The “crisis” at the University of Virginia has been extensively covered by the media. But the portrayal of the Board of Visitors’ work as a battle between Rector Helen Dragas and President Teresa Sullivan does a terrible disservice to the full engagement of the board and to the significant issues facing the university and all of higher education.
One recent example is the portrayal of the president’s goals [“At U-Va., tensions flare over control,” front page, March 2]. In truth, setting goals for the university involved input from multiple board members, including key committee chairs. As one who submitted suggestions, I believe the key to progress is holding an institution accountable to measurable goals, with associated sub-goals and metrics. At a complex institution such as the University of Virginia, there are many important areas to measure. In my experience, a culture of accountability leads to excellence.
As a recently appointed board member, I keenly understand the significant challenges we face. Last summer’s controversy was partly fueled by a letter from the faculty expressing concern about languishing compensation. Technology is also quickly changing how universities operate. UVA also must address major issues regarding its $1.6 billion hospital and health system. With decreasing reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid and the National Institutes of Health, the School of Medicine and the hospital face the prospect of markedly decreased revenue.
This, then, is a better way to think about UVA’s “crisis.” The word itself comes from the Greek word “krisis,” which means “to decide.” We must decide how to fund future excellence in teaching, research and patient care. There are no easy answers.