The Board of Visitors met Friday at the Rotunda for a meeting of the full board. University Provost Liz Magill discussed the state of student advising, and the Board heard updates from the School of Data Science and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, as well as University President Jim Ryan and Director of Athletics Carla Williams.
The Board also approved four new professorships — the Robert M. White Jr. Bicentennial Professorship in Real Estate Finance, two Batten Bicentennial Professorships in Early Childhood Education and the Philip J. Gibson Professorship in the Curry School of Education.
Magill remarked that student advising is critical to the University’s strategic plan — which aims to make U.Va. the best public university in the country by 2030 — because it supports talented students regardless of their economic status.
“We seek to provide our students with an educational experience,” Magill said. “By educational experience, I mean the air they breathe and the water they swim in — what they learn in the classroom, what they learn in the dorms, what they learn from each other [and] what they learn from all of the adults in this institution.”
Magill cited that according to the Student Experience in the Research University survey, there are gaps in “feelings of belonging” at the University, particularly among African-American and first-generation students.
“A sense of belonging is important to academic success and other measures of personal and career success,” Magill said. “Advising, I think, plays a key role in facilitating — not the only factor that does this — but in giving our students a sense that they belong.”
To address this, Magill said that a small working group will be formed. Led by sociology and education professor Josipa Roksa, the group will create recommendations on how to best measure advising success and assess the current state of student advising.
Update from the Data Science School
The Board then heard an update from Philip Bourne, the founding dean of the School of Data Science and professor of biomedical engineering. The University’s School of Data Science — the first of its kind in the nation — was established in 2017 following a $120 million donation from the Quantitative Foundation.
Bourne noted that today the School of Data Science offers both a residential and online Masters in Data Science, and has Ph.D. and undergraduate programs in progress. The school is also developing a building plan that will occupy the corner of Emmet and Ivy to house its programs.
Bourne cited some challenges that the school faces, such as competition for faculty and cultivating a diverse staff. To address these concerns, the school is looking to hire an Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Bourne remarked that because so many people are interested in the work that the data science school is doing, he isn’t too worried about the competition for faculty.
“I am so encouraged by what’s happening,” Bourne said. “We were just doing a search for biology and suddenly some of the best scientists I’ve seen want to come here because they want to work at this interface between data science and biology.”
Bourne hopes to establish both an undergraduate major and a minor in data science by 2023, but plans to have at least 18 data science courses available per academic year for undergraduate students by 2021 — he envisions a course available to all undergraduate students in data science in the future.
“The idea is to give students the notion of data literacy,” Bourne said. “That’s actually something we’re committed to in conjunction with the other schools.”
Update from the Batten School
The Board then heard from Ian Solomon, who was appointed Dean of the Batten School in September. Solomon discussed the current state of Batten and highlighted several challenges that the school faces.
Batten currently has about 350 full-time students and offers a popular major in Leadership and Public Policy as well as Masters in Leadership and Public Policy. Solomon said that Batten received roughly 215 major applications this year and was only able to offer spots to 80 students. Thus, students often turn to the minor program which, as Solomon noted, has been growing rapidly.
According to Solomon, Batten enjoys having a small faculty because it creates intimacy — however, it also means professors are constantly trying to fill “holes” in their curriculum. Additionally, because 99 percent of the school’s alumni are under the age of 40, they do not yet have a large philanthropic capacity.
Solomon said he’d like to grow awareness because the school is not yet well-known and has some catching up to do with its competitors. He also noted that while Garrett Hall is a great location, the school faces space constraints in the building that often end up limiting class sizes and events. Most importantly, Solomon feels that Batten is not as diverse as he’d like it to be.
“I am committed so that we will be diverse in background, in thought, [and] in experience for the world that we want to serve, and we aren’t there yet,” Solomon said.
Derrick Wang, fourth-year college student and outgoing student representative to the Board of Visitors, and Jessica Harris, fourth-year College student and founder of Empowered Players, had a brief conversation before the Board on student participation in public service at the University. Empowered Players is a nonprofit that helps provide arts experiences to students in Harris’ home county of Fluvanna.
Wang opened the conversation by mentioning statistics from recent Student Experience in the Research University surveys.
“Based on the data that we have from SERU … students entering U.Va. tend to have more community service experience than the average college student,” Wang said. “They are more likely to stay engaged in community service-related activities, and actually become more engaged here at U.Va.”
According to the University’s most recent reported data on SERU questions on “community engagement” participation, 45 percent of all University students participated in community service at least once in 2018.
Harris then spoke about her own experience of public service at the University, emphasizing the importance her classes held in her experience.
“Having the student-driven, faculty-supported research projects in the classroom are incredibly important,” Harris said.
Updates from President Ryan
Ryan touched on recent tuition-related legislation that is being considered, including a bill currently in the General Assembly that has the potential to offer the University money in exchange for holding tuition rates flat.
Ryan also elaborated on the University’s plans for the coronavirus, mentioning a meeting of the Critical Incident Management Team that was held Friday.
“We have implemented the Critical Incident Management Team which is our team that cuts across the University,” Ryan said. “And we are actively monitoring this.”
Ryan said that the University is considering a number of preparatory measures, including preparations of the University Health System to receive patients with the virus, and travel advisories for students, faculty and staff.
In an email to the University community Sunday night, Ryan said the University plans to resume classes March 16 after spring break, but “will be making some modifications to mitigate against the risk of exposure to and transmission of the virus, which we will explain in more detail by mid-week.”
Provost Liz Magill’s updates
Magill largely spoke on professorship funding, mentioning plans for securing funding in the future and the potential creation of a “super chair” position, one she hoped would attract professors renowned in their fields who could lift up the faculty and students around them.
A significant segment of the meeting was dedicated to a technical matter surrounding the University’s 20 rotating Research Professorships in Democracy and Equity. These professorships were created in November 2018 to combat white supremacy.
Magill explained how $16 million of the $20 million allocated to fund professorships has not been spent. After two years, the Board has the power to reallocate the funds, an action it has agreed to take.
Magill also mentioned that the University received a total of 41,000 undergraduate applications this year, the largest number of applications in its history.
Collegiate athletics, name and likeness and gambling
Director of Athletics Carla Williams explained to the Board how the NCAA’s regulations clash with paying student athletes, saying that “student athletes are students first and not employees.”
Williams explained the many implications of name and likeness deals, ranging from the ability of student athletes to publish a children’s book to their access to brand deals on items like athletic shoes. According to Williams, concerns with payment — and access to revenue from name and likeness as an offshoot of that — are largely centered around protecting collegiate opportunities for student athletes, protecting the University’s brand deals and preventing Title IX violations. As a result of the disparate attention toward male and female teams, male athletes might have a monetary advantage over female athletes playing the same sport.
“And then Title IX, you know, how does this impact our efforts to provide equitable opportunities for women in sports in higher education?” Williams said. “There are some definite conversations about how this could negatively impact our efforts in Title IX.”
University Counsel Timothy Heaphy briefly described how new gambling legislation would impact University athletics.
According to Heaphy, the Virginia State legislature is currently considering legislation that would allow intrastate gambling. The Supreme Court declared this constitutional in Murphy v. NCAA, a case that resulted from a New Jersey pro-gambling law. Heaphy and Williams expressed concerns about how legalized gambling in Virginia collegiate sports could mess with the collegiate student experience and potentially connect economic value to the private information of student athletes.
Derrick Wang’s last BOV meeting
The Board passed a resolution commending Wang, student representative to the Board of Visitors, who gave his final remarks and reflected on his time working with the Board over the past year.
“I feel optimistic about our ability to tackle pressing issues in higher education,” Wang said. “I feel that we are moving in the right direction in a lot of ways, so my hope is that the Board will hold itself accountable to the goals that we’ve set.”
Wang noted that he was most proud that this past year has been a historic year for women in leadership at the University. He cited that the leadership of every agency and special status organization for students are majority female in addition to the Chair of Honor, the chair and two vice-chairs of UJC, Student Council President, the chair of the University Board of Elections, the senior resident of the Lawn and the presidents of several CIOs.
“I am extraordinarily grateful for the opportunities that this role has given to me, both to provide perspective on critical student issues as well as learn more that U.Va. has to offer,” Wang said.
Wang’s term will end in May. The meeting marked the beginning of the transition period to the new student representative to the Board, third-year Batten student Mazzen Shalaby.