Earlier this month, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced his appointment of three new Board of Visitors members. According to political watchdog websites opensecrets.org and vpap.org, all three appointees have a history of donating to Democrats running for office.
The new BOV members are Timothy P. Dunn ’83, Colin G. Campbell and Robert E. Scott J.D. ’68. The three replace Joseph Plumeri ’66 and Jeffrey McWaters, whose four-year terms have expired, and Robert A. Blair ’68, who resigned from the BOV earlier this year following former College President Gene Nichol’s resignation.
Kaine also reappointed current BOV members Philip Herget and Janet Brashear ’82 to second four-year terms.
BOV Rector Michael Powell ’85 said in a press release that he believed the three new appointees would bring a “tremendous” addition to the board.
Campbell, the CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, has a history of donating to various Democrats. However, he also donated a large sum of money to Republican State Sen. Thomas Norment.
Dunn, a senior vice president of Capital Research Global Investors, a venture capital firm, has always donated to Democrats, and to date has donated more than $74,000. Of that money, over $54,000 was given to Gov. Kaine, who appointed him to the BOV.
Scott, a law professor at Columbia University, has also donated only to Democrats.
According to government Professor John McGlennon, appointment is often granted to supporters of the public officials who hold appointment power.
“The newly appointed members have very strong credentials, and having supported the governor and his party politically would certainly be a plus from his perspective,” he said in an e-mail.
McGlennon also stressed the importance of BOV decisions to be non-partisan and that the governor is ultimately responsible for the BOV’s actions.
“Most governors have recognized that, once appointed, board members are expected to use their own judgment,” he said.
The issue of who should set policy in state-supported institutions of higher education is one that has been widely debated throughout the country.
“Some states actually elect members, which is more explicitly partisan. Private universities have boards which are self-perpetuating (the board itself fills its own vacancies),” McGlennon said. “But with a public institution, there are always questions of accountability to the citizens, not just students and alumni.”