Senate committee votes overwhelmingly in support of Dragas
Gov. Bob McDonnell’s reappointment of Rector Helen Dragas came one step closer to approval Tuesday when the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted 12-3 in support of her nomination. The bill was opposed by Sens. Janet Howell, D- Fairfax, Creigh Deeds, D-Albemarle and Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk.
Tuesday’s vote by the Senate committee upholds McDonnell’s appointment made in June last year. Dragas’ appointment and several others still need to be approved by the full Senate and the House of Delegates. Dragas was on the docket to serve another four-year term, until June 30, 2016, along with current Board members Frank Atkinson, Victoria Harker, Bobbie Kilberg and Edward Miller. Board member Linwood Rose was appointed to serve until June 30, 2014 as successor for Mark Kington.
Third-year College student Peter Finocchio tweeted from the Senate committee room that both sides — both supporters and critics of Dragas and her attempted ouster of President Teresa Sullivan — were represented at the meeting. “There were some frustrated folks,” Finocchio tweeted. “I was surprised there were some who showed up to support #Dragas.”
Although Dragas has passed this step of the reappointment process, several more votes still stand between her and confirmation. Minority Leader Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, and Del. Stephen Landes, R-Weyers Cave, have both spoken against Dragas’ reappointment. Their voices were joined by an online petition to the Virginia General Assembly and the disapproval of many outspoken University alumni.
Faculty Senate Chair George Cohen said his organization has made a decision not to take a public opinion on Dragas’ reappointment, but will focus its energy on working with the outcome, whatever it may be.
“I think we’re focused on the long term,” Cohen said. “We want to improve the faculty relationship with the board and improve accountability.” Cohen said the publicity and attention this reappointment is attracting could be put to better use.
“I think what would be great is if the energy that people have for this case could be channeled into other things that can actually move the University forward,” Cohen said. “I’m hopeful that faculty, staff and students will continue to be involved in trying to improve University governance.”
University spokesperson McGregor McCance declined to comment.