Empty chairs and empty tables

Student Council failed its constituents by missing an opportunity to take a stand against Helen Dragas

It was a weak-willed showing for the cause against Rector Helen Dragas Tuesday in Richmond. The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee proceeded by a 12-3 vote to pass Dragas’ name on to the Senate floor, where she awaits — along with the entire class of 2012 gubernatorial appointments — confirmation from the General Assembly. The resolvedly neutral Representative Body of our Student Council also faced the Dragas question at its meeting Tuesday night — and tabled it. These students, and by extension, procrastinators, decided to re-examine a resolution against Dragas at their meeting next Tuesday, an excuse that could have been avoided by more awareness and logistical planning.

Council met at Ern Commons after having failed to book its typical space in Newcomb. After leaving its members — and eventually, all students — out in the cold while the door remained locked, Council finally shepherded itself in for a meeting that barely met quorum. The incompetency was only beginning.

Neil Branch, the vice president for organizations, sponsored the primary item on the agenda: a “Resolution Petitioning the General Assembly to Reject the Reappointment of Helen Dragas to the Board of Visitors.” Branch’s document condemned Dragas and asked state legislators to do likewise by denying her re-appointment. Though Branch repeatedly urged Council to decide on this matter this week, with 6 yeas, 7 nays and four abstentions, Council voted: to not vote. The bill was tabled a week.

The core grievance asserted for why Council should wait was that the representatives were not ready. Not all graduate students were back. Constituents had to be polled; more people had to be present. These defenses were all cited as if they were something natural, unavoidable, serious. Yet, since June — when Dragas was first reappointed — every person had known that Dragas would face confirmation in Richmond come January. Council’s inability to plan for this is what is at fault here.

Word about Council’s Dragas resolution was only spread Tuesday. All through the fall, and before then, representatives could have been organizing to determine the student opinion on the reappointment of Dragas. A resolution could have been drafted with advance notice to members that the matter would be voted on Tuesday. Instead, because of its own negligence, Council missed an opportunity to show the community — or better, the media — what we students think of our rector. We haven’t forgotten her deeds or our sense of integrity.

Yet another week passes; and with it, most likely, the passage of Dragas through the General Assembly and back to the Board. Despite the protests of some of its members, Council acted too slowly. Even if it does come to a decision next week, it will have been rushed. What it could not do in a semester it won’t do in a week: its job, to represent students accordingly.

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