Mason student government reaffirms shared governance, does not address UVa request
When confronted to condemn the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors rector, George Mason University’s student government took a stance—to not be involved.
“We are not involving ourselves in the affairs of U.Va. nor its BoV; it is not in our place to do so,” reads Resolution 27, which upholds Mason’s student government’s belief in “shared governance.”
Resolution 27 was passed strategically after U.Va.’s student council vice president reached out to Alex Williams, Mason’s student body president, last week seeking support in denouncing U.Va.’s rector, Helen Dragas.
The Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted Jan. 15 to recommend confirming Dragas’ re-appointment to the university’s Board of Visitors for a second term. In response, U.Va.’s student government passed legislation that “essentially was a vote of no confidence in U.Va.’s rector,” Williams said in an email. “[Branch] asked that we join U.Va. in solidarity, to oppose the governor’s re-nomination of their rector,” Williams said.
Last summer U.Va.’s Board of Visitors sparked controversy when Dragas took questionable actions to attempt ousting Teresa Sullivan, the university’s president of only two years. After Sullivan’s resignation, it was discovered that Dragas had been secretly consulting with board members for months about removing Sullivan. Dragas then informed Sullivan that the board was unhappy with her non-progressive presidency and that they had enough votes to dismiss her. Sullivan was given twenty-four hours to resign.
The secretive way that the ouster was conducted ignited protests and petitions calling for Sullivan to be reinstated and for Dragas to resign.
In light of U.Va.’s request for solidarity, Mason’s student government decided to approach the matter indirectly by passing a resolution focusing on shared governance.
“On the one hand, I want to assist fellow students in Virginia when our goals are common—in this case, the integrity of shared governance,” Williams said. “At the same time, I do not want to get Mason involved in the affairs of another university—we are here to serve Mason and Mason students, not U.Va.,” Student Body President Alex Williams wrote in an email.
Shared governance is the idea that people who hold the power to make decisions in the university, such as the Board of Visitors, must “seek input from all of those constituents,” such as faculty, staff and students, “whom that decision may affect,” Williams said in an email. In other words, the governing is more transparent and is influenced by everyone’s input.
“Competence, consistency and faithfulness in corporate governance are essential to sustained success at every university. Confidence in the governing board’s competence, lost for now at U.Va., is fundamental to every university’s capacity for strategic planning in the digital age,” read a U.Va. associated website prompting action against the reinstating of Dragas to the Board of Visitors.
The Virginia House of Delegates confirmed Dragas’ re-appointment to the board Tuesday, Jan. 29, to the outrage of Sullivan’s supporters.