uva_fogby James A. Bacon

For policy junkies following the tit-for-tat between members of the General Assembly and the University of Virginia over the controversial $2.3 billion Strategic Investment Fund, I am providing some of the documentation underlying the ongoing reporting on the subject (such as this article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch today.)

First, a letter from Patrick D. Hogan, chief operating officer of the University, responding to a request for information from 13 members of the General Assembly.

Second, the legislators’ response to Hogan’s response.

The conflict at the moment centers on which documents the university should make available. Hogan argues that the original request was unclear and burdensome, and, further, that the university was not in possession of records belonging to the University of Virginia Investment Management Co. (UVIMCO), which manages the Strategic Investment Fund. Nevertheless, he said, the university was making every effort to comply with the information request.

The legislators were not satisfied with the response. They retorted that the solicitation of documents was not a Freedom of Information Act request, which allows various exemptions, but a legislative request. The Code of Virginia, the letter reminds Hogan, provides that “the rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia shall be at all times subject to the control of the General Assembly.”

As for the failure to turn over UVIMCO documents, the legislators said:

We find it difficult to understand why UVIMCO has been placed off-limits regarding requests for information and documents. We observe that organization is called the University of Virginia Investment Management Company with over $7 billion in assets, and exists solely for the benefit of the University. We also note that Mr. Hogan sits on its board and oversees a chief executive officer who appears to have earned over $2 million managing university funds in 2014. In light of these facts, we restate and insist on full compliance with our original legislative request….

In other developments…

Former rector Keith Martin had an op-ed published in the Washington Post defending the university administration and current Rector William H. Goodwin Jr. Much of the op-ed repeated familiar talking points, but Martin did provide new details (new to me anyway) on the origin of the Strategic Investment Fund.

To support a AAA bond rating in the face of fluctuations in the value of the endowment and political uncertainties such as the inability of the state to formulate a budget on time, UVa had to maintain 330 days of liquidity. That required UVa to set aside a large sum of money as a reserve. In large part, Martin explained, the investment income from that reserve is what will fund the strategic, university-enhancing investments.

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30 responses to “UVa InfoWars”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    The UVIMCO black-box claim is bogus. Even if you buy the premise that UVIMCO does not have to report – the actual FLOWS of between UVIMCO and UVA – ARE reportable on the UVA side.

    These UVA guys are openly contemptuous of the GA guys, eh?


    I wonder how many of them are going to grow a spine and actually do something meaningful to require transparency and accountability?

    It’s hilarious that UVA is citing FOIA exemptions to deny providing info to the GA… really?

  2. CrazyJD Avatar

    Sullivan has got to go. Way too many cock-ups on her shift.

  3. I’d be interested to know if my almas: W&M and VT are guilty of the same shenanigans. Wouldn’t be surprised …

    How to find out? What control does GA actually have?

    1. How to find out? According to LarryG, it should be a no brainer! Anybody can do it.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        ha ha ha… what I said was that if documents were already provided that one does have to do that cursory search FIRST like CR did and apparently no one else even bothered to do including all the “journalists”.

        Then I said that the GA guys have access to significant staff and agency resources who probably also have knowledge of documentation and/or where to go look for it.

        Finally -I said that the GA does create commissions and other groups like IGs to go find out – using the force of law and legislation instead of having these school staff minions tell the GA that they can’t have the info because it’s FOIA “exempt”.

        This is much ado over too many who doth protest too much because they are too lazy to do a little footwork themselves and instead prefer to blather and twaddle…

        All of these schools get significant funding from the State and the State has the right – the responsibility to REQUIRE full transparency and accountability for those monies and the fact that these GA guys don’t even seem to know what they have already required nor have the cojones to put the fear of God into these staffers who say the GA is “not entitled” to the info –

        so their response? huffing and puffing… pontification and posturing…

        good grief!

  4. http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/article_96349bb2-4f1a-5a6c-acda-677dea721645.html

    It’s as if the administration believes that by repeating the same thing over and over it will eventually be accepted as a sufficient answer. And this is probably true for general public and alums.

    I got this email today from Terry Sullivan and have to wonder who is going to ante up the last $50K for the Rotunda when clearly, they already have it:
    Dear ____:

    I am delighted to share the news that the University of Virginia is quickly approaching two important milestones. First, the Rotunda will re-open to our students this August. After two years of renovation, this iconic building will once again serve as the center of student life at UVA, with brand-new classrooms and study space and extended hours for student use. Second, we have only $50,000 remaining to meet our fundraising goal. Our original target was $50.6 million, and thanks to the support of generous donors like you and a significant match from the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are almost there!

    I invite you to make a gift in support of the Rotunda today. Help push us over our goal while advancing the most significant renovation of this building since its reconstruction in 1905.

    This project has taken four years, more than 100,000 pounds of marble, and the efforts of countless planners, managers, and craftsmen. Join us today in closing a chapter on this monumental undertaking, as we complete the preservation of this architectural treasure and symbol of our unique Jeffersonian heritage.

    Teresa A. Sullivan, President

    P.S. The link above contains photos of some of the remarkable work that went into restoring this treasured icon.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Boy – Does that speak volumes to Alumni, and Virginians generally! I recall trying to give money to my old fraternity only to be told that half of it would have to go into the Rotunda.

    2. The Rotunda is the center of student life at UVA? The only reason I ever saw the building was when I was walking from Cabell Hall to Madison Lane or Rugby Rd. I am sure it has great historical value in the middle of the academical village. But the center of student life? I rate the Virginian and the White Spot many slots higher as the center of student life. Durty Nelly’s too. Not even a wonk like Jim Bacon could have seen the Rotunda as the center of his student life.

      1. Hell, they were restoring the Rotunda when I was in school back in 1971-75!I never stepped foot inside as a student.

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Ditto, Me neither = But I lived a half block away and walked pass the damn thing needing its repairs every day to class. Nobody used it.

        Imagine paying $15 million to repair the place. I could build a 180,000 square foot first class high rise urban office building for 15 million bucks.

        1. Reed make that $50M. I remember seeing this figure at the outset of the project and thought, this is an example of poor budget/project management. The U will say that they had to bring in artisans with PhDs from Egypt to do the work and that the materials were dug from native American burial grounds and that’s why it’s so expensive. But I still can’t get to $50M. Unless it’s someone else’s money I’m bidding out.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            50 Million Bucks! That is a crime?

            In 1976 the 30,000 square foot Rotunda was restored for $2.3 million. And LIFT you are right. As I read on the internet UVA latest restoration of the Rotunda is estimated to cost roughly $50 million. This includes adding 6,000 square feet underground, bring the totat 36000 square footage involved to 36000.

            I was a managing general partner of a venture that brought and restored a downtown urban 1o story office building. When we acquired the building it had been vacant of years, inhabited only by pigeons and also open in places to the weather. On the completion of our renovation in 1980 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. It is considered by some scholars to be the old skyscraper still standing. It is serviced by twin elevators plus a central nine story staircase made of marble, wrought iron and brass. It’s upstairs offices are served as I now recall by 8 foot high windows, 52 gas fired fireplaces, and wood paneled walls throughout topped by 14 foot ceilings throughout. The first floor lobby is flanked by twin grand commercial spaces with elaborate brass storefronts that span the buildings entire facade. These spaces enjoy 20 foot high and elaborately decorated ceilings over exquisite terrazzo floors designed and installed by an Italian artisan of national reputation. Its architect the British born Alfred B. Mullet. He also designed and was architect for the State, War, and Navy Building, the largest office building in the world when completed in the Second Empire Style next to the White House in 1889. His nine story Sun building (with its 10th floor Interstate Commerce Commission Hearing Room, the first in the nation, was added later0, is regarded as one of the worlds first skyscrapers. This is due to the building;s sense of slender verticality. Made possible physically by the use of reinforcing steel this allows the building’s top floors to equal in size its bottom floors. This is made possible economically by high speed electric elevator create space at the top of the building more valuable the lower floor spaces. This a combination of innovative design, engineering and technology the changed the face and function and habitability of cities in the world forever. We took great care in the renovation of this historic game changing 45, 000 square foot office building. Our cost to renovate the building in 1980 was roughly $3.7 million including debt service. To pay $50 million to renovate 36,000 centered around a single historic room seems to me to involve an enormous wastage of other peoples money.

          2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Ran out of running room on edits. So let me get last 3rd of this right.

            A 10 floor was later added to Mullets 9 story Sun building. This upper floor comprised the first federal agency hearing room in the United State, that of the Interstate Commerce Commission. This building of Mullet’s is also regarded as one of the worlds first skyscrapers. This is due to the buildings sense of slender verticality. This is made possible physically by Mullet’s use of reinforcing steel to buttress the buildings exterior walls from top to bottom. This allows the building’s top floors to equal in size its bottom floors, a revolutionary innovation of profound consequence. This is made possible economically by the building use of high speed electric elevators that bring with them revolutionary convenience to tenants, and thus create out of thin air space at the top of the building that is substantially more valuable to those tenants than the building’s also very valuable lower floor spaces.

            Mullets combination of innovative design, ground breaking engineering and wondrous technology built into this building changed the face and function and habitability of cities in the world forever. In restoring this building we took great care in the renovation of all its historic game changing parts and its fabrics throughout its 45, 000 square foot interior spaces.

            Our cost to renovate the historic building in 1980 was roughly $3.7 million including debt service. For UVA, using its own architects, to pay $50 million to renovate a 36,000 square foot three story structure centered around a single historic room seems to me to involve an enormous wastage of other peoples’ money. Maybe that is why they waste such vast sums. It’s not their money.

      3. No, no, no — you fail to consider the REAL SIGNIFICANCE of the Rotunda to the President and the BOV: it contains THE BOARD ROOM.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Bingo – the self-importance and arrogance of these people who now sit atop a public institution that belongs to the folks they are supposed to serve and work for, the people of the state of Virginia, is simply astounding. These grifters are entrusted by the state of Virginia to educate our children.

          Dragas had it exactly right. Her disgust at eating fancy high priced catered cuisine in UVA’s board room in its new $50 Million Rotunda renovation while her colleagues make decisions and hide billions of dollars that waste the hard earned savings and earnings of all Virginia’s citizens, including those among the vast majority who can’t afford such extravagant, yet are now daily forced to pay the bills of these university bureaucrats and plutocrats, all this is surely worthy of Helen Dragas’s disgust. And ours too.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            This astounding renovation price of nearly $1400 per square foot reminds me of the Dulles Airport renovation and enlargement debacle, complete with its new underground transportation system and terminal. Let’s ferret out the cost and purpose of the newly remodeled Rotunda’s 6,000 square foot underground addition to what UVA’s “senior leaders” so smugly call their World Heritage Site.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    wow – viewing the “history” – if there was ever a money-pit – the Rotunda was one!

    Anytime someone is talking “iconic” in the same sentence with “donations” – hold on to your wallet!

    but hey 50 million in UVA dollars is chump change, eh?

  6. I’d be lying if I said that, as an out-of-state prospective student, The Lawn and its Rotunda were not key to my being drawn to UVa. And while a student, I loved using the little desks in the Dome Room to study. In the scheme of world architecture, I believe that the building should be preserved and well-cared for, like other antiquties. Because of its iconic stature, there was a hazard of heaping money toward its repair. Alums would be ashamed to let it disintegrate. But somewhere between proper care and due maintenance and “no matter the cost, must do” something irrational appears to have taken hold.

    There was another illustration Dragas gave about 3 years ago of a much more modest project, 12,000 square foot classroom building with no special labs or features, just space and a little plumbing for restrooms…$500 per sf construction cost, and a budgeted operation projection of $500,000 per year!! That’s heck of a lot of utilities, cleaning, and painting. I know some people who live in 12,000 sf homes who don’t spend $500K per year “operating” them.

    1. If it really is $50M for a 30,000 square foot building that is extraordinary, even given its age and status. That is going on $1,700 per square foot. Yes, the column capitals had to be carved out of marble, but the rest of the building certainly doesn’t have the complexity or require the workmanship the Taj Mahal or a cathedral. If I recall correctly, this is the 3rd significant renovation since the mid 1970s.

      I think the Wren building at William and Mary was renovated for a few million a decade or so ago. It is about the same size and is even older. Perhaps the Rotunda is more in need of repair, but $50M still seems like too much.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        It is far more than way to0 much. It is inexplicable.

        Those who are this day investigating the details of exactly where, how and when the $2.2 billion Strategic Investment slush fund was set up and exactly how it was siphoned off from whatever sources that were tapped int0 to feed this fund, and where, when, and how all of those monies or any part thereof went into what hands, and how they were spent and otherwise invested or disbursed and to whom and for what purposes, including who got paid and or received monies for what ever and all services, favors and trade offs were made with regard to the creation and maintenance of this fund, all of this should be investigated and judgement rendered thereon and reported on to the public.

        And the same level of detail should be used to report on how UVa could spend $50 million dollars of other peoples money on a 36,000 sq foot building. In my experience it is impossible absent Fraud, Theft, Bribe, Gross breach of fiduciary duty, or abhorrent gross negligence. UVA has some answering to do for all of this.

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        To help to explain how UVA achieved the impossible task of spending $50 million of other people’s money to restore a 36,000, 000 sq. ft. Rotunda, please note Sullivan’s recent “solicitation for more funds.”

        Here’s some text from that letter send a few day ago to LIFT and other alumni and other generous donors, namely:

        … Second, we have only $50,000 remaining to meet our fundraising goal. Our original target was $50.6 million, and thanks to the support of generous donors like you and a significant match from the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are almost there!

        … I invite you to make a gift in support of the Rotunda today. Help push us over our goal … This project has taken four years, more than 100,000 pounds of marble, and the efforts of countless planners, managers, and craftsmen …

        My friends, using “COUNTLESS PLANNERS AND MANAGERS” is not the right way to restore and enlarge an old historic building. It is instead the way you make busy work for, and line the pockets of, many bystanders whose sole contribution to the job is to waste the time and money of other people. And to do so without building any real or practical value into the job at hand or its finished product of the Building when complete.

        Hence COUNTLESS PLANNERS AND MANAGERS on a restoration project do nothing more than divert large quantities of precious time and money away getting from the job done right on time and budget.

        Instead they divert that time and money into their own pockets while they typically add nothing of value, function, and authenticity to the finished building and at the same time they hobble the proper execution of the job with needless complexity, confusion, and useless busy work.

        For example:

        This delays, interferes with, and thwarts the timely and efficient preparation of precise, risk adverse, practical and fully integrated design plans, architectural and engineering plans, and working drawing. This in turn screws up the proper sequencing and scheduling and integration and completion of the work. The various trades thus are thrown into chaos, confusion, and duplication, lost in flurries of change orders, back-fill and rejiggering of widgets. This in turn often creates new sets of endless squabbles and confusions over intent and function that multiply design and working drawing errors that in turn lead to more change orders that correct, back-fill, elaborate on or add to work already complete.

        In this manner the completed work is yet again rebooted, reconfigured, and reconstructed in a process that often like a broken marriage leads to more skeins of confusions, cost overruns, and time delays.

        In short “Countless planners and Managers” turn construction sites into Towers of Babble where chaos reins. And where work stumbles along herky-jerky in fits and starts and circles for years. Meanwhile costs go sky high. I believe this happened on the renovation and enlargement of Dulles Airport that started in 2000 and is yet to be completes. Time costs big money in construction. So does confusion and unneeded complication. And resultant lack of coordination ramps up those costs exponentially. New complex construction underneath a pre-existing historic structure ramps costs and construction risk even higher. Again this fundamental error led to billions of waste in Dulles Airport renovation and enlargement, in my opinion.

        In short these man made obstacles reap havoc among those actually doing the real work – the construction workers and trades and craftsmen and artisans that are actually tying to build something. Instead of thinking, arguing and theorizing about it or watching others work.

        One important variant on this theme is how “countless planner’s and managers” are too often deployed unnecessarily to one “FAT JOB” in order to drain funds out of that Fat Job into another job where funds are short. This fraudulent technique was almost surely how Arlington County ended up with its infamous Million Dollar Bus Stop a few years back.

        1. You are absolutely right–a project manager’s nightmare.

          Whenever the word “countless” is used in reporting matters of money or personnel we should worry. UVa needs a little more counting, pesky though it may be.

        2. CrazyJD Avatar

          I want to give another possible interpretation, though I hear what you’re saying about construction site and change orders, having tried to manage one or two of them. Is it possible that this was just a throw away line in Sullivan’s letter. Remember, she is clearly the least politically astute president of U. VA in probably a long time. Read, she’s incompetent. Given that, isn’t it possible that she just didn’t think about what she was saying, just like she has done in so many other situations.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            CrazyJD –

            My somewhat educated suspicion is that UVA’s in-house Architecture and Engineering Department working for Sullivan’s Administration is heavily involved in the Project together with perhaps members of various disciplines within its Architectural School along with perhaps a whole raft of other Undergraduate and Graduate UVa Departments and disciplines. All may be working on this Rotunda project. And, in so doing, perhaps they all are organized into an interdisciplinary research / consulting group. This would combine their expertise in archeology, historic renovations, Colonial Cultural studies such as Slave/Native American Demographic Studies , and God knows what else. And that all these scholars and would be scholars may well be working together in single purpose, but clustered, working group of joint Venturers that is especially formed to consult on this restoration of the Rotunda, all compensated on an hourly basis, milking the project.

            Teams might comprise Tenured Professors, Post Doctoral fellows, Doctoral/Masters Candidates, undergraduates, Deans, and various members of Sullivan’s Senior Staff in oversight positions.

            This is pure speculation. But it’s a trend in how to organize and profit from an elite 21st Century Research and cutting edge Liberal Arts University.

          2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            In any case a whole of people and organizations are getting very rich and having a field day milking this very fat and stupid cash cow.

          3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Here’s another example of this new 21th century practice of Milking Public Cash Cows.

            As I recall, the Dulles Airport’s renovation and expansion begun 2000, but still not yet compete, had cost some $300,0000,000 in CONSULTANT FEES ALONE by roughly 2010. The entire cost of build Dulles Airport that opened in 1962 was $100 million.

            Hence $300 million was paid out to consultants to help renovate and expand what it it took $100 million to build 40 years earlier. Meanwhile the consultants came up with a plan that has cost some $4 billion + to try to build. I say try because they are still working on it after one construction delay and debacle after another, mostly trying to renovate and enlarge the “Iconic” Terminal Building” built from the design of “world renowned architect Eero Saarinen.

            History and the culture driving history is fascinating.

            America came into its own after being forced to build vast public projects to save the world from Fascists during WWII. It was a time when American knew how to built things – great and revolutionary machines and infrastructure and learned fast how to use then to achieve world changing events benefiting all mankind.

            One of many supreme examples was Admiral Earnest King’s restoring and expanding the shattered US Navy after Pearl Harbor. He was the mastermind and driving moral force that built the world’s largest and most complex Navy and Marine Corp and deployed it win a World War at Sea in roughly 36 months.

            Earnest King did his prodigious share of this great task with little more than a handful of senior staff in DC. Did George Marshall did the same for Europe.

            See story footnotes on 2ndarmoredamphibianbattalion.com

            So why now does it now cost us billions to ruin an airport built for a faction of that cost?

            Why does it cost us a $million to built a bus stop that should have cost us a tiny faction of a $million?

            Why does it cost us $50 million and 4 years to restore a Rotunda in Virginia that cost us $2.3 to restore less that 40 years before?

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      I suspect that spending levels at UVA are lately growing wildly out of control, the $50 million on the Rotunda for one prime example. The majority of that $50 Million cost is being funded by all Virginia taxpayers. But go to UVA’s website on that Renovation and try to figure how your share of that $50 million is being spent, and why, and for what specific purposes?

      If you do try to find that information, you will discover that much specific information is hidden from you amid hundreds of pages of details that tell you about restorations that went on long long ago, and also about the details of far too long deferred maintenance that needs fixing, while what is largely ignored are the big ticket items that now likely are being done to accommodate extravagant extras – things like underground cuisine food preparations centers, high speed elevators (up 3 stories) and security tunnels and fixtures and interior decorating for high profile power events and power gatherings and entertainments fit for and modeled after the Aspen Institute but on a far more expensive scale. That description is my best guess of what $50 million renovation is mostly about and where it is headed. We will see if I am right when it opens fully to the public now said to be this Fall. We’ll see about that too.

      But even with that $50 million Rotunda, the issues are much larger and long lasting. One of the largest transformational changes that you can expect to occur at UVA if UVA gets its way is discussed generally in a column by Peggy Noonan that now appears in this weekend’s WSJ opinion section untitled “How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen.”

      I believe the UVA elites are well on their way to forsaking their fellow Virginians. I believe that UVA’s current leaders are focused on thinking like and being and acting as a global university, leaving most all Virginia Students behind in UVA’s quest to mount a far grander international stage.

      And I believe that they hope that meanwhile Virginian’s will pay much of cost that UVA must incurs to gain and play on that international stage. And will do it just like right now they are it with Virginian’s funding the great majority of the renovation of that World Heritage Site called the Rotunda. And that is why it cost $50 Million to fix up that small building. The repair and restoration of long deferred maintenance would cost a fraction of $50 million. I believe that most every dollar above that faction to fix deferred maintenance is being done for the purpose of building up image, and kind of institution social climbing, and enhancement of political and professional standing and status that UVA leaders now crave in their quest to be members of the new elite academics and administrators of a great Global University. That is why the Rotunda is no longer a National Historic Landmark. It’s a World Heritage Site. One that wants to be The Aspen Institute, and will do anything to get there.

      See also related comment at:


  7. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    You raise excellent points.

    No one appreciates good buildings, particular old buildings, and most particularly historically significant buildings, than I do. That includes especially the Rotunda which might be second only the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington in my litany of man built places that carry a deep emotional resonance for me. That is why I have a degree of anger about this. My attitude on this posts is thus directed towards towards who currently control UVA and the manner in which they do so in manner that I find highly disrespectful to the institution, what it stands for, and the purpose for which it was built and handed down through generations to serve. In my view, these people are abusing UVA. And doing it for their own advantage and wasting other people moneys in the process to gain that advantage for themselves. You can tell these sort of folks from a mile off. They never admit a mistake. They never care about anything that is not deeply involved with their perception of their own image. They never fail to remind you of their own honor and world class ambition and status as they are use the property and legacy of others in order to gain that advantage, while casting their work as using the very best practices devised to save the Globe.

    Four years ago I was strongly in Sullivan’s camp during that Dragas dust up. I was wrong. A whole cascade of events since have proven me to have been wrong, despite Dragas’s obvious mistakes.

    1. CrazyJD Avatar

      Reed, Don’t take it too hard. I was probably lucky when I called out Sullivan to some big donor alumni during the dust-up. I had the advantage of being an Auslander, I had very few preconceptions about U. Va. It seemed clear to me that Dragas was right on the money re: Sullivan had to go. Folks like Larry won’t admit it, but people who operate in the free market are better equipped to spot b.s. when they see it. They have to in order to survive. Folks like Sullivan can survive in impacted environments like a state university bureaucracy even when the s___ hits the fan. And here goes with some dandy post hoc reasoning. The proof is in the pudding: she has massively screwed up just about everything she touches, yet has survived.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Yes, I too made somewhat of a fool of myself defending her in front of several savvy Alum friends of mine who had met her on several occasions and pegged her just right from the start.

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