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The War Continues


Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has reappointed Helen Dragas, architect of the coup that temporarily ousted University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, to the Board of Visitors.

As I said before, the corporate community is in this war on public higher education for the long haul. There’s no question that right-wingers like McDonnell fully support this war. Public outrage may have forced the coup leaders to back off briefly, but they are ready for another battle. I imagine the goal here is to make Sullivan’s presidency as uncomfortable as possible to force her to resign using more subtle means. McDonnell also named a couple of people with higher education backgrounds to the Board to blunt criticism that all of its members came from the corporate community, but the reappointment of Dragas is what sends the clearest message.

But let there be no question, this is a war on public higher education and we have to be vigilant on every front to save it.

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  • somethingblue

    I predict a bright future for her as the Michelle Rhee of higher education.

    • Knowing about the psychology of these types would be interesting.

      The extent of the awareness of what they’re doing, how they rationalize it to themselves, how they conceptualize the population they’re boning over, the extent and ratios of greed, ego, pride, social status etc. in their motivations and their awareness of same.

      Mercenary bureaucrats are interesting.

  • Barry Freed

    Sadly, I can see a Democratic Governor doing the same.

    • John

      Dragas was originally appointed by a Democratic governor, in fact.

      • Barry Freed

        Well there you go.

      • joejoejoe

        It was Tim Kaine. May as well give credit where credit is due.

  • James E. Powell

    It is a mistake to think the war in higher education, as in public education, as in a number of things, is a war between Democrats and Republicans. I am not a Gush/Bore type, but on some things, the Democrats are not our friends.

  • John

    Obviously McDonnell is no particular friend of higher education, but I think this is a strange take on what’s going on. Sullivan’s position vis-à-vis the board is much stronger now than it was before, because their power to dismiss her is basically gone, unless she does something obviously out of line.

    The agenda of corporatization is going to continue, of course, but it will continue through Sullivan’s gradualist reforms rather than whatever nonsense the board wanted.

    As far as Dragas goes, this is disappointing, but I’m not sure how much it means. This whole situation has been an embarrassment, and it put McDonnell into a very difficult situation, because he didn’t want to take sides – the dismissal was wildly unpopular, but obviously he’s more sympathetic to the corporatist board than he is to the faculty, students, etc. Getting rid of Dragas sends a very clear signal that he is against her, and against the board, and he obviously didn’t want to do that. But if the board hadn’t brought Sullivan back, reappointing Dragas would have been just as bad, if not worse. By getting the board to re-hire Sullivan, and then himself reappointing Dragas, he avoids having to take sides and anger anyone.

  • themac

    Sadly, I don’t think there’s was any question she was going to be reappointed after the Sullivan restoration.

    While absolutely agreeing with Erik’s warnings about the war on higher ed, I’m thinking that Dragas might not be able to create too much havoc this time around: her main co-conspirator did resign, and it didn’t take long to figure out that others on the board weren’t keen on the coup. The BoV is under a microscope it wasn’t under three weeks ago. And I trust that Sullivan would have just left if she didn’t feel comfortable.

    That said, I hope this reappointment might get some people to ask what role, if any, mcDonnell had in her ouster. This has been an oddly unexplored question in the entire affair.

  • Let’s just ask how many people get second chances after such colossal incompetence. The higher you are the more you get. Wouldn’t want to be UNFAIR.

  • IM

    McDonnell also named a couple of people with higher education backgrounds to the Board to blunt criticism that all of its members came from the corporate community, but the reappointment of Dragas is what sends the clearest message.

    Isn’t that the more important development? And I agree with other commentators that Sullivans position should now be stronger.

  • BT

    I’m not sure you quite understand the situation here at UVA. Sure, in the best of all possible worlds Dragas would be gone. But she was decisively *defeated*, she ate a huge bucket of sh*t way out in public, and anyone who watched that final Board meeting has got to admit that she did it with a good bit of grace, if such a thing is possible. There are even signs that she has learned something–that you still can’t suddenly start running a university as if it were a business, that the Board’s statutory powers are limited by realities. The corporatization of the U. proceeds, but my optimistic take is that some have learned that a U. can never be run *just like* a business. Yeah, Pollyanna.

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