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When Virginia Tech opened in 1872 as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, the administrative power rested with the VAMC Board of Visitors. That power, which the board was not averse to wielding, was felt by several early presidents, whom the board removed from office. One, John Lee Buchanan, had the misfortune of that experience not once but twice (see The Buchanan-Shipp-Hart-Buchanan Years). The president ran the college, but the board determined its structure.

That picture has changed dramatically. Today, the university’s governance structure consists of the board of visitors, president, two councils, eight commissions, and a number of standing committees, with the board of visitors at the top of the structure. The committees report to their respective commission. The commissions—Faculty Affairs, Staff Policies and Affairs, Equal Opportunity and Diversity, Research, Graduate Studies and Policies, Administrative and Professional Faculty Affairs, Student Affairs, Outreach and International Affairs, Undergraduate Studies and Policies, and University Support—make recommendations to University Council, which refers those recommendations it has approved to the president. The president also receives input from the Advisory Council on Strategic Budgeting and Planning. The president then submits recommendations that he/she has approved to the board of visitors, which consists of 13 members appointed by the governor of the commonwealth, an ex officio member from Agriculture and Consumer Services, and four nonvoting members from the university community. The board makes the final decisions on recommendations it receives.