Accreditation limbo: UVA placed on 'warning' status by group
Helen Dragas has a new headache.
Despite telling the group that accredits the University of Virginia that all governance issues were under control, the UVA Board of Visitors, which Dragas leads, suffered a major rebuke Tuesday when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools put the Charlottesville institution on "warning" status in the wake of the so-called "UVA June," the forced resignation of a sitting president.
According to a mid-day missive from Provost John Simon, the Association found UVA out of compliance with Core Requirement 2.2 regarding board governance, and Comprehensive Standard 3.7.5 regarding faculty role in governance.
"While the decision is disappointing, the University of Virginia pledges to work diligently to address the concerns cited by the commission," Simon said in an open letter. "For the past several months and in the spirit of continuous improvement, the Board of Visitors and University leadership have been proactively working together to review governance practices and policies to ensure the highest level of transparency, accountability and responsiveness to all those it serves."
Simon went on to point out the changes the Board made at its meeting last month: a more formalized employment review process for any president and a requirement that presidents can't be fired without a full board vote.
"The accrediting board is being cautious about its judgment, but it's clearly demonstrating a high level of concern," says faculty member Siva Vaidhyanathan.
"What this really comes down to," says Vaidhyanathan, "is that Helen Dragas is the only person on the face of the planet– with the possible exception of the governor– not taking the events of June very seriously."
He cites as evidence the board's refusal to openly discuss the issues that led to the presidential ouster and the comments by some board members that such discussion hurts the University.
"The board wants to move on and put it all behind us without having a mature conversation about the issues," says Vaidhyanathan, characterizing the board as "shouting us down every time we want a straight answer."
The Association, which announced the action at its annual meeting in Dallas, had sent word to UVA back in October that it was troubled by the temporary ouster of President Teresa Sullivan. She was reinstated June 23 at a meeting that also included a vote of confidence in the Rector, a seemingly incongruous move for the instigator of what's widely seen as a failed palace coup.
"Today's events should show the board this isn't just a local problem," says Vaidhyanathan. "It really is about the fact that the board committed some pretty serious abrogations of trust, and it continues to."
Telephone messages and emails left for University spokesperson McGregor McCance and Rector Helen Dragas were not immediately returned, and Vaidhyanathan expressed hope that Dragas would fail to win confirmation of her reappointment nomination to the board when the General Assembly meets in January.
"It would go a long way to clearing the air," says Vaidhyanathan, "and restoring some honor and dignity to the University."
–last updated 2:20pm