The new rector for Mason’s Board of Visitors hopes to raise the university endowment, provide student opportunities and promote diversified thought.
Former U.S. Congressman Tom Davis was appointed as rector of the BOV earlier this year after joining in 2013. Rector Davis wants to give Mason students an opportunity to succeed and believes that includes raising university funds.
“We’ve got to raise the endowment,” Davis said. “A good mayor, a good governor, a good President of a university are fundraisers first. We don’t want to be dependent on [students] for tuition.”
In early September, the Commonwealth of Virginia asked for budget cuts across all state institutions due to a $2.4 billion tax revenue shortfall. President Cabrera announced that the university would be cutting $10.9 million from the university’s fiscal year 2015 budget, a reduction from what was originally planned. The BOV has a large impact on Mason’s financial decisions.
According to Davis, the BOV does not want their first move to be raising tuition in a time of financial issues and leave students with a burden of debt. However, Davis notes, tough decisions still have to be made.
Rector Davis’ views on education and financial burden are, in part, a result of his upbringing; his mother was left to raise all five children as his father served two sentences in prison. Davis eventually received a full undergraduate scholarship to Amherst College in Massachusetts and a law degree from the University of Virginia.
“I think I also have an appreciation for how important education is up and down the line,” Davis said. “[Education is] the main differentiator in society today, between the haves and have-nots.”
Rector Davis comes to the BOV with an extensive background in public service, particularly representing the Northern Virginia area. While serving on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors as both a member and chair of the board from 1979 until 1994, Davis became very familiar with Mason.
“I think I have a greater appreciation for what George Mason can mean for the larger Northern Virginia community,” Davis said. “This university is an important piece of the county, it’s an important fabric of this county, it’s made this county a success.”
After leaving the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Davis served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives to represent Virginia’s 11th District in Northern Virginia from 1994 to 2008. According to Davis, he helped sign over 100 bills into law but decided to leave Congress due to the ideological polarization occurring in Washington.
“It’s frustrating,” Davis said. “I just thought I could make more money, be more productive and have more of a life outside of Congress. I left undefeated and un-indicted, that’s the way to go.”
The Board of Visitors is the university’s 16 member governing board whose members are appointed by the governor of Virginia to serve for four years. The Board makes major decisions pertaining to the university and, according to Davis, can be viewed as President Cabrera’s boss. However, Davis says that there is a line they should not cross. Rector Davis was appointed by his fellow members to lead the BOV for two years.
“What you don’t want is the Board micromanaging the university, telling them how to run,” Davis said. “We hire people to do that and we kind of oversee them and we react accordingly.”
Davis teaches a government course at Mason with Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA). The Rector hopes his work on the board and in the classroom will promote diversified thinking at the university. Rector Davis wants to encourage students to be curious and really think about the issues at hand in society.
“I believe we are a very diverse community ethnically, racially, economically and I think we’re going to be diverse in thought,” Davis said. “If you can’t be free to express your ideas publically in a university, where are you going to do it?”
Featured photo credit: Amy Podraza