Helen Dragas, the rector of the University of Virginia’s governing board, probably never thought she would be linked in a headline to Lady Gaga, but she did it to herself with e-mails she sent to the school’s leaders.
My colleague Jenna Johnson reported on her Campus Overload
blog about an e-mail exchange that started when Dragas sent a missive to university President Teresa Sullivan and Provost John Simon signaling her concern over a negative 2011 post on a conservative foundation’s blog about courses at four universities that use Lady Gaga to explore some other topic. The University of Virginia was one of them (along with the University of South Carolina, Wake Forest University and Arizona State University).
Dragas said in her first e-mail: “Opinions will, of course, vary on curricular content and direction, but there must be some internal arbiter of what is appropriate. I don’t purport to know what that is, but it is clear to me that that others do (at least purport to know), and that those people can influence our future. We should be mindful of that, in my opinion.”
Dragas, you will remember, was front and center of the leadership crisis this summer at the university in which Sullivan was forced by Dragas to resign (for reasons we still don’t really know) but was then reinstated after the campus revolted. Dragas’s term on the Board of Visitors expired at the end of June but she was inexplicably reappointed by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. She was first appointed by a Democratic governor, Tim Kaine.
There are some who will say that Dragas was acting properly as the head of the university Board of Visitors, sending the Heritage Foundation blog post to the leaders of the school as a heads-up.
But she seems to go beyond that role. She suggests that the folks at the University of Virginia in charge of curriculum somehow went out of bounds by approving this course, and that curriculum decisions should be made with political considerations in mind. That’s exactly what a university isn’t supposed to do. And governing board leaders aren’t supposed to micromanage.
Simon responded to Dragas (you can see the exchange here) by explaining that the Virginia course wasn’t about the pop star per se but is actually a writing course that allows students to use subjects that interest them.
Gee, what a concept.
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