Since 2015, the Faculty Senate at the University of Virginia (an advisory body made up of elected or appointed faculty from all different departments in the university) has had an elected representative on the Board of Visitors (BOV). This representative does not have a vote on the board, but does provide valuable advice and input from a faculty member’s perspective, and reports out to the Faculty Senate about Board proceedings.
This summer, the BOV requested that instead of electing just one representative, the Faculty Senate shifts to electing three people, out of which the BOV will then pick their preferred representative. This would diminish the already limited amount of shared governance that exists on the Board. The BOV has subsequently made not-so-veiled threats that if the Faculty Senate does not agree with its proposal, the BOV will do away with faculty representation on the Board entirely, as would be permissible under Virginia law.
Assaults on shared governance at our universities are widespread in the United States. They represent an erosion of both academic freedom and of workers’ rights. At a time when campus workers are confronting conservative attacks on our curricula, rapidly rising cost of living, and the ongoing defunding of public education, we need moreshared governance, not less. If the BOV’s measure is allowed to pass, UVA will be setting a dangerous precedent in our Commonwealth by becoming the first university where the BOV picks its faculty representative, rather than the faculty themselves.
UCW-UVA and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), who have been working together on this issue, strongly oppose both the proposal to undermine shared governance and the strong-arming tactics of the Board. We support a strong NO on Amendment 5 to the Faculty Senate bylaws, which would put this new system into place. We must unapologetically defend what shared governance exists at our university, while organizing to transform the system entirely so that UVA becomes a truly democratic public institution, governed by its workers and its students–the people who make UVA run.
On October 25th, let’s show the BOV that UVA’s workers and students are united in our defense of academic freedom and shared governance. Together, we can defeat this dangerous overreach by the Board and work towards a more just and democratic university for all.