for reforms of higher ed in Va. God knows – we seem to have a dearth of folks willing to step into that leadership role – least of all the seemingly feckless in Richmond.

  13. re: ” Like the Fed Takeover of Accreditation of higher public education institutions after destroy the for profit ones. And most nobody raises a peep. The Board of Visitors at UVA are rapidly becoming figure heads.”

    I think if Fed money is involved – the Feds can specify accreditation criteria and certify which entities meet their standards.

    It works little different from how the Feds sets standards for roads or emergency rooms, etc.

    some folks disagree with this approach – but it’s also practiced by states aka the Dillon Rule and the Composite Index combined with SOL standards.

    There’s also some irony here because the Feds are accused of “taking over” while the State – to Dragas and others dismay, seems incapable of exercising similar control even as they provide millions in state money to UVA and others.

    So what gives? If the Feds can do it – why not the State – as Cuccinelli actually did with UVA and Mann?

    My suspicion is that the State and especially the General Assembly do not actually what people like Dragas to have that level of control – for instance to be able to commission their own forensic audits -AND have their own auditors report to them – how UVA does it finances – and from that information – make policy .

    That’s what it would take to reign in Virginia’s Universities with higher levels of transparency that then would allow true accountability to BOV and others who could then – just like the Feds – using the power of purse-strings to bring about reforms.

    This is why I say all the sound and fury and fire in Dragas belly was wasted because she really did not actually use it in powerful ways that could have effected change but instead waged a kind of a public relations jihad – that essentially undermined her own credibility as a potential reformer.

  14. For those who might be inclined to a serious discussion of accreditation generally in the US and UVa in particular – its history and status to 2012, one could start with three articles on the subject published on this website, two in 2011 and one in 2012, namely:

    Who Runs UVa?
    The Puppet Masters of Decatur
    Inquisitor, Investigate thyself

    After reading these articles, consider that the US President attached a supplement to his 2013 State of the Union Address that manifested his intent for the Federal Government to seize control of, and jurisdiction over, the higher education accreditation process in the United States that had been in place since the 19th century.

    Since 2013 the President has largely succeeded in this takeover, using wide variety of tools both overt and covert.

    Meanwhile, the media in the US has raised hardly “a peep.”

    The leaders of academia by and large have hopped gleefully aboard the Federal Government’s coup plot and now ride the takeover train. To date, their former masters, the Boards of Trustees of these institutions who are now being stripped of their power, acquiesce to their demise, collapse, or stand helpless before the onslaught.

    Congress as usual remains either clueless or incompetent or co/conspirators to the President’s plot. The Supreme court also remains incompetent to stop the takeover. Or it wilts before the executive coup as with so most else of the Presidents revolutionary takeover of the entire Federal Government, and states’ power under the Constitution, using a vast and clever array of political gambits.

    It is breathtaking to watch the President’s masterful display of candor and deceit that work to achieve his goals. And our own inability to see, much less understand and appreciate what is happening, and how it threatens our future. Much less halt and reverse that threat.

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