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Posted at 03:50 PM ET, 08/15/2012

Dragas opens U-Va. board retreat with apology

RICHMOND — Helen Dragas, rector of the University of Virginia, opened the governing board retreat here Wednesday at about 1:40 pm by acknowledging “the many difficulties of the last few months” and again offering her “sincere and personal apology” for the controversies that have distracted the board.

Dragas said the retreat is an opportunity for the board to “reconcile our differences, rejuvenate our leadership and reshape our future outcomes.” Dragas also pointed out challenges ahead for the board: sustainable funding, changing education delivery and keeping up with the fast pace of changes.

Much of the retreat, which runs through Thursday morning, will focus on how the board operates and governs the university. On Wednesday afternoon, a governance consultant led the board through a series of questions and discussions. Terry MacTaggart of the Association of Governing Boards kicked off his presentation by acknowledging everything that has happened this summer, with the ouster and reinstatement of U-Va. President Teresa Sullivan, and the swarm of reporters in the back of the room.

“This is an awkward environment, okay, this is not a great environment,” said MacTaggart, a former university president himself. “Let’s just acknowledge that, and relax to the extent that we can.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) sent a letter Tuesday to the governing Board of Visitors to mark the occasion.

In one passage in the letter, McDonnell wrote: “The recent events on campus prompted and renewed numerous important discussions about everything from board governance procedures to the reforms needed to maintain U-Va.’s extraordinary reputation. You now have an historic opportunity for open and direct discussion on these issues to lay the foundation for generations of students to enjoy innovative and excellent instruction at a reasonable price at Mr. Jefferson’s University.”

You can read the full letter below:

For updates from the retreat, you can follow me on Twitter, @wpjenna.

By  |  03:50 PM ET, 08/15/2012

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