Final day: UVA BOV sorta live coverage here

The third and final day of the University of Virginia's retreat for its Board of Visitors began shortly after 8:30am in Richmond on Thursday, August 16.

9:05am - Hired facilitator Dr. Terry MacTaggart asks for a count of Board committees. Turns out to be 12. "That's a hell of a lot," says MacTaggart.

9:38am - "We have so little time together," President Teresa Sullivan tells the board. "Sometimes you make the assumption, 'Oh, nobody in the administration has thought about that.' That's actually not true. What is true is that nobody's asked the administration about it."

9:40am - BOV special advisor Bill Goodwin Bill Goodwin proposes 3-year term for Rector! (Currently just two). Rector agrees.

9:50am - meeting breaks for brief rest

10:13am - Non-voting UVA student member Hillary Hurd (who once endorsed the ouster and later criticized it) says she hopes to represent the diversity of student opinion. "We look forward to hearing more from you Hillary," says Rector.

10:21am - "Talking about teaching is not fashionable at many universities," says Sullivan. "But not at UVA." (In addition to teaching, Prez extols the biggest recent advance in science: the Higgs Boson, on which UVA researcher Brad Cox collaborated.

10:23am - Sullivan laments "long term secular decline" in state appropriations. "We're facing a serious and growing threat to faculty salaries."

10:28am - Sullivan laments "barriers" that have delayed the move to a new internal financial model. Rector asks for questions, but nobody offers one.

10:36am - Dean of Admissions Greg Roberts says some NYC prospective students spend as much as $40,000 on admissions consulting. "That makes it difficult for us to determine how authentic an application really is."

10:41am - Prez Sullivan laughing heartily as Dean Roberts tells of some schools– not UVA– that try to spike their application rates by sending prospectives so-called "snap apps," which are pre-filled, no-fee applications that merely require the student to send it in.

10:44am - Dean Roberts notes that to be "more strategic"by having the dean of admissions and dean of financial aid report to the same person (unlike the way it's done now).

10:45am - Dean Roberts notes that applications have essentially doubled form 2003 to 2012 (14,868 to to 28,260). He notes that the average SAT has leapt from 1322 to 1351.

11:01am - Under questioning from BOVer Tim Robertson, Admissions Dean admits that UVA's comparatively late January notification date to accepted students helps lower the offer percentage and increase the yield in order to look good for U.S. News & World Report rankings.

11:11am - Sullivan begins her remarks on Governor Bob McDonnell's initiatives that have become law– aka Top Jobs 21– by saying, "Many of you at the table know a lot more about this than I do."

11:16am - Meeting ends with Rector thanking everyone and talking about the future. Hook asks her if she's still thinking about resigning. "I don't think so." Hook asks Dragas if she's making any progress toward putting a voting member of the faculty and/or alumni-chosen person on BOV. "When the Board's ready to speak on any of those issues," says Rector, "I'll let you know."

11:57am - Afterwards, Faculty Senate chair George Cohen laments the failure of the Board to conduct a "self-assessment" as his group had hoped and that the events were discussed only indirectly. "It was not exactly what we were looking for," says Cohen. As for Goodwin's proposal for a three-year term, Cohen calls the timing "interesting" but says, "In the abstract, it's an idea worth considering."

This story is a part of the President Sullivan retakes the reins special.
Read more on: UVA Board of Visitors


Bill Goodwin proposes three-year term for Rector. Rector agrees. How's that for "Take that, UVA!"

I think it's funny that UVA travels to Richmond and spends their money there.

How's that for "Take that, Charlottesville!!!"

We have so little time together," President Teresa Sullivan tells the board. "

I have never understood why this board meets so infrequently. No wonder they don't have a clue what's happening.

Who replaced Kington as Vice - Rector ?

Heck, if I am on the BOV of a prestigious institution, I am not taking notes with a Rite-Aid Bic pen...where's the Mont Blanc, Mr. Rose?

Actually, if these were the highlights of the BOV session this morning, I suppose they were just hankering to get out of Richmond.

I do find it intriguing how applications have spiked upward radically when pols cry about "making college more affordable." Surely, if my folks could not afford a Lexus, they would not buy me one for graduation.

R.I.P.: Steve Fredericks

For what it is worth, while this is a single photo and I'm not an expert in reading body language, I don't read Victoria Harker's body position as sending positive vibes toward Sullivan.

Ellen I agree, remember these are McDonnell picks and all signs point to his involvement in trying to oust Sullivan and then reappointing Dragas . So these new members are in the Dragas camp, not Sullivan's.
This will continue to be a dysfunctional situation until the BOV makes clear why Dragas & Co. wanted to get rid of Sullivan.

Indeed. Note: left arm and left leg pointed away from Sullivan, which I interpret as wanting to move away from her. Looks stiff in general. Maybe I'm reading too much into the photo because of recent events but the scene looks fairly icy to me.

Well, Vicki H. is on the Board of Directors of Darden Restaurants, after all. Maybe she's thinking about running off for lunch at Red Lobster or Olive Garden.

R.I.P.: Bill Bixby

agree on Ms. Harker's body language - and what's with the "just got out of bed" hair clip ....

Ain't that a "Higgs Boson" .... a "bosun" being some kind of sailor?

Was there any explanation/context for Goodwin recommending that three-year term?

There's a lot of rhetoric about just moving on with a new strategic plan. The big question is: Does this BOV have the confidence of the public, staff, students, faculty? The Faculty Senate had passed a resolution of no confidence. other than a few new members who appear to represent the same class of interests as the old members, what has changed? Yes there are a couple of advisors who have some experience with public higher education, but one doesn't have a vote. The student is non-voting.

The ultimate question is: without real representation on the BOV of different interest such as faculty, staff, students, alums, and non-upper-class wealthy people, is this the Board to conduct a 5 year strategic plan?

Maybe they should wait until the legislature makes some decisions about the process of appointment and who is appointed when it meets in January? Then maybe that BOV might have the confidence and the legitimacy to conduct a five year plan. Right now all the rush to forgive and forget and move on appears to be heading for a similar show down but tis time with the corporate types just accomplishing their agenda in the light of day. We really have to look at the rle of the public, staff and faculty in an authentic process, not a top-down process.

Tell me again why they had to go to Richmond to have this meeting.

@Christian Gehman: Thanks for catching my misspelling of Higgs Boson!
@John: Thanks for the question. When I queried Mr. Goodwin after the meeting, he said, "I'm not a member of the Board of Visitors. I'm just suggesting they study it in the governance committee." (I then jumped into an elevator with Vince Mastracco and Ed Miller and asked them about the proposals to expand the board to include voting alumni reps and faculty, and Miller said he didn't know, but Mastracco said that kind of change would need to come from the legislature. But I digress...)

@ UVA BoV - Step 1 in retaining and recruiting top faculty: Include at least 1 faculty member with voting rights on the board; similar to University of Pennsylvania.

Do you really think that the faculty will let this rest after Dragas' left them out of the process regarding President Sullivan position in June? UVA is nothing without the faculty.

Step 2: Gov. McDonnell has a 'surplus' budget. Get the faculty raises out of the State budget.

Problem solved.

@Hawes - thanks for your reporting. It is still a mystery to me, as to many others who wonder why the University's Honor Code does not apply to all members of the Board of Visitors. Using a PR agency to craft "statements" and give other "advice" without acknowledging that agency's participation as a "shadow member" of the BOV seems ill-advised -- to put it mildly. "Travesty" ?? might perhaps be a better word, though perhaps some would consider it too strong. And going forward, the Board of Visitors really ought to include at least one faculty member - a dean? -- and one student. Please.

I was doing so well until I got to the photo on the third page.

The caption should read: "I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!"

Caption on photo one. PS: I open my heart to you. VH: la

Yeah, Hawes. How come you left that caption off? That's exactly what she's thinking!

Was there any mention of the letter from the 14 alums?

OK, what is with all the puffery from Dean Roberts? BTW, it is not just NYC where big bucks are being spent on college application consulting. Try Fairfax County, VA, Washington, DC, Boston MA and just about every other geographic location where there is wealth in the world. The issue here is what it says on the application. If there is a reference to the Honor Code or some other pledge of honesty? If not, why not? I have read thousands of college applications and can pick out a professionally completed application from across the room. What about the relationship that the Office of Admission should have with the college counselors of these applicants who must come from private independent schools or some of the very best public schools in the country. Kids in low socio-economic areas don't have parents with 40K to blow on a private admission consultant.

Seems like a lot of whining at the meeting. Hope they served good cheese to go with all the whine.

Also, why have a meeting at the Omni? What's wrong with the University owned Boar's Head Inn or the Cavalier Inn? Board meetings should be on campus. If the BOV wants to have a retreat, there are many wonderful state parks and other camping facilities that cost much less than the Omni. And how many members of the BOV where present for the entire meeting? Some accountability in this regard of spending and attendance might be nice.

It is past time for a change in BOV leadership!

The fact that Dragas thought that she and Kington knew better than Sullivan how to run UVa is pathetic. She has truly made the Board a laughing stock around the world and I doubt if UVa's reputation can be repaired until she is gone and the board is more representative of educators and non-political appointees that have the interests of educating the students as their first priority, and not the mind-set of hedge fund managers.

BoV needs to be completely dismantled and start anew with a freshness and approach similar to that of President Sullivan.

This is utter nonsense to prolong the inevitable, replacing the board, restructuring the board so that it is more representative of the faculty, student, staff, patients etc. Above all, the UVA should represent the taxpayers.

I think the BOV as it is constituted now represents those who probably pay lower tax rates than most people in Va or who advocate lowering taxes on the wealthy and defunding public education.

All the focus on cost reductions, strategic planning, cost efficiencies with online learning, obfuscates and ignores the real problem, not enough in the state coffers to fund public education. Did BOV kids go to public or private schools?

The entire discussion at the BOV this week is contextualized by who these people (the BOV deciders) are (1%ers), and how they got there (cronyism).

In one sense Dragas did us all a favor, she exposed the elitist control farce that allows the forces of capital and their bag boy governors of all stripes to appoint their corporate wealthy pals to control, shrink, and privatize public institutions. Wanton disregard for the poor and middle class.

We need to take the control of public universities out of the hands of corporations and the anti-public robber barrens and put in back in the hands of the public. This should be our mission with the legislature. First step, take governor appointment power away and require a broader variety of stakeholders with voting powers. Change the rules of the game. What will make them do that? If we could get as many people out in the streets for that as we could for Sullivan's reinstatement we would be in business. This is why I think Sullivan's leadership on this is essential. She needs to lead the charge on governance reform. What are they going to do, fire her again?

And shouldn't there be a at least one "ordinary" person from several of Virginia's main demographic regions represented on the BOV of the Commonwealth's most prestigious university?

I find Dragas' actions deplorable. Not addressing questions about the forced resignation of Dr. Sullivan does not compute. What is wrong with a public institution that cannot answer to the faculty, students, patients, taxpayers, and staff?


Since when does Rector Dragas have "dictatorship" rule over U? Never.

I will tender my resignation on the first day of instruction to the surprise of UVA and students who wanted my class! I have plenty of sick time and 11 opportunities elsewhere. Institutional integrity, and intellectual intelligence trumps UVA's Dragas.

Enough for this prof.

Resigning Tenure: If you resign, please do not go quietly. Put your name on a public letter so your reasons can be known.

@ Resigning T - Don't. The University needs more profs like you. And Ransom True, may he rest in peace.

"The sun is beer" -- formerly carved on the wall of the elevator in Wilson Hall.

@ Citizen Party - And wanton disregard for the quality of education, the best part of which is a result of associating with people who have high quality minds and steady good character: people who will teach a student to "keep your head, while all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you." Privatising education at America's public universities -- and reducing the quality of education to completion of the "online" coursework required at some of the newer "universities" that cater to people who can't manage to pass out of a community college -- seems a ludicrous farce. So does most of "online education." I'd like to see anyone learn the differential calculus in an online course -- or learn any of the basic principles of engineering well enough to qualify for a degree at one of the nation's better engineering schools. "You get what you pay for in snow trucks." -- Albert Cashdollar, Highway Supervisor in Woodstock during the 1950s and 60s (on being asked at a Town Board meeting why he had not bought flimsier snow trucks to clear the town's roads). You get what you pay for in education. And right now the standards are slipping a bit, even at UVA.

@Resigning Tenure, I can understand your feelings. The continued presence of Dragas and a McDonnell appointed corporate board will be a brain drain on UVa. The best and the brightest will not sign on to an institution with such disregard for the faculty.

The lack of accountability that this board has for their actions of just two months ago is astonishing. The idea that everyone can make a joint statement about moving forward and issue some mumblespeak about a strategic planning process(yeah, that always provides clarity and a blueprint for the future) as a replacement for honest dialogue about the state of affairs at the state's flagship institution shows how out of touch this board is. The votes of no confidence in this board were well earned and it seems that they have learned little to nothing other than maybe to sharpen their public relations skills to better hide their incompetence.


The brain drain at UVa wouldn't be just faculty With the diminishing of the UVa brand the best and the brightest students both here and abroad will look elsewhere.

@resigning tenure. This is a sellers market in the academic world. With the retirement of many faculty baby boomers, the academic world is looking for other "super stars" to replace those choosing retirement. The loss here with good faculty leaving is clearly UVa's. The gain is as clearly that of the hiring institutions.

Problems such as the Dragas led fiasco tend to grow according to the rules of geometry and not according to the rules of arithmetic. One well known professor leaves, many others will follow. The national and international faculty networks are extensive. We all know each other and while often having academic arguements, we like each other and respect each other enough to go out for a drink at conferences. Academic blood is thicker than water.

This is no lack of employment in the academic world. Money talks. People go where they are well paid and treated as professionals.

UVa needs much more than a strategic plan. It needs a board with background and expereince in the business of education. It doesn't need builders who use Chinese drywall and then tout themselves for replacing it when they know the courts were days away for forcing a replacement of the faulty construction products.

It is well passed time for a change. Dragas must go or more "super star" faculty will be leaving for greener pastures!

Let's keep in mind that Governor Bob forbade Anthem to send jobs from Virginia overseas. He absolutely FORBADE IT. So ... Anthem sent the jobs to Illinois, parked them there for a bit, and THEN sent them overseas. No complaint from Governor Bob. The real question - not addressed by any pundits I have heard - would seem to be: where will the back office jobs for the new insurance mandate live? Are we planning to send all these jobs to India and the Philippines?

"The idea that everyone can make a joint statement about moving forward and issue some mumblespeak about a strategic planning process..." -- Does anyone else wonder if the mumblespeak statement was "crafted" by Hill & Knowlton (whose influence on the Board of Visitors must end -- after it has been acknowledged).

@Ex Dean -- Dragas must go! -- I like that thought. And the Board of Visitors, as part of the University, should be required to adhere to the University's Honor Code. In other words, if Hill & Knowlton "crafts" your statements, then their name must be attached .... Dragas plagiarized the work of others and tried to pass it off as her own. Allowing her to remain in office after admitting that, I think, is the most shameful element of the whole affair. Perhaps she was just too busy spackling the new drywall to write something herself? But my heart goes out to her - as it would to anyone who couldn't figure out that she had done something wrong by passing off a PR agency's work as her own.

Call or Write your legislator today about the reappointment of Dragas and the way the BOV is selected and its lack of representation.

Even if Dragas resigned tomorrow the latter two would still be a problem. A lot of people took a sigh of relief Sullivan was reappointed but that's a false sense of security. We can't go back to sleep. The issues are deeper than Sullivan being reappointed. Its really not about the personalities, its about the way the elite 1% have control of public institutions. We have to change the rules of the game. We have to return control of public universities to the public. This will only occur if the same level of energy that got Sullivan reappointed is present with the legislature and in the streets and with massive email campaigns like the one to the BOV during June.

If the faculty and students at UVa care about their University they will organize another " Rally for Honor ", once the students return, and demand that Dragas resign and that representation on the board include students and faculty and non-governmental appointees that are knowledgeable about the business of education.

Given Hilary Hurd's ( the present non-voting student representative), close relations with Helen Dragas, I wonder how students will feel about her representation ? Perhaps her email exchanges with Dragas need to be examined.


The Board met.

We keep saying Dragas must go but she's still here. As much as I'd love to blame it all on her, the entire Board must be hold the blame, including the new members. SOMEONE must acknowledge the elephant in the room and have the courage and leadership to become the voice of the Virginia citizens they represent. Because that is what the Board of Visitors are charged with doing -- make sound decisions for a public University that is intended to serve the Citizens of the Commonwealth. Many of us love the University. But that isn't why they are there. They are there to serve people who choose to learn. Not to serve their own political ambitions or egos, not to make the University a top research institution or the number 1 public or a ranked international university or increase its revenues. It those things happen - wonderful. But their charge is to provide the best education possible for the citizens of Virginia - by that I mean students of all ages. And accomplishing that goal has meant we include non-state residents, so that we can afford to educate our in-state students. That's okay as long as we remember our primary goal: Virginia citizens. History shows that EGO is the greatest risk to any endeavor. The University has certainly experienced that. If we remember that, and choose as a institution and as individuals to focus on our primary goal and reject ego, everything else will fall into place. I beleive President Sullivan has kept this goal in mind. I believe Ms. Dragas and the Board has not. Who among the Board members will hear these words and make the call for rejecting ego and resigning for the good of the institution?

Sorry about the typos. Also - where are the rules about super executive sessions? I didn't see them in the handbook or in the state code. Continuing closed -- and especially super executive sessions -- and extremely troubling. It is reasonable to have closed sessions. Why the President is excluded from closed sessions is very troubling. How can they rebuild trust if the BOV immediately excludes her from their discussions. Attorneys - how do we prevent this from happening again?

"I will tender my resignation on the first day of instruction to the surprise of UVA and students who wanted my class!"

That's very mature and considerate of you, screwing over your students to make a statement. Why not be a gentleman and resign now so they have time to make other plans, if they really wanted your class that is?

Looking forward to the first Cavalier Daily of the season. I'm sure they'll report on your resignation so the rest of us can know who the jerk was that wrote this.

I don't believe him . If he was going to quit he would be relocated to one of his 11 chances already .

Something fishy about the Great Resigning prof . More likely going to go on the sick/dole and trying to justify some great cause in his little mind ...

@Watching - the faculty or the deans must have their own member of the Board of Visitors. And the students should have three - one for the undergraduate students, one for the graduate students, and one for the athletes.

Is it actually TRUE that members of the Board of Visitors at the University of Virginia do not swear to any oath of office attesting that they will adhere to the University's honor code in all of their actions as members of the Board of Visitors? If the answer is "No!" -- then, I ask all of you: Can this be remedied? Can new rules be adopted? Is it fair to ask: How many other members of the Board of Visitors accept "advice" from Hill & Knowlton? ... or from other similar PR "consultants?" Has Ms. Dragas stopped, or has Ms. Dragas at least promised to stop claiming Hill & Knowlton's "thought" or "work" as her own?... henceforward? If the answer to this last question is "No" then she has to go ... somewhere else. Back to the beach, I suppose. Did her home building company really install defective Chinese drywall? If the answer is "Yes," it might seem fair to ask: Is Helen Dragas really the kind of CEO Virginia needs on UVA's Board of Visitors?


Something is fundamentally wrong when UVa rejects a highly-qualified Virginia applicant and accepts a lesser-qualified applicant from Maryland just because they can extract out-of-state tuition from the Maryland family.

Then the school declares they did it because of "diversity", as if a student from Potomac, Maryland, brings "diversity" compared to one from Falls Church, Virginia.

It will be interesting to watch how the students respond when they return to the Grounds. They are the consumers, and they have the power to accept or reject the Dragas regime. If they demonstrate enmasse, I doubt she would last a day, and major change would be on the way .

Students - the power to bring change is yours !

Maybe resigning prof is holding off till the last minute. I understand his thinking. Don't resign just yet prof. Have faith. Do this instead. Students and faculty, refuse to attend classes till Dragas is gone.

@Christian Gehman August 17th, 2012 | 11:33am

I've been asking the SAME questions all over the Hook boards and no one knows what oath they take! Dragas signed the UVA honor code TWICE and her behavior, to date, is inexcusable.

The Governor and members of the General Assembly take an oath and guess what it says? Only to "serve the Commonwealth of Virginia".

Frankly, I think we are getting FRIED, BIG TIME!

UVA students should reconsider signing the honor code IF THEIR OWN BOV avoids signing the document!

The big question is which of you is the former rector? Rumor has it...

Resigning Tenure,

Bad move to resign on the first day of class. Only hurts your students. Teach the semester, give ample notice, and write a gracious letter explaining why you are leaving. When all the current players have thrown each other under the bus the only thing they will say about you is that you did a good job, gave ample notice, and have a good reputation.

ALL anyone has in this world is their own reputation, something Dragas and company have forgotten. Don't trash yours.

The most immediate goal should be the removal of Rector Dragas, who has demonstrated unacceptable mental and moral failure. After that accomplishment, the process for state board appointments should be examined. Should big money and political patronage override merit, as has happened countless times recently?

Are you too ashamed to answer that question?

Did Governor Bob graduate from UVA? What's he got against the U? Why did he appoint such mediocrities to the Board of Visitors?

Everyone knows.

@AS&grad, your posting in June hit the nail on the head and in case others missed it, here you go:

"A&Sgrad June 23rd, 2012 | 10:29am

If the truth of this matter ever comes to light I'd be willing to gamble large sums of money that it was the pet project of a few deep-pocketed alumni with a strong sense of entitlement and a plan to profit from the University. I suspect they saw Sullivan as an outsider and an obstacle, and they dangled the prospect of huge donations to the University and political campaigns if the Board found a way to get rid of her (with the Governor's acquiescence if not his support).

Ironically, if things had gone according to plan, they would have gotten accolades for their generosity (and possibly something at the University named after them) knowing full well their donations were simply seed money for a scheme to profit from the reputation of the University of Virginia."

And my two cents worth, this is not over! These same donors are waiting in the wings until the other shoe drops.

Could this be the former rector speaking?

Once again, we are being compared to Penn State's board:

From:The Chronicle of Higher Education
August 16, 2012
News Analysis: Virginia and Penn State Boards Showed Perils of Secrecy
Jay Paul for The Washington Post, Getty Images

Two days before the U. of Virginia's board reinstated Teresa A. Sullivan as president, protesters gathered on the campus. The public-university board's decision to oust Ms. Sullivan in a process veiled in secrecy—born of a desire to protect the reputations of individuals and institutions—drew particularly sharp criticism.

What a bruising summer for governing boards.

In the space of just a few weeks, the boards at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Virginia both came under fire for highly public missteps. While no one should equate the tragedy of Penn State's sex-abuse scandal with the forced ouster and subsequent rehiring of Virginia's president, both stories put boards on the defensive and offered lessons for trustees everywhere.

Different as they are, the controversies at Penn State and UVa share an ironic thread. In both instances, key decision makers appear to have concluded that shielding details from the public would best protect the reputations of individuals and institutions. The opposite proved true.

Penn State's board has primarily been faulted for not asking enough hard questions. But an independent report also implied that the trustees were complicit in a culture that would use any means—even abject secrecy—to protect the reputation of the storied Nittany Lions football program. As for UVa, the board's decision to offer only the most oblique of rationales for ousting a popular president greatly contributed to the early backlash from faculty, students, and alumni.

As a journalist who covered both controversies, I have spent the better part of the last two months talking with higher-education experts about what college governing boards can learn from Penn State and UVa. One of the clear takeaways from those conversations is that transparency, while sometimes temporarily painful, is preferable in the long run. If these stories showed us anything, it is that the truth will come out, and a board is better positioned to deal with uncomfortable truths when they are openly confronted from the beginning.

Shortly after Teresa A. Sullivan resigned from UVa, citing an unspecified "philosophical difference" with the board, I spoke with her predecessor over the phone. John T. Casteen III, who was UVa's president for two decades, was as fired up as I've ever heard him. "I can put in rank order the things that concern me," he said. "The chief concern I have is the secrecy of what is supposed to be a public process."

I played devil's advocate: But what is the board supposed to do? Come out in public and rake Ms. Sullivan over the coals? The board has the authority to remove her. Is obscurity not the most dignified approach?

"If the choice is between the ugliness of last week and the ugliness of a meeting where the board says what their concerns are, I think if I were a board member, I would take the public disclosure," Mr. Casteen said.
A Penchant for Secrecy

There is no indication that the board was worried about some kind of malfeasance under Ms. Sullivan's watch or other actions that could produce embarrassing headlines. Rather, it appears the board was concerned that UVa was not sufficiently transforming itself for the future, specifically in terms of online education. This is a discussion many universities are already having in a very public way. UVa endured weeks of criticism just to get the same conversation started..."

Dozens of Plagiarism Incidents Are Reported in Coursera's Free Online Courses
August 16, 2012
The Chronicles of Higher Education, by Jeff Young

"Eric S. Rabkin, a U. of Michigan professor who also teaches a free online class for Coursera: "An accusation of plagiarism is a deeply serious act and should be made only with concrete evidence behind it."

Students taking free online courses offered by the startup company Coursera have reported dozens of incidents of plagiarism, even though the courses bear no academic credit. This week a professor leading one of the so-called Massive Open Online Courses posted a plea to his 39,000 students to stop plagiarizing, and Coursera's leaders say they will review the issue and consider adding plagiarism-detection software in the future.

In recent weeks, students in at least three Coursera humanities courses have complained of plagiarized assignments by other students. The courses use peer grading, so each student is asked to grade and offer comments on the work of fellow students.

"I just graded my second batch of peer essays and was saddened to find one of them was lifted from Wikipedia," wrote one student in the discussion forums for the course, "Fantasy and Science Fiction."

Many students in the discussion expressed surprise that their peers would resort to fraudulent behavior in a noncredit course. Students who complete a course can get a certificate attesting to that accomplishment, but so far the courses do not count for credit at any university.

Still, some students argued that even in noncredit situations, stamping out plagiarism is important. "This cheating hurts everyone who is trying to take part in this class and learn with integrity," wrote one student in the discussion forums.

Meanwhile, professors teaching the courses say they are worried that some students are being overly zealous in hunting for plagiarism, and at least one student complained in the forums about being accused in error.

"An accusation of plagiarism is a deeply serious act and should be made only with concrete evidence behind it," wrote the professor teaching the fantasy course, Eric S. Rabkin, in a message to students posted on Monday. His letter, clocking in at more than 1,200 words, attempted to define plagiarism, underline its importance, and convey how complicated he felt the issue could be.
A 'Teachable Moment'

In an interview this week with The Chronicle, Mr. Rabkin, who is also an English professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, said he sees the plagiarism incidents as a "teachable moment." He said one student wrote him soon after he posted his letter and confessed to submitting a plagiarized essay, but the student said he had not realized that copying and pasting from other sources was wrong. The student asked that his essay be withdrawn and that he be disqualified from receiving a certificate, but Mr. Rabkin said he wrote to Coursera officials saying the student should be given a second chance.

A professor teaching a Coursera course about the history of the Internet, Charles Severance, wrote to his students this month about plagiarism as well, after several students reported in the forums that they had seen it in assignments they graded.

"If you see/suspect plagiarism—be kind and keep any of your comments about plagiarism short and to the point—do not criticize or flame the person—make sure your comments will help someone learn," he told them.

"If we really are trying to teach the world, including people from other cultures, we have to take a responsibility to educate people about plagiarism, not just vaporize people for it," said Mr. Severance, who is also a clinical associate professor of information at Michigan, in an interview on Wednesday.

Daphne Koller, a co-founder of Coursera and a professor at Stanford University, said she planned to look into how widespread reports of plagiarism are. "I don't have a sense of whether it's more frequent than in regular classroom environments," she said on Wednesday. She noted that Coursera makes students agree to uphold an honor code when they sign up for courses, but that, in the future, assignments will include reminders that all answers must be the students' original work.

"That would clarify to students what is and isn't appropriate behavior," she said. "That will reduce the incidents considerably, I hope."

She said Coursera officials would also consider adding a software system that could automatically detect suspected plagiarism, but no decision has been made on the issue. "It depends on how common this is," she said.
'Patchwork Plagiarism'

One Coursera student who witnessed plagiarism in a course is Laura K. Gibbs, who is herself a lecturer teaching online literature courses at the University of Oklahoma.

She enrolled in the Coursera course on fantasy and science fiction to get a better sense of how MOOC's work, since they've been in the news so much lately as a possible way to disrupt conventional higher education. She was enthusiastic about the reading list and the rigor of the course, which asks students to spend eight to 12 hours per week on reading and homework.

"I always tell students it's six to eight hours per week, every week, and I feel lucky to get six," she said. "I was really excited that this was trying to be an upper-division humanities course."

She said she was frustrated when she read discussion posts about plagiarism, and then saw evidence of it in one of the peer assignments she graded. "It's what at my university we'd call patchwork plagiarism," she said. "I'm naïve enough that I was really surprised by that."

She complained on her blog that Coursera and the course's professor had been slow to respond to the incidents. And she argued that Mr. Rabkin's message to students did not give her enough guidance on how to respond to what seemed like clear-cut instances of plagiarism.

Ms. Gibbs stressed that she is largely enthusiastic about Coursera and the idea of free courses online, but that "it's going to take an enormous amount of work to make it work."

She noted that she sees plagiarism by her University of Oklahoma students as well, but she can intervene in such incidents because she sees all the students' work.

Another faculty member taking a Coursera course, Steven D. Krause, said he doubted that peer grading could ever work without instructors' looking at all assignments. He said he uses the technique in his writing courses at Eastern Michigan University, where he is a professor of English and coordinator of the written-communication program, but he always looks over the peer grading and checks that the students are on track. "Usually there's some sort of norming by the instructors," he said.

"The idea that this could scale as a broad substitute for higher education is, I think, ridiculous," he added. "Content scales really well—you can put all kinds of stuff out on a Web site, and millions of people can look at it. But instruction does not scale, at least to those kinds of numbers."

But Mr. Rabkin, who is teaching the Coursera course on fantasy and science fiction, argues that peer grading can work in free courses, even without direct involvement by the professor. "Sometimes the professor's grade is wrong for whatever reasons," he said.

"I'm not interested in proving this could substitute for the University of Michigan," he added. "What I'm after is seeing if we have a way of capitalizing on a large group of people with smart software and a clever system that can make a community that has guidance and can teach itself."

UVA fan2. I think you need a new job. Being retired could be taking a toll on your health.

So, did Dragas resign during the secret executive session? I hope so!

And Nancy too.

Parents and students are now buzzing around town. The anger is not going away until the rector is gone. We need to get ribbons to pass out. People want an avenue to display their disgust. What color should the ribbon be? Should it be more than just a ribbon? Line through Dragas?

How many emails do you have? You are on dangerous ground. Could be a leak...

Red & Gray colors for the ribbons!

"...Shortly after Teresa A. Sullivan resigned from UVa, citing an unspecified "philosophical difference" with the board, I spoke with her predecessor over the phone. John T. Casteen III, who was UVa's president for two decades, was as fired up as I've ever heard him. "I can put in rank order the things that concern me," he said. "The chief concern I have is the secrecy of what is supposed to be a public process."

The Chronicle of Higher Education
August 16, 2012
Jay Paul, from the Washington Post

You have been found to be one person. Congratulations.

Posted at 03:34 PM ET, 08/12/2012
At peak of crisis, calls for Helen Dragas to resign
By Jenna Johnson and Donna St. George

"The University of Virginia released more than 1,200 pages of e-mails and other documents Friday that contained hundreds of calls from alumni, faculty and others for the leader of the governing board, Rector Helen E. Dragas, to resign."

Uvafan2- what a surprise it will be when it is announced!

Is Dragas a “Right-Fighter”? If so, she will never resign.

What is a "Right-Fighter"
A right-fighter is someone who struggles to win arguments, even if they doubt their own view. A right-fighter is someone who gets overly emotional or angry when people do not agree with them and their opinions or beliefs. A right-fighter is someone who insists on having the last word in an argument or refuses to back down no matter what.

Dragas, we need a breath of fresh air! Resign!

Forbes ranked UVA #1! Seems President Sullivan is doing a stellar job. And Dragas asked for her resignation because?????
America's Top Colleges
August 1, 2012
By Michael Noer

"College is outrageously expensive. Four years at an elite, private school like the University of Chicago (#4) or Stanford (#3) costs more than a quarter of a million dollars. A degree from a more affordable state school, like the College of William & Mary (#40) or the University of California, Berkeley (#50), still costs around $100,000, even for “in-state” students, who pay less in tuition.

Is it worth it? For many students, the answer is probably not –unless they are accomplished enough to be accepted by one of the schools ranked near the top of our annual list of America’s 650 Top Colleges.

The rankings, which are compiled exclusively for Forbes by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity, focus on the things that matter the most to students: quality of teaching, great career prospects, high graduation rates and low-levels of debt. They do not attempt to assess a school’s reputation, nor are they a measure of academic selectivity and we pointedly ignore any metrics that would encourage schools to engage in wasteful spending.

Click here for our full list of America’s Top Colleges

Princeton University (#1) tops the list again, for the first time since 2008. Williams College (#2) slips into second place, after two consecutive years as top dog. Ivy League schools dominate the top ten, claiming three spots in addition to Princeton: Yale (#5), Harvard (#6) and Columbia (#8); Cornell (#51) was the only Ivy not to crack the elite top 50.

The rankings are based on five general categories: post graduate success (32.5%), which evaluates alumni pay and prominence, student satisfaction (27.5%), which includes professor evaluations and freshman to sophomore year retention rates, debt (17.5%), which penalizes schools for high student debt loads and default rates, four-year graduation rate (11.25%) and competitive awards (11.25%), which rewards schools whose students win prestigious scholarships and fellowships like the Rhodes, the Marshall and the Fulbright or go on to earn a Ph.D. The complete methodology is available here."

Edited by Michael Noer and Zack O’Malley Greenburg
Forbes Research: Bethany E. Christie, Michael R. Garfinkel, Robert Mundy, Charlotte L. O’Herron and Noah Schifrin
Rankings by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP)
Director Richard Vedder
CCAP Research: Daniel Borzelleca, AJ Cadamagnani, Harrison Cummins, Christopher Denhart, Matthew Denhart, Daniel Garrett, Michael Koslen, Jonathan Leirer, Joshua Leirer, Christopher Matgouranis, Jonathan Robe, Eric Rudel, Andrew Smyser, Katie Smyser, Hannah Urano and Cayla Van Gilder.

And why are you invisible?

Forbes, America's Top Colleges
August 1, 2012
By Michael Noer

more from the Forbes Ranking by Michael Noer, Aug.1, 2012:

..."Rounding out the top ten are the University of Chicago (#4), a place where undergraduates say “fun comes to die,” West Point (#7), whose cadets pay no tuition, although they must serve on active duty in the U.S. Army post-graduation, Pomona College (#9), one of the seven Claremont Colleges in Southern California and Swarthmore (#10). Excluding service academies, there are five public schools in the top 50,

with the University of Virginia (#36) being the highest ranked."

@Chris Gidez from Hill & Knowlton...

Is this what you do for $100,000 of UVA monies?


Do you guys at Hill and Knowlton keep track of the score? I mean it's 56 to 0 late in the forth quarter.The two puff pieces, one on Dragas and one on Jones, you had placed in the local papers were three runs for lost yardage and a punt each. If you have a game you might want to show it fairly soon.

Do you give refunds for a miserable, failed performance? The endowment could always use their money back.

@ George - Hill & Knowlton was the PR firm representing Big Tobacco.

According to Wikipedia,

"Tobacco industry

In 1953, members of the tobacco industry hired Hill & Knowlton to help counteract findings that suggested cigarette smoking led to lung cancer. As a result, a statement was released to nearly every major newspaper and magazine, which suggested that cigarettes had no verifiable links to cancer.[citation needed] The tobacco industry remained a Hill & Knowlton client until 1968.[5]"

Hiring Hill & Knowlton was another Dragas decision...hmmmmm

It's after 5pm so we probably won't being hearing back from Hill & Knowlton until Monday. $100,000 of UVA monies down the drain.

An interesting interview with our well spoken UVA President:

Teresa Sullivan: None of us wants to head into a difficult time
Brad Horn, Donna St. George, Jenna Johnson/The Washington Post
August 14, 2012

Instead of including a faculty member to UVA BoV; Dragas, in her infinite wisdom added a year to her 'rectorship'. Unbelievable...

@Reading Hook - Taxpayer

"UVA must have faculty represented on its' BoV with voting privileges. This is only due to Dragas' attempt to oust President Sullivan. Doesn't President Sullivan deserve some support? Enough!

Will the General Assembly listen?"

I completely agree. Without faculty representation the UVA BoV is hollow at best.

For the record, Gov. Mickey McDonald attended Notre Dame and went to law school at Pat Robertson's Virginia Beach's Regent University.

As a person who touts himself as a practicing Catholic, the Gov. seems to play both sides of the street. The Catholic Church teaching on abortion is clear, the Gov's position is not that of the Church. Capital punishment isn't supported by the Church, but the Gov seems to have a different take on that as well. A lot of questions about positions.

In my opinion,the Gov's law firm has and does represent some of the most ethically questionable businesses and indivduals in Virginia Beach. A look at the client list of his firm would be shocking to many in the State of Virginia.

Further in my opinion, to appoint Lin Rose to the UVa board is laughable. The rumors from Harrisonburg are that he wasn't a very good President for JMU. He certainly wasn't a President Carrier. I served on severals boards with him and he was noted for his frequent absences. When he was present, he seemed bored and lost in space.

Long story short, UVa deserves better than the appointments of Gov. Mickey and the strategic planning effort is doomed to failure under the leadership of Lin Rose. The time for leadership reform is passed. The State of Virginia Legislature needs to act soon to change both the appointment power and the composition of state supported institutions.

Let's not forget that Peter D. Kiernan stated as a fact that the decision to oust President Sullivan was made with the support and assent of our Governor. That fact is huge. It seems more likely that Dragas and partner were tapped to carry out the deed than were the originators of the plan. Kiernan even states his own "role in all of this have not been entirely mine to make." Is Kiernan saying he had no choice in the matter? Why would Kiernan think he had no voice in his own role? This is disturbing.
"As you might expect, the decisions involving my modest role in all of this have not been entirely mine to make. As many of you know no major decision of this kind can be made at Virginia without the support and assent of the Governor. I am not sure what my future role in this process will be. Those are the facts."-Peter D. Kiernan.

Sorry to hear that about Lin Rose, but not surprising given the others that McDonnell tapped for the board. If we want good Boards we have to elect good leaders, and McDonnell's choice to reappoint Dragas should tell us enough about his judgment to disqualify him from future elected offices.

Can someone report what the legislature can do about UVA's board or any state universities board? Does the Gen Assembly have jurisdiction and power to make significant changes in structure of BOVs? And even if they do, will they have the knowledge and ability to act? They are not noted for having these traits in other areas; remember their venture into women's rights to privacy?
It is sad that the governor and GA may end up in the driver's seat--given their lack of expertise and commitment to quality higher education; they have no positive record to show in this regard. Also sad is the opening public comment of Mr William Goodwin, McDonnell's appointed "super visitor," or whatever he is; it's callous at best for him to say "extend rector to three year term." It makes him sound like a smart alec and insensitive to UVA's plight. The fact that's he's made a lot of money proves nothing about his usefulness to UVA or the State; our society is loaded with smart-alec scofflaws and scalawags. Here's one from Southside Virginia, apparently. Nice start; Mr. Cutchins would be proud.

The contempt that the Board showed for the Faculty will not go unnoticed and will
make Sullivan's job of attracting and retaining star professors more difficult.

I think the Legislature has power over the BOV and can approve or deny recommended appointments by the Governor. Whether it does or not depends on what all of us do. 7,000 emails influenced one of the BOV members thinking about the episode.

Tine for another email campaign to all legislators in VA. Send a note to your legislator today.

A look at the Governor's appointments to state boards would indicate, in general, that his first criterion is big money--award high bidders. Perhaps, second is losing politicians. Since his U.Va. selections must be confirmed by the General Assembly, those opposing Mrs. Dragas' continuation (or any other new appointments) should become part of a campaign to convince the State Legislature to deny approval.

@ Laramie

Right on! Write, Call, email your legislator and put pressure on them for the Legislature to do the right thing in January when they meet. The pressure from the Sullivan rally and campaign made a difference. Keep it up!!!!

Will the "Rally for Honor " folks reconvene and organize another rally now that the students are returning ? Without that, I think Dragas - by way of Goodwin - may have just extended her term to 3 years.

Talk about a punch to the gut - Sullivan and Simon must have felt sick !

9:40am - BOV special advisor Bill Goodwin Bill Goodwin proposes 3-year term for Rector! (Currently just two). Rector agrees

@ Nancy Drew,

Great Question. You can ask it at:

The may have lost their taste for direction action which would be a shame.

Clearly, Governor Bob wants to lower the quality of education at UVA and award privatizing contracts for computer and online "education" to private companies. Perhaps Ms. Dragas will start one of those companies. There has been no move to ask members of the Board of Visitors to require themselves to adhere to the University's Honor Code. And that seems to me the key element. Extending the term limit for Helen Dragas, who has shown herself to be, not just in her business dealings but also in her work (no, her machinations) as Rector a truly dishonest and dishonorable human being whose actions have brought discredit on the University ... is a Travesty. There are some parallels to the John Hawkes novel Travesty, in which three occupants of a car are speeding toward a rendezvous with a tree that will kill them all. At the end of these shenanigans, Governor Bob will be out of office, the not-Rector Helen Dragas will have puked on her own shoes a few more times, and the power of Ms. Sullivan to do good on The Lawn will have been circumscribed. The Sun Is Beer! -- It's worth nothing that people staring at computer screens adopt often adopt robotic trancelike facial expressions, and though they may perform well on some multiple choice tests, they rarely learn anything important. They don't, for example, learn or absorb any of the transfer of personality and attitudes that takes place by way of interactions between two human beings within the mirror neuron system. That's what real education is; and it civilizes the barbarians. Ms. Dragas made plenty of money building houses. Some of them may have been defective, but none were as defective as her paltry notion of how to transform the University of Virginia. She has a second rate mind, and can't even begin to write or "craft" her own statements, but has to hide behind and conceal the involvement of a PR agency like Hill & Knowlton. She's Gotta Go! Make up the buttons .... with her picture on them.

In addition to the legislative initiative to remove Mrs. Dragas, maybe she could be persuaded to resign. What about starting an internet petitition, calling upon her to step down? If it obtains a significant number of signatures, it might also be used to induce the General Assembly to not confirm (which only requires a majority in either the House or Senate).

Against all reason Dragas is still here. The only logical conclusion i can come up with is Dragas has too much dirt on too many people and can't be trusted to not spill what she knows about Tudor Jones, the gov. and the rest. George Will stated if Don Siegelman went to prison for exchanging seat on board for campaign contribution every elected official who appoints anyone to a board is open to also serving time. Dragas not being canned was a bad move on the gov's part. Siegelman reports to prison Sept. 13. If George Will is correct in his prediction the gov could pay a heavy price for the Dragas appointment. This is not going away. UVA means too much to too many. It is going to get ugly, but not for UVA. It will soon be clear that UVA is THE school where top professors and students will be even more eager to come. What has more appeal than standing up to the bully. Honor is more than a word here. Three year term for the rector is an huge bullying move and a mistake that will be regretted.

Helen Dragas Must Go!
Clearly, Governor Bob and Helen Dragas see some opportunity for corporate profit in lowering the quality of education at UVA so he can then award privatizing contracts for computerized online "education" to private companies. Perhaps Ms. Dragas will start one of those companies -- soon after she retires from her position on the Board of Visitors!
I have not yet heard of any move to ask all members of the Board of Visitors to require themselves to adhere to the University's Honor Code. And that seems to me the key element.
Extending the term limit for Helen Dragas, who has shown herself to be not only a truly dishonest but also a dishonorable human being, not just in her business dealings but also in her work (no, her devious machinations) as Rector of the Board of Visitors, where her dastardly actions brought discredit on the University and made its Honor Code a laughingstock ... is a travesty.
I find some amusing parallels to the John Hawkes novel Travesty, in which three occupants of a car are speeding toward a rendezvous with a tree in Southern France ... that will kill them all. At the end of these ridiculous shenanigans, Governor Bob will be out of office permanently, the not-Rector Helen Dragas after having puked on her own shoes a few more times, will go back to building shoddy houses in some of Virginia's more densely populated districts, and the power of Terry Sullivan to do good on The Lawn will have been circumscribed.
The Sun Is Beer!
With regard to computerized online "education," it seems worth nothing that people staring at computer screens often adopt robotic, trance-like facial expressions, and though they may perform well on some low-level multiple choice tests, they rarely learn anything important. They don't, for example, learn or absorb any of the transfer of personality and attitudes that takes place by way of interactions between two human beings within the mirror neuron system. That's what real education is about; and that is why it civilizes the barbarians.
Helen Dragas made plenty of money building houses.
Some of those houses, we now learn, may have been outfitted with defective Chinese-made drywall, but I am willing to believe that none were as defective as her paltry notion of how to "transform" the University of Virginia. Ms. Dragas clearly has a second rate mind. She can't even begin to write or "craft" her own oracular pronouncements or official "statements," but rather, she has to hide behind and conceal the involvement of a non-Virginia PR agency like Hill & Knowlton. She's Gotta Go! Will Someone please make up a batch of buttons .... with a flattering picture of Helen Dragas on them?


If Ms. Dragas doesn't yet understand how dishonest and dishonorable she was by claiming Hill & Knowlton's work as her own, I'll be happy to explain it to her over a beer.

Let's be creative! If someone could locate her SIGNED honor code pledge as an undergraduate and/or graduate student, we could use that signed pledge as a photograph on a t-shirt or a billboard driving into C'ville. Oops, I forgot! Darn, she's a BOV member, for THREE years no less, and the "honor code" doesn't apply to the BOV.

You can betcha, she's going to stick it to President Sullivan whenever the opportunity rears it's head. She is clearly a BULLY, operating at full speed ahead and with the obvious support of the Governor! about a BULLY t-shirt!

And posters!


What I don't quite understand is how the rector's term could be extended without amending the BOV Manual, which are its by-laws. Under these by-laws, first of all there should have been an election set up for a replacement Vice-Rector - maybe that was in the super-secret session, don't know. But what I don't understand is how the Rector's 2 year term could unilaterally be changed to 3 years, since the 2 year term is set in the Manual and the process of changing the Manual is also specified, but doesn't seem to have been followed for this meeting:
SECTION 5.9 AMENDMENTS TO THE MANUAL — This Manual may be amended at any regular meeting of the Board by a majority vote of all the members of the Board provided that the proposed amendment has been submitted to the Executive Committee and its views on the amendment have been submitted to the Board and that notice of the amendment was included in the regular notice of the meeting.

UVA professor Dewey Cornell is authority on bullying and was asked by Lady Gaga to participate in her Anti-Bullying Foundation. Didn't the rector have a problem with Gaga? Hmmm...

Really? NON VOTING MEMBERS of UVA BoV can propose changes to the rector's term, and they don't vote? Hmmmmm.

Sarcasm: why would anyone question the UVA BoV run by Dragas.

What a disturbing sequence of events at UVA.

Sorry to be a Virginia.

@Andy -- there's a law suit in the change of the Rector's term -- improperly -- for some bright lawyer or team of lawyers and law students from the Law School. That Dragas would even consider this type of end run indicates:


I mean, let Helen Dragas take the bad novel of her life somewhere else -- back to Norfolk. ASAP.


At this point, Ms. Dragas probably could not get a vote of confidence from the Board. So this maneuver gives the color of a vote of confidence, even though it was improper. And also, invalid. It was invalid because the proper procedure was not followed. Hill & Knowlton very likely had a hand in this. In my opinion, Hill & Knowlton appears to be an extremely dishonorable organization whose actions, thus far, in giving advice to Helen Dragas, have brought dishonor and discredit upon the University.


Chris from Hill and Knowlton say he has evidence that Teresa Sullivan was spotted at the UVa hospital ripping babies off respirators. No, wait.... he now says he picked up the wrong script on the way to his cubicle.

Carry on.

Has Mrs. Dragas' term as Rector been (properly) extended or has only a consultant recommended that the rectorship be changed from two to three years? Of course, if she resigns or is not confirmed by the General Assembly in January, any extension would not apply to her.

She's gotta go!
Before she drags us all off a cliff!