Rect-urrection: How will Dragas foes cope with her victory?

Has there ever been a University of Virginia rector as reviled as Helen Dragas, the woman who united students, faculty, and alums in calling for her head following her failed ouster of President Teresa Sullivan last June? And yet, on January 30, the reappointment of this seemingly Teflon-coated Virginia Beach businesswoman sailed through confirmation in the General Assembly with a final 63-33 House of Delegates seal of approval.

"I intend to work constructively with all those who love UVA, regardless of whether they supported my reappointment," writes Dragas in an email to the Hook, promising to work with students, faculty and staff– "even those who did not support my confirmation"– and expressing gratitude for the support of the Governor and the General Assembly.

"They voted for independent board leadership," she says, "and affirmed that issues such as affordability, financial sustainability, academic quality and educational service delivery deserve significant attention."

"You can't say there was clear approval if you've got 33 votes against you," points out Charlottesville Delegate David Toscano, who, along with Delegate Steve Landes, has opposed her confirmation since June when Governor Bob McDonnell reappointed her for another four years on the BoV.

Dragas' critics may have been left in the dust, but some of the most prominent voices of opposition say there are silver linings– and that some important lessons have been learned from l'affaire Dragas.

Perhaps caught most off-guard by Dragas' political agility and confirmation were UVA students. "A lot of students were surprised," says Student Council VP Neil Branch. "They were shocked after how much damage she caused at the university that she would be reappointed, despite the best efforts of faculty, alumni, and students."

The student government held an emergency meeting and passed a resolution January 18 asking the General Assembly to block Dragas' confirmation, which was then already well underway. She'd already been approved by the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee on January 15.

Now, Branch says, Student Council will be working with President Sullivan to restore the image of the university and advocate for higher faculty salaries. He applauds the Landes bills that address governance issues at all public higher-education boards in Virginia, and require, for example, training for board members on their responsibilities, annual performance reviews of the president, and an annual executive summary submitted to the governor and General Assembly.

"Student Council remains committed to honor, transparency, and the community of trust," says Branch. "I commend our representatives– the senators and delegates– who put the future of this university above the politics in Richmond."

Faculty Senate chair George Cohen, who led the faculty vote of no confidence in the BoV last summer, wasn't surprised that Dragas was reappointed. "It's important for students and the entire university community to understand the legislative process and how the legislature goes about interacting with the university," the law professor says. "A lot of us have learned a lot more about how the process works. It's important for us to stay involved."

He, too, pledges support– of Sullivan. "The Faculty Senate is prepared to work with Rector Dragas and the Board of Visitors in support of President Sullivan to address the challenges of the university," says Cohen.

"We're still under warning from the accreditation agency," he reminds. "We need to address those concerns."

Cohen, too, favors the Landes bills, one of which would put a non-voting faculty member on the Board of Visitors. "This is about changing the governance of the board," says Cohen. "The Faculty Senate has been focusing more of our efforts to deal with the board component and the board's relationship with the faculty."

In her email, Dragas points out that over the last six months, the BoV has added faculty to all standing committees– and required full board action for every aspect of the president's contract. In addition, she says, it has established more frequent presidential performance reviews, another component of Landes' legislation.

Alums also widely expressed a wish for a new rector. In August, 14 prominent 'Hoos penned a letter to the Board of Visitors asking them to come clean and "finally explain candidly, to satisfy common sense, what really motivated them to act so precipitously."

Instead, the board has resolutely refused any further explanation of its debacle-inducing behavior, and chastised those with the temerity to ask. "We need to leave the past alone," said BoV reappointee Bill Goodwin in September. "The more you dig, the more you make the university look bad."

Richard D. Marks, Class of '66, is one of the UVA Alumni for Responsible Corporate Governance, and he says he understood back in June that Dragas' reappointment was a likely outcome.

"It was something we realized the day President Sullivan was reinstated– and the board passed an additional motion praising the rector," says Marks.
"What is a surprise," he says, "is the substantial number of delegates– nearly one-third– who voted against Ms. Dragas."

The alum group intends to continue to focus on corporate governance at UVA, and the way boards are selected, appointed, and confirmed around the state, says Marks.

"In this case," he says, "the General Assembly did not adequately fulfill its statutory duty to supervise corporate governance at UVA."

With both the governor and U.S. Senator Mark Warner endorsing Dragas, she was likely to prevail in her confirmation, observes Marks. "The university community learned from this experience that political loyalty trumps accountability."

Marks stresses that none of his group's anti-Dragas sentiment is personal. Instead, the issue is about "a record of incompetent performance in a volunteer office that has substantially damaged the University of Virginia, and what to do about that," he says.

Teachable moment
UVA's political-guru emeritus Larry Sabato is just back from an afternoon class when he tells the Hook in an email what lessons his "hundreds of bright, eager, optimistic students" could learn from the Dragas confirmation.

"Were this a pure democracy," writes Sabato, "Helen Dragas' confirmation would have come to a popular vote among UVA alumni, faculty, staff, and students, and Dragas would have lost in a massive landslide. That much is crystal clear to any fair observer. But that is not how we choose BoV members and rectors."

Sabato points out that our representative democracy means the elected governor and legislature make the decisions.

"Presumably, the legislators studied the Dragas case, and for a combination of reasons they chose to ignore local and alumni sentiment. That is their privilege," he says, but it's not without possible consequence.

"Voters pass judgment on election day at regular intervals," he says. "Note that the local legislators with the most contact with people affected by the Rector supported her ouster."

He also cites the unusually high number of legislators voting against Dragas in what would typically have been a rubber-stamped appointment.

"The 33 House votes constituted a sizeable 'no' contingent," Sabato says. "More important, the group was bipartisan in a highly polarized era. A lot of messages were sent in this process, some of them public and others private. It would be a mistake to think that this is a return to the status quo ante."

Finally, Sabato warns, continuing to focus on Dragas is to lose sight of the big picture.

"It's easy to get cynical, but that would ignore the unprecedented restoration of Teresa Sullivan as president," he says. "Many of the same forces that wanted Dragas kept as rector wanted Sullivan ousted as president. The score is one and one– except Sullivan's reinstatement is leagues more significant than Dragas' confirmation. Unelected governing bodies like the BoV almost never reverse themselves on the big things; this one was forced to do it. It is a fresh memory and a long-lasting lesson for all concerned."

Sullivan sent congratulations to all the board members appointed by the General Assembly last week, and continues to stress her desire for reconciliation, says UVA spokesperson McGregor McCance.

The summer’s events "were certainly a reminder of the level of interest and lifelong attachment and care that alumni and others have for UVA," he says. "That wasn’t as much a lesson learned as a powerful statement and reminder."

The amount of national attention last summer did offer this lesson, says McCance: "President Sullivan has said that the experience has clearly demonstrated that what happens at UVA matters far beyond Charlottesville and Virginia. This is one of America’s great public institutions. It’s important to keep it that way and it’s important to recognize that UVA is viewed as a 'beacon of excellence' in higher education."

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


Endowment up! Keep up the good work Dragas.

Somehow it is hard to understand the "damage" to UVA spoken of in this article. Rankings, enrollment, and endowment are all up. What fabricated "damage" do they speak of? Perhaps this is why the elected officials chose to ignore the outcry of hurt feelings. UVA is on a roll in my view!

Nearly 3000 free abortions perpetrated inside publicly funded UVA itself, made possible with state taxpayer, tuition, and student health funds. 24 years of sexual assault and rape cases squelched and covered up by the UVA Police/Womens Center/UVA Administration. Handing out Morning After Pills like candy to 13 year old children - even boys - without their parents knowing. Institutional scientific dishonesty regarding medical information, resulting in plenty of preterm births and breast cancer diagnoses for UVA alumni. A blind eye turned to the huge and thriving illegal drug market on Grounds. Total control of local media, to the point where a student dropping dead in a frat house in not news at all. Not around here..

Naturally, none of THESE issues are of any concern at all regarding UVA's reputation. Not to these folks anyway.. This is what has become of academia the last 20 years, and there is no better example than UVA.

Cant see these issues through those pesky trees blocking Janiss run. Thats hte REAL issue.

What damage? It won't be immediately reported by those measures which have momentum that is independent of the debacle: rankings, enrollment, etc. The damage is to reputation and to credibility and has been most clearly displayed by the reaction to Helen's capricious behavior. All of that is out in the open, a matter of record. Exactly how she got away with it is NOT so clearly understood.

The pathetic student government has somehow imagined that their resolution might have any impact on the legislature's confirmation of Helen. And the faculty, who is not much more influential then the students, has indicated their preference of support for Teresa. Likewise, the alums. But all of this is meaningless. UVA is NOT their toy. It belongs to Virginia, and is ultimately under the control of the assembly and their appointees on the BoV. Of course, the very small number of alumnae who contribute in vast sums have some special influence, but they play in Helen's sandbox and have no anxiety about student or faculty preference.

Faculty and students very stupidly missed the opportunity to,present themselves en masse to the legislature; they COULD have taken a convoy of buses to Richmond to demonstrate as a group, and they COULD have individually appealed to law makers. But, instead, they made pronouncements from afar, passed resolutions, etc.

Let them eat cake.

Yet, the possibility of eliminating Helen is not lost. That she has been approved for yet another term of service means she will be close, within reach of those who have been so alienated by her. And so, through a gradual process of attrition, she may be encouraged to take her leave.

But that will take courage, commitment, and action.

As it now stands, the constituencies who have been most offended by Helen's adventures appear most unlikely to take any action. Owing to their inertia, they will very probably assure that Helen, and people like her, will be evermore influential and powerful.

To those constituencies I say, you are getting exactly what you deserve.

YOU are precisely the problem. Those in this "debacle" who chose to continue it with rants such as above are a sad and pathetic group who seem to WANT UVA to suffer a lapse of reputation. Just in is the news that The University of Virginia has moved up to take the top spot in this year's Princeton Review rankings of the nation's 'Best Value Public Colleges.'. I respectfully disagree with anyone who says anything less about the forward momentum of UVA.

No rant, there, just a summary of the facts, and speculation as to what might be done.

Of course, others might not agree.

Regardless of whatever "forward momentum" UVA may have Dragas will continue to be an embarrassment and a drag on the system. She seems to have no shame, no humility, and no sense of the damage she has done. If she cared about UVA, she would have done the honorable thing and resigned long ago.

No mater what shortcomings Sulivan may have had, Dragas handling of her removal was so botched that it's failure is Dragas's failure, one so profound that no real world employer would have given her another day. Mark Warner's support behind the scenes at the general assembly has me completely disgusted and he will never again get my vote or another contribution no matter who he might run against.

"Student Council will be working with President Sullivan to restore the image of the university...."

Now which image would that be? The one that has UVA as the best value public university in the nation, or the one that has UVA as the top party school? Hmmm....
Keep in mind, the STUDENTS are primarily responsible for UVA's image as a party school, while the BOV is primarily responsible for UVA's image as a best value.
Well now, Student Council, which image did you wish to restore?

"House Minority Leader David Toscano notes that with 33 votes against her, Dragas didn't exactly get a ringing endorsement from the House of Delegates"

And over 40% of the population voted against Obama, yet he claims a "clear mandate".
More hypocrisy from the Democrats....

This is a point that goes beyond the current controversies. I can't figure out why anyone would think that Dragas - or anyone with similar background - is in any way qualified to an oversee a University. Lets many years of her own career have been spent working in a university and actually doing the real work of universities (research & teaching). Hmmmmmm.....

This is like putting a plumber in charge of a restaurant.

But of course, that point is much bigger than Dragas & UVA. University professionals are not welcome on university boards in the state of VA. They are also absent from SCHEV. Very odd place we are - having the plumbers run our restaurants.

So lets hear it for Virginia - the place that puts people who know nothing about the work of universities in the driver's seat.

downtowner wrote: " 'House Minority Leader David Toscano notes that with 33 votes against her, Dragas didn't exactly get a ringing endorsement from the House of Delegates'

And over 40% of the population voted against Obama, yet he claims a clear mandate". More hypocrisy from the Democrats...."

And you have made this made this connection between Toscano's comments about a BOV appointment and something that some completely other person said about something completely different - how?

Typical partisan political ranter - high on "angry" and low on reason, logic or brains.

downtowner wrote: " 'House Minority Leader David Toscano notes that with 33 votes against her, Dragas didn't exactly get a ringing endorsement from the House of Delegates'

And over 40% of the population voted against Obama, yet he claims a clear mandate". More hypocrisy from the Democrats...."

And you have made this made this connection between Toscano's comments about a BOV appointment and something that some completely other person said about something completely different - how?

Typical partisan political ranter - high on "angry about who the hell knows what" and low on reason, logic, brains, or civic contribution.

The real unanswered question is why Ms Dragas took the actions she did to oust Ms Sullivan. Don't know why this was never asked in the confirmation process. Did she have an actual, specific agenda in mind that she wanted, and still want to pursue? Unlikely that it was just the on-line education distraction, although if it was, coming up with a complex ruse to fire the President seems to be an excessive response. Wouldn't it be nice to know what she's really trying to achieve, rather than just hoping that as a real estate developer she wants to improve the value of the buildings on grounds?

I think more than anything the governor and the GA do not want to oust her and set her loose to tell the whole story behind the botched firing of Sullivan. By reappointing and confirming her, she gets to 'win' and is, in her mind, vindicated and supported. There are alot of opinions on exactly what she won and how her vilification, the SACS response, and the reaction around the community will affect the university in the short run, but she has been effectively neutered by the constant watchdog presence of the media, faculty and alumni to the point that she will be hard pressed to carry out any sort of independent agenda that runs counter to the desires of alumni or faculty--likely the opposite effect of what was originally intended.

Nice to hear a logical question. I heard that the legislators asked the same question and read Helen Dragas's "10 points" from back in June to the people who spoke against Dragas in the subcommittee. I believe if you read these, you will have a better understanding of what the BOV was trying to achieve.

Someone, somewhere, is probably doing the research that will one day bring to light the messy details of Helen's dalliance with power. Meanwhile, even though she keeps her seat, she no doubt will be carefully watched and will have neither the freedom, nor the unconditional support she once did. Most of the stakeholders have made their loyalties and agenda quite clear. Her main purpose now is to be an unpleasant reminder of the damage that can be done when one person with a private agenda and a hunger for control and power is not held in check. Thus, Helen will be present to the UVA community, but not really part of the equation. Maybe that's a good thing.

Andy- Nice to hear a logical question. My understanding is that the legislators in the subcommittee asked the same one and then read Helen Dragas's "10 point statement" to the people who came to speak against Dragas that day a couple of weeks ago. Interesting that Richard Marks, Suzanna Nicholson and others who broadcasted their presence chose not to put this particular meeting on YouTube. Apparently they gave life to the problems facing the University and questioned the real motives of the people who opposed Dragas. They also handed Richard Marks their IPAD and asked him to find any violation of honor by Helen Dragas in the BOV manual that was pulled up on the screen for his convenience. I believe you can find her "10 point statement" on YouTube.

Andy- nice to hear a logical question and not a clearly biased opinion. Facts are usually a better source than conjecture. My understanding is that the legislators in the subcommittee asked the same one and then read Helen Dragas's "10 point statement" to the people who came to speak against Dragas a couple of weeks ago. Interesting that Richard Marks and Suzanna Nicholson and others who broadcasted their presence chose not to put this particular meeting on YouTube. Apparently the delegates gave life to the problems facing the University and questioned the real motives of the people who opposed Dragas. I read that they handed Richard Marks their iPad and asked him to find any violation of honor by Helen Dragas in the Bov manual that was pulled up on the screen for his convenience. I'm sure this wasn't his proudest moment. I believe you can find the referred statement on google.

I've read the 10 points, but doesn't answer the question. All the points refer to the need for a strategic plan, but nowhere is there any indication that there was an effort by the BOV to first insist on seeing such a plan (which as I understand it Ms Sullivan did provide) and then reviewing it and deciding how to implement it, or openly discussing the fact that it needed to be improved, before just pushing the President to resign without any airing of the issues. Again - what was Ms. Dragas' real agenda?

@JS- you mean it is the same as having Eggheads telling biz owners how to run a business. Remind me again of the creds of some of BO initial economic advisors?

Cohen and the Faculty Senate wimped out. That's what needs to be investigated.

It may disappoint the conspiracy theorists and Dragas-haters, but the real story here is simple: on the BOV and in Richmond, Sullivan is regarded as a dud hire, without the chops to lead UVA through the coming challenges facing higher education. She did a good job of faculty babysitting in her previous posts, but she can't hack either the major fundraising or budgetary reorganization UVA needs now. The attempt to give her the Old Yeller treatment last summer was a catastrophe, so now the BOV and Richmond are resigned to Sullivan, as long as Dragas is there to prod her in the right direction.
And no, I am not a Dragas flack, but a UVA prof.

@Karbunkle -- Whether Sullivan is right person for the job is NOT the issue. The issue IS the dishonorable and underhanded actions and behavior of Drag-ass, so blow your smoke somewhere else. As long as HD is around, she will be a HUGE distraction. That's the problem with not getting rid of her.

@Seannie O' The Hills

Years of cover ups of rapes by UVA, protecting the rapists and allowing them to remain in the community and in some cases to rape again. Most of these cover ups have been done by "women" in the administration. Women that purport to be on the front lines of violence against women, foxes in charge of the coop.

Seannie add these to your list, Cville police dept, the Commonwealth Attorney's office, the UVA hospital, local defense attorneys and the local judiciary. Incestuous relationships in a town where most depend on UVA for their daily bread. Never has a UVA student rapist (besides the Securo case where the perp self-confessed and even then the perp got out early on a convenient paperwork error) been arrested for sexual assault. Never a prosecution of a student rapist by the CA (also a UVA grad and UVA law grad). If one does some basic due diligence one will find direct and indirect relationships between key persons in Cville and UVA. NOTHING in Cville is at arms length. UVA controls and influences all these different constituencies.

So think of every big case from Harrington to Love and many more and then wonder why UVA always escapes ANY responsibility.

Now we have two women at the very top of the pyramid, Sullivan and Dragas, yet the rape cover ups continue. Not one rapist ever expelled from UVA. Every girl/woman on campus is at risk and those that become victims will never get ANY justice. It just doesn't happen. Every case becomes "he said she said" as evidence is diminished. The Women's Center is a PR stunt. What have they actually done for victims? They tow the UVA line. When was the last time the Women's Center openly challenged UVA's policy on sexual assault? The policy that conveniently never expels rapists. That's a statistic that the University cannot explain away. It's a statistic that doesn't seem to bother the women of UVA, including Sullivan and Dragas who are clearly together and in agreement on this policy. Sullivan talks the talk but has dismally failed to walk the walk. CHEAP TALK and HOT AIR but no change in policy. Violence against women is on par with underage drinking at UVA. Turn a blind eye and then cover up any bad incidents.

Beware female students, if you get raped by a UVA student the statistics of you getting ANY justice by filing a complaint either with the police or the University are 100% against you. That's right 100%!!!!!! That's an undisputed fact.

No matter what camp one resides in, it is obvious that a major failure of Dragas' was her chosen method for ousting Sullivan. If you are a Sullivan-supporter, the shoddiness of Dragas' method was offensively underhanded, and if you are a Dragas supporter, it was disappointingly incompetent. So, this has also been a teachable moment for those interested in learning how to more effectively rid themselves of unwanted high-profile personnel. Clearly, the arm-twisting, top-down method, once exposed, was an abject disaster. What Dragas and her allies on the BOV (i.e., nearly ALL of the BOV as comprised in June) blindly failed to foresee was that at a place like UVa, which is not as simply hierarchically structured as a real estate company might be, a top-down edict can be effectively countered with a massive bottom-up groundswell. Or at least with a carefully orchestrated appearance of such a groundswell. The inability of the June movement to effectively carry forward a mere 7 months and prevent Dragas' reappointment suggests that it might not have been as broad, unanimous, and powerful as the BOV assumed, when it caved in late June and reinstated the voluntarily-resigned Sullivan. Perhaps if the BOV had held fast, there would have actually been a change of leadership of some kind at UVa, instead of this return to the status quo ante, which presumably returns us to the Dragas v. Sullivan gridlock. But others seem to have learned the lesson in coup-management. It has been particularly interesting to watch how, post-ouster, Sullivan and her Madison Hall deputies have managed the personnel management decisions under their own, non-transparent control. An impartial observer could not accurately describe these actions as reflecting the open, consultative processes that the masses demanded of the BOV back in June. First, Strine, Sandridge's once-highly-touted replacement, was forced to quietly jump from the plane, with a majorly fluffy golden parachute, due to his apparent betrayal of Sullivan's trust and alleged secret dealings with the BOV, while Simon was applauded for his quick leaping upon the pro-Sullivan bandwagon. Then, Sullivan announced her various "strategic planning" committees that, for all their public entertainment value, don't seem to have a clearly articulated mission or expected product to deliver. One might view these as theatrical performances, mainly, intended to cast a shadow over the ultimate maintenance of things as they are and always have been at UVa -- controlled, quietly, by a chosen elite few. Most recently, it looks as if Sullivan's team has learned to make use of the lower ranks of management, such as mock-hiring committees and the Faculty Senate, in order to install favored allies in powerful posts and to pre-doom its remaining unfavored rivals within UVa, from the bottom-up, in order to hide the fact of pre-made decisions at the top. This is a much shrewder method than Dragas used, and is where it seems that Helen's blunder has tought us well.

The only thing teflon-coated about Dragas is her daddy's checkbook. That not only bought her the one and only job she's had, building houses, but also through the Dragas-family campaign contributions, it bought her seat on various boards. Let's call this what it is, her political capital bought with daddy's capital put her where she is today.

@Karbunkle: as Betty suggests, the issue swirling around Dragas refers to HER suitability for the post she occupies. Quite obviously, her conduct suggests she is at least as unsuited for her job as Sullivan is (or might be) for hers. I'm not sure that many people "hate" Helen, but they seem to despise her methods and are pardonably suspicious of a Board which has been so easily beguiled as to ignore the appropriate protocols applying to dismissal of their president. I, personally, don't hate Helen (I don't hate anyone) but I don't trust her and I believe her continued presence on the board in any capacity, together with the evident inability of the board to govern itself, will pose more of a burden on advancing the University then will Teresa's gradual approach.

You have alleged that the Board and Richmond regard Sullivan as a "dud hire." Perhaps, professor, with your presumed high regard for academic honesty and clarity, you will be willing to produce the evidence to support your claim. Perhaps not.

If there is any prodding to be done, I suspect it will take shape in an effort to keep Helen stuffed down in the box with the lid firmly shut. She may be wheeled out, now and then, like Jeremy Bentham, to issue various pronouncements or represent the school in some innocuous social venue. But for now, she is radioactive, and best handled by containment.

To those who continue to object to the general absence of actual academics on the BOV, I say that issue is a red herring, and ignores the harder issues involved. One needs a PhD to be viewed as competent to teach graduate strudents and to publish in peer-refereed journals, but not to manage an institution of any kind. Obviously, even Sullivan and her subordinates share my view, based on some of their recent hires in high-level administrative jobs.

Yes, @watch and learn - even plumbers need accountants - because - well, you know. Plumbers know plumbing, not accounting.

So every organization of any size must have its "staff" personnel. These are the people who know administrative stuff, and many of those will be high level & powerful positions.

But when the "staff" takes over the entire administration without any understanding of the actual "line" work of the organization then it is a mess, and there is no reason to think that it would be otherwise. This is the problem in the state of Virginia and applied to Dragas, she is "staff" trying to dictate to "line" but having no expertise whatsoever in the line work.

Yes, @watch and learn - even plumbers need accountants - because - well, you know. Plumbers know plumbing, not accounting.

So every organization of any size must have its "staff" personnel. These are the people who know administrative stuff, and many of those will be high level & powerful positions. This is NOT a mystery to anyone.

But when the "staff" takes over the entire administration without any understanding of the actual "line" work of the organization then it is a mess, and there is no reason to think that it would be otherwise. This is the problem in the state of Virginia and applied to Dragas, she is "staff" trying to dictate to "line" but having no expertise whatsoever in the line work.

Sorry for those dup posts. This website is having issues.

in 2010 Dr. Sullivan was hired via unanimous vote of the BoV after the Special Committee for Nomination of a President interviewed numerous candidates and recommended Dr. Sullivan. Dragas was on that committee. Dragas became Rector in July 2011 after serving on the BoV since 2008, she had ample opportunity to voice her concerns and the power to do something about those concerns - but we only heard about them after the coup attempt failed. So, who's job was it to "supervise" the new president since her unanimously approved hire? If Sullivan is in fact a "dud" then the people that unanimously hired the "dud" are the ones at fault, are they not? And if there was no "strategic plan" then why didn't the BoV demand one (they expressly asked for one not to be prepared when Dr. Sullivan was first hired)? They are blaming everyone else for their shortcomings when the duty is expressly theirs but the fault seems to lie with everyone else. And don't you find it compelling that not a single other current or former BoV member came to Dragas' defense before the General Assembly. Not one.

Previously, Daniel Abramson, a former Board member from Alexandria, Va., had been unanimously elected as vice rector in 2009, making him the original choice for rector in 2011. Gov. Bob McDonnell chose not to re-appoint Abramson, who contributed to the political campaigns of Kaine, Mark Warner and other Democrats, so Dragas was streamlined in. "I am humbled by the confidence [the Board] placed in me and will do everything I can to live up to their trust," Dragas said.

@JS, ok, point taken. But it apparently hasn't sunk in at the Sullivan-and-below level. For e.g., the recently announced new UVA provost for art departments (or whatever the title is) is someone with no experience at all in professorial academics, other than having gone to college and into business like many of us, but who will run that part of UVa's academic's program. Is there a meaningful distinction between that and having non-acedemics like Dragas run the BOV? Why is the result objectionable in one case but not in the other (or maybe it is objectionable in both, and Sullivan's selection of her subordinate is just as inappropriate as Kaine's and McDonnell's repeated selection of Dragas)?

Wrong on no board members coming to Dragas's defense. I understand that Victoria Harker was at a subcommittee hearing and I read numerous opinion letters from board members. It appears that Dragas enjoys enormous support from the BOV. There was a particularly telling op-Ed in the Roanoke Times by Marvin Gilliam in January. It will fill in some blanks. The BOV also gave her a unanimous vote of approval when they reinstated Sullivan.
In reference to the "dud hire" remark, I agree that now that Sullivan must let go of her victim status since Helen Dragas is here to stay (thankfully for all of us at UVA), she should be ok as long as she is supported and guided by the strength of this BOV.

As usual for state board appointments, money (big) and politics trumps merit. Robert McDonnell is the personification of this reality.
Another obviously important issue is the role of the General Assembly in reviewing a governor's appointments. Is it to a rubber stamp as some members contend or is it to involve an independent consideration, as the term "confirmation" implies and history supports? If it is to be the former, then the law should be changed, as there would be no need to submit names to the General Assembly for approval. Those members who do not want to exercise their independint judgment would appear to be in contempt of the existing law--not a recommended characteristic for a member of a legislative body.

To Yeah Right

You are "right on the money" so to speak. Here is another example to embellish your thought. So she receives $200K in "compensation" to be on the board at Dominion Power. Why? To attend a handful of meetings every year.

Enough to make me want to live off-the-grid.

or in a bee loud glade...

@ posters

What is wrong with you people? To all of you......whether you support Dragas or Sullivan....

Dragas and Sullivan have more in common than you think. They're actually very similar. Since all the shenanigans last June both did ABSOLUTE U-turns on their positions. Dragas thought Sullivan was inept and now she thinks Sullivan is wonderful just to keep her position (self-serving) and Sullivan did the same to keep her $1m remuneration (husband and wife). Now she thinks Dragas is great! Both have no convictions!

Hardly people with principles and ethics since the proof is in the pudding.

Perhaps, for some, the controversy is all about supporting Helen or supporting Teresa. But for many, the issue revolves around "shenanigans," rather than the occupants who were involved. The nonsense served to disclose shoddy governance, a weak governing board and an unrestrained ego.

Respectfully disagree. I believe it exposed a poor administration content with the status quo and you need to dig a little deeper to find the unrestrained ego.

I respectfully disagree. I think it exposed a weak administration content with the status quo. Period. And if you are looking for an unrestrained ego, you are on the right track. It's not HD or TS. You need to dig a little deeper.

@JSGeare, c'mon, what "shenanigans"? It was just an attempted out-flanking at the senior management level that didn't work out. Happens all the time, and according to the report to the accreditors that was prepared by Sullivan and her administration Dragas and the BOV broke no applicable UVa rules. The accreditors had to concede this, and busted UVa because UVa allegedly didn't follow the accreditors' externally imposed rules, which may or may not be actually binding and enforceable Don't kind yourself that Madison Hall isn't operating this way in getting rid of people downstream. Think Strine left because he wanted to? Think the dean of the med school didn't get his appointment renewed because he wanted that result? Ever hear about any kind of open process or consultation with the masses or the self-annointed transparency police (faculty senate) re either of those "oustings"? Sullivan plays the same game that Dragas plays -- but lands more punches by aiming lower. Can't wait to see the next round in this bout!

@Kind campaign, got anyone specific in mind?

Oh Chris, you mean that January 2012 op-ed piece drafted for Gilliam by Hill & Knowlton noting that John Ullyot did a fine job on the 10-point memo Dragas released as her own? I gave that the weight it deserved after reading attorney Vincent Mastracco's August 14, 2012 interview where he said, "the board has never at any meeting held a discussion about Sullivan's performance." He then went on to say Dragas and a few other members - he was not among them - phoned their colleagues, asking "whether they would stand in the way of what appeared to be the consensus to separate Teresa Sullivan from the board," he said. But "clearly it was not the case" that a consensus had formed." So, if there was a performance issue, when was it discussed, and with whom. On October 29, 2012, another BoV member Randal Kirk said, “Teresa Sullivan was sold to this board as an interim. . . . The fact that she was presented to us in this way, we didn’t really engage with her and share what we expected.” These are damning statements against interest by an attorney who is Dragas' husband's law partner and another very sophisticated businessman. So, if the board didn't really engage with her and "share what they expected" then what precisely was the reason for the emergency executive meeting that Helen - according to Kiernan - had been planning for months? Even Helen said in her press conference that this was "something that was evolving over time..." so where is any evidence of the performance issue, other than Helen's unsupported, and often contradictory statements. By the way, she told the VA GA that she had consensus, but "all the BoV members cut and ran" leaving her holding the bag! Now, there's a Board everyone should trust!

@watch and learn

God forbid an institution of higher learning, a non-profit with a mandate for providing higher education subsidized by tax payers operates ethically and delivers the best education that money can buy. No let's puts Goldman Sachs to shame when it comes to playing dirty, something UVA has perfected. Lets behave like all the other corporate thugs!

I feel terrible for the faculty, most of whom are truly decent people and who care about their students. The admin is the complete opposite and Sullivan and Dragas run the Admin.

@Watch: I was referring to whatever "shenanigans" were mentioned by "moi" above my response. Of course Moi refers to all the controversy and reactions attendant upon Teresa's failed dismissal. But, otherwise, your pugilistic metaphor is apt, I think.

@Kind campaign: Please leave us in suspense no longer. If you have discerned the unrestrained ego involved with the Dragas Sullivan controversy, please, do tell.

I could be wrong about this (fancy that) but it now appears that apologists for Helen are presenting themselves more generously in this discussion, although they were conspicuous by their absence as the June events unfolded. While their belated appearance by no means proves a calculated attempt to quash the issues at hand, it is not inconsistent with a programmatic attempt to make everything go away, either.

Any such apologists who imagine that the passage of a few months has made anyone more receptive to their messages should realize that it takes a very long time to wash away the stink, and efforts to do so only tend to enhance the aroma.

UVa was given an accreditation warning because of a lack of clarity in governance. I don't see any improvement; if anything it it far worse. Thank goodness Virginia has several excellent state schools for the state's high school students and parents to chose from.

I think this fight is about UVa's five billion dollar endowment and the failing fortunes of once high flying fund managers. Getting rid of Dragas would be like Obama getting rid of Holder. If anyone with integrity were to be appointed the suppressed corruption would explode like pus in a lanced boil.

I think you are right, George, but for that to happen, the appointed person would also need to have nothing to lose by popping that boil. Not many people have the unique combination of necessary ambition to become president/rector/provost plus financial security/confidence in the face of risk, to roll those dice. None have climbed into this ring, anyway, and the controlling instinct of self-preservation will result in faked moments of reconciliation like we saw back in late June, every time.

@watch and learn - as to your following comment:
" For e.g., the recently announced new UVA provost for art departments (or whatever the title is) is someone with no experience at all in professorial academics, other than having gone to college and into business like many of us, but who will run that part of UVa's academic's program. Is there a meaningful distinction between that and having non-acedemics like Dragas run the BOV? Why is the result objectionable in one case but not in the other (or maybe it is objectionable in both"

As I am not at UVA, I don't know anything of the specifics of recent appointments nor of the people in current academic leadership positions. But the answer is that it is completely objectionable in both cases.

However, since higher ed in VA, in general, is ultimately controlled by non-academics (from the McDonnell, thru the legislature, SCHEV, BOVs, etc.) its never a surprise to me that completely unqualified people end up in leadership positions.

U.S. culture is generally an anti-intellectual one. In Virginia that anti-intellectualism tends to be heavily accentuated. Academic work and those that do it garner little if any respect for their labors or expertise. So they are squashed like bugs by business-logic bureaucrats, smug in their embrace of a neoliberalism that they themselves barely understand.



You must be so clever. What an intelligent man you are looking down at all these uneducated masses.

Well let me enlighten you, these intellectual elites that administer UVA, Sullivan included, are misogynous. All of them have PhDs in Education, mostly from UVA, that are worthless not even good enough for toilet paper. As far as I am concerned with all their pseudo intellect and track record of misogynous behavior they are crass, vulgar, uncivilized and bigoted.

C'ville has never arrested, charged or prosecuted a single UVA student for sexual assault on another UVA student. UVA has never expelled a student for sexual assault. Statistically this is impossible! An anomaly! It defies any common sense and it is inexplicable unless this is an unsaid policy not only endorsed but enforced by all these respective authorities! How the hell can anyone who is educated and civilized, not only tolerate this, but accept the pathetic and ignorant excuses made by this alleged elite school and the local authorities? These people are worse than the Taliban and that is not an exaggeration. The Taliban are truly ignorant, uneducated, myopic, retarded and beastly. This still doesn't excuse what they do to their women. However, their women know where they stand. We here in Charlottesville, with our own human rights commission and drone free zones, make believe that we are civilized, educated, open minded and ignorantly think we treat women as equals. What is actually worse is that we arrogantly market ourselves as a democratic people (unlike the Afgans) and we tell our young girls they are free, equal and independent and they grow up actually believing these false platitudes. Our elite press condemns Indian society for the very same violence against women that is no different in many homes and institutions in our society. So when we accept UVA's misogynistic policy that makes us worse than the Taliban. Why you may ask? Because at least they don't pretend to be something they are not! So next time you eat your organic food, sip you sophisticated Bordeaux wine, read Proust, and debate politics remember you are a part of this society that pretends to be better than the (let them eat cake) uneducated masses and remind yourself you are no better because you allow this venerable and cult like elite above any other University mistreat and abuse young women. All of you in this administration have, some less and some more, of Sandusky in you than you would like to believe.

What about all the professors who stay silent on this? They all know what the policy is and despite silently disapproving it do nothing.

Shame on C'ville/UVA for selling out our daughters and sisters. Hence we might think we are intelligent because we have diplomas but until we treat the women in our society as equals we are far from civilized.


The very first of seven characteristics of a civilized society is "Safety". No female UVA student is safe on or near Grounds, not safe from assault by rapists and not safe from the very institution that should protect them when they are assaulted. An institution that has an unadulterated record of protecting every single UVA rapist. Nor does the law apply to female UVA students who have been assaulted. Hence based on the statistics that makes UVA and C'ville formally "uncivilized". It's the reality, kid you not!

The good ole boys club of Casteen/Sandridge/big shot leftist faculty consortium needed someone other than a white male to warm the seat for white male buddy Ed Ayers. Sociologist Sullivan fit the bill in terms of both gender and ideology, and they figured she would tow the line. She did. It was common knowledge that she and her hubby could come make a cool million for a few easy years, enjoy the accolades, then ride off into retirement. She was also the perfect age to be a seat warmer.

What nobody counted on was the mess she inherited, off the radar due to UVA's complete control of local media and what info does and doesn't reach big donors. UVA fell way out of the top 100 of the ARWU at this time. Sullivan also turned out to be more interested in academic matters than fund raising. Big no-no to the cigarette salesmen of the world. Amidst these messes, the Harrington and Love tragedies come along, putting the PR department into overdrive - and not so successfully outside of the Charlottesville bubble.

Along comes 2011 and a conservative republican landslide win. Dragas is no fool, and knows what the BOV will look like soon enough. And indeed, it does now. She tries to get Sullivan to reign in the folks that made UVA Hugh Hefner's favorite school that are still really running the show. She doesn't. So Dragas goes to Strine and a bit of dirty pool is arranged behind the backs of BOV members she knows are on their way out the door anyway. Think of it as "in with the new, out with the old," academic style - taking the old guard's seat warmer out with their first move. As we know, the coup failed..

As the ARWU ranking tanks and the accreditation even becomes an issue, those on the board - apparently including Dragas - know that UVA has swung so far to the left and become such a party school that Rhodes Scholar selections have basically vanished while attention from the Playboy empire has peaked. And, yes, there is pushback on UVA about the in house abortions and all the related medical misinformation stuff from a LOT of people in Richmond. Me and my colleagues have met with several of them and been told this personally. It could hardly be otherwise given the people running the show in Richmond right now. But they are reluctant to go after the state's flagship school publicly with legislation, for the time being. The angry calls are made in private. And, YES, they have included the UVA tradition of rape cover ups that have been so important to keeping the party chugging along.. These pigs simply do not fly with Tazewell, Winchester, or Appomattox folks! Don't like it? Too bad.

Meanwhile, Dragas knows the problems with accreditation are coming from a group in Alabama - not NYC or DC - and so does Sullivan. One way or the other, it's time for the old guard to take a hike for real. Despite the drama of June, I think they both have a mandate now to really change a number of things, and they have agreed to leave the drama behind as they leave the messes of their predecessors behind also. And it will take a lot longer than a few years. There with much gnashing of teeth among the lefty faculty as the righty BOV reversed the course of Mr. Jefferson's University back to something resembling what it once was.. Mr. Ayers, you're not going to be the president of UVA.

As for the rest of you, I suggest you do as the ladies have done, bury your beloved hatchets, and find something better to do with your time now. This is over, and this is all I'll have to say here. Bye.


Its obvious that you have a bone to pick with some issues at UVA.

I have absolutely no earthly idea what it has to do with anything that I said. So if you want to get preachy, fine, but leave me out of it.

Although, for what its worth - just to give you some smidgen of self-righteous smugness to carry away with you - I do look down at the uneducated masses. :-P

Reading all this soap-opera analysis of short term alliances & payoffs, you'd think that Sullivan had been in office for years and years, and that short term outcomes are all that matters. Please, let's focus on & fix the long-term problems. The UVA rape/drinking culture is real and lasting in all its effects on the university including all the misogyny against Dragas & Sullivan. The underfunding of UVA (relative to all its public uni peers) is real and matters. The way the underfunding of UVA makes it vulnerable to the tinkering and social aspirations of rich folks is historically true, as well. Dig there instead of fantasizing about motives & subplots. Get UVA properly funded. Stop bashing on women and for god's sake someone establish a rape reporting center at UVA that actually works.


How sad for you. One day when you are old and useless to society one of those uneducated masses might be your carer and only access to the everyday basics and that would be karma.


"..get UVA properly funded."

The five billion dollar endowment, at a safe reurn of 4% per year, could give each of the 17,000 undergrads a $12,000 a year scholarship, without touching the principal.

Or they could to continue to pee it away on Hill and Knowlton.

George, I suspect the real issue behind the scenes has a lot to do with where that endowment gets invested and how manipulating or simply knowing about its movement might help certain parties. Dragas is playing her own game though now that they lost the first round and I'm sure it has more to do with ego than anything else. Wonder whether it's her paying Chris (aka "kind campaign") and his crew or whether the big guys behind the scenes fund that.

Exactly. They want to "Corzine" the fund, that is to "borrow" the money and its influence to their own ends. If successful the misallocated money will be returned to UVa while they fatten their own positions. If it fails, they, like Jon Corzine, know nothing!

substitute "Dragas" "Gov McDimwit" and use "Pat Robertson" and the ugly power tactics and undemocratic use of the office of BOV becomes clearer...

Dragas NEEDS a couple nights with Christopher Dumler. NEEDS.


A sensible person would have looked up a word he/she didn't know.

@Percy Kution

You can disagree with Dragas and dislike her but your comment is more than inappropriate. It's crass, vulgar and misogynous!

@moi, wrong JS.

And how do you know I'm not already old and useless - or maybe even young and useless.

Holy Cow. Get a life.

@ moi - just wondering why the specification of an UNPAID caregiver.

@JS, Right. Wrong.

Misogyny isn't driving the side-taking in the Dragas v. Sullivan war (unless there are those of us who enjoy seeing a cat fight). It really is about competing visions for the Univ, and about which camp is better at exploting the ignorance and perceived values of the "community." For now, Sullivan (mainly through her deputies in Madison Hall and Booker House) is out-playing the BOV at that game and fooling "the people" into thinking she has their back. But it's all 3-card-monty, as what's really going on, if you look closely, is a quiet and top-heavy aggregation of control in the president's office, at the expense of the U's various schools, in a way that the BOV had hoped to pull off for itself back in June but miserably failed. Any real ideas on changing the system are getting swept under the rug, and the sneakiness of the way this is successfully happening shows how amateurish the BOV was in its attempt. One of those "strategic" task forces was supposed to come up with a structural solution to the finding crisis, but if it did, we sure didn't hear anything about it when the U trumpeted the findings of its less crisis-focused committees. Wonder why (that's an imperative, not a question), since that seems to be the biggest threat to the life of the public U. Rather than instigating any kind of change, the president's team is quashing such efforts being tried at the school-level, out of fear of alienating their temporary proletarian allies, worryingly wringing their hands as they await the accreditors' visit in hope that all blame will fall to the BOV. Closest historical comparison? I'd say Nero's Rome. "Fiddler on the Rotunda," anyone?

"...a structural solution to the finding crisis..."

I assume you meant a funding crisis. What crisis? If UVa needs money cancel the absurd Yoga Center (or whatever it's called) and sell the JPJ Arena to the city of Charlottesville for starters.

Want more? Tell the Sullivans they can have one juicy plum of a taxpayer-paid salary, not three. Pick either the law school salary, the tenured faculty salary, or the President's salary. You really should not have to explain ethics to either a college president or a college rector.

Whether it is about presidential salaries, structural funding issues, ancillary "centers" or capital holdings of questionable value, sweeping dirt under the rug to protect public image, competing visions etc. - UVA is just not that special.

If you smell Rome burning, its coming from all of the "Rotundas" - not just the one in C'ville. Its "the University," in general, that is long on its way toward death. UVa's issues are mostly just local manifestations of more general trends.

The core of the issues lie in broad attempts to turn them into little production units for the state and corporation. The fact that families want them to be career production units for their spoiled kids could be fought off. The state & corporate interests, however, will grind it all down to nothing eventually.

You're right again, JS. Maybe the concept of the public university, as it has been known and run for the last many years, has become obsolete. The privates don't seem to be going through the same kinds of agonies the publics are going through. Or at least they aren't whining about it as loudly. Severing any links to state government control would at least remove the taint of electoral politics from the operation, and severe the unseemliness of tax-payer support for fat-cat perks like free cars and cash-outs for selling old houses at a loss. Seems like UVA, with its big endowment, might survive that kind of shift. Others wouldn't, probably.

The simple fact is that Helen Dragas (D/R) broke the law in June 2012; this is well known within inner U.Va. circles. Bob Marshall (R) was spot-on with his comments on the floor of the General Assembly -- more spot-on than even he knows. Dragas hoodwinked the governor, legislators, the public, and the media with her conciliatory, yet deceitful, tone. What goes around comes around; her hubris will be her downfall in very short order. For her own sake, it is unfortunate that Dragas was not a classics major as a U.Va. undergraduate.

The liberal/conservative dichotomists posting here are humorously small-minded. This debacle is about power, pure and simple, and who is willing to confront such abuse of power. Puerile political labels are of little relevance. Hence the reason Bob McDonnell (R)/Mark Warner (D) and Steve Landes (R)/Creigh Deeds (D) are of similar minds on this overextended matter.

Apologies for the mix up in identity.
I never specified anything about "unpaid". My point was that someone, like JS, who is arrogant and looks down on people they believe are less than them, for whatever reason, might have to one day rely on those people. That would be karma as we all know the state of our retirement homes in this country!

@ Uncle Guy
"Misogyny isn't driving the side-taking in the Dragas v. Sullivan war"
I never stated that misogyny was the driving force behind the side-taking in the D vs. S war. My point was that the blame for UVA's "Misogynous Policy" can no longer be placed on the good ole boys because these two gals are comfortably peddling the same policy without hesitation and remorse. There's been lots of talk about change for 2 years but that's all, it's just been talk. Actually most of the lower level hacks that execute the policy are women. My other point was that you are all arguing about the future direction of the University and ignoring the elephant in the room. What subject do you think dominates the conversation in the board room of the Penn State trustees? Could I have made my point any clearer?
Sullivan and Dragas, continue with this policy at your own peril, after all it will be your legacy and your shame if the scandal blows up on your watch. Just ask Spanier and the family of the late Joe Pa what it cost them. Coming sooner than you think to UVA.........

moi wrote:
"My point was that someone, like JS, who is arrogant and looks down on people they believe are less than them, for whatever reason, might have to one day rely on those people."

At this point I am only really looking down at you because your brain is apparently not wired quite correctly.

First, I have no idea where you got this point that I am somehow an arrogant one looking down at the uneducated masses. All of my initial points were about the fact that having universities run by people that don't know anything about professional academic work is a bad idea. If, in your mind, that somehow translates to me "looking down at all these uneducated masses" then this is one indication that things are a bit askew in your brain. You conclusions - or should I say accusations - are completely and utterly baseless and unwarranted.

Second, your point about caregivers is actually insulting to many people who don't have very high levels of education but do great work in this area. Why would *you* assume that one needs to be a highly educated "elite" to provide excellent care to the elderly? I certainly don't assume that. When I am old and busted and need caregivers, I don't need them to provide brilliant insights from any long and deep life of the mind. So even if I was an arrogant one looking down on the uneducated masses, I wouldn't make any assumptions regarding someone's suitability or talent as a caregiver.

I think you might find the bottom of your somewhat reckless and wanton anger by turning some analysis on yourself rather than running around the internet randomly making up reasons to go after others.

@moi: by definition, a carer is one who gives care without being paid for it. So I thought your selection of that word, rather than "care giver" portrayed some special nuance. Evidently, not.