"Jim Webb, former U.S. Senator (D.-Va.) and Secretary of the Navy, makes note of many strong University of Virginia alumni in recognizing the day's graduates."
Jim Webb: "Our social programs...are solid, the safety net is there, we need to keep it there. Our challenges, which may be the greatest challenge of your generation, is to bring a full measures of economic fairness and social justice back to those who are in the middle - our working people, our small business owners, are the ones who always carry the American dream on their backs...Their place in our society has been severely damaged over the past several years..."
By the way, listening to this, the thought kept crossing my mind that one way or the other, Jim Webb is not done with serving this country, possibly in the political arena. He cares too deeply about economic fairness, social justice, and the place of our great nation in the world for it to be otherwise.
"Stephen Colbert delivers the 2013 Valedictory Address at the University of Virginia. He first steals the show by pretending to steal the class check, a gift to U.Va., saying he would have spoken for free. He has some other fun moments before shifting gears to share some advice. Rain moves the ceremony from its traditional site on the lower Lawn to the John Paul Jones Arena. About 12,000 graduates and family members gather for the ceremony there."
Arlington County School Board incumbent James Lander and challenger Barbara Kanninen shake hands after delivering their closing statements before a packed room at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting earlier this evening. Also see the "flip" for videos of their closing statements. I'll upload more videos when they're available. Bottom line: they both did fine, nothing particularly heated as far as I could observe, basically a civil discussion about the future of public schools in Arlington. What a concept! :) Oh, and don't forget to vote next Thursday (7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Drew Model School) or Saturday (11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School) in the Arlington Democrats' endorsement caucus.
Virginians who value public schools, local control of public schools, and public democratic institutions should be afraid. This may be the beginning of the end. Governor McDonnell proposed legislation SB1324 (which passed, though in the Senate by the skin of its teeth) that established a new bureaucratic entity, a statewide school division named the Opportunity Education Institution (OEI).
According to this post, the OEI would take over schools that were denied accreditation, which is done in accordance with "federal accountability data," also known as standardized test scores. The Institution will be run by a board of gubernatorial appointees, which includes the executive director. There is no guarantee that the board would include any people who know anything about education. The board would contract with non-profits, corporations, or education organizations to operate the schools. Funding for the new bureaucracy would be provided by federal, state, and local taxpayers. The "failing" schools' local governing bodies would be represented on the board in some way, but they would lose decision-making power and would not be able to vote or, from what I can tell, have much meaningful input, besides providing the same share of local funding and being responsible for maintenance of the school building. As for staffing, current faculty at the schools being taken over could apply for a position as a new employee with the OEI or apply for a transfer.
Meanwhile, for the reconvened session of the Virginia legislature that starts this Wednesday, April 3rd, Governor McDonnell is proposing a replacement bill and amendment that would broaden the scope of the OEI and budget $450,000 more than what was originally granted in SB 1324. SB1324S states that "the local school board shall transfer to the Board the supervision and operation of any school upon being denied accreditation. A local school board may request to transfer to the Board the supervision and operation of any school that has been accredited with warning for three consecutive years." Budget Amendment 12 says that "... any school that has been accredited with warning for three consecutive years may be transferred to the Opportunity Educational Institution."
Several weeks ago, I interviewed Barbara Kanninen, who is challenging Arlington County School Board incumbent James Lander for his seat on the board. This was the firs time I'd ever sat down for an extended conversation with James Lander, and I definitely was impressed with his knowledge of, passion for, and commitment to public education in general, and the Arlington County school system specifically. Here are a few highlights from our (2-hour) interview.
First, Lander and I talked about why he first decided to run for the school board four years ago. Lander talked about his interest in leveraging what he calls the "stakeholders triangle" - parents, the community, and the school system itself, all of which have a stake in the success of children (who are in the "center of the triangle," as "they are the focus"). As Lander explained, "kids require supportive homes...support and reinforcement from the community...as do each member of the stakeholder's triangle depend on one another." According to Lander, 83% of Arlingtonians don't currently have kids in the school system, but everyone has a stake in the success of the public schools.
In addition, Lander said he had "participated extensively as a parent advocate...in leadership positions at the PTA level at my daughter's school, vice president of the PTA...representative to the county council of PTAs...I learned how the schools at the operational level, and what I realized is there were some things that I could hopefully impact positively at a policy level...some of these things don't translate well from the board table to the operational level, I [was] seeing gaps." Lander felt that he could bring that operational level experience - at the local school and the county PTA level - to the board table, effect the policies, and "be a voice for parents who...sometimes your voice isn't heard."
Yesterday, I had a chance to sit down with Barbara Kanninen, a Democratic candidate for Arlington County School Board. Kanninen clearly has tremendous experience and passion for education, plus positions on the issues that make a lot of sense. I haven't made an endorsement in this race, as I would first want to speak with incumbent School Board member James Lander before making a decision, but I'm certainly impressed with Barbara Kanninen and commend her for stepping into the proverbial "arena." Here are a few highlights from our interview.
First, we talked for a while about what Kanninen describes as "the perfect resume to be a school board member": 1) she's lived in Arlington for 20 years and has two sons who have been in the school system for years; 2) she has volunteered extensively in the schools; 3) she has connections with parents all over Arlington; 4) she's a children's book writer; and 5) she has a passion for education. She also emphasized her "analytical" background (e.g., in econometrics), and that she doesn't just "look at a graph and believe it," but "look[s] at the Excel spreadsheet behind it." Finally, Kanninen described herself as "team player" who's running a "positive campaign."
Second, I asked her why she decided to run for public office. Kanninen said she's tried to recruit great people to run for years, but "not many people choose to run, so we haven't actually had a School Board caucus in 5 years." So, Kanninen added, "if we don't have competition, we don't have anyone even trying to prove that they're going to be a good School Board member...getting out, talking to parents, campaigning, learning about people's issues and competing for this slot, this should be an important thing to do." For all these reasons, she believes, "this process should be reinvigorated.
Rather than pursue home grown education solutions to improve state schooling, much of Governor Bob McDonnell's education "reform" proposals have mirrored policies pushed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. As McDonnell appears with Jindal today to promote their plans for school "recovery districts", it might be useful to review the programs' outcomes in Louisiana.
Recent Education Week evaluation ranked Virginia 4th nationally for educational policy and performance. In contrast, Louisiana, whose model McDonnell is following, scored significantly lower and was ranked 23rd overall. Education Week 2012 State Report Cards
The recovery school district model, which McDonnell has labeled "Opportunity Educational Institutions", remove community decision makers from oversight over local schools while opening the door for for-profit and charter operators to take over with little accountability.
Research conducted by Kristen Buras of Georgia State University's Department of Educational Policy Studies found student achievement did not improve in Louisiana's Recovery School Districts (RSD). National Education Policy Center
Louisiana's RSD was sued because charter school operators were not admitting low-income and special education students. National Public Radio
The Georgia State University study also found lawmakers continually changed the goal posts for failing schools, shunting more schools into the RSD and into the hands of charter school operators. National Education Policy Center
While well-meaning, the controversial Opportunity Educational Institution legislation introduced by Governor McDonnell seems to run counter to the Virginia constitution. The ends never justify the means in these kinds of situations, that is what Republicans once believed. But not so much lately. Fortunately, James Madison and others decide to run Virginia according to a constitution. Yeah, I know: the rule of law is so well....20th century....a real pain when you are sure you are right. I understand.
McD's legislation is aimed at allowing the creation of a statewide board 11 individuals - 4 GA members and 7 ordinary mortals appointed by the governor - to run schools denied state accreditation for two straight years. The board would take over management of the schools, presumably get them in shape and then the local board from which they were taken can ask to get them back.
As a matter of generic educational policy, this McDonnell initiative is clearly aimed at trying to improve a struggling school. One can't really argue with the position of "try something new for gosh sakes" if you are dealing with a chronically bad situation. I applaud his concern.
BUT: The concept of "local control of education" is a very dear and near one to Virginia, indeed it is suppose to be to Republicans particularly. But the governor no doubt sees his OEI as a way to create a charter school-lite type of situation to help these schools. Again, I don't have any problem per se with charter schools, indeed was the only Democrat willing to publicly help the one in Richmond - now a great success - get its charter, even helped write the original version of the charter. A charter school is still a public school, people forget that.
BUT: All this good stuff, good intentions does not obviate the need to follow the Virginia constitution. The operative part of the constitution in this situation reads in pertinent part as such:
Article VIII, Section 5. Powers and duties of the Board of Education.
The powers and duties of the Board of Education shall be as follows:
*(a) Subject to such criteria and conditions as the General Assembly may prescribe, the Board shall divide the Commonwealth into school divisions of such geographical area and school-age population as will promote the realization of the prescribed standards of quality, and shall periodically review the adequacy of existing school divisions for this purpose.
Historically, every county and independent city in Virginia has had one school division. But technically, as a matter of constitutional law, each county and city is not legally entitled to its own school division, this has been a division of the state done by the Board of Education. In theory therefore, no county or city has a legal right to their own school board, it has been as a matter of political necessity, demanded by General Assembly members or they would get defeated for re-election by angry local residents.
According, it would seem - I say seem - the General Assembly would have the power - if it wanted to take the political heat - to create by law "such criteria and conditions" as it my prescribe to create a statewide school division and give that school division certain schools based on said criteria and conditions. However, the operative word is "seem" since the creation of a statewide school division would seem to fly in the face of the constitutional language "such geographical area and school-age population" etc. etc.
Why? What McDonnell is claiming to have - or precisely what is claiming the General Assembly can do - is pass such criteria and conditions that allows for the creation of a statewide school division: ipso facto as the lawyers say, this is not creating a division to serve a "geographical area" of school age population but rather merely using the whole state as a geographic area per se.
Or put another way: If you read the constitution to give the GA the power to create a statewide school division for struggling schools, then you per se read it as giving the GA the power to put all the schools in the state under state management, or all the schools in a particular city, for whatever reason the GA may later decide. It is the kind of expansive state power conservatives would decry if proposed by a Democrat.
Moreover, under the Governor's view of the constitution, what is to stop a Board of Education from using his legislation to order the takeover of any school, since the basis of this takeover is lack of accreditation. Those standards can change by administrative decision of the folks running the accreditation program.What is accredited today can be unaccredited tomorrow.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL POINT BEING: The constitution does not contemplate the state running any local schools, nor is there anything to suggest anyone has ever considered this part of the state constitution.
The constitutional language intends for the Board of Education to divide the running of schools among the localities of the state, leaving open the issue of the precise boundaries. That these boundaries have historically coincided with county and city lines is, admittedly, not required by the constitution.
So I will concede the ED Board's power to carve things differently...up to a point however. They can't use the power to create geographic divisions to in effect put everything in one big statewide division that represents not an area of the state but the whole thing.
By definition, if you create a school division whose geographical boundaries are the same as the statewide wide boundaries, then you have not divided up the state at all, rather the Board of Education has in effect taken over the local school system.
But you say: "Paul, these are only 4 schools around the state, out of thousands, and they need some real help. What's the big rub, constitutionally, no one is saying take over everything?"
The rub: precedent. The governor is saying the Board of Education would have that power if so empowered by the GA in a law signed by him. He is claiming an expansive state power for the state government that is not there in the VA constitution. I thought conservatives saw the constitution as a check on state government power. That's why it is the rule of law, not men.
As a matter of educational policy, coming up with a new way to solve an old, chronic problem is jake with me in terms of "don't just sit there, do something if you can" common sense. School Boards around the state have situations seemingly too difficult for them to handle: getting some expertise from the outside is a good thing in many circumstances, Virginia should have something in place to make that happen even pressure local school boards to reach out.
But short of a constitutional amendment, the governor and the GA need to do it according to the constitution, not their own desires.
Bottom line: The VA constitution is written, and this is not a matter of debate, to provide for local control of education. It is written to have local school divisions run by local boards either appointed by locally elected officials or through local elections. This is not my speculation, this is 200 plus years of history.
The GA has the power, under the constitution, to create criteria that will either require local boards to seek state help with certain struggling schools, or allow the Board of Education to create a second local school board to run a failing school in that local district with the state legislation fixing the membership of that board. It could create a regional school board for that purpose as it has with Governor's Schools.
That is to say: It can divide up the state in geographic areas that make sense, but it can't just create a statewide geographic area since this, by definition, divides nothing.
The governor should amend his legislation to reflect this constitutional imperative: it would have the extra value of being more politically attractive.
Right now, he is claiming state power to run whatever local schools the GA passes legislation to allow a group of legislators and non-local statewide folks to run. That is not the VA constitution.
It is well meaning to fix a failing school - it is necessary to fix it - but the ends to do not justify the means under the VA constitution.
Much has been made in the coverage of education issues nationally of the so-called “Education Reform” movement. It's taken many forms, from the carrot-stick approach of the Obama/Arne Duncan-favored “Race to the Top,” to a straight-up, market-based voucher program, such as the one passed in the state of Louisiana last year where the per pupil funding follows the pupil to any public or private school. All of these plans claim to have the student at the center of any reforms. Neither really gives much say to the teachers, or parents who want their students to have the best teachers rather than the smartest sounding business plan. In both cases, the less power the teacher has, the better. While vouchers place teachers at the whim of market forces while also allowing for taxpayer-funded vouchers to be spent on religious education (as the Virginia bill is expected to do and the Louisiana bill did to wacky extremes), “Race to the Top” has quietly imposed upon school systems a number of controversial classroom “innovations,” including more high-stakes testing (despite the President's own admonishment of “teaching to the test”), the expansion of privately-run charter schools (who are in turn given low oversight of their activities, and have proven to be no better, if not worse than public schools), online schools (many of which, while attractive to technophiles and pitched as good options for students who have an attention deficit, are ineffective at best), and merit pay programs that demand job instability for teachers in exchange for school funding.
NOTE: This column should be read with the 1965 song "Do You Believe in Magic?" playing in the background for those over 60. It was recorded by The Lovin' Spoonful group. For younger readers, let me suggest the Dire Straits mega hit "Money for Nothing [and your chicks for free]", the Grammy winner in 1985.
by Paul Goldman
If Governor McDonnell had his own band, it would be entitled "My Way Or No Highway." The country group "Highway 101" had some great hits in the 1980's, although you really can't beat Bob Dylan's classic "Highway 61."
But Governor McD has these legends of country and folk music beat badly where the rubber meets the road. They struggled to get 2 and one-half minutes of lyrics. He has a seemingly endless supply of magical words on the subject, "feel good" highway traveling music. No need to switch the CD if stuck in traffic: his band has an endless sheet of the same ole song.
His latest abracadabra: A plan that defines the 2013 General Assembly Session, indeed the 2013 race for governor.
After three years of claiming he could solve the state's transportation issues of maintenance and new construction with free magic dust: privatization of the ABC stores, royalties from off-shore drilling, discounting future revenue streams by turning them into current debt, toll booths along the North Carolina border, and using tomorrow's bond authority today - Governor McD appears to finally have conceded the self-evident to all who aren't blind to reality. Yet behind the great album cover, there is the same beat to the same lyrics.
(UPDATE: I'm hearing that the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools (SACS), which recently put UVA on "warning," is itself under investigation by the US Department of Education... - promoted by lowkell)
In this morning's news roundup, I linked to the Virginia Pilot article on University of Virginia Rector Helen Dragas, and specifically her "tough road to confirmation in the General Assembly after spearheading a controversial effort last June to oust U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan." I saw that Sen. Ralph Northam, who is running for the Democratic nomination for Virginia LG, was quoted in the story, sounding somewhat "sympathetic" (the article's adjective) to Dragas. I wanted to check with Northam's people, as well as with the other Democratic LG candidate, Aneesh Chopra, to find out more.
I first spoke with Aneesh Chopra's campaign. Their position is basically that, knowing what he knows now, he would not support Dragas' reappointment to the UVA Board of Visitors. Of course, they emphasized to me, that if Chopra was in a position to vote on this, he'd want to sit down with Dragas and hear her side of the story. He'd also want the entire process to be conducted with openness and transparency, both of which his campaign emphasized are very important to him.
As for Sen. Northam, his campaign told me that more than anything, he wants a fair, transparent process. They noted that a LACK of transparency was a big part of the reason the situation turned into the problem that it did. Thus, Sen. Northam believes there should be a full, fair public hearing on this issue before the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee. Northam also wants to speak with Dragas again (he's spoken with her previously but has additional questions/concerns), as well as to talk to UVA President Sullivan and to other members of the UVA Board of Visitors, so he can get the full story. Having said that, Sen. Northam clearly believes that Dragas made some "grave mistakes," and he has "a lot of reservations" about her reappointment. He's heard a tremendous amount from constituents on this issue, and people clearly feel VERY strongly about this subject. In the end, Sen. Northam will listen to his constituents, as well as to the facts, and then make a decision.
My position? I agree that Dragas should receive a fair, open hearing. I agree that all facts that should be heard. But having said all that, I find it difficult to imagine what facts could possibly emerge that would outweigh the damage - both actual and perceived - that's already been inflicted due in large measure to Dragas' ham-handed, arrogant, foolish, irresponsible behavior. Thus, barring some astounding revelations, I would strongly support Dragas' reappointment to the UVA Board of Visitors being REJECTED by the General Assembly.
A policeman with a sidearm will be no match for someone with the AR-15 Bushmaster shown above. I do not want to turn our schools into armed camps.
I wrote a version of this as a comment in an on-line discussion about Terry McAuliffe's proposal to place armed policemen in every school in the Commonwealth. Since then we have had a parallel proposal from Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association to have armed NRA trained volunteers in every school. Governor McDonnell has argued for training school personnel to carry weapons as a means of keeping students secure. All three are wrong.
Keep in mind there was an armed policeman at Columbine.
Keep in mind that the Fort Hood shooting took place in the midst of a heavily armed military base.
And keep in mind that just as LaPierre was holding a press conference, a man was walking down a highway in rural Pennsylvania shooting people. He killed three and wounded several others, including State Policemen, before he himself died.
The best use of policemen in schools is the building of relationships.
Please continue as I offer my thoughts beneath the fold. I write this as an educator, someone who had military training with firearms, and someone who is well aware of how unprepared even trained police are to handle a situation like Columbine or Sandy Springs Elementary.
The following statement is from State Senator Janet Howell (D-32nd district). I'm very happy to see this, as Helen Dragas clearly needs to be removed from the UVA Board of Visitors for incompetence and for damaging the great university she claims to care about. I urge EVERY Democratic member of the General Assembly to join with Sen. Howell on this!
One of the responsibilities of the legislature is to confirm appointments by the Governor. As the ranking member of the Privileges and Elections Committee, I have a heightened responsibility. My usual approach is to support any governor's selections unless the appointee has a conflict of interest or refuses to fill out required paperwork.
This year we face confirmation of Helen Dragas for a second term on the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. She does not have any conflict of interest and she is willing to fill out the paperwork. Nonetheless, I will be actively opposing her reappointment for the following reasons:
*The University of Virginia has a culture of self governance and democratic process. The Rector's actions were not in the spirit of that culture. The decision to remove President Sullivan was made without any transparency or full debate and, thus, was out of line with the principles established by Mr. Jefferson when he founded this flagship university. The decision to remove President Sullivan was made without an in person meeting and vote by the full Board of Visitors. Rather, Rector Dragas solicited support in individual phone calls with Board members. To this day, information has not been forthcoming that would meet the standards for removal of the President.
President Sullivan had been hired with much acclaim only eighteen months earlier. Dissatisfaction with her leadership had never been discussed in official Board meetings or with her, with the result that the President was blindsided when Rector Dragas told her she had sufficient votes of Board members for her removal.
I just posted this over on FDL in hopes it would get some love from the overlords, but it's way more relevant to BlueVA readers. I'm a freelance writer currently based in Brooklyn, but I'm a Virginia native who about two years ago began investigating the remarkable educational institution that is George Mason University. That led naturally to some sniffing around the botched UVA coup earlier this summer, which in turn led to some pretty atonishing revelations that have been predictably ignored by the lamestream media.
When I first heard news in the beginning of the summer of a coup underway at the University of Virginia, I wondered idly if it had anything to do with climate change-specifically, ousted (and since reinstated) President's Teresa Sullivan's defense of the former UVA professor behind the "hockey stick" graph documenting its existence against state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli's demands for every email/paper/grant application/log/cocktail napkin/etc. he touched during his seven years at the school.
Well, this is starting to look like the most depressingly accurate hunch I've had in my career as a journalist-and trust me, the "hunch" thing gets way too easy at a certain point in this business.
First it emerged that Sullivan had not simply defended Mann from Cuccinelli's itchy subpoena finger, she'd been campaigning to hire him back to UVA. To a cushy deluxe professorship endowed by coup co-conspirator Mark Kington, no less! It's as if she didn't even care that Ken Cuccinelli is running for governor next year!
Senator McEachin Expresses Concern and Dismay Over Differing Educational Standards by Race and Income
Richmond - Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) today released this statement about the new Virginia Annual Measurable Objectives that have replaced the federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards that were part of No Child Left Behind. Senator McEachin said, "As a strong supporter of public education, as someone who believes the key to our democracy and to our future as a society is the strength of our public education system, I have been studying very carefully and thoroughly the transition from No Child Left Behind to Virginia standards. Having state standards that can address the particular situations and circumstances here in Virginia makes sense to me. We want to be able to craft our education system to Virginia students, not to broad national standards. We can do things better in Virginia and we can set higher, stronger standards.
"However, in light of that, I was particularly distressed and, frankly, dismayed to see that our standards separate students by race and income. Surely, we are not saying that academic ability is tied to race or family income. Surely, we want all Virginia students to achieve, to meet the highest standards, to be prepared for higher education or a skilled vocation.
"The idea that potential for achievement is tied to race is an egregious false statement that was rightly discarded on the trash heap of history. Virginia has a shameful history of cataloguing students by race and treating them differently. Surely, we are not going to even consider returning to those disgraceful times.
"When children come to school having had nutritious meals, a roof over their heads and loving adults who care for them, they can succeed, regardless of race, family income or ethnicity. Our responsibility is to ensure that every Virginia child comes to school every day having had those critical components - sufficient nutritious food, decent shelter and a family that loves and cares for him. That's our responsibility, to help make that happen and to provide the preschool education so that every child enters kindergarten with the academic background to be prepared to learn.
"That's what we need to be doing, not hurtling backwards to separate and categorize children by race and assign those races differing levels of success. Let's make certain every Virginia child succeeds to the highest standards and let's focus on what we can do to ensure that happens," Senator McEachin concluded.
Having previously chastised Governor McDonnell for his silly "not my job" mantra on the UVA mess while traveling overseas, fair is fair. So, let me now praise him for having helped shock the UVA Board back to reality by telling them to either fix the problem today, or resign.
When a trial jury is deadlocked, a judge sometimes gives what is known as the "Allen Charge," telling them go back into the jury room and come back with a verdict. So I suppose this will be forever known as the "McDonnell charge," to be delivered to a Board of Visitors when it is about to make a total fool not only of itself but of the University it's entrusted to help protect.
Facts are facts: Unless McDonnell issued his demand, there was little chance the UVA Board would have voted, without a dissenting voice, to reinstate Teresa Sullivan.
Having given the governor his due, let it also be said that this is an astounding turnaround: a faculty-student-alumna led "campaign" to get Ms. Sullivan her job back without her ever asking for it publicly. It is doubtful this has not ever happened in the annals of education in this state or any other.
Indeed, in the famed student/faculty protest days of the 1960's and 1970's, they were protesting to get rid of the President of the University, not bring him or her back! It is amazing.
I'd say there were between 1,500 to 2,000 people there (the rally organizer's official count is 1,500). It was very hot. The crowd seemed to be quite a mix - a fair number of students, many older people, some of whom I know are either faculty or alumni of UVA, and at least two dozen dogs that I counted that, to a mutt, appeared to back Teresa Sullivan's reinstatement.
First, here is the text of the organizers' official statement (some observations and commentary about the rally, along with some photographs, follow the text of the statement):
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Rally for Honor Reaches 8,000 University of Virginia Supporters
More than 30 faculty and friends of U.Va. speak at demonstration for reinstatement of ousted President Teresa Sullivan
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (June 24, 2012) - The University of Virginia Lawn filled with more than 1,800 friends of the university seeking the reinstatement of ousted U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan, representation by U.Va. faculty as voting members on the Board of Visitors, and the resignation of Rector Dragas. An additional 6,500 tuned in to watch live video of the rally online. Thirty speakers addressed the midday crowd in support of the reinstatement of Sullivan, in advance of Tuesday's Board of Visitors meeting to review her contract.
"The truth of the matter is that all of us regret the forced resignation of Terry Sullivan, all of us respectfully ask the board to atone for its action, and all of us are prepared to respond with gratitude, forgiveness, and renewed enthusiasm to be part of U.Va," said speaker Kenneth Elzinga, Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics at the University.
An Open Letter to Helen E. Dragas, Rector University of Virginia
As graduates of the University of Virginia and current members of Virginia's General Assembly, we have watched with dismay the events surrounding the forced resignation of President Teresa Sullivan from the University of Virginia.
The more information that has become available, the more troubling the action has become. The Board has yet to make clear the so-called "urgency" and "existential threats" to the University that have served as the justification for this action. Admittedly, the University has challenges, and they have clearly been identified by President Sullivan in her May 3, 2012 memo to the Rector and Vice Rector (a memo circulated by the Washington Post). But these challenges were known at the time of her appointment, and President Sullivan appeared to be making plans to address them.
The fallout of the action is being felt by faculty and alumni alike. First, there was the vote of "no confidence" in the Board of Visitors passed by the Faculty Senate. Second, there were the reports that major donors are withdrawing their support of the University. Third, there are the resignations of several faculty "stars" and prospects of more in the near future. Finally, Vice-Rector Mark Kington's resignation raises further questions about the process.
Our conclusion is simple - the process by which President Sullivan was forced to resign was fundamentally flawed, dramatically at odds with our principles as the flagship University in the Commonwealth, and inconsistent with a transparent decision-making process required of a public University.
We call on you to reconsider the decision and reconvene the Board for the purpose of reversing the forced resignation.
We know you love this University and believe that the Board has simply misjudged the effect of this action. Now, you have the chance to limit this damage. We hope you will do so.
The Honorable David J. Toscano
House of Delegates, 57th District
UVA Law '86
The Honorable Jennifer McClellan
House of Delegates, 71st District
UVA Law '97
The Honorable Joe Morrissey
House of Delegates, 74th District
The Honorable Ken Plum
House of Delegates, 36th District
The Honorable Scott Surovell
House of Delegates, 44th District
UVA Law '96
The Honorable John Edwards
Senate of Virginia, 21st District
UVA Law '70
The Honorable Mark Herring
Senate of Virginia, 33rd District
UVA '83, MA '87
The Honorable Chap Petersen
Senate of Virginia, 34th District
UVA Law '94
I contacted UVA Media Relations for more information on the use of PR firm Hill & Knowlton by UVA Rector Helen Dragas, and they referred me here. Also note that Hill & Knowlton is one of the slimiest PR firms out there, having been involved in a large number of controversies over the years (e.g., regimes around the world accused of serious human rights violations; fracking and the oil/gas industry; the firm designed "the tobacco industry's strategy for counteracting scientific evidence which linked cigarette smoking to lung cancer"). THIS firm is "a contracted vendor registered with the state?" Don't we have ANY standards?!? Apparently not.
Clarification regarding the use of a PR firm
June 22, 2012 - from Carol Wood, U.Va. spokesperson
The University of Virginia (Real Estate) Foundation did NOT hire a firm on behalf of the Rector.
The firm that has been hired - Hill+Knowlton - already is a contracted vendor registered with the state.
Many institutions bring on additional public relations professionals during particularly challenging times. The firm was hired on behalf of the Rector and the Board of Visitors to assist them in handling the matters over the past weeks.
While invoices will be submitted through the Board of Visitors office, no state funds will be used to pay for Hill+Knowlton's services. The funds will come from other sources of University funds, including the endowment.
P.S Also note that I contacted Hill & Knowlton for comment on a number of questions (see the "flip" for those); their spokesperson responded with a non-answer, that "As general corporate policy, we do not comment on our clients or prospects, or the details of our relationships with either." Not that they have anything to hide, of course. Heh. ;)
If you care about the future of the University of Virginia, one of the greatest institutions of higher learning in the country, let alone in Virginia, I strongly encourage you to attend the rally on Sunday, from 2 to 4 pm, on The Lawn at UVA. Meanwhile, in encouraging news, The University of Virginia board of visitors announced a little while ago that it "will meet Tuesday to reconsider its forced resignation of President Teresa Sullivan." I would think that Sullivan supporters would only have called such a meeting if they knew they had the votes to win, especially given that the board of visitors' announcement "came shortly after the deans of U.Va.'s colleges urged the board to reinstate Sullivan, joining the faculty senate in opposition to her ouster." Great stuff, let's get this situation straightened out and stop messing with this great university and justifiable lauded Virginia institution!
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