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Teresa Sullivan Reinstated as UVa President in Defiance to Dragas
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On June 10, silently, without a vote and ignominiously, the president of the Board of Visitors of Virginia University, Teresa Sullivan, was removed by Rector Helen Dragas and her allies. The move sparked a controversy since there weren’t any allegations of any kind against Teresa Sullivan, except, maybe, Helen did not like Teresa. On Tuesday, Teresa Sullivan was reinstated as president of the Board of Visitors VU unanimously. So, what happened, and what went on behind?

For starters, the media became curious about the power and clout of Helen Dragas who could remove a President of the university’s Board of Visitors without any vote and without an initial explanation. As reported by AP later, Rector Helen Dragas had stated that the university was not acting quickly enough to address state and federal funding reductions though she did not specify or provide any examples of how she thought it was all due to Sullivan. Sullivan was UVa’s eighth president and was its first female leader – something that obviously did not agree with some in power.

Awed by the clout that Helen Dragas obviously held, the media started finding out things. Last week, the Washington Post put down on paper the connections that made Helen Dragas so powerful, that she could oust Sullivan, the first female leader of VUa without a vote and without any explanation. Here is what the Washington Post found”

  
What
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  • The husband of Helen Dragas is a partner in the same law firm where Vincent J. Mastracco, another member of the Board of Visitors is also a partner
  • The Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment is also a partner in the same law firm where the husband of Helen Dragas is a partner
  • Records tracked by Virginia Public Access Project show Dragas and entities related to her business have donated more than $70,000 in political campaigns since 1999, mostly to Democrats
  • She was named to the UVa board by Democrat Timothy M. Kaine, widely known as her mentor. She donated $6000 to Kaine’s campaigns
  • She became UVa’s first female rector in 2011, but Sullivan had already become the first female president of the board in 2010, thus depriving Dragas of the honor of being the first female leader of UVa
  • Former governor Mark Warner had appointed Dragas to the Commonwealth Transportation Board that allocates funds for the state

Dragas comes from a wealthy business family with strong political ties, and is seen as a hardworking no-nonsense person appreciated for her sound judgment, except one – she couldn’t stand Sullivan and orchestrated her removal.

With public outcry worsening, protesters sitting on the lawns of the university, and donors threatening to refuse supporting the university, the governor was pulled into the fray and Gov. Bob McDonnell vowed that he would replace all rectors appointed by him if they did not immediately resolve the controversy.

Teresa Sullivan got reinstated with a 15-0 vote.

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