StudCo passes resolution urging General Assembly to deny Dragas confirmation
Student Council voted unanimously Friday afternoon to pass a resolution petitioning the Virginia General Assembly to reject University Rector Helen Dragas’ reappointment to the Board of Visitors.
A few days after the Council vote the Virginia senate voted with a clear majority to confirm Dragas, 29-9, despite student protest. She now awaits confirmation by the Virginia House of Delegates.
The resolution, sponsored by Council’s Vice President for Organizations Neil Branch, a third-year Batten student, petitions Gov. Bob McDonnell and members of the state legislature to “reassert the honor and community of trust at the University of Virginia” by not reappointing the rector to the Board.
“We need to make sure our voice is not lost in Richmond,” Branch said.
Council members sent out a survey Thursday to students in nearly all University schools, with the exception of schools that had not yet resumed classes.
The College of Arts & Sciences survey reported 88.1 percent of 1194 student respondents were opposed to the rector’s reappointment.
“Particularly having this quantitative data from the student body, we can say we are representing the student body,” said Eric McDaniel, Council’s director of University relations. “We really do have a clear majority of students saying we don’t want her reappointed.”
Some Council members expressed concerns about response bias and a lack of accurate representation of student opinion in the results.
Council’s time was limited, Student Council President Johnny Vroom said. “With the time and resources that we had, I did think we did the best that we could,” Vroom said. “We could sit here and nitpick for hours.”
Council’s representative body had voted Tuesday evening to table the resolution, citing a need for appropriate representation and a desire to gauge student opinion.
At Friday’s meeting, other representatives pushed back on doubts about whether Council should take a stand, saying such questions were a way of avoiding responsibility and bad press. “You [Council] have had seven months!” Graduate Rep. Adam Lees said. Lees called it “disgusting” that Council members had not yet stated an opinion on Dragas’ reappointment.
Community members also urged Council to come to a decision. “I think it would be a disservice to the spirit of student self-governance if no opinion or decision was made on this issue,” said Honor Committee Chair Stephen Nash, a fourth-year College student..
Council voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, with two abstentions — from College Rep. John Woolard, third-year College student, and from Representative Body Chair Alex Reber, fourth-year Engineering student.
“We’re not an island,” McDaniel said. “We are a University of self-governance and we cherish that. People will listen to us.”