Helen Dragas is an amazing piece of work. She’s the rector of the Board of Visitors that forced UVA president Teresa Sullivan to resign. A new hearing to potentially reinstate Sullivan is scheduled for Tuesday but leading up to it, Dragas is digging in her heels about the rightness of the board’s original decision.
Yesterday, she released a statement explaining why the board forced Sullivan to resign. It turned out not to have been written by her. The geeks unpacked the electronic copy to discover that some hack at the PR firm Hill and Knowlton actually wrote it. Then the professors weighed in and picked it apart. Jeez, you do not want to get on a Wahoo’s shit list. They’re having a field day.
Governor McDonnell laid down an ultimatum: get this issue under control by Tuesday or I will ask for the resignations of the whole board. I’m not sure this works in UVA’s favor though because McDonnell is a Republican and half of the board members were appointed by Tim Kaine, the previous governor who is a Democrat. That includes Helen Dragas. The board actions look like they cross party lines, however. What the board members seem to have in common is that most of them are in the 1%. To them, party distinctions are irrelevant. They’re used to getting their own way.
In response to McDonnell’s ultimatum, Dragas fires back a nasty little ditty of her own. Here are the money quotes:
I also agree with him on the importance of providing clear explanations of our actions, as I aimed to do in my statement yesterday, while being mindful of the constraints of the confidentiality of personnel matters and the non-disparagement agreements in the President’s contract.
I appreciate the Governor’s leadership in affirming the importance of Board governance, and that we alone are appointed to make these decisions on behalf of the University, free of influence from outside political, personal or media pressure.
I look forward to a respectful and dignified meeting on Tuesday, and to an important discussion of the implications of any decision we make on the ability of future Boards to lead the University.”
Let’s leave aside the sheer chutzpah required to tell the Governor to BTFU, what Helen appears to be saying here is roughly the equivalent of “I am prohibited by law from telling you that Teresa Sullivan is a goat fucker. If I said that, that would be disparagement. And anyway, that information is confidential.”
I know I should be blogging about the election or the new, incredibly boneheaded and damaging “Fast and Furious” scandal that provoked Obama to claim executive privilege. That scandal seems to have depressed even Jon Stewart. But this event at UVA is riveting because it is a microcosm of what is happening everywhere in this country, an easy to digest story of overreach by the privileged for mysterious reasons that may or may not have to do with making money. It’s happening at a historic university, founded by one of the most famous founding fathers who penned the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson knew all about the motto Sic Semper Tyrannis. There is a lot of Americana and symbolism. The 1% have been doing this very same thing to this country for decades now to different segments of our economy and society. And the privileged class started crossing party lines to take over the Democratic party in 2007 as well. But never mind that right now.
What is it that drives Dragas? There’s a timeline convergence happening in July where the board members are up for renewal. It doesn’t look like Dragas will be reappointed*. Is Dragas taking one for the team? Is she trying to accomplish something before her term is up? Is something big at stake here for her to assert the board’s sovereignty? Is that why she won’t resign? Her statement of reasons why Sullivan was “fired” from yesterday seems to be superceded by the statement from tonight where she implies that there’s a blot on Sullivan’s permanent record. What is this all about? There must be a strategy, because I can’t believe someone would go this far out on a limb without one. Maybe it only appears to be a Komenesque self-destructive event.
And what are we to make of Sullivan’s confidence? If she’s been fucking goats, she doesn’t seem to mind anyone finding out about it.
*Update: @cvillnewscom tweets that a reliable source in the Governor’s office says that Dragas will be reappointed. If true, the board is determined to get its way and this is going to be a very ugly power struggle.
I saw this quote on twitter in a tweet on #UVA:
“When wrongs are pressed because it is believed they will be borne, resistance becomes morality.”