Staff Editorial: GA inquiry troubling

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February 8, 2008

6:01 PM

For the second time in less than a month, General Assembly members are attempting to wheedle control of the College. This Wednesday, Del. Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania) brought four members of the College’s Board of Visitors before legislators to discuss controversies at the school. On the same day, Del. Timothy Hugo ’82 (R-Fairfax) expressed his embarrassment for his alma mater, saying the College was “becoming a joke.”

p. In light of its continued meddling, we fear the General Assembly may be flirting with a laughable reputation itself. As with other recent efforts to intervene in College governance, Cole’s request to hear four BOV members immediately prior to their confirmations smacks of political opportunism, micromanagement and is wholly inappropriate.

p. On this point, Del. Clarence Phillips’s (D-Dickenson) comments during the questioning were particularly instructive. Phillips encouraged BOV members to uphold the College’s reputation and insisted they make certain the College is “known for all the right reasons.” While the wording itself is vague, we are not so naive as to believe anyone other than Phillips and his ideological cohorts would be determining which reasons were “right.”

p. Del. Jeffrey Frederick (R-Prince William), in an apparent misunderstanding of his powers, indicated what that “right” direction could be. “Maybe we should reconsider Mr. Nichol’s tenure,” he said Wednesday. He, like several others, seems to have forgotten that Nichol’s tenure is not a matter for the General Assembly to decide.

p. Implying that confirmation to the BOV might hinge on similar intentions is no better.

p. The timing of this inquiry leads us to believe some delegates may be eying Nichol’s reconfirmation as a litmus test when reappointing BOV members. In the past, only one BOV candidate, James Dillard, has failed confirmation, and then only because he had recently changed party affiliation. That a few delegates might like to see the College’s BOV prospects grilled like Supreme Court nominees is worrying.

p. For as much as it has become fashionable to criticize the controversy at the College, we hope the General Assembly will exercise the restraint necessary to not interfere. It will be exceedingly difficult for the College to maintain its reputation as a great and public institution if it is also condemned to being a ward of the state.

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