This week, the University of Virginia will become the latest public institution in the state to consider adding a public comment policy.
A new law, initially sponsored in the last General Assembly session by Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, requires state universities to offer public comment before considering a tuition increase. Public comment is the norm at local governing bodies and school boards, and some state agencies and commissions also host sessions.
UVa’s Board of Visitors does not currently have any public comment policy, according to spokesman Wes Hester. Meetings are typically conducted around a conference table at the Rotunda, and university staff, journalists and members of the public must squeeze into a limited number of seats around the edge of the room. Members of the public must arrive early enough to claim a card that lets them sit in one of four or five seats. Meetings are sometimes livestreamed to an overflow room, but video of the meetings is not otherwise made available to the public.
The board is scheduled to consider the issue on Friday, during its regularly scheduled meeting, according to a meeting agenda. Two members of the board who chair the student life and the finance committees will be tasked with developing a policy.
The rector of the university, Jim Murray, also noted in an email Tuesday that UVa conducted several meetings last fall after giving notice of a planned tuition increase.
“I would only add that last fall, before there was any legislative requirement to do so, we conducted [open] public meetings and allowed for transparent and robust discussions of tuition policy,” Murray wrote. “I would expect no less this fall.”