Late Friday, when many journalists had gone home for the weekend, Governor Bob McDonnell announced he would re-appoint Helen Dragas to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. McDonnell said he was disappointed that the first female rector of the university had become the sole target of criticism, and he said her critique of challenges facing the university must be heard.
Helen Dragas was widely seen as the engineer of Teresa Sullivan’s ouster, and her critics were none too happy with the news she’d been reappointed. Siva Vadyahnathan is chairman of Media Studies at UVA.
“It’s really unfortunate. It’s, however, not surprising. At the top levels of institutions and states, when you want to get things done, you have to cut deals,” said Vadyahnathan.
And faculty senate president George Cohen, who once demanded that Dragas resign, was willing to let the appointment ride.
“If the president feels that she is able to work with her, we ought to follow the president’s lead on that, and we’re going to do that in the spirit of cooperation.”
Other appointments include Frank Atkinson and Barbara Kilberg. Atkinson is a lobbyist for corporations and university foundations who gave nearly $37,000 to McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Attorney General Ken Cucinnelli and other Republican candidates since 2000. Kilberg is president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Her contributions to McDonnell, Bolling and other GOP candidates totaled more than $50,000 over the last 12 years.
Victoria Harker, chair of UVA’s alumni association, Linwood Rose, former president of James Madison University, and Ed Miller, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine also made the list, so faculty leader George Cohen said he was satisfied.
“I think we see the glass is half full, that the governor reached out to name a former university president, someone from the alumni association – and I think we have to look at that as progress.”
He was also gratified that UVA’s retired COO – Leonard Sandridge, had been named to one of two new seats reserved for senior advisors. The other went to William Goodwin, Jr. of Richmond, a former member of UVA’s board of visitors and a generous donor to the GOP, having given more than $546,000 to McDonnell, Bolling, Cucinelli and other Republican candidates since 2000.
Cohen said the faculty senate would continue to press for someone to represent UVA’s professors on the board of visitors.