TJC’s 3rd Annual Meeting Will Explore UVA Governance

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia, like most public higher-ed institutions, is run by its president and senior executives. The Board of Visitors functions as a rubber stamp, approving whatever the administration puts before them. There is nothing unusual in the higher-ed world about the lopsided balance of power between UVA’s president and its board, but it is indisputably the case and must be recognized for what it is.

Where UVA differs from Ivy League universities and other elite private institutions is that its governing board is appointed by Virginia’s governor. That means UVA’s board is not a cozy, self-perpetuating clique. Governors can shake up the university power structure by appointing board members willing to challenge the status quo.

Virginia’s flagship university is nearing a pivot point. With the nomination of five new members (to be confirmed later by the General Assembly), Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s appointees, now a minority, will comprise a 13-to-4 majority of the Board effective July 1, 2014. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The impending new majority coincides with a dramatic shift in sentiment toward higher education. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has restricted the use of race in admissions, and dissident alumni have ousted the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. UVA, too, is heading for a reckoning.

In a first-ever event of its kind, the Jefferson Council will devote its 3rd annual meeting April 9 to the theme of governance at UVA. An impressive line-up of speakers will examine the political and legal forces reshaping higher ed, explore how university governing boards can drive change, and critique the governance system at UVA.

Register here to attend this event.

The event begins at 3:00 p.m. and will include a cocktail party and banquet. Here is the line-up of speakers.

Jim Bacon, Executive Director, The Jefferson Council: “The governance challenge at UVa.”
Bacon will explain how UVA’s governance practices augment the power of the president and undermine the power of the Board of Visitors, and will suggest reforms to restore a proper balance.

Michael Poliakoff, President, American Council of Trustees and Alumni: “What an accountable higher-ed institution looks like.”
Poliakoff, a national expert in higher-ed governance, will describe the elements of an ideal university governance system.

John Preyer, Chair, University of North Carolina Board of Trustees: “Bringing accountability to UNC-Chapel Hill.”
Preyer has presided over a dramatic change in direction for North Carolina’s flagship university. He will describe how he and his allies did it.

Student voices. Four speakers will address UVA-related topics from a student perspective. They include:
Avery Lambert, 2nd year, College of Arts & Sciences
Will Pecknold, 3rd year, College of Arts & Sciences
Lauren Horan, 4th year, College of Arts & Sciences
Peter Hamilton, 3rd year, School of Law/Darden School of Business

Ken Davis, Alumni Free Speech Alliance counsel for the Virginia Tech amicus brief: “Implications of U.S. Supreme Court rulings for UVA governance.”
Davis will explore what the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on race in college admissions means for policy and practice at UVA and Virginia’s other public universities.

Bert Ellis, President emeritus of the Jefferson Council and UVA Board of Visitors member: “Priorities in 2024.”
Ellis will illuminate the issues that he expects the Youngkin majority on the UVA Board of Visitors will bring to the fore in the second half of the year.

Tom Neale – President, The Jefferson Council: “Thank yous and recognitions.”

Cocktail speaker: Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of Open the Books: “What we found in our In-Depth Dive into UVA Spending.”
Andrzejewski will hit the highlights of the national government-transparency organization’s in-depth probe into UVA expenditures.

Keynote speaker: Jenna Robinson, President, The Martin Center for Academic Renewal: “A national perspective on higher-ed reform.”
Robinson will discuss the wave of change crashing over America’s higher-ed system.

Register here to attend this event.

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Robert Pyles MD
Robert Pyles MD
2 months ago

Will this event be available on line?