Dragas shrugged: Defiant rector hires PR firm

With the UVA Faculty Senate formally requesting her resignation and a Board of Visitors meeting with ousted President Theresa Sullivan slated for Monday afternoon, the pressure's on for UVA Rector Helen Dragas to pull a rabbit out of a hat. But even her possible status as the most despised woman in Virginia doesn't appear to be bending her will. At least not yet, as she's hired one of the nation's priciest PR firms to help her manage the crisis.

"She's burnishing her image," says a source familiar with the hire, estimating the firm, which specializes in crisis management– New York City-based Hill & Knowlton Strategies– will carry a pricetag of $50,000-$100,000 to be paid out of a UVA-affiliated foundation.

"Think how many students that could help," says the source.

Perhaps emboldened by her frequent contacts with billionaire donor Paul Tudor Jones and her career developing houses and shopping centers in Hampton Roads, 50-year-old Dragas has demonstrated a steely resolve in the face of immense public backlash and seems unwilling to change course, even as the chorus of critics has ballooned to include former UVA presidents Bob O'Neil and John Casteen, State Delegate David Toscano, and the widows of two other billionaire UVA donors– Hunter Smith and Jane Batten.

"We can, and will, recruit a stellar new president," Dragas writes in a defiant statement emailed to faculty on Sunday, June 17, again justifying the secrecy around the ouster as a "confidential" personnel matter. Sources, however, indicate that Dragas confers frequently with Connecticut-based hedge manager and UVA donor Paul Tudor Jones. But rather than acknowledging the billionaire's influence, first revealed by the Hook, Dragas claims in the memo that it was faculty pressure for raises that helped prompt the firing.

"We also expect that our next leader will help secure the resources and set clear priorities to incent and reward excellence through faculty salaries, support, and sustenance of an engaging and rewarding academic environment," she writes.

One prominent political strategist suggests that Dragas, who was appointed to the board by Governor Tim Kaine in 2008 but elected Rector by fellow board members under Governor Bob McDonnell, needs to manage her fledgling public image quickly or risk permanent damage.

"A week ago, I thought Ms. Dragas had a good chance to be the state's first female governor," writes that strategist, Paul Goldman, on his blog, Bluevirginia.us, explaining how a successful run for lieutenant governor would have positioned Dragas, who also serves on the board of Dominion Resources, effectively for higher office.

"Ms. Dragas had the whole package," Goldman writes. "She was a rising star in my view. A week ago that is."

In an interview in a Darden School publication given prior to her appointment to the rectorship, Dragas says she's known for a "healthy amount of fundamental common sense coupled with relentless tenacity."

That tenacity is sure to be put to the test in the coming days, as she'll have to decide whether to acquiesce to calls for her resignation– including a blunt Monday morning demand by the UVA Faculty Senate's executive committee– or soldier on through swelling outrage.

Many of the business titans behind the Sullivan ouster take solace in their expertise, and like the hard-charging protagonist in the über-free-market bible, Atlas Shrugged, Dragas has a track record of pure capitalism, relying not on governments but the free markets as she develops real estate for eager buyers.

One thing Dragas doesn't avoid is the largesse of the corporate world. For serving on the board of one publicly-held company, Dragas earned nearly $200,000 last year. The most recent proxy statement for Dominion Virginia Power, which is run by a former UVA rector named Thomas Farrell (who was paid $14 million last year), shows that Dragas took home $198,000 in 2011 for attending board meetings. Fellow Dominion board member Mark Kington– her closest companion in the quest to oust Sullivan– was paid $215,000 for serving on the Dominion Board.

The UVA board, however, has always been a volunteer post and, in recent memory, a plum for campaign donors. On the delicate question of how Dragas won appointment to board four years ago, public records show that she donated just $1,000 to the man who appointed her, Tim Kaine.

UVA's top pundit, Larry Sabato, notes on Twitter, that regardless of who appointed her, the current governor Bob McDonnell will soon "own" this controversy, which, Sabato contends, has damaged UVA's reputation and rankings.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch notes the UVA Board spent $258,176 on its search for Sullivan. How much Dragas and Kington cost the school's reputation will be sorted out in the days ahead.

Correction: Helen Dragas was elected rector by fellow board members in 2010, not appointed rector by McDonnell.–ed

 

 


 


This story is a part of the The ousting of a president special.

88 comments

G'bye, dragas. Your 15 minutes is almost up.

Here is a new word for your modest vocabulary:

Insicrievious. adj. An individual who steadfastly refuses to admit being in the wrong, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Dragas should be compelled to pay for her own damn PR needs -- out of her own damn pockets. Stop sucking the blood out of UVa, you miserable wretch! The gall of these jackasses. When does it stop?

Seriously? Why are we all being held hostage by this one woman's grand plan?

Long live Dragas! Hold your ground!

It is comical to hear a real estate person who inherited Daddy's company try to pin the firing of Sullivan on "faculty compensation," as though Sullivan was treating the academics similar to how Dragas's company treats workmen on her construction sites. It is equally humorous to post Dragas as "pure capitalist who relies on the free market." Really? well, then let's do the following to truly let the market decide: a) do not allow illegals to work on construction sites; b) remove any tax incentives companies like Dragas (or developers) receive. Dragas, I am sure, gladly sucks up at the trough of government incentives. Look, I am a capitalist, but I tire of hearing these types calling themselves pure capitalists and then running to the government for tax breaks and incentives.

This whole UVa controversy really is centered at the confluence of universities as academical entities versus universities as trade schools. Dragas and her band of overfed slobs believe in the trade school model; not sure if Sullivan believes in the same model (doubt it).

Fundamentally, I do agree that--if we are going to pose schools as true halls of learning (i.e., the lofty model)--then there needs to be radical change in the makeup and selection process for BoV members.

R.I.P.: John Maynard Keynes and Joey Ramone

What are you, 13 years old?

Darth Dragas's attempt to win faculty over to the Death Star by promising a little salary increase to sell out all their ideals I think will fail.

But spending UVa money to burnish her image? Smart.

To add to Liberalace's astute observations regarding Dragas' penchant for living off (corporate) welfare, also note that the bill for PR-damage-control following her monumentally bungled power-grab is going to be paid by...a UVa-affiliated foundation. "Trust me because I am a Superior Businessperson with my very own MBA and please don't notice that I made complete and total hash of firing Terry Sullivan! Really, I have things 'well in hand,' as my recently-disappeared friend Peter Kiernan liked to say!" I mean, what is this--amateur hour? THIS is how you "manage" things?

A "UVa-affiliated foundation:" follow that money trail, please; I'd bet it leads back to Paul Tudor "Allow Me to Interpret Jefferson's Legacy For You Little People" Jones. Thanks for the basketball arena and the yoga center, Paul--now can you please f*ck off back to your fortified compound in Greenwich, CT?

Explain to me why the income of BOV members is relevant to this article? Or is this just an attempt to push the "anti-rich" agenda of BHO?

Dragas isn't going to Canossa to satisfy the petulant demands of an entitled elite w/ an overinflated sense of its own importance. She's going to stand her ground against the faculty barbarians at the gate and retire honorably in a couple of weeks having effected more change for the better at the university in a few short weeks than any lifetime faculty member ever could hope to do.

Damn, this makes me mad!!! My next donation to UVA will come with conditions attached--"these funds are not to be used for PR expenses." And believe me, we give enough of our hard-earned money to UVA, through the College of A&S, the McIntire School, and various athletic foundations. Ms. Dragas--you stepped in the mess, you use your own funds to clean it up, not mine.

Bartleby: "faculty barbarians at the gate."

You're confused. Since Dragas is outside the university (a "visitor) then standing her ground at the gate implies that the faculty wishes to charge off campus and occupy prime condo-developing land in Virginia Beach. This I think is unlikely.

Furthermore, a "barbarian" is simply someone who speaks classical Greek. Because Dragas wishes to eliminate that language from campus, then she's obviously the bar-bar, isn't she?

"At first, Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing. As if long famishing for something to copy, he seemed to gorge himself on my documents. There was no pause for digestion. He ran a day and night line, copying by sunlight and by candlelight. I should have been quite delighted with his application, had he been cheerfully industrious. But he wrote on silently, palely, mechanically."

oops, doesn't speak classical Greek!

"It is comical to hear a real estate person who inherited Daddy's company try to pin the firing of Sullivan on "faculty compensation," as though.."

Maybe she is successful because she can make tough decisions? tsk tsk tsk.
Sometimes manager are let go simply because they do not fit in. I know that is a shock to some of you but true.

@jeezlouise: it's "a shock" to no one. What is shocking is the arrogance of Dragas, Kington, Kiernan et al. in treating a public university like their own private company.

Apparently that PR firm is hard at work! Look at all the obviously planted statements of people who are coming out in support of her. Either that's what $100k will get you--trolling on The Hook's message board--or these supporters really are myopic and would rather live with their head in the sand than get the truth. At this point, I'm not sure how I feel because the board has said nothing. But they have inflicted great damage to one of the country's best public universities and one of the main employers in this area. Let's just get the truth out there.

Meanwhile, well done Hook. You're the only local--and really, national--paper actually digging deeper and deeper into this. Keep going.

Would someone at The Hook please report asap on what these f**khead BoVs are up to in the Rotunda?

"@jeezlouise: it's "a shock" to no one. What is shocking is the arrogance of Dragas, Kington, Kiernan et al. in treating a public university like their own private company."

So isn't it the job of the BOV to hire and fire people for that position? What difference does it make what the reasoning is? It doesn't. Think man think.

If this is about "tough decisions" then when do we get to find out what decisions the board wanted Sullivan to make that she wasn't prepared to? If there really are principles at issue here, a "philosophical difference" if you will, then the people who wanted Sullivan out need to articulate those principles soon. And in detail. I'm sure that successful business people like Ms. Dragas understand the concept of "buy-in."

David Toscano is not a "State Congressman." There is no such thing. He is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

"What difference does it make what the reasoning is? It doesn't. Think man think."

Maybe try your own advice. It matters what the reasoning is because just as the president is accountable to the Rector and the Visitors, the Rector and Visitors are accountable to the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. That's why they're appointed by the governor instead of some secret society. That's why they are supposed to be subject to the Commonwealth's public meeting laws.

A question to "To Poor Journalism": Are you, by chance, an intern at Hill & Knowlton, posting here to boost your client's plummeting public image?

For all of you interested in the strategic dynamism of the English language, this cutting-edge non-word from the Rector:

"We also expect that our next leader will help secure the resources and set clear priorities to incent and reward excellence"

"Incent"? Get some tutoring, Helen Dragas. Your language and communication skills leave quite a bit to be desired.

PS: Hope you enjoyed the little demonstration we university folk just put on for you. Message: There's a stagecoach leaving at sundown. Be on it.

Seriously, won't this whole weird episode be quite the case study for future MBA students? Let's analyze what went right and what went wrong from the BOV's perspective.... First it was, er, well in hand, and then someone dropped it. If TJ were alive today he'd be (a) really old; and (b) exasperated and perhaps intent on picking up his colonial-era marbles and heading somwhere else to start another academic institution. Just wrap it up already and go about the business of being the best state u out there. Harvard will always be Harvard. Write it a thousand times, remember it, and leave it alone. Bloom where you're planted.

And "jeezlouise," too. A PR flak who's here to earn her company's $100,000 fee.

I am sickened by what is happening to my University. And my heart is breaking.

There is a special place in hell for people like Helen Dragas and Mark Kington ... and anyone else involved in this little palace coup.

So which part of a legal emergency meeting did you miss Michael?

Here is a suggestion.

Why don't you go straight to the source and ask why she was fired? If she does not tell you then you may wish to drop the issue.

"And "jeezlouise," too. A PR flak who's here to earn her company's $100,000 fee."

No J but the suggestion to Michael goes for you also. Go straight to the source.

It is funny how many pro-Dragas comments are coming out of the woodwork since it was announced that she'll be spending gobs of taxpayer money on a fancy PR firm.

"So which part of a legal emergency meeting did you miss Michael? "

You mean the one that came AFTER the decision was already made? Just as the President is accountable to the Rector and the BOV, the Rector and the BOV are also accountable. To the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. That is, to us. So no, nobody has to drop the issue until the question is answered.

Louise -- or whatever your name is on your door/cubicle at Hill & Knowlton -- this is NOT about one person getting fired as president of the University.

This is about the process by which it was done, the secret meetings with individual Visitors to circumvent Virginia FOI laws, the conniving, the politics, the money and the dirty dealings that went into this whole affair.

Now go back into your cubbyhole at Hill & Knowlton and allow those of us who care about and love this school to carry on the fight.

Helen Dragas, Kington, Kiernan and anyone else involved in how this went down are an embarrassment to Mr. Jefferson's University. An absolute embarrassment.

And now, the folks at ACTA -- the America Council of Trustees and Alumni, the super-conservative trustees group cofounded by Mrs. Dick Cheney -- is weighing in with its platitudes for the Dragon Rector:

*************************
Good morning—

The ousting of President Teresa Sullivan at the University of Virginia has dominated the news in recent days. Faculty, students and the administration are expressing outrage at Sullivan’s departure. But there is one piece to the story that is yet to be told: The UVA Board of Visitors is finally stepping up and making tough decisions that are in the best interest of the university community.

The old paradigm of asking for more money from the state and raising tuition costs will not ensure success at UVA. Administrators must be innovative to provide a high quality education at an affordable price. Likewise, the board members have an inherent responsibility to ensure that the UVA president is working toward the same academic and financial priorities. If the president has a different vision than that of the board – which is obligated to work on the behalf of students and taxpayers – tough decisions must be made.

Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, offers a perspective that is yet to be fully explored. Below is an open letter to the UVA Board of Visitors.

Contact:

Anne Neal

President, American Council of Trustees and Alumni

(202) 467-6787

OPEN LETTER

TO THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA BOARD OF VISITORS

June 18, 2012

Dear Rector Helen Dragas and Members of the Board of Visitors:

Higher education is on a collision course.

Student debt exceeds credit card debt. Tuition is increasing at a faster rate than even health care. Studies show more than a third of students learn virtually nothing in four years of college.

Something’s got to change.

That’s why ACTA supports a board’s right to replace a university president if the members believe he or she is not working in the best interest of the institution. In a statement released to the public, Rector Dragas said that the trustees simply could no longer accept a “model of incremental, marginal change” in a time of challenging economic demands. She’s right.

It used to be so simple – demand more state money, raise tuitions. But the economic downturn has changed all that, requiring responsible trustees to explore new ways to provide excellent and affordable higher education.

Of course, change is never easy. And faculty and administrators are up in arms. But it bears noting that these are the same folks who have, for decades, resisted cutting costs and providing accountability to the public they serve.

While surveys show that the public believes universities can do more and better with less, administrators simply don't agree - reflexively asserting that quality requires more money. For them, enough is never enough. Indeed, in a survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, almost four out of five presidents think higher education is giving value for the dollar spent.

Of course, it is that kind of thinking that is the problem. And it’s the kind of complacency that trustees must be able to pinpoint and change. The board members no doubt took a look at distressing trends at UVA including spiraling tuition increases, administrative bloat, deplorable graduation rates at Wise and diffuse curricula.

The president’s operating budget for 2012-13 asked for 4.2% more than last year. A board concerned with spiraling costs could simply not continue with a president who was basically approaching business as usual.

The same uninspired approaches to higher ed are not good enough. If institutions want to remain strong, their trustees are going to have to demand leaders who are innovative and imaginative. If the president is not moving in the same direction, then difficult decisions must be made.

So, far from bemoaning the trustees’ action, it’s time to praise them. Too often boards have been nothing more than rubber stamps. It’s time for trustees around the country to take note and follow suit. UVA is far from alone; the economic challenges it faces are small compared to those facing states such as California. But if the trustees stay the course, the university will be better off for their efforts.

Let us hope that the UVA trustees have started a trend – a trend of engaged and courageous trustees who understand that today’s economic reality demands a new paradigm of effective and innovative leadership. Students deserve nothing less.

Sincerely,

Anne D. Neal

President American Council of Trustees and Alumni

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities. Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives a philosophically rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

It would be nice if someone at the Hook were able to check the IP addresses of the anti-Sullivan posts (the ones who out of nowhere are implying that Sullivan has something to hide, which is a suggestion that no legitimate news organization has found any evidence of, which tells me its bullsh1t) and determine how many of them are coming from Hill & Knowlton.

So one of the first things Hill & Knowlton did was contact their good friends ACTA and get a PR-approved letter endorsing the BOVs power grab. Now, from the letter, it appears that Ms. Neal doesn't know anything at all about the measures President Sullivan had already put in place to reduce costs, make departments more responsible for their budgets, etc. But that's okay--she's a hack spouting a Tea Party line.

I do like, however, the bit where Neal's letter criticizes university administrators (in general, en masse) for asserting that quality costs money. I wonder if Hill and Knowlton, who consider themselves the premier PR firm in the country, discount their fees out of a sense that a high quality product shouldn't have to cost a lot. I have a feeling that Hill and Knowlton instead thing "enough is never enough" when it comes to what they demand for their services. And yet a top-flight university education shouldn't require much investment from the public, no, of course not.

I'm bemused by the PR flaks' contention that it is the job of the Board of Visitors "to fire people." Perhaps, like bane capitalists, they think one should "like" that activity, that it is a mark of success rather than a mark of the failure of the folks doing the hiring in the first place.

The Board unanimously hired a new President who was doing an excellent job with the full support of the entire university, and two years in to a five year contract a cabal within the board decided to damage the university.

It's obvious: VT moles!

To quote William Shakespeare: "These people are filth."

Hoolarious: The entire ACTA op/ed is riddled with generalizations, overstatements and misstatements of fact.

I immediately responded to the ACTA flak who emailed the thing, pointing out just three ... THREE ... problems in one sentence in one graf.

Do I expect to hear back from him? Don't make me laugh.

their compensation is relevent because they can afford their own PR expenses.

Anne Neal is not an academic and is known for her right-wing stances (writes for National Review, among others; has appeared on Faux news) and is married to a conservative republican Congressman. We know how conservatives feel about universities--cesspools of liberals. I don't believe anyone on the board of ACTA is an academic, just more businessmen, so no wonder ACTA is buying into the Dragas view of what a university should be. And yes, it was founded by Lynn Cheney.

And speaking of the Hill & Knowlton flaks who mysteriously popped up on here trying to sing the praises of the Dragon Rector ... anyone else notice that, as the hour of 5 o'clock chimed ... they all disappeared?

And I bet tomorrow morning, 'round about 8:30 or so, they'll reappear.

With a break for lunch about noon.

Pitiful, Ms. Dragas. Just pitiful.

Please stop insisting that Dragas is using "taxpayer dollars" to hire a PR firm. If you guys read as well as I do, you'll see the $ is coming from a PRIVATE foundation.... it just makes you seem so ignorant to rant about such a thing... it is not TAXPAYER dollars. It isn't YOUR money, unless you donated your own money to that foundation. Geez.

To Underhoo -- do you know the foundation from which the funds are going to be withdrawn? I'd surely like to know, as I'm sure would others. If it's any UVA Fund, those of us alum and family have a right to know and to request that our funds not be used accordingly.

Dragas' PR-penned statement said, "there is not one single person on earth whose interests we would ever put above those of the thousands of stakeholders entrusted to our care. Not one President, not one administrator, not one faculty member, and certainly not one donor."

Compare that claim with the evidence of Paul Tudor "yoga+basketball=top-flight university" Jones's very eagerly approving Op-Ed in the DP the other day--one donor who tripped over himself to put a smiley-face on the forced resignation of Sullivan. Compare it also with the entire text of Peter "oops I hit reply-all!" Kiernan's email claiming credit for his involvement in the coup.

Helen has it well in hand, indeed.

I am not sure why anyone would give any money to UVA at this point. First off, they have more money than god, do they really need to another building? the place is obviously controlled by power hungry, narcissitic lunatics. their are far worthier causes to contribute to than an elitist university, the controllers of which always invoke thomas jefferson's name whenever they screw up as justification for their actions. Let's not forget, Jefferson was not perfect- he commited adultery with one (or more) of his slaves, had a moral objection to slavery but kept his slaves until he died bankrupt and his wife had to sell them off. Perhaps it is appropriate they invoke his name--he was one of histories great hypocrites, and probaly narcissitic at that.

@Hoolarious - "It would be nice if someone at the Hook were able to check the IP addresses of the anti-Sullivan posts (the ones who out of nowhere are implying that Sullivan has something to hide, which is a suggestion that no legitimate news organization has found any evidence of, which tells me its bullsh1t) and determine how many of them are coming from Hill & Knowlton."

I do believe you have identified a new and slanderous theme, courtesy of the PR henchmen. Note Dragas's reference to protecting dignity in her statement this afternoon:

"We recognize that, while genuinely well-intended to protect the dignity of all parties, our actions too readily lent themselves to perceptions of being opaque and not in keeping with the honored traditions of this University,"

UVa Fund PR dollars at work!

@ embarrased alum--do, please get your history straight--TJ's wife died long before TJ did--his heirs (daughter and SIL, I believe) had to settled the indebted estate. And it wasn't adultery if his wife was dead. Bad enough, I'll credit you, but still, please get your facts in line so you have one less thing to be embarrased about.

The PR bill is being paid from a "UVA-affiliated foundation"

Not the UVA general scholarship fund. Not the An affiliated foundation. It could be the frickin Patent Foundation or the Jefferson Scholars Foundation (both doubtful) or the Darden Foundation or the Law School Foundation for all I know - if you have donated money, and you didn't designate where your dollars were going to be used, shame on you!

If you are giving money to a UVA-affiliated foundation - ask them yourselves. And, no.... buying football tickets doesn't mean they are using YOUR money to pay for her PR firm. The number of people who think "they" are paying her PR bill makes the uva community sound ignorant, in my opinion.

"Anne Neal is not an academic and is known for her right-wing stances (writes for National Review, among others; has appeared on Faux news) and is married to a conservative republican Congressman. We know how conservatives feel about universities--cesspools of liberals. I don't believe anyone on the board of ACTA is an academic, just more businessmen, so no wonder ACTA is buying into the Dragas view of what a university should be. And yes, it was founded by Lynn Cheney"

Oh the horror! Someone wrote for The National Review and works at a foundation started by Lynn Cheney. Well, they must be an ignorant, lying dog.

As an alum and annual donor, I'm as disgusted with the way the BOV has handled this as anyone, but let's knock off the guilt by association and debate the ideas rather than the personalities.

Should U.Va. be an aristocracy of wealth or an aristocracy of merit? That is a major underlying issue involved in the Dragas-Sullivan controversey.

Should U.Va.l be an aristocracy of wealth or an aristocracy of merit? That is a major issue involved in the Dragas-Sullivan controversy.

Should U.Va. be an aristocracy of wealth or an aristocracy of merit? That is a major underlying issue involved in the Dragas-Sullivan controversy.

Yeah, the idea that this is some kind of watershed moment in a right-wing attack on academia is a bit far-fetched. Dragas was appointed by Kaine, and was rumored to be on the short list of candidates for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

On the other hand, the contrast between President Sullivan's statement and what we've heard from the Rector so far is rather stunning. Maybe that shouldn't be such a surprise -- after all, Sullivan is the one with actual hands-on experience running a $2.6B business enterprise.

I agree with Michael. Please leave the political conspiracies out; it doesn't matter who appointed Dragas. How she's done the job is the issue here. I really hope she didn't use the University's money to pay any PR firm to help her craft her statement:

http://www.readthehook.com/statement-rector-helen-dragas-university-faculty

As her favorite professor at Darden, Les Grayson, used to say, " You can't polish sh*t" ("burnish her image?") I don't think she learnt very much at Darden.

By a stroke of good fortune, I happen to have here before me some software called "CTM." This stands for "Content Translation Machine." The software translates what has been actually written to yield the real meaning, stated in ordinary language.

I followed the link to the Dragas "defiant statement," in the above article where I copied what Helen wrote, then ran it through the CTM software to see what she REALLY was saying. But, rather than burden you with it here, let me direct you to a web page which contains the Dragas email, alongside the translation. I own that web age and am fully responsible for it. Have a look:

http://tinyurl.com/dragastranslation

Oh - and the CTM? I made that up. I used my brain. And my brain was not at all challenged.

Not sure why this has become a partisan issue. One might suppose that both sides of the political spectrum could come together over higher education. But the typical lines have been drawn between liberals and conservatives; the former defending education for its own sake, and the latter pushing for proof of outcomes.

It is quite interesting then that one important partisan component of this issue is completely absent from the conversation: from a free market perspective, higher education is absolutely killing. More students are applying than ever, the proportion of Americans with a bachelor's degree or more has never been higher and Bureau of Labor Statistics data prove that the more college and university degrees one attains, the higher their lifetime earning.

So the "old outdated" model of higher education actually is very popular with the free market (and how could that be wrong?), and is quite efficacious in equipping students with the skills to become productive members of society.

From a partisan politics perspective, it seems as if the value of higher education is something upon which both liberals and conservatives might agree.

So why they partisan rancor?

THE partisan rancor?

Point of fact: Dragas has never built a shopping center. I'm now thinking UVa doesn't deserve her leadership. You can all continue to embrace your notion that the old one is always better. Good luck.

Elizabeth Mendenhall, I heartily agree with you that the University of Virginia has done NOTHING to deserve the leadership of Helen Dragas. I totally echo your comment.

Perhaps the key to unlocking this mystery is not politics (dem vs rep or left vs right) or economics (GS doesn't really think online education will garner billions) or the business mind vs the academic mind. Maybe this is just plain old-as-the-hill but ever-reborn folly.

It's excellent journalism like this that led someone to defacing a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This isn't about Occupy Wall Street, this is about students and patients. Save your conspiracy theories for a tv movie.

Ms. Mendenhall: the University has indeed done nothing to deserve Helen "Dragon Rector" Dragas' style of leadership. That is exactly why we are so angry. It's not that it's the old way vs. a new way. It's a matter of it being a crass, classless, tasteless, heavy-handed, behind-the-back way of doing things vs. the HONORABLE and DECENT way of doing things.

The Dragon Rector, sadly, is personifies the former, not the latter.

We don't deserve her, and we definitely do NOT want her.

Hey PR people, can you head over to Cville News and straighten people out there? Thanks!

Waldo will welcome you with open arms.

Welcome back, Ms. Mendenhall. So, you drew the short straw and have to take the PR nightshift. Testing... testing...

LOVE IT, Appalled!!!!!!!!! Hill & Knowlton's got to do something to earn that $100K fee!!

Defacing a UNESCO World Heritage Site, give me a break.The columns on the front of the Rotunda are wood, are not the original and can and were repainted very quickly today. How do you know who did this? Could have been a high school senior prank. BTW, I believe that Monticello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I can find no reference to the University being one.

UVA students know how to spell. Greed isn't spelled GREEED!

TheTruth --- Maybe you should brush up on your research. The University is an UNESCO site. Maybe this will help.

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=UVA+UNESCO

I thought the Dragas Companies' website might be interesting. There're several words in their "history" that could have been applied to the BOV's actions.

Forty years can be forever in the construction industry. In our case, it spans two generations of a local family determined to help others in the community fulfill the American dream of home ownership. Our first company was Dragas Mortgage Company, founded in 1968 by George Dragas, a first generation American and son of Greek immigrants who believed owning a home was part of the American dream. A few years later, George formed a partnership with his brother Mark to develop and build reasonably priced homes and attractive condominium communities in Hampton Roads.

From the start, the Dragas brothers believed that providing value would build their business and their reputation. They were right. The Dragas name became associated with quality and recognized for integrity, innovation and a commitment to excellence—long before "excellence" became just another industry buzzword.

Those traditions continue today under a second generation of Dragas leadership. George's daughter Helen E. Dragas began learning about her family's emphasis on value at the family dinner table. By the age of 13, Helen had her first "official" position with the company—as marketing agent. During many summers and school breaks Helen visited homeowners door-to-door. Even as a teenager, she knew that understanding the Dragas customer would always be key to the company's success.

Over the years, Helen has worn many hats in the family business. In 1996, she followed in her father's footsteps and was named President and Chief Executive Officer. Today, with the benefit of years with the company in many different positions, Helen has fine-tuned the company's vision and has continued the family tradition of providing value. And she's done it the way her family always did—by building strong relationships with homeowners, employees, government officials and industry professionals. Under Helen's leadership, The Dragas Companies has received dozens of civic, government and industry awards, including the prestigious America's Best Builder award from Builder magazine, one of the nation's leading housing publications.

@embarrassed alum... Probably you and the state of Texas want to write TJ out of the history books... Who are the real hypocrites here? Self serving ideology, big money bullying... Filibuster type tactics. These are actions Thomas Jefferson would call evil.

UnderHoo... Who cares where you think the PR money comes from. It stinks, stinks to high heaven, and no matter how much you paint it with roses, it's still a stinky pile of bull

A primary job for any board which oversees any institution is to establish and supervise the person (or persons) who has the principal executive and moral authority in that institution.

If a board consisted of, let's say about 16 individuals, would it seem reasonable to exercise a primary responsibility of that board with a narrowly-defined number of board members (oh.. maybe 3, for instance), to not inform some members of that board at all, and to do all this at a time when a minimum awareness in the community of that institution might be expected (perhaps the weeks after graduation ceremonies, and before summer session)?

Or would all the above seem sneaky, under-handed, and incompetent?

If I were a fabulously wealthy alumnus who had just donated a yoga stadium and a basketball studio, and who had visions of being acclaimed as a luminary at a prestigious institution of learning, would I want to come into the light of public awareness as a dark Tudor intriguer being served by a buffoon?

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Dear Mr. Kution,
Only a paid provocateur (poorly paid) would stoop to post such a remark.
It is a transparent attempt to discredit this discussion by association.
Sincerely,
States Rights Preobrazhensky III

So did anyone read Ms. Sullivan's statement? Professional, classy and tactful. Should be required reading for how to handle yourself during tough times.

Thoughts? Rants? Ramblings?

"Sometimes manager are let go simply because they do not fit in. I know that is a shock to some of you but true."

By most indications, President Sullivan fit into UVa just fine. She just didn't fit into Rectum Dragass' hidden agenda.

"By most indications, President Sullivan fit into UVa just fine. She just didn't fit into Rectum Dragass' hidden agenda."

There are so many articles out and about so I may be wrong but didn't 15 members out of 22/23 vote for the removal? If that is true then obviously not.

Ah, jeezlouise has started her shift at Hill & Knowlton! My dear, read the news stories. The vote was 12 in favor of Dean Z as interim, 3 opposed, 1 abstention -- Glynn Key lft for some reason. There are 16 Visitors ... go back to your cheat sheet H&K gave you yesterday.

Sheesh, jeezlouise, I expected better.

UVa student Corey French captured my sentiments exactly on this video feed of Dragas's attempt to escape her dirty work through a back door - with no one watching. Thank you Corey ! I have to say that he is far more mature and than principled than she.

What a coward. No student, faculty member, alumni, or community member should give her any respect for the lack of transparency she has championed.

http://www.nbc29.com/story/18818965/uva-board-of-visitors-appoints-inter...

"Ah, jeezlouise has started her shift at Hill & Knowlton! My dear,.."

Wrong on both accounts but I suppose you are not used to having someone disagree with your opinions or asking questions.

After digging a few minutes I see where the Board SAID they had 15 out of 16 votes for dismissal.

15 out of 16...hummm...carry the one....doing my calculations)....Wala.

Well guys I can see your point.

All the people in C'vill/Albemarle that have just disappeared,
and Helen DRAG-ASS is still walking around. Why?

Courteney, you're off on one point. McDonnell didn't elevate Dragas to Rector. He chose to not re-appoint Abramson who was the Vice-Rector (or Rector-elect, if you will). Because of that, the Board of Visitors elected Dragas as their Vice-Rector, and then she moved up to be the rector.

http://www.cavalierdaily.com/2010/09/15/board-chooses-female-rector/

Thanks @Karl. I've corrected it.

I wish Big John Holmes was still alive
He'd give DRAG-ASS what she NEEDS.

It is time for UVA students and faculty to have Ms. Dragas’ ass dragged out of the UVA BOV along with the rest of the BOV so she can go back to what used to be her day job - blowing the real estate bubble.

This is the woman who turned my MA into toilet paper.

Rector Drago could learn a valuable lesson from my 3 year old son....she could simply say "I'm sorry, I was wrong." All the talk about Drago's "resolve" and good intentions don't mean a thing to me when the only thing that seems to matter to her...is herself.

well, i still don't understand why all the secrecy was necessary.
and, so far as public relations are concerned, ms. dragas certainly missed an opportunity to connect with the broader community when, instead of stopping to greet and speak with the concerned students like corey french following the late night no-note-takers board meeting at the rotunda, she brushed their concerns aside and stepped into her waiting car to leave.

it seems, in retrospect, that in that moment she had a golden opportunity in which to diffuse a lot of the outrage that has since become a firestorm. just imagine how differently things might turned out for everyone if instead of leaving the scene she had sat down on the steps of the rotunda with the students for a few minutes and engaged in some real dialogue, perhaps briefly summarizing the events of the meeting and giving her perspective on why the changes she advocates are necessary, and taking some questions from the students...some real give and take in front of the cameras... exhibiting some real courageous leadership. in so doing she might have gained some respect, even if not everyone agreed with her. instead, one has only to look at the video clip of her departure and listen to her words to understand why so many, like corey french, have been so offended by her behavior.

The U-Va endowment is paying Hill + Knowlton's John Ullyot to write Helen "Well in Hand" Dragas' statement.
("Properties" Adobe Acrobat) Apparently 50K - 100K does not get the services of a staff that know document writing to explain how Rector Helen "Well in Hand" Dragas is going to drag us into forefront of online education.

Remember Hill + Knowlton? Remember the "Nayirah" testimony that helped launch the 1991 Iraq war? Whatever the true case for war was at that point, it is certain that Hill + Knowlton was paid millions to concoct absolutely false propaganda, especially the "incubator babies" testimony offered by "Nayirah" before Congress. http://www.prwatch.org/books/tsigfy10.html

I was shocked to see that Dragas had some kind of Democratic Party hopes.
No democrat I know--and I know plenty-- would ever vote for her. We can't blame Kaine either. The true colors just came out. I can't imagine any kind of PR firm that could make people forget these actions.
I'm not fond of graffiti, but how nice if we could picture a huge cloud over the Rotunda spelling out "NFS at any price."

Wrecktor Dragas should not have been reappointed by the governor. Bad decision, bad politics. Students and faculty can mobilize and force her out.
Twice as much money paid the Hill&Knowlton cannot save someone who is guilty in the court of public opinion.