House subcommittee advances Dragas reappointment
The appointments subcommittee of the Virginia House of Delegates’ Privileges and Elections Committee voted Thursday morning to confirm University Rector Helen Dragas to her second term on the Board of Visitors.
Student Council Vice President for Organizations Neil Branch drove to Richmond to attend the meeting, where he voiced his concerns about Dragas’ reappointment.
“I think it’s important that Student Council already made a strong statement in reaction to the events of the summer, but it’s different for me to address the delegates directly,” Branch said. “I wasn’t nervous [when I was speaking] because I firmly believe in what we are doing, and my personal resolution hasn’t changed through the entire process.”
In his speech, Branch vehemently opposed Dragas’ reappointment, pointing to similar opposition from 89 percent of the University’s student body, as found by a recent Council online poll.
Though Council passed a unanimous resolution last Friday calling for the General Assembly to block the reappointment, legislators in Richmond have shown no signs of changing course. Dragas was officially reconfirmed Monday by the Senate with a 29-9 vote.
Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Albemarle, said the University needs the Board to change its image to move forward following the ouster and reinstatement of University President Teresa Sullivan.
“Somebody needs to take responsibility for what happened at U.Va. this past spring,” Deeds said. “Dragas is the perpetrator and the instigator, and to restore trust I believe she needs to be removed. Unfortunately, I’m in the minority.”
Deeds voted against Dragas’ reappointment after hearing vociferous opposition from voters inside and outside his constituency. He said the resolution Council passed condemning Dragas reinforced his previous opposition, although he did not know how the statement affected his colleagues.
“This is probably the number-one issue people have communicated with me since last spring,” Deeds said. “It’s high up on my agenda, but I don’t know how high a priority it is for people who don’t represent the Charlottesville area.”
Susanna Nicholson, an active alumna in University affairs who attended the subcommittee hearing, said in an email that many delegates on the Privileges and Elections Committee did not recognize Dragas’ opponents’ concerns. Nicholson said she was troubled by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ review of University governance in the wake of the controversy surrounding this summer’s administrative scandal.
“I came to that subcommittee meeting seeking a hearing that will help bring us in compliance with SACS’s request to analyze this event and learn from our mistakes,” Nicholson said in an email. “I didn’t get that.”
The pending reappointment will go to full committee Friday morning. Dragas’ reconfirmation is expected to become official as early as Tuesday once the entire Virginia House of Delegates votes on her appointment.