House confirms Dragas reappointment
63-33 endorsement officially cements embattled Rector's second term
Embattled University Rector Helen Dragas’ reappointment was confirmed by the Virginia House of Delegates Tuesday in a 63-33 vote after a lively floor debate and heated opposition from members of the University community. The vote comes on the heels of the Virginia Senate’s confirmation of the rector last week and is the final hurdle between the rector and another four-year term on the University Board of Visitors.
Gov. Bob McDonnell announced June 29 he would reappoint the Virginia Beach real estate developer after the controversial attempted ouster of University President Teresa Sullivan that summer.
Despite calls for her resignation and a unanimous resolution passed by the Student Council urging the General Assembly to deny the reappointment, Dragas was met with significant support from political leaders across the state, including U.S. Sen. Mark Warner.
As the 63-33 vote indicated, however, Dragas’ reappointment was not without opposition in the General Assembly. While the governor’s appointments to university governing boards are usually approved without contest, Dragas’ central role in the Sullivan controversy prompted ten Republican delegates, including Del. Steve Landes, R-Albemarle, to join 23 Democrats in opposing the reappointment.
Del. Landes and minority leader Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, both took the floor to voice their opposition. “If we simply should rubber stamp all recommendations of the governor, why should he even submit them to us in the first place?” Toscano said. “In point of fact, we rarely overturn the governor’s recommendations. But if any situation called out for a rejection, this is it.”
Dragas was first appointed to the Board in 2008 by then-governor Tim Kaine, who currently serves alongside Warner in Washington. She was selected as vice rector in 2010, and became the first female rector in 2011.