Dragas should still lose her position
University rector's actions render her unfit to remain a member of the Board of Visitors
Like all University alumni I know, I was very happy on Tuesday to see the Board of Visitors reinstate President Teresa Sullivan. The Board showed good sense in limiting the damage of a disastrous decision that it carried out for baffling reasons.
The University's leaders now profess their dedication to healing the community after this period of tumult, and, indeed, this should now be a major goal. As part of this, at the meeting where it reinstated President Sullivan, the Board of Visitors voted unanimously to express confidence in Rector Helen Dragas, whom the Board described as being "vilified" in a "vitriolic" environment for having played the lead role in Sullivan's abortive ouster. Sullivan herself has insisted, graciously and correctly, there is no more time for hostility.
The uncomfortable thing, though, is that Gov. Bob McDonnell still has to decide before July 1 whether he will appoint Dragas to serve another term on the Board, and reappointing her would still be a farce. I trust I will not be accused of vitriol, vilification or hostility when I note that Dragas has had the most disastrous tenure of any rector anyone can remember - and, indeed, led the University into what some knowledgeable people have assessed as one of the greatest unforced errors in the annals of U.S. higher education. Dragas' disaster was fully of her own making. And notwithstanding Sullivan's reinstatement, the University's reputation seems seriously damaged.
Everybody makes mistakes. Much of the time mistakes can be forgiven. This may be how we should think about the other Board members, who - with the obvious exception of the three members whom Dragas and former Vice-Rector Mark Kington are known to have excluded - clearly did too little to prevent a plot that should have set off any Board member's fiduciary alarm bells. But people who lead in making such serious mistakes, and do so with such purposefulness, cannot be retained in their positions.
No one should deny Dragas' ability to contribute positively as a part of the University community as it moves forward from this episode. There is a place for her to do this as an alumna, but not as a member of the Board. And while McDonnell has also decried the alleged vitriol against Dragas, I must trust that he cannot seriously be considering reappointing her. Tuesday's meeting would have been a graceful time for Dragas to announce that, as part of the healing process she described, she would not stand for reappointment to the Board. Absent this, the only sensible thing for the governor to do is let her know her time is up.
Michael Slaven is a 2007 College graduate and former editor-in-chief of The Cavalier Daily.