Confidentiality Agreements at Virginia Commonwealth University

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Michael Rao (right), the president of Virginia Commonwealth University, announced last week that he’s withdrawn the strange confidentiality agreements that he previously required some of his employees to sign. According to an article by Karin Kapsidelis in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

With the board of visitors meeting yesterday to evaluate his performance, Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao rescinded the confidentiality agreements….

“The confidentiality agreements have been the subject of recent scrutiny and criticism and, unfortunately, have been misinterpreted in terms of what I sought to be accomplished by these agreements,” he wrote. “I sincerely regret any undue burden or ill will that these agreements may have caused. Therefore, I have decided to withdraw all such confidentiality agreements.”

This is what is known as a non-apology apology. Rao’s odd agreement prohibited employees from discussing anything they observed about Rao and his family with other employees as well as “family, friends, colleagues, associates, representatives of the news or other media, clergy and attorneys.”

Rao said the confidentially agreement was intended to protect his family’s privacy.

Well maybe, but the agreement came about at the same time many accused his wife, Monica, of playing a significant role in firing his chief of staff, Wayne Turnage.

Rao, hired last year to lead VCU, has still not yet been officially sworn in as president. The school’s board recently hired an outside consultant to evaluate Rao’s performance.

Back in November Rao attempted to assure employees that nothing was amiss with the confidentiality agreement. As he said of the contract, “the topic is a personnel matter that unfortunately was played out in public. The work of the university is more important than ever and is our number one priority.”

Well maybe, but VCU is a public college. Virginia taxpayers have a legitimate interest in knowing about personnel matters at the school.

Monica Rao, an artist and graphic designer, receives $34,000 a year to spend 20 hours a week as VCU’s “international alumni relations liaison.” She also still has a similar part-time job (at $31,669 a year) at Central Michigan University, where her husband used to serve as president. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer