Yesterday, I served as guest host on the WRVA Jeff Katzs show. My guests and I covered some of the critical issues affecting the people of Virginia. I focused specifically on the shortfalls of leadership and funding for Historical Black Colleges and Universities.
Most significantly, I highlighted the wasteful spending and the lack of experienced leadership in the latest failed VCU real estate deal. The continued wasting of time and money by those who are unprepared can’t be explained.
This fiasco continues, and the complete costs to exit the contract with the developer may climb as high as $100 million. Of greatest concern is a lack of accountability, transparency and engagement with Michael Rao, current VCU president. Furthermore, I am dismayed by the blast of silence from those elected to serve the people. We pointed out that Governor Youngkin did in fact acknowledge that Rao was not equipped to serve as Chairman of the VCU Health Board or even be a voting member.
I was joined by guests Dr. Bob Holsworth, political analyst and former Dean of our School of Government and Public Affairs, Dr. Hakim Lucas, President of Virginia University Union; and Natan McKenzie, Senate candidate 12th District.
I encourage you to listen to the full program.
Dr. Bob Holwsorth
As a former member of the Virginia Board of Visitors, Dr. Holsworth offered unique insights on the VCU Health real estate project. As a political analyst in Virginia, he provided a valuable behind-the-scenes look at VCU administration, as well as his take on how this project will impact VCU going forward.
We discussed a recent letter to the State Legislature by Governor Youngkin, which called for a restructuring of Board of Visitors selection and reporting procedures for improved accountability between VCU Health and VCU. He further recommended removing Rao “as chairperson of the health system board, reducing the number of doctors and eliminating legislators from the panel that governs VCU Health.”
Youngkin has called this event a “wakeup call” but absent further action, these are but words and suggestions.
On the note of university funding for student education, I also focused extensively on the lack of state support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Virginia and across the nation. This topic will be explored in depth by leading practitioners in their disciplines. I shared more details about this event, “2023 Wilder Symposium: HBCUs and the Absence of Support” in an op-ed published in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Dr. Hakim Lucas
A report by the VCU Project Gabriel Commission of the VCU Office of the President identified long-overdue recommendations to “provide tangible benefits to individuals and communities with historic connection to slavery.” These grounds where, “enslaved individuals who labored on Medical College of Virginia grounds and property” have long suffered neglect, dumping, and most notably, movement and desecration of graves and resting sites.
Despite a history to the contrary, Dr. Lucas holds strong hopes that the commissions’ study will find long-term resources to make the sites functional in promoting historical education.
Dr. Lucas and I also discussed the socioeconomic impacts of HBCUs and the mounting challenges they face. He iterated the power of the intangible values at HBCUs, like community building and identity and belonging to instutions as vital.
We also discussed the continual effects of lack of leadership with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and I called for demonstration of words in action.
Party support, personal identity and “politicking” all play key roles in the election process. I asked Mr. McKenzie to share his personal experiences in running for office. He shared that the Democratic Party and Virginia Legislative Black Caucus have contributed no funds to his election campaign (despite that he is the only current challenger).
Despite his efforts to build relationships with key constituents, this lack of support directly illustrates a lack of commitment to running an equitable election. Mr. McKenzie reluctantly acknowledged that he has not been afforded the same opportunities as other candidates in the upcoming election.