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Cruz Bay
Friday, February 23, 2024


Students and faculty at the University of the Virgin Islands are absolutely correct to question the way UVI’s board of trustees selected Dr. LaVerne Ragster to be the university’s next president.
No. 1, the board reportedly allowed Dr. Orville Kean, the retiring president, to cast the deciding vote – this after Kean had opted not to take part in the process of hiring his successor and therefore had never met any of the candidates except Ragster, his longtime colleague. This was a mistake of colossal proportions.
The board’s second mistake was reportedly acceding to the argument from Kean and others that Ragster should get the job because if it didn't go to a native-born Virgin Islander, the university would have problems getting funds from the Legislature – namely from Sen. Adelbert M. Bryan.
If it was a requirement that candidates for this position had to be native-born Virgin Islanders, search committee members should have listed that on the job description. But they didn't, which suggests that the entire process was a sham – precisely the point raised by the students and faculty.
Furthermore, if Sen. Bryan is the person the university has to rely on for fund raising, UVI is in serious trouble. In fact, the university’s president is the No. 1 person responsible for fund-raising – a talent Kean never developed and a job many question Ragster's ability to perform.
The fact that Ragster was chosen came as no surprise to anyone. Most faculty members thought it was a foregone conclusion before the search committee even got started.
What is a refreshing surprise is that for once members of this community have risen up and publicly expressed their opposition, a highly unusual practice in a society where apathy and fear generally prevail.
We commend the faculty and students of UVI for their courage and commitment in registering their strong displeasure with the trustees’ action, and even threatening a boycott of upcoming 40th anniversary events. That is what democracy is founded upon and they should be proud of themselves.
At the same time we sympathize with Dr. Ragster, who has demonstrated her competence, intelligence and sensitivity in every position she has held.
In a perfect world Dr. Ragster would see the protests as an overwhelming vote of no-confidence and step down graciously. This would leave the board free to conduct another search or make another choice, this time being clear about the requirements and allowing only those who participated in the process to vote on the outcome.
But this is not a perfect world. We do not expect Dr. Ragster to step aside. We do hope, however, that she can rise to the unexpected challenges she now will face, prove her critics wrong and lead UVI into a new era of excellence and service not only to the university family but to the entire Virgin Islands community.

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