Dragas on Sullivan Ouster: Board Did the Right Thing, the Wrong Way

July 8, 2013

Just days after her term as rector of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors came to an end, Helen Dragas is reflecting on her two-year stint at the top of the board.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Dragas covered everything from her term coming to a close, what the board needs to focus on in the future and the leadership crisis that rattled the university a little more than a year ago.

Dragas opened up about last year's forced resignation and reinstatement of UVa president Teresa Sullivan.

"It has been a challenging year, and I certainly have thought about the trade offs as I've gone along," Dragas told the Post. "All the board members are volunteers, and yet, I just feel that public service is really important and that standing up for keeping public universities public is worth an unwavering commitment."

Dragas also tells the Post she stands by the belief that the board did the right thing when it comes to Sullivan's ouster, but admits they didn't go about it in the right way.

"I believe we did the right thing in that we pushed for needed change," said Dragas. "We did it the wrong way in that we misunderstood that when you're going to try to solve thorne-y problems at a high-profile, public institution, you need to communicate a lot -- a lot more than we did -- and with a lot of people. And that was a lesson that I, in particular, and the board learned the hard way."

But Dragas praises Sullivan, saying she is behind one of the board's biggest successes in the last year.

"I would say our main accomplishment though over the last year has been the work that we've done with the president -- and that the president has really led -- and that's in our strategic planning process," Dragas told the Post. "Sort of laying the groundwork and making a blue print for the long-term future health of the university."

In the interview, Dragas says the way to do that is focusing on technology, academic quality, affordability and by creating viable, long-range financial plans.

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