High-powered alumni lead effort to change BOV elections
Jeffrey Walker leads group pushing for new pool of BOV candidates
A group of University alumni is leading an effort to redirect the power to select some members of the University’s Board of Visitors away from the state government and to University alumni.
The Board of Visitors, comprised of 17 voting members whose responsibilities range from approving the budget to reviewing the University president’s job performance, is appointed by the Governor and approved by the General Assembly for four-year terms.
The recent push, spearheaded by the Council of Foundations at the University of Virginia, is advocating a system in which 8 of the 17 voting members would be chosen from a mixed group of candidates compiled by University alumni.
“[We need to] ensure proper representation on governing boards,” said Council Chairman Jeffrey Walker. “It is critically important that alumni, staff, students and other members of college and university communities are involved in the selection of their governing boards.”
Walker said the current selection process has increasingly distanced the Board from the University community in recent years.
“Names suggested by the various stakeholders of the University, such as the Alumni Association, were regularly ignored,” he said. “It has seemed like the Board has not been as focused on being a partner with … the University.”
Alumni, Walker said, feel the Board has failed to listen to University sponsors and supporters. “It seemed [the Board] were not working with [President Sullivan] and her administration but continually challenging her,” he said.
University administrators remain supportive of the existing appointment process, University spokesperson McGregor McCance said. “Speaking from the President’s point of view, the University has great respect for how the process has traditionally worked,” he said.
Walker said the Board began growing isolated from the Board during June 2012, during the attempted ouster and reinstatement of University President Teresa Sullivan.
“It became clear that there was very poor communication amongst the Board itself and between the Board and the rest of the U.Va. community,” he said. “Something was wrong and a change in governance and BOV culture seems to be needed.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office continues to support the current selection process, spokesperson Paul Shanks said. “The Governor has appointed highly qualified and committed alumni, business, and community leaders to the Board during the course of his administration,” he said. He also noted that the current Board has more U.Va. alumni than are currently required by state law — 13 as opposed to 12 — and that percentage was higher than many Boards at other universities.
Walker said the existing system has created very successful Board appointments in the past, but these reforms are an investment in the future. “We believe there needs to be a process in place to ensure a continuing stream of excellent talent that can work as action oriented, innovative partners identified by a system the Governor and his team put in place,” he said.