May 17, 2016
RICHMOND — The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia today affirmed the renaming of George Mason University’s law school to honor the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
The name change was affirmed by a vote to accept a revised resolution introduced in the council’s Academic Affairs Committee Monday, during the first day of a two-day meeting at Washington and Lee University in Lexington.
The revision had been prompted by legal counsel provided last week by the Office of the Attorney General indicating that SCHEV does not have the authority to approve name changes that are purely honorary and do not involve other approvals. Such honorary name changes do not count as the "creation and establishment" of an organizational unit of the institution so SCHEV's authority to approve changes does not extend to them, according to the legal counsel.
In its review, SCHEV staff had determined that Mason’s name-change proposal would not affect the school’s mission, programming or enrollment. Legal counsel advised that it therefore would be considered honorary under the Code of Virginia. The revised resolution replaced one that had recommended approval.
“This decision aligns with Virginia’s long history of respect for local governance and with SCHEV’s policies of respecting decisions made by the appointed boards of visitors at our public institutions,” said G. Gilmer Minor III, SCHEV’s chair.
Minor thanked the many Virginians inside and outside George Mason who contacted SCHEV about the proposal and who spoke at the meeting. “A wide range of opinion has been raised in this discussion,” Minor said. “A variety of points of view have been heard. The discussion has been robust and healthy. This is what we would want in the commonwealth."
He also thanked Mason for its dedication to higher education. “We are confident that the president and administration of George Mason will continue to engage its faculty and community,” he said. “As our institutions evolve and face new challenges, I am inspired by how we find solutions by working collaboratively.”
In its final action of the day, Council members unanimously approved a resolution thanking Gilbert T. Bland of Virginia Beach for his service on the board. Bland, whose appointment to the board ends in June, was first appointed in 2007.
“We have been fortunate for the past decade to have Gil Bland’s wise counsel and deep passion for higher education for all Virginians,” said SCHEV Executive Director Peter A. Blake.
In other business, SCHEV’s governing board heard updates on The Virginia Plan for Higher Education and approved four private institutions to operate in Virginia: Southeastern University, Ivy Christian College, Clarewood University and Virginia University of Science & Technology.
The Council also voted to extend the contract for director Peter Blake and authorized the chair to negotiate the terms. Blake became director in January 2012. His current contract expires at the end of June.
SCHEV is the commonwealth’s coordinating body for Virginia’s system of higher education. The agency provides policy guidance and budget recommendations to the governor and General Assembly, and is a resource for information on higher education issues. With The Virginia Plan for Higher Education, SCHEV is dedicated to making Virginia the nation’s best-educated state.
For more information, contact Greg Weatherford, communications and outreach associate, at (804) 786-2323, (804) 317-3879 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org.