Board discusses diversity, tuition
Plans include bolstering science and engineering
and moving Varsity Hall
Over the course of three
days last week, the Board
of Visitors tackled a number of large issues, including a
new financial aid plan (see story, page 1), diversity, tuition
and a science and technology initiative.
At a meeting of the board’s Special Committee on Diversity,
committee chairman Warren M. Thompson joined Angela M. Davis and
Michael J. Smith, co-chairs of the president’s Commission
on Diversity and Equity, in arguing for the creation of a high-level
position to oversee the process of creating a more integrated
culture of diversity on Grounds.
The person hired into this new position, Thompson said, would
spearhead diversity efforts “in the near future and beyond”
and would “bring about the results we want.”
Such focused attention would help produce “visible, viable
and sustainable change” in the culture, said Smith, who
also cautioned that diversity efforts this time “really
must be different, or we risk losing our place as a leader among
public institutions and as a university that rises to the challenge
of preparing itself and its students for the diverse world of
the 21st century.”
Smith and Davis outlined the work being done by four subgroups
of the commission, noting that their findings would be reported
to the board in May.
During the diversity committee meeting, board members also heard
from three students about “Sustained Dialogue,” a
student effort to cultivate and understand diversity through ongoing
small-group discussions. “It has shown me [that] students
can change the racial climate here,” said Priya Parker,
co-founder and past chairwoman of the initiative.
The Finance Committee meeting held a preliminary discussion about
tuition, while casting a wary eye towards Richmond, where a major
budget battle was under way.
Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating
officer, said the legislature’s so-called money committees
are “trying to be flexible” with public colleges and
universities by not imposing tuition controls. But, he warned,
a second straight year of double-digit increases would not be
There were strong hints that in-state students might feel an additional
tuition pinch this fall. Sandridge noted that out-of-state tuition
typically has been roughly 2.5 times higher than in-state, but
several years of in-state tuition freezes and then a state-mandated
in-state rollback has left that ratio at about 4-to-1.
Sandridge suggested a “correction” to edge the tuition
levels closer to their historic relationship, a notion seconded
by outgoing Finance Committee chairman William H. Goodwin Jr.,
who noted that many in-state parents pay more for private secondary
education than they do to attend U.Va., which costs $5,935 per
year in-state, compared to $21,955 out-of-state.
Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget, suggested
a few tuition strategies. One possibility, she said, would be
to charge higher tuition for some higher-cost disciplines, like
engineering, the sciences or nursing.
The board is scheduled to set tuition rates at its April meeting.
The Finance Committee did set housing rates for the 2004-05 academic
year, boosting the average room charge in Charlottesville by 8.8
percent to $2,970, and for the College at Wise by 4.5 percent
In other business, President
John T. Casteen III led the board in a policy discussion on the
critical importance of a five-year, $126 million program to enhance
science and engineering at the University. The discussion was
the continuation of one begun in an August Educational Policy
meeting, where University provost Gene D. Block outlined an aggressive
strategy meant to position the University as an internationally
pre-eminent research institution in select science and technology
Casteen noted that despite an increase in research funding for
the sciences, engineering and medicine, the University continues
to be ranked 49th in total federal research and development expenditures
among research universities.
The state is in part responsible for this situation, he said,
having provided neither the infrastructure nor the philosophy
for its universities to become leaders in science and technology
research. “In effect, Virginia has three universities —
U.Va., Virginia Tech and VCU — waiting to take off, but
the state has not been able to help them develop the necessary
Casteen said that commitment to and investment in scientific research
is “a survival issue.
Either we get in, or we atrophy as an institution.”
In October, Block and R. Ariel Gomez, vice president for research
and graduate studies, received board approval, in concept, for
a $60 million commitment for recruiting faculty, funding salaries
and building new research space. Last week, they returned to the
board with a detailed plan on how the University would target
research opportunities, including specific goals and objectives,
as well as funding and measurements guidelines.
Key objectives of their plan include attracting 10 new star faculty
teams to spearhead research in selected fields; increasing laboratory
space; enhancing infrastructure; and hiring and retaining top
faculty with competitive compensation packages and other incentives.
Board members unanimously endorsed the plan, praising Block and
Gomez for the meticulous nature of their work and its level of
checks and balances.
“The commitment they have made to us is extraordinary,”
said board member John O. Wynne.
The board approved another groundbreaking initiative — Access
UVa (see story, page 1) — that with the science and technology
plan have the power to transform the University, Wynne said, and
place it in the top ranks of great national public and private
The Buildings and Grounds Committee discussed plans for Varsity
Hall, the University’s first infirmary, which will be moved
this summer from Hospital Drive to 204 15th Street. The move will
make room for a 115,000-square-foot expansion of Rouss Hall, which
will house the McIntire School of Commerce.
New University architect David J. Neuman, in his debut before
the committee, noted that with its history as a medical building,
Varsity Hall would be a good fit with the other Medical Center
buildings in the vicinity of 15th Street.
In OK’ing the move, the committee agreed to demolish Brugh
House, home of the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction,
which currently occupies the site and which, Neuman said, has
no historical significance.