The case against confirmation could not be more clear-cut. Internal e-mails and other sources reveal that Dragas manipulated boardrules and procedures to force Sullivan’s resignation. As she gathered the votes to oust Sullivan, she asserted her claim — individually rather than in a required board meeting where the question could have been debated — that most board members supported the firing. Thus the board never held a vote on removal.
This record and the public opposition to her cannot be forgotten or excused. Attempts by Dragas and her few supporters to sweep everything under the rug — including an unwillingness to offer a credible explanation for the June events generally and an astounding lack ofresponsiveness to the SACS inquiry specifically — reflect a view that accountability in academic governance does not matter; that learning from board mistakes is not worthwhile; and that trying to vindicate one person’s self-damaged reputation trumps restoring U-Va.’s reputation and integrity.
What justification does Ms. Dragas offer for her dismal performance as rector?
When asked by one newspaper why she insists on trying to stay, Dragas replied, “I stayed on the board because I know the important issues the university has to address and is addressing.” Such obliviousness, however, shows precisely the opposite — a failure to comprehend that she was the central cause of the most significant problems confronting U-Va. Those problems include a loss of trust and competence at the governing level; the board’s loss of legitimacy and its strained working relationships with top staff and faculty; the ongoing impairment of U-Va.’s institutional integrity; and the embarrassing accreditation inquiry.
The crisis at U-Va. has become a test case for all public universities. What is more important: the institutional integrity of a great university, or the support of a politically well-connected board chair?
In the business world, similar mistakes would quickly lead to board member departures, voluntary or not. If this crisis involved a private, for-profit corporation, a shareholder lawsuit would already have forced the resignation of those responsible. The members of the General Assembly must exercise their oversight responsibility to achieve a similar result at U-Va.