U.Va. academic advocacy group denounces reappointment of faculty BOV representative

The AAUP called the appointment process a ‘flagrant impropriety’

The University's AAUP chapter denounced the extension of Riley's Board term in a press release Tuesday. Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

U.Va.’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors is objecting to the reappointment of the School of Law Prof. Mimi Riley as the non-voting faculty member of the University’s Board of Visitors, the group said in a press release Tuesday. 

The chapter — a national non-profit advocacy group which fights for “shared governance” in academia — said the Board did not consult with faculty members in extending Riley’s appointment.

In a letter last month to University Rector Frank M. Conner III and Peter Brunjes, the Faculty Senate chair and a psychology professor, the chapter called on the Faculty Senate to create an “open process” for choosing a new faculty representative for the Board to be appointed for the 2018-19 academic year.

In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Conner defended keeping Riley — who was appointed in 2017 — as the faculty representative.

“We believed that during a period of remarkable transition in the University's leadership having her continued insight would be particularly helpful and appropriate,” Conner wrote. “There were other reasons, including issues of diversity, that also contributed to our decision. So our action was premised on the desire to strengthen not lessen the faculty's voice in our deliberations - which to me and other BOV members is an outcome we should all support.”

Riley agreed, saying she thinks the longer term will make her a more effective member of the Board.

“I also believe that the BOV was correct that this experiment strengthens the role of the faculty representative,” Riley told The Cavalier Daily.

The faculty member of the Board serves in a strictly-advisory role. When the position was created in 2015, the Senate nominated its most recent ex-Chair, Joe Garofalo, to serve as the faculty representative during the 2015-16 academic year. Though the Senate did not codify the practice, it nominated the immediate past chair to be the faculty member on the Board for the next two years.

In May 2018, however, the Board chose to extend Riley’s term for another year. The press release says this was done without any input from the Senate or any other faculty —  a violation of the Board’s manual, which says the representative should be picked from “individuals elected by the faculty or by the faculty senate.”

“[Riley] is not a ‘representative’ by any accepted or commonsense definition of the word, as neither the faculty nor representatives of the faculty were consulted in the selection (much less voted),” the letter says. “Hence the only fair conclusion is that there is currently no faculty representative.”

In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Brunjes thanked the AAUP for its concern but assured them that the Senate has “been in conversation with the U.Va. Board of Visitors for several weeks and are optimistic that the issue will be resolved.”

Conner said that the legal advisors had told the Board the extension was legally permissible. However, he said he is speaking with the Senate executive committee to determine a process that will “accomodate all parties.”

Riley, however, said she’s not sure about the AAUP’s demands.

“I fear that the demands stated in the AAUP letter would weaken that role or worse, possibly lead the BOV to abandon the experiment of a faculty representative entirely,” Riley said.

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