Share

McDonnell bucks critics, reinstates Dragas at U.Va.

|
Local,Steve Contorno

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell reappointed the embattled leader of the University of Virginia's governing body despite repeated calls from the campus community to replace her.

Rector Helen Dragas will serve another four years on the Board of Visitors despite her leading role in a secret effort to force out university President Teresa Sullivan, a move that sparked two weeks of protests and tumult on the state's flagship campus.

"This is not a time for recrimination," McDonnell said. "It's a time for reconciliation."

The reappointment of Dragas, whose term expired Sunday, indicates McDonnell shares the rector's views on the issues that caused the conflict with Sullivan and ultimately led Dragas to seek Sullivan's ouster. Among those issues was the need to step up fundraising at the school.

"Dragas' serious critique of the challenges facing the university is a voice that must be heard, and can help in ensuring U.Va. remains one of the world's foremost institutions of higher learning," McDonnell said.

Dragas was appointed in 2008 by then-Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, and elected rector in 2011.

U.Va.'s Faculty Senate dropped its call for Dragas to resign once Sullivan was reinstated. But law professor George Cohen, the group's chairman, said trust issues remain with Dragas.

"We ought to follow the president," Cohen said. "As long as she feels she can work with the rector, we're going to do the best to follow her lead."

Dragas and Sullivan expressed a willingness to work together despite a deep divide in governing philosophies.

"Each of us on the board looks forward to working in a constructive and inclusive way with President Sullivan, along with students, faculty, alumni and staff on tackling the broad challenges that face the university," Dragas said.

McDonnell did try to address one criticism Sullivan's supporters had of the board: that it was too business-oriented. The governor created two advisory positions and appointed former board member William Goodwin and former U.Va. administrator Leonard Sandridge to "assist the university in solving strategic and communications challenges."

The General Assembly added a seat to the U.Va. board this year, expanding it to 17 voting members. In addition to Dragas, McDonnell made five other appointments to the board.

The appointees include Frank Atkinson, of Hanover, a former adviser to ex-Gov. George Allen; U.Va. Alumni Association Chairwoman Victoria Harker, of McLean; Northern Virginia Technology Council President and CEO Bobbie Kilberg, of McLean; and Dr. Edward Miller, former CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Board member Robert Hardie was eligible for another term but was not reappointed.

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment