This is just one step that the coalition wants to take to fix what it believes are major dysfunctions at the university, some of which contributed to last summer’s leadership crisis, according to council documents obtained this week by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request. Some members also believe that for U-Va. to have a “solid financial model,” the elite flagship university must raise in-state tuition and push the state for more funding for student aid.
The group’s top priority is changing the selection process for the U-Va. Board of Visitors.
Currently, the governor makes board appointments, which are then approved more than six months later by the General Assembly. The 17-member board must contain at least 12 U-Va. graduates.
The U-Va. Alumni Association is allowed to make at least three recommendations for each open seat, but Walker said that during the tenure of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), not enough of those recommendations have resulted in appointments.
“We’re trying to get the university community — and multiple voices of the University of Virginia community — to be heard,” said Walker, a former chairman and chief operating officer of a private equity firm. “We just want a governor who is a partner.”
Paul Shanks, a spokesman for McDonnell, said that the Board of Visitors is one of the most competitive boards to join. State officials “carefully review and consider all recommendations” from alumni associations, he said. U-Va. board members John L. Nau III and Allison Cryor DiNardo were recommended by the alumni association, he said, and last year McDonnell appointed Victoria D. Harker, a previous alumni association chairwoman. The group of 17 voting members currently includes only people appointed or reappointed by McDonnell.
The U-Va. board has been under scrutiny since last summer, when its leaders ousted President Teresa A. Sullivan. The board reversed its decision when alumni, faculty and others protested and demanded more involvement in such actions.
Since then, a number of faculty members, students, alumni, lawmakers and higher-education activists have called for a sweeping reform of the board.
Walker and other alumni have decided to take on that task by building relationships with the commonwealth’s gubernatorial candidates: Terry McAuliffe (D) and Ken Cuccinelli II (R).
A U-Va. board member has been asked to reach out to Cuccinelli, but Walker said this week that the group had neither met nor talked with Cuccinelli.