I hope you and your loved ones are safe in this difficult and uncertain time. This will be my final message to you as the Student Member of the Board of Visitors (BOV), as my term comes to a close at the end of May. As you may know, the Board is responsible for the governance and oversight of the University and approves long-term goals, policies, budgets, and other important matters. As your representative on the Board, I have spent the past year working on your behalf to advocate for students to the top leadership of the University.
In the past couple of weeks, I have been in contact with students and administrators around the University about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In these uncertain times, I know that we are all working hard to resolve issues and answer questions as efficiently as possible. I encourage you to continue reaching out with questions or concerns as they come up – please refer to the University’s coronavirus site for the latest information and updates. The Board has been receiving regular updates on the University’s response to this crisis, just like the rest of our community.
This public health crisis has caused significant disruption and hardship for all of us. I know that the impact has been uneven and especially challenging for the most vulnerable in our community. Amid uncertainty, we have a collective responsibility to act with compassion and look out for one another. That means continuing to follow the advice of public health experts, practicing social distancing, washing your hands, supporting members of our community, and checking in on your friends and loved ones. We have overcome many challenges as a University before, and we will get through this too.
Review of March meeting
Prior to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Board had its quarterly meeting in March. Highlights include:
- Academic & Student Life – The Board heard presentations from Ian Solomon, new dean of the Batten School, and Philip Bourne, dean of the new School of Data Science, on the future direction of their schools. Both deans discussed growth opportunities and ways to expand their academic offerings and reach. I brought Jessica Harris (CLAS ’19, EDUC ’20) to discuss the importance of public service at the University and ways for the institution to better support student public service activities inside and outside the classroom.
- Buildings & Grounds – The Board named the Materials Science Building after former department chair William A. Jesser. The Board also approved designs for the next phase of upperclassmen residence halls on Brandon Avenue and the Contemplative Sciences Center to be built next to Ruffner Hall. They also approved a number of infrastructure improvements around Grounds, including a renovation of the Physics Building. All designs can be found here.
- Finance – The Board heard updates about various proposals in the state legislature affecting the University, including funding from the state budget, flexibility to enroll more out-of-state students, expansion of in-state tuition to undocumented students, and other regulatory changes. The current pandemic may affect the state’s financial situation, which could lead to changes in what the legislature originally proposed back in March. The Board also heard updates on the new SIS interface and the University endowment’s performance.
- Full Board – Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. Craig Kent offered thoughts on his first month at UVA Health. President Ryan gave updates on the state legislature and the University’s preparations for the coronavirus, as well as funding for new Bicentennial professorships. The Board also discussed issues in intercollegiate athletics, including the NCAA’s proposed rule for student-athletes to benefit from their name, image, and likeness, as well as proposals in Virginia’s state legislature to legalize sports gambling, which could allow betting on Virginia college sports. I provided an overview of my term and the topics I had brought to the Board, including mental health, first-generation and low-income students, international students, and public service, among others.
Finally, the Board appointed a new Student Member for the next year: Mazzen Shalaby, a third-year in both the College and Batten’s Master of Public Policy. His term begins on June 1, 2020, but he has already hit the ground running in our transition period. I am confident that Mazzen will serve as an excellent representative, and I know he is a thoughtful and effective student leader who will do a terrific job on the Board.
This past year has seen enormous achievements, including the adoption of a new Strategic Plan and a set of ambitious climate and sustainability goals, the completion of the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers, the launch of the “Honor the Future” capital campaign to fund initiatives like scholarships and professorships, the opening of four new student centers in Newcomb Hall, and new community initiatives to support living wages and affordable housing, just to name a few accomplishments. Though the end of this semester has been disrupted, we have still made enormous progress all across all areas of our University.
I am grateful to the many dozens of students who reached out with input or feedback over this year, and to the many student leaders and organizations who I visited and talked with during my term. By my count, I have corresponded and connected with hundreds of students through emails, meetings, and presentations to organizations across all 12 schools. I hope that I have been helpful to anyone who asked for assistance this past year. This role has always depended on student input, and I encourage you to continue to offer your thoughts to my successor going forward.
It is a privilege to serve in any leadership role, and I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have this opportunity to contribute, in a small way, to the progress of our community. As a graduating fourth-year, this has been a very difficult way to end my time at the University. Still, I am reminded that the joy is in the journey. I remain grateful for the experiences and opportunities that I have had during my time here. Thank you all for your support, and if I can ever be of assistance, do not hesitate to reach out.
Student Member of the Board of Visitors | 2019-2020
About the Board of Visitors
The Board of Visitors is composed of 17 voting members appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, subject to confirmation by the General Assembly, for terms of four years. In addition, the Board of Visitors appoints, for a one-year term, a full-time student and faculty member at the University of Virginia as non-voting members of the Board of Visitors. The Rector and Visitors serve as the corporate board for the University of Virginia, and are responsible for the long-term planning of the University. The Board approves the policies and budget for the University, and is entrusted with the preservation of the University's many traditions, including the Honor System. The Board maintains offices in the Northwest Wing of the Rotunda and meets four times per year. Meetings are open to the public.
View the Board of Visitors manual
[Revised to reflect changes through July 22, 2019].
Comments, questions, or concerns? Contact Derrick Wang, the 2019-2020 Student Member of the Board of Visitors.