Student Council delays decision to take position on Dragas

Resolution petitioning legislators to deny rector's reappointment is tabled by StudCo members


Student Council’s representative body voted Tuesday evening to table tentatively a resolution on Rector Helen Dragas’ reappointment, citing a lack of appropriate representation and a wish to check in with constituents before taking action.

The body voted 6-7, with four abstentions, not to vote on the resolution at this time. The resolution, sponsored by Council’s Vice President for Organizations Neil Branch, would petition the Virginia General Assembly to reject Dragas’ reappointment to the University’s Board of Visitors.

“I think [the body] voted in good conscience,” Branch said. “The vote wasn’t a tactic to delay legislative procedure — everyone honestly wanted to [better] gauge the people they represented.”

Many representatives also were hesitant to take action without representation from certain schools. The Law School and the Darden School have not yet reconvened for the spring semester. Most members of the body indicated they would look favorably upon a decision by Council President Johnny Vroom to call a special session later this week.

“We did so much work over the summer [to address the leadership crisis], it would be a shame to not address issues stemming from the summer that are taking place right now,” Vroom said. “It’s ultimately our responsibility to improve the student experience, and I think this is an extension of that.”

The postponement of a vote came as a disappointment to many members, who viewed Council as having a limited window to voice an opinion on the matter. A Virginia State Senate committee voted Tuesday to continue Dragas’ reappointment process, deciding 12-3 to move the nomination to the Senate floor.

“I think we failed to represent the sentiment of the student body today,” third-year College representative Eric McDaniel said. “The concern for not taking a vote tonight was that not all constituencies were present, but I feel very comfortable that a majority of students [within the University community] would prefer someone new to take her seat.”

Graduate Arts & Science representative Adam Lees saw the body’s decision to table discussion as evidence of the organization’s weakness.

“This is the unfortunate side of deliberations,” said Lees, who is also Co-Chairman of the Bylaws Reform Committee. “They often lead to nothing, instead of a stance for or against. Student Council has had its voice drowned out [on the Dragas issue] by those who have voiced their opinions through other means.”

A special session of the representative body could be called as soon as Thursday.

The resolution would commend state legislators, such as Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, who voiced opposition to Dragas’ reappointment. Howell has publicly stated she doesn’t believe Dragas fully understands the implications of her past actions.

The resolution also cites Dragas as the catalyst for many University issues, mentioning the Faculty Senate’s June 17 resolution of no confidence in the Board of Visitors and the University’s jeopardized academic accreditation.

“We are at a University that prides itself on trust, on openness, on honesty,” Branch said during the meeting. “No one can stand up here and say the events of this summer abided by these values.”

Branch was confident the resolution will pass should the body be called to a special session.

“We are trying to restore trust between the community and the Board of Visitors, and to do that we need a Board that doesn’t include Helen Dragas,” he said.

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