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Ramadan: Three times a charm? The $2.3 billion coverup at UVa

posted July 21st, 2016

David Ramadan | Ramadan is a former Republican member of the House of Delegates from Loudoun County. | Posted 8 hours ago

They say the third time is a charm, but the covert trifecta at the University of Virginia is shameful.

In 2015, I wrote about UVa’s tuition cover-up, in which the administration rammed one of the highest tuition increases in the country through with no public notice.

In 2016, The Washington Post finally confirmed that the UVa administration had worked to cover up the details of systemic rapes and abuse that were about to be reported by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. That, I said, was over the top, too.

So it’s no wonder that I’m angry as Charlottesville tries to deflect attention from the latest revelation, which is that the University of Virginia is sitting on a $2.3 billion —yes with a “B” — pile of money they would only discuss behind closed doors.

Once, the university called it “operating” funds. That is, until a second round of double-digit tuition increases had been approved and the General Assembly was safely out of session.

Now we know otherwise. Citing a conversation in which pet project spending was discussed and the board of visitors was implored to keep mum about the money, one member called it “slush.”

Responding to the uproar, the university calls it “transformational.” I’ll say. Using $50 million for yoga and meditation would transform any taxpayer’s level of anger at what I’d call a Charlottesville version of Three Card Monte.

All of which brings to mind my version of an old Middle Eastern proverb: If the king says it’s night in the middle of the day, look for the stars. In other words, don’t be diverted. Or to quote Deep Throat of Watergate fame, “Follow the money.”

I have no doubt that the money has always been “reported” —after all, a $2.3 billion nest egg isn’t something you can hide easily —but they did! The question now is how and what was it reported as to the board of visitors?

Equally troubling is how much effort has gone into making everything seem normal when it hasn’t been.

Rather than engaging — rather than talking about how this $2.3 billion windfall could secure the futures for a generation of Virginia’s kids who only want the chance to get an affordable education at a world-class school — we’ve been treated to a lecture about process.

Rather than coming clean — rather than having a conversation about how even a modest portion of Virginia’s newest pot of gold could be used to roll back tuition— we’ve been given a seminar with statistics to justify the status quo.

And rather than listening to the silence of thousands of students for whom the admissions door is closed every year, we’ve been treated to a lecture on excellence by one of the few for whom it opened.

As a former member of the House of Delegates, I am proud that many with whom I served have taken steps to get answers and clear the air.

They want to know why in-state tuition continues to skyrocket, even when they were told it would not. They want to know why out-of-state students are receiving “excessive” financial aid. And they want to know why a conversation about the university’s newly renamed “strategic investment fund” took place in secret.

And lest anyone thinks this is a partisan issue, rest assured that it is not.

Two senators who could safely be described as politically polar opposites —Chap Peterson a Democrat from Fairfax and Bill DeSteph a Republican from Virginia Beach— have jointly called out the University for running an apparent “covert surplus” that is significantly larger than the Commonwealth’s own cash reserve, and asked for a forensic audit of the books.

More scrutiny is needed. I urge the General Assembly to reconsider its position regarding Freedom of Information Act exemptions for those who lead Virginia’s colleges and universities. All university business should be conducted in public — presidents of Virginia public universities should not be treated differently than leaders of other public institutions just because of their friendships with some members of the General Assembly.

Further, I urge the General Assembly to create an ombudsman position at each of our public colleges and universities. By hiding a $2.3 billion —remember with a “B” — fund and then covering it up via discussions at closed board meetings, which could be illegal; it is evident that the taxpayers’ interests have been violated at UVA. Virginians need advocates at our schools —especially those universities that have forgotten that they are owned by the taxpayers and instead operate as if they are private institutions.

Last but not least, I urge the General Assembly to change the term “board of visitors” to “board of trustees.” Those appointed to boards are called upon to lead our public colleges and universities — they are expected to “govern” not “visit” campuses once every other month to watch football games and rubber-stamp administration decisions. Their loyalty must always be to the Commonwealth as trustees charged with protecting public assets, not hiding them. They are there to serve, not to be cheerleaders!

Link: http://m.roanoke.com/opinion/commentary/ramadan-three-times-a-charm-the-billion-coverup-at-uva/article_a900d636-014a-52ce-9b5c-f9404287a7d5.html?mode=jqm

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Virginia news and notes from the Republican National Convention

posted July 19th, 2016

BY GRAHAM MOOMAW AND JEFF E. SCHAPIRO Richmond Times-Dispatch

CLEVELAND — As the Republican National Convention opened Monday, Virginia’s divided delegation met behind closed doors.

At their hotel in suburban Strongsville, the 49 delegates and their camp followers had a sausage-and-egg breakfast and got their feed from party leaders.

The delegation had been rattled by speculation of a rules fight led by, among others, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who helped fashion a Ted Cruz-heavy delegation even though presumptive nominee Donald Trump won the Virginia primary in March.

Cuccinelli said Monday that the disagreement over rules had been wrongly construed as an effort to unbind delegates in Cleveland on the first vote. A Cruz delegate from Virginia, in a largely symbolic victory, convinced a federal judge in Richmond to throw out a 1999 state law binding delegates on the first vote.

Cuccinelli declined to say what rules change he’d be advocating, but Virginia delegates said privately that Cuccinelli was pushing only for a provision that would allow delegates to the 2020 convention to vote on its rules by roll call.

Corey Stewart, chairman of Trump’s Virginia campaign who clashed with Cuccinelli earlier this year at the state convention in Harrisonburg, said the rules debate won’t derail Trump’s nomination and the unification of the party.

“He’s charging at windmills,” Stewart said of Cuccinelli. “It’s done.”

A good vantage point

The convention officially gaveled in a little after 1 p.m., with the Virginia delegation enjoying some of the best seats in the house.

The Virginia delegation was assigned to the central seating area of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, behind Illinois and next to Guam.

Scott Baio? Has GOP jumped the shark?

A Republican former state delegate from Loudoun County is ridiculing the list of speakers at Trump’s convention, particularly actor Scott Baio, who played Chachi Arcola on the sitcom “Happy Days” and its brief spinoff, “Joanie Loves Chachi.”

“What happened to impressive people?” David Ramadan tweeted Monday. He called it the “Jump the Shark Convention,” tweeting a clip of the “Happy Days” episode in which Fonzie, on water skis, jumps over a shark, leading to the idiom about when something — such as a television show — has gone too far.

Ramadan, a longtime critic of the presumptive GOP nominee, counts himself as a member of the “Never Trump” movement.

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CNU student, a Republican Muslim, caught in the storm

posted July 5th, 2016

By Travis Fain

Nadia Elgendy finds herself at the intersection of race, religion and politics that has become such a large part of this presidential election cycle.

The rising Christopher Newport University junior may be the first Muslim to ever sit on the Republican Party of Virginia’s policy-making State Central Committee. And she was not pleased to find one of her fellow members comparing Islam to Nazism and tweeting that her religion was a “death cult organized by Satan.”

Fredy Burgos, the Northern Virginia committee member whose comments led to calls for his resignation, has since apologized. Elgendy said she’s willing to let bygones be bygones. Both remain on State Central, a group of about 80 people that set state party policy.

But the back-and-forth was written up in The Washington Post this past week. There are lingering calls for Burgos to resign as some Republicans try to distance themselves from the bigotry that has blossomed around the country this election season. …

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Why I support the name ‘Redskins’

posted May 31st, 2016

By J. Chapman Petersen May 27
In June 2014, I did something politically unthinkable: I publicly supported the Washington Redskins.

In response to a court ruling that the team’s name was “derogatory,” I called David I. Ramadan, a Republican delegate from Loudoun County, and we agreed to form a bipartisan “Redskins Pride Caucus” to counter the endless negative press against our favorite team.

My decision to come out of the Redskins closet was not a political calculation. I was a loyal fan who had watched the team unite the community in the glory days. I thought that the name-based criticisms were contrived and unfair and that the team deserved a public defender.

The backlash was immediate. My Facebook account was flooded with hundreds of negative messages. I was denounced as a racist. Others called me a hypocrite for defending the name when my own wife is a minority. The more considerate critics offered to “educate” me. The general reaction was that I had committed political suicide by defending the team’s name.

There was a silver lining: Old friends and acquaintances with American Indian blood had a very different reaction to the Pride Caucus, ranging from “That’s cool!” to “Hell yeah!”

Over the next year, I also began to connect with native tribes — and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. …

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