Ellen Bassett, Faculty Representative to the BOV - June 5, 2021
Meeting dates: June 3 and 4 – Boar’s Head Inn
The BOV resumed in person meetings for the first time since September 2020, when one socially distanced meeting was held. The agenda was very full—with many end-of-year items, including reports on budgets, audits, and other financial reporting.
Here are highlights of interest to Senate members.
Day One: June 3
Health System Board Meeting:
There were numerous announcements, many of which have been covered by UVA Today amongst other sources. Dr. L.D. Britt, who chairs this board, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American College of Surgeons. During the 108-year existence of the American College of Surgeons, only four other surgical leaders have received this coveted distinction.
COVID-19 patients are at a minimum in the hospital. There has been positive publicity of the work of various UVA researchers. Dr. Taison Bell was called out due to his work convincing people to get vaccinated.
The health system will be turning toward its Strategic Planning process; Dr. Kent said there was a strong sense of excitement and optimism in the system due to the drop in COVID-19 cases and the prospect of widespread vaccination. The system has currently acquired complete ownership of three hospitals which had previously be in joint ownership with Novant. This expansion makes UVA’s health system more competitive (including for attracting faculty and residents) as our major competitors are multi-hospital systems.
A medical school faculty member, Dr. José Oberholzer, presented on the future of transplantation at UVA. Amongst other accomplishments were a string of high caliber publications (Nature and its variants) on the center’s work in transplantation. The growth of the center was facilitated by investment in state-of-the-art facilities.
Full BOV Meeting
In the full BOV meeting all the committees reported. Highlights include:
College at Wise: An end of year report was presented by the Chancellor, Donna Henry. Amongst other items of interest, Wise has set up a joint program with our School of Nursing and is looking to identify other places for collaboration in degree programs with UVA-Charlottesville that help meet the needs of Southwest Virginia. Wise’s new faculty representative, Priscilla Brame, spoke about the challenge of getting adequate childcare for UVA Wise faculty members. The Cavalier Daily did very nice coverage of the Wise report, which can be read here.
Audit, Compliance, and Risk Committee: Their report highlighted the two-year internal audit plan as well as its updated charter. State auditors, Eric Sandridge and David Rasnic, reported on the outcome of the University’s audit which met the required standards.
Academic and Student Life Committee: The main actions were to approve some newly established professorships and to approve curricular actions that had already run through our AAC, EXCO and Full Senate. The Provost introduced Robyn Hadley who has started as the new VP and Chief Student Affairs Officer. She comes to UVA from Washington University in Saint Louis. Stephen Farmer presented data on the incoming class for 2021; we are having the most diverse class yet in terms of racial and ethnic diversity. 13% of the class are first- generation college students, however, 58% of the students indicated their parents had a graduate degree. A small discussion took place relative to standardized tests. Mr. Farmer likes to know as much as possible about students, which I took as a sign that standardized tests may return. Maite Brandt Pierce ended the first day and presented the COACHE Survey. Her presentation was essentially the same as she has shared with the Senate.
Day Two: June 4
Advancement Committee: The report included an update from Mark Luellen, the VP for Advancement. He reflected on the year including the unexpected opportunities for engagement that the shift to online activities and Zoom created. Advancement is very prominent at UVA (as you all know); I learned that combined we have around 500 FTE working in fund-raising. The big news was a $50 million gift from Martha and Bruce Karsh (previous donors to the School of Law/University and law school graduates) to create, through a full match from the University, a new institute, the Karsh Institute of Democracy. Martha Karsh provided a compelling backstory to the gift that underlined the importance of public education (K-12 and university.). Again, Cavalier Daily has good coverage found here. BOV member John Griffin who has steered this committee is stepping down from this role as his BOV term has come to an end and he is term limited.
Finance Committee: Shared its recent work and the COO, JJ Wagner-Davis, presented budgetary details including the budget for Y 21-22. Some expenditures for building improvements were passed. In general, it is suffice to say the University is in good financial position and the COO’s office is paying very close attention to the bond market and financial trends in general. She reiterated that we are one of only 4 public universities to have a Triple A bond rating (also UT-Austin, Texas A&M, and UNC-Chapel Hill.). JJ also acknowledged the very hard work of key staff who kept the university running this past year, including the team that dealt with quarantine and isolation of COVID-19 positive students or those exposed.
Buildings and Grounds Committee: Probably the most interesting aspect for the faculty was the actions around memorials. The replacement of the Frank Hume Memorial Wall inscription with different colored stone was approved. The wall will now be officially the Whispering Wall. Additionally, the removal of the George Rogers Clark statue, which was approved in September 2020, will be done this summer. The estimated cost is $400,000. Collette Sheehy provided an update on the sustainability plan. The University will be facing a big challenge meeting an executive order from Governor Northam to eliminate all single use plastics. Water bottles are the big challenge; ARAMARK is working on this statewide. Again, see our very informative student newspaper’s article here.
Full Board: Finally the meeting of the full board took place. The Rector provided some summary remarks about the unusual year and the competence of UVA leadership. He noted that the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is going to be returning several key items from the collection to Australia. The dashboard, which is intended to be a portal through which the public can track key information on the University is still under development.
The new student representative to the Board, Ms. Sarita Mehta, spoke. She focused her substantive comments on challenges associated with undergraduate advising and the importance of getting student advising right, given the variation/gaps in academic preparedness of our UG student body. Joel Hockensmith, in his role as outgoing chair, provided remarks that reviewed the past year of the Faculty Senate and the work ahead. He stressed the streamlining/improvement of items like the by-laws, the creation of a Faculty Senate Handbook, and the passage of several resolutions including Open Access.
The key action item in full session was the endorsement by the Board of the statement on free speech and inquiry, please see a related news article. This is the work of a University-level committee, on which Susan Kirk was a member. The statement recognized that the University can still have “time, place and manner” restrictions and there will be size limitations on signage for Lawn doors next year.
President Jim Ryan spoke briefly in regard to the strategic plan and our status in implementation. A new timeline and dashboard for monitoring progress has been created. Finally the four winners of the Thomas Jefferson Award (for service and research) received their awards and made short remarks, and coverage of the winners is available.