The Board of Visitors will convene this weekend to discuss the University’s Honor system, free speech, tuition and other priorities. The meeting is the first of the academic year and the first full series of meetings for many new Board members.
The Board of Visitors — which is composed of 17 members — meets four times a year and is responsible for the University's long-term planning. The group’s meetings will take place at the Rotunda, with the expectation of the Health System Board meeting which will be located at the Boar’s Head Resort. All meetings will be live-streamed.
Governor Glenn Youngkin appointed four new members over the summer, including College and Darden alumnus Bert Ellis, previous Board member Stephen Long, Abingdon Town Council member and Education alumna Amanda Pillion and College and Law alumnus Doug Wetmore. Ellis in particular has drawn criticism from Student Council, University Democrats and Virginia Democrats for his role in bringing a eugenicist supporter to Grounds and for denying a co-sponsorship with the Gay Student Union in bringing a gay rights activists to the University.
Currently Ellis serves as the president of The Jefferson Council, a conservative group “dedicated to preserving the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.” Most recently, Ellis was recently involved in controversy over signage on Lawn room doors that criticized the University's history of inaccessibility and enslavement. Per a personal statement, Ellis was “prepared to use a small razor blade” to remove part of one sign posted by a Lawn room resident.
This meeting of the Board will also be the first for Lily Roberts, fourth-year Architecture student and student member of the Board.
During the meeting of the full board, which will conclude the weekend, members will participate in a discussion with University leadership about the Living Honor Project and recent staffing challenges.
The Living Honor Project is an initiative proposed by University President Jim Ryan and Rector Whittington Clement to aid students and alumni in learning about Honor and its role at the University following the historic vote to reduce the single sanction from expulsion to a two-semester leave of absence last spring. This was the largest change to the Honor system in its history.
At the recent Board retreat, Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis said that the University is currently experiencing historically high vacancy rates on account of linger effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and limited state funding.
Thursday afternoon, the Academic and Student Life Committee will review written reports about several University programs for students, including University Guide Service, student advising and orientation programming.
In response to some negative feedback from visiting tourists after tours with Guides, the Office of Admissions plans to create a new senior position to focus full-time on the experience of guests at the University. The office also hired an external expert to improve the guest experience, per the agenda.
The report on student advising includes recommendations made by Vice Provost Brie Gertler in June 2022 to the Board, such as providing all students with undeclared majors a faculty advisor for whom advising is a primary responsibility and adopting an University-wide advising platform. Student advising was a priority for Class of 2022 alumna Sarita Mehta, who served as student member of the Board last year.
Finally, the report on orientation details how Wahoo Welcome — the programming provided to welcome new students to Grounds after move-in — has expanded as of 2021 and will offer events programming into the semester.
The Finance Committee will consider a proposal to approve holding in-state undergraduate flat and provide qualifying students with a $690 tuition rebate. The Finance Subcommittee on Tuition voted in favor of the proposal in a meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Since February, Governor Glenn Youngkin has pressured Virginia universities to freeze tuition for the upcoming school year. The 2022-23 budget impact of this will amount to $7.5 million and will be funded through cost savings and $2.5 million in state support.
The Buildings and Grounds Committee will vote on the designs and progress of current renovation projects, such as the schematic design of the $7 million Physics Building classroom renovation and the demolitions of the University Gardens apartments. This Committee will also vote on a proposed strategic plan to improve the Darden School of Business which will create a centrally located academic hub for Darden students.
A number of construction projects are currently underway and have impacted accessibility on Grounds. Active construction sites include the Ivy Corridor on Emmett St., Alderman Library, Gilmer Hall and the road leading to Newcomb behind Brown Residential College.
The Committee will also hear several reports, including the 2021-22 Sustainability Report, a report on the implementation of Capital Program Recommendations, the 2021-22 Minor Capital Projects Report and the Historic Preservation Projects Report.
Per the University’s 2020-2030 Sustainability Plan, the Board resolves to be carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil fuel-free by 2050, reduce water use, reactive nitrogen emissions and the University’s waste footprint, increase sustainable food purchases and partner with the community in sustainable initiatives.
The Health System Board will hear written reports on the University Medical Center, School of Medicine and Nursing School. The Board also plans to review its financial package for fiscal year 2022. The consolidated financial package indicates that the actual operating income of the Health System is better for the University financially than the amount listed in the budget.
The final agenda item for the Health System Board is an endorsement of the U.Va. Health Strategic Plan, which delineates the goals of the organization.
Meetings will all be live-streamed at bov.virginia.edu/live. Detailed agendas for each committee can be found on the Board of Visitors website.