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Youngkin appointees to be majority of UVA board beginning in July

A sign in Charlottesville details the founding of the University of Virginia.
Crixell Matthews
VPM News File
A Board of Visitors meeting later this week follows the university's $9-million settlement over a 2023 shooting, as well as discord in the wake of campus antiwar protests.

This week, the Board of Visitors will hold its first full meeting since the May antiwar protest.

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors will hold its final regular meeting Thursday prior to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s appointees representing a majority of the panel. It will also be the first regular meeting since an on-campus antiwar protest was broken up May 4, resulting in 27 arrests — which included students and faculty members.

A May 10 meeting largely took place in closed session as the university’s administration and law enforcement officials briefed board members following the protests.

The governor selected Paul Harris, Paul Manning, John Nau and Rachel Sheridan to join the BOV in June 2023. Appointments for this year are expected sometime this month.

Each member is appointed to a four-year term, confirmed by the General Assembly and can be reappointed for an additional four years.

Walt Heinecke, a UVA faculty member and president of the school’s American Association of University Professors chapter, was present at the May protest and said he’s considering attending the meetings this week, which run Thursday and Friday.

“I should say that there have been some higher levels of conflict going on at the board meetings, recently,” he said over the phone Monday. “I’m thinking about the dustup between [BOV member] Bert Ellis and [UVA Rector Robert] Hardie over a discussion about antisemitism at the university.”

During a meeting earlier this year, Ellis attempted to discuss perceived incidents of antisemitism in open session. Hardie repeatedly told him that student safety required the topic to be discussed in closed session and if it was again brought up, Ellis would be reprimanded.

“Bring it on,” said Ellis, who was among Youngkin’s initial BOV appointees.

The May protest was planned by students, faculty and community members seeking disclosure of UVA’s investments, cessation of endowment investments that profit from Israel and permission to demonstrate in support of Palestine without facing discipline.

The faculty senate on May 14 called “for an independent and external, university-wide institutional review of the events which preceded and transpired on May 4 and the results of such review be made public.”

UVA denied VPM News’ Freedom of Information Act request seeking university police body cam footage of the protest, saying the materials are related to an ongoing criminal investigation.

Ryan later told the faculty senate that if “all of you decide I’m not the right leader, that’s your choice.”

The upcoming sessions this week also follow UVA’s recent $9-million settlement over a 2023 on-campus shooting that resulted in three deaths and two injuries. Ryan faced pushback after delaying the release of an independent review of the events leading up to the incident because, he said, it could impact the alleged shooter’s criminal trial.

VPM News left Hardie and Vice Rector Carlos M. Brown voicemails seeking comment on the meeting. Neither returned the call ahead of this story being published.

UVA spokesperson Brian Coy said the BOV includes a “Leadership Discussion” four times a year; it's on the agenda for this week's meeting. That time is typically when the president and other administration officials make presentations to the board.

“I don't expect that to bear any relationship to anything that took place on May 4,” Coy said, adding that there’s no formal agenda item related to the protests.

Any discussion of the $9-million settlement would happen in closed session, Coy said. The spokesperson declined twice via text to say if the board had approved the payout.

“We at the AAUP, we assume that the university does a lot of its work while faculty are off on summer hiatus,” Heinecke said. “So, we have an increased interest in watching what goes on over the summer.”

This week's two-day meeting begins with the Health System Board and later a visit to the Football Operations Center to mark its opening. Coy said the school’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year could also be finalized. Several committee meetings are on tap, as well, including Academic and Student Life, as well as an Audit, Compliance and Risk session.

An agenda for the meeting has been posted and a livestream will be available.

Dave Cantor has been an editor with VPM News since 2022, juggling daily digital and broadcast stories.
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