Dragas vote: Will rector keep her job?
The turmoil at the University of Virginia that began in June with the firing of President Teresa Sullivan continues six months later with the upcoming General Assembly confirmation of the appointment of Rector Helen Dragas– and opponents calling for her head.
Despite being perhaps the most notorious rector in UVA's history– and inspiring a 2,000-signature petition to the General Assembly opposing her confirmation– the Virginia Beach real estate developer has dug in her heels, and racked up some prominent supporters, including U.S. Senator Mark Warner.
Local legislators on both sides of the aisle are calling for her appointment to be blocked. Dem Delegate David Toscano (he's House minority leader) and Republican Steve Landes have been early advocates of a Dragas exodus. State Senator Creigh Deeds also calls for ending Dragas' controversial tenure.
Others, such as Delegate Rob Bell, who is seeking the Republican attorney general nomination, and Republican State Senator Bryce Reeves, have not stated which way they'll go in the Dragas dilemma.
"It's very difficult to read right now," says Toscano. "A lot of people are playing their cards close to the vest. They don't want to make things hard for the governor, but there's a lot of consternation out there."
Dragas' approval– or rejection– starts with the Senate's Privileges and Elections Committee, which meets on Tuesdays at 4pm and upon which both Deeds and Reeves sit. From there, the confirmation goes to the floor of the Senate, then to the House Privileges and Elections Committee– on which both Bell and Landes sit– and on to the House of Delegates floor. It can be amended at any point along the way. Watch the Senate, advises Toscano.
Dragas opponents have been lobbying their legislators, as has the rector herself. In early December, Dragas met with Senator Janet Howell, the ranking member of the Privileges and Elections Committee.
"We had a frank conversation," said Howell in a statement. "It is my conclusion that she does not comprehend the damage done to the University of Virginia, nor does she accept responsibility beyond having poorly managed the President's removal.
"As a result of these factors, it is my intention to vote against Helen Dragas' confirmation to the Board of Visitors and to move for a recorded vote by the Privileges and Elections Committee and the entire Senate."
If Dragas is not confirmed, she's off the BoV. If she is approved, she remains rector through June 30 and will be on the Board of Visitors another three years.
UVA grad student Suzie McCarthy started a petition urging legislators to vote against Dragas' confirmation. The petition has over 2,000 signatures, including one purporting to be Internet entrepreneur and UVA grad Halsey Minor.
And according to an unconfirmed report, agitated anonymous alums will have a plane circling the Capitol in Richmond January 9, the day the General Assembly convenes, towing a banner between 10:30 and 11:30am that reads, "Restore Integrity @ UVA: Don't Confirm Dragas."
"It's really not a partisan issue," says Toscano. There's a lot of concern on both sides of the aisle. That's what makes it so hard to predict."
The week before the General Assembly convened, Toscano floats another scenario for Dragas: "It's also possible that she'll resign before then. A week is an eternity in politics."This story is a part of the The ousting of a president special.