L. Douglas Wilder, 66th Governor of Virginia

Why in the world is VCU launching a branded beer line, especially just a month after paying out close to a $1 million settlement to the family of a VCU freshman who died from alcohol poisoning at the hands of his future fraternity brothers? Could university President Michael Rao have possibly chosen a more callous direction to generate negative publicity for VCU at a critical time like this? I don’t think so.

Yesterday, I was a guest of the Jeff Katz show on WRVA and we discussed the absolute disregard of shared governance by Dr. Rao and his unveiling of a branded beer (now “paused” as of yesterday afternoon). According to VCU Professor Dr. Everett Carpenter, in an open letter, Dr. Rao changed the policy and ignored the unanimous vote of the advisory committee’s decision to halt any creation and promotion of branded alcohol sales.

View the open letter from Dr. Carpenter

Rao has given NO reason for his action. It signals an abrupt deviation from the shared governance that VCU’s charter requires.

It is impossible to imagine this horrendous slight in leadership and it strongly illustrates a direct disconnect between VCU leadership in past years and the positive public perceptions of VCU in our Richmond community and beyond. The governor of Virginia has the sole authority to appoint Boards of Visitors to our colleges and universities. This is just the latest example of believing that we are ripe for explanation and changes at VCU. The Board of Visitors has the commitment to confront this and restore shared governance.

Dr. Rao, once again, is behaving in an autocratic manner; he has enormous campus issues to deal with, including declining enrollment and a deplorable 150% turnover of Black faculty members.

Beyond VCU, we are seeing a drastic decline in student outcomes. Education, including K-12, has always been the number one priority that we have for our children.

Leadership across our communities is failing to address the pervasive issues relative to education. In Richmond, there has been high turnover in every sector of government. I mentioned to Jeff that we have returned to what I referred to the management of city government years ago as a “cesspool of corruption and inefficiency.”

The mayor has refused to address this situation and many others, as we are embarking on the fifth police chief of his tenure. We are experiencing a breakdown in systems that are meant to support our students and community.

Listen to the full WRVA interview with Jeff Katz

Stay tuned.

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