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Dragas confirmed to stay on U-Va. board

Rector Helen E. Dragas speaks during the U-Va. Board of Visitors meeting June 18 in Charlottesville, Va. (Mark Gormus/AP)

Helen E. Dragas, who as University of Virginia rector was at the center of a university leadership battle last year, won final approval Tuesday from the General Assembly to stay on the U-Va. governing board for another three and a half years.

The House of Delegates, on a 63 to 33 vote, confirmed the reappointment of Dragas to the Board of Visitors through June 2016. The House action followed a 29 to 9 Senate vote last week for her confirmation.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) reappointed Dragas last summer to a second four-year term days after the resolution of a leadership struggle that drew national attention. In early June, Dragas forced the resignation of U-Va. President Teresa Sullivan. After the campus rose up in protest, Dragas joined the rest of the board later that month in approving Sullivan’s reinstatement.

Since then, Dragas and Sullivan have pledged cooperation. But skeptics said that Dragas mishandled the situation and should have been kicked off the board.

House Minority Leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville), an opponent of confirmation, noted that Dragas had to hire a public relations firm to do damage control.

“We have an opportunity to make a statement,” Toscano said. “We value those principles that [Thomas] Jefferson thought about when he created the University of Virginia.”

Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Fredericksburg), who supported confirmation, said: “I think Ms. Dragas has the best interests of the university at heart.”

Dragas was backed not only by McDonnell but also by former Democratic governor Mark Warner, who is now a U.S. senator.

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