Helen Dragas: Senate votes to re-appoint Dragas

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Helen Dragas, the embattled rector of the University of Virginia who orchestrated a failed effort to oust the school's president last year, won a state Senate vote Monday to reappoint her to the post for four more years.

The Senate voted 29-9 in favor of her reappointment after more than 40 minutes of debate. Her reappointment also must be confirmed by the House of Delegates.

Opponents argued that the vote would send the wrong signal to reward Dragas for the effort to remove university President Teresa Sullivan.

Sullivan's dismissal was reversed after an outcry by students, alumni and the public.

U.Va. was put on warning last month after an accrediting panel, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges, found indications that the school broke governance rules in the failed attempt to oust Sullivan.

Senate opponents of Dragas also cited a unanimous recent vote by the student council opposing her reappointment.

Former Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, appointed Dragas in 2008. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell reappointed her after Sullivan was reinstated.

"This is about job performance," said Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, who voted against Dragas' reappointment. He has spent a dozen years in the Senate and 10 years before that in the House. "I've never before voted against a gubernatorial nomination," he said.

Sen. Janet Howell called the surprise ouster attempt, in a hastily called Sunday afternoon meeting of the Board of Visitors in June 2012, "secretive, underhanded governance," and warned that a vote for Dragas would only confirm the cynical view college students already have of the General Assembly.

"Instead of doing the honorable thing and resigning, she wants to be reappointed," Howell, D-Fairfax County, said of Dragas.

Defenders of Dragas, a Virginia Beach developer, argued that the General Assembly would stoop to micromanaging state-supported universities by rejecting Dragas.

"This will only be the start of the second-guessing we do of public colleges and universities," said Senate Republican Leader Thomas K. Norment of James City County.