December 11, 2012
Faculty and students at the University of Virginia have asked for transparency since the closed-door ouster of President Teresa Sullivan. Now the UVa community says the prestigious school's reputation is on the line if the Board of Visitors doesn't open up.
"There is a lot at stake here," said Siva Vaidhyanathan, the chair of the media studies department at UVa. "It could suffer actual material damage if the board doesn't shape up and come clean pretty fast."
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools voted Tuesday to put UVa on a one year warning, saying the university was not in compliance regarding board governance or the faculty's role in governance.
"The key thing to keep in mind, is this is not a reflection of the quality of our programs, it's really a judgment on board governance," said George Cohen, a law professor and chair of the Faculty Senate at UVa.
In a statement released by UVa's Executive Vice President and Provost, John Simon said: "Last month, the Board adopted revisions to the Board of Visitors Manual to provide clarity on procedures for electing and removing presidents, set up comprehensive guidelines for evaluating a president's performance, and provide more direct involvement by faculty in board deliberations."
But some faculty members say the only improvements that need to be made are to the Board of Visitors.
"As long as Helen Dragas represents this University, as long as her signature appears on the diplomas given to people who graduate from this University, this University has a problem," Vaidhyanathan said.
Below is the official release from UVa:
To the University community:
As you know, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) has been reviewing governance issues at the University since President Teresa A. Sullivan's resignation and subsequent reinstatement this past summer. SACSCOC announced today that it has placed the University of Virginia "on warning" for one year and will send a visiting team to Grounds in early 2013.
This action does not imply any criticism of the University's academic quality and programs, nor does it affect the institution's ability to receive federal aid, including financial aid and sponsored research.
According to SACSCOC, "An institution may be placed on Warning or Probation for noncompliance with any of the Core Requirements or significant noncompliance with the Comprehensive Standards. Additionally, an institution may be placed on Warning for failure to make timely and significant progress toward correcting the deficiencies that led to the finding of noncompliance with any of the Principles of Accreditation. An institution may also be placed on Warning for failure to comply with Commission policies and procedures, including failure to provide requested information in a timely manner. The maximum total time during one monitoring period that an institution may be on Warning is two years."
The SACSCOC Board of Trustees determined that the University was not in compliance with Core Requirement 2.2 regarding board governance and Comprehensive Standard 3.7.5 regarding Faculty Role in Governance of the organization's Principles of Accreditation.
The University of Virginia acknowledges the decision of the Board of Trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). While the decision is disappointing, the University of Virginia pledges to work diligently to address the concerns cited by the commission. For the past several months and in the spirit of continuous improvement, the Board of Visitors and University leadership have been proactively working together to review governance practices and policies to ensure the highest level of transparency, accountability and responsiveness to all those it serves.
Last month, the Board adopted revisions to the Board of Visitors Manual to provide clarity on procedures for electing and removing presidents, set up comprehensive guidelines for evaluating a president's performance, and provide more direct involvement by faculty in board deliberations.
The Board of Visitors and University leadership will continue to gather research and identify best practices from a variety of sources - including tapping outside experts and resources - so that the University may become a model for higher education governance in the commonwealth and nation.
These are extraordinary times for the University of Virginia and for all of higher education. I appreciate the many ways in which our community of learning has come together these past months and I thank you for your ongoing support as we address the many opportunities and challenges facing higher education.
John D. Simon
Executive Vice President and Provost