Freitas Introduces Higher-Ed Transparency Bill

Delegate Nick Freitas

by James A. Bacon

Delegate Nicholas J. Freitas, R-Culpeper, has introduced a bill, HB 1800, that would bring much needed transparency to the governance of Virginia’s public higher-ed institutions. The bill was cited in a list of priority legislation backed by Attorney General Jason Miyares.

The bill, which would affect the University of Virginia, contains several elements:

  • Governing boards of public colleges and universities must report the number and salaries of diversity officers and government-relations officers employed by their institutions.
  • Governing boards must report the total value of contracts with outside individuals engaged in lobbying on the institution’s behalf.
  • Boards must record videos of their meetings and post them prominently on their websites on a timely basis.
  • Boards must hold public meetings to solicit public input before approving the renewal of a university’s chief executive officer.
  • Boards must post an annual report on university-affiliated foundations that detail expenditures on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, lobbying, and CEO compensation.

One can only surmise what incidents gave rise to the Freitas bill. However, some informed speculation is in order.

With no public input the University of Virginia Board of Visitors approved an extension of UVa President Jim Ryan’s contract years before it was due to expire. The Freitas bill would have required a public hearing.

The Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors recorded video of one of its meetings, provided a copy to a Washington Post reporter, but denied access to alumni who have been critical of VMI policies, according to dissident VMI alumni. I have not independently verified their claim, but the allegation might have inspired the video requirement in the Freitas bill.

Dissident VMI alumni also have charged that VMI funded the hiring of a DEI director with private funds, thus circumventing restrictions in the state budget. The Freitas bill would make such expenditures transparent.

A recently released study by the Virginia Association of Scholars (VAS) has highlighted the swelling costs of the DEI bureaucracy in public colleges and universities. Salaries for DEI administrators alone in 2020 exceeded $15 million, according to VAS, and that was almost certainly a low estimate. DEI hiring surged in 2021 and 2022, and total expenditures could easily be double that. No official figures are available because Virginia colleges and universities have never broken out the numbers.

Bacon’s bottom line: Each of these measures is worthwhile. However, there could be complications. Given the political incentives universities have to minimize reported expenditures of their DEI staffs, it is questionable how accurate any self-reported numbers would be. VMI and its dissident alumni have gone back and forth, for example, over the definition of which employees should be classified as “DEI.” It might be advisable for a state entity — perhaps the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission — to draw up definitions that apply to all.

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James B Newman
James B Newman
23 days ago

HB 1800 is well-thought-out legislation and much-needed law to improve Virginia’s institutions of higher education. Bravo Delegate Freitas.

Kent Covington
Kent Covington
23 days ago

Time is right for The University to free itself from all state funding. How could any board operate effectively with essentially public meetings?

Bob Tarring
Bob Tarring
23 days ago

Accountability for almost everything under the Dems leadership everywhere has been missing at all levels even with the supposed institutions that we depend on to keep us safe.
Let’s at least hope it all will get exposed but not sure it will be adjudicated.

T.Blair
T.Blair
23 days ago

Now motivate the masses to call their VA rep to support it!

walter smith
walter smith
23 days ago

“Boards must hold public meetings to solicit public input before approving the renewal of a university’s chief executive officer.”

Yep. This and the sudden acceleration of the required 3rd Covid shot (It was Feb 1, 2022 and on January 7th UVA announced it was being pushed to January 14th for students to continue) were clearly political maneuverings. Youngkin et al were to be sworn in on January 15. Then the unannounced March extension of Ryan’s contract, which had years to run AND a designated time to discuss extension…

I think Whitt Clement should have been removed by Governor Youngkin then and there.(He does have statutory authority to do so, but the Senate Dems are already pretty whack. Normally Board appointments, all schools and Boards, are approved en masse and by a unanimous type motion, but various elements have actually tried to cancel Bert Ellis at this Va Legislature.) The Woke elements are not just going to leave the field quietly…