Board of Visitors selection linked to political donations
Individuals donate millions to gubernatorial campaigns, political action committees
Fifteen of the 17 current Board of Visitors members contributed to the campaigns of the governors who nominated them, reflecting a statewide trend of political contributors being placed on public university governing bodies, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.
“The University of Virginia Board of Visitors is one of the most competitive boards in the Commonwealth and it currently consists of 13 U.Va. alumni out of 17 seats,” Gov. Bob McDonnell’s spokesperson Paul Shanks said in an email.
Of the 15 Board members who donated to gubernatorial campaigns, 14 donated to McDonnell’s. But Shanks denied any causal link between financial support and appointment to the Board.
“The vetting process for potential board members consists of reviewing their professional and personal qualifications and determining their commitment to helping lead these schools,” he said. “Nothing else is considered or of interest.”
Doubts about the gubernatorial-dependent selection process have led individuals to question the method of appointment to the Board. “Personally, I like the idea of our alumni electing several Board members via a competitive vote managed by the Alumni Association,” Politics Prof. Larry Sabato said.
There are no plans to change the selection process for the Board, despite recent proposals like those by University alumnus Jeffrey Walker. “The system is the will of the voters,” said Kirsten Nelson, spokesperson for the state council for higher education in Virginia. “It’s up to Virginians to decide what they want.”
University spokesperson McGregor McCance said the University respects the current Board member selection process.