In the wake of U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan's resignation on June 10, many members of the faculty and student body have responded. These responses (June 17-21) are compiled below. Read part 1 (June 10-17), part 3 (June 21-26) (with alumni comments) and post-reinstatement messages.
June 21, 2012
On behalf of the Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity & Equity at the University of Virginia, I would like to thank President Teresa Sullivan for her strong support during the past two years. Her emphasis on promoting a more caring and trusting community has been evident as so many faculty, staff, students, and community members have united together during difficult times.
Soon after her arrival on Grounds in 2010, President Sullivan provided input on how to further promote the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion at U.Va. and within the Charlottesville community, including the implementation of an extensive celebration to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This celebration has included more than 25 events each year, widely inclusive of the various schools and units of the University and of the activities within the surrounding community.
During the year prior to President Sullivan's arrival, the Diversity Council worked on a statement expressing the University's commitment to diversity. Terry approved this statement and placed it on her website. She also supported the establishment of two important groups: a subcommittee of the Diversity Council to address the concerns of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender) members of our U.Va. community, as well as the U.Va. IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access) Fund, a group of alumni and friends dedicated to helping the Office for Diversity & Equity achieve its mission.
President Sullivan has also been a strong supporter of the Virginia-North Carolina Alliance, a consortium of eight partner schools, including four major research institutions in Virginia and four Historically Black Colleges and Universities in North Carolina. During her time at U.Va., the VA-NC Alliance has met its goal of increasing enrollment of and degrees obtained by underrepresented minorities in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields.
Clearly, Teresa Sullivan has laid a strong foundation for the University of Virginia to continue on the path toward a more diverse and inclusive workforce, curriculum, and culture. Over the past two years her impressive and comprehensive leadership, earnest work ethic, and capacity to build relationships across and beyond Grounds has led to significant progress at U.Va as outlined in her statement to the Board of Visitors on June 18. I fully support her reinstatement as President of the University of Virginia.
Marcus L. Martin
June 21, 2012
In my statement to the Board on Monday, I conveyed my heartfelt apologies for the pain, anger and confusion that has swept the Grounds over the last 10 days, and said that the UVA family deserved better from your Board.
I also indicated that this University was entitled to a fuller explanation of the Board's thinking for collectively taking the action that we did, and explained that, as Visitors, we have the very highest aspirations for the University of Virginia -- for it to reach its fullest potential as a 21st century Academical Village, always rooted firmly in our enduring values of honor, integrity and trust -- and that we want the University to be a leader in fulfilling its mission, not a follower.
Although I was reluctant to go into detail on our concerns, as I said, we owe you a more specific outline of the serious strategic challenges that alarmed us about the direction of the University. No matter how you feel about our actions, these challenges represent some very high hurdles that stand in the way of our University's path to continued success in the coming decade, and they are going to remain front and center for the next Board and the next President over the coming years. Simply put, the UVA family must be clear-eyed about the shoals and dangers that exist below the surface, and the hard work and strategic planning it will take for this community to navigate them together.
While the UVA student experience remains premiere, though our faculty creates dynamic newknowledge every day, and despite the enduring magic of Mr. Jefferson's University, the bottom line is the days of incremental decision-making in higher education are over, or should be. For some time, the Board of Visitors has been concerned about the following difficult challenges facing the University - most of which are not unique to UVA -- and we concluded that their structural and long-term nature demanded a deliberate and strategic approach, not an incremental one.
This is but a partial list. Put together, these challenges represent an extremely steep climb, even if the University were lean and on top of its game. Yet in the face of these challenges, the University still lacks an updated strategic plan.
Believe it or not, the last time the University developed a concrete, strategic plan was a decade ago - in 2002. We deserve better - the rapid development of a plan that includes goals, costs, sources of funds, timelines and individual accountability. And, without micromanaging details such as calling for the elimination of specific programs or mandating distance learning, the Board did insist, and still insists, that the University leadership move in a timely, thoughtful, and organized fashion to address these and similar issues. Failing this, the University of Virginia will continue to drift in yesterday.
At the time of President Casteen's retirement, the search process should have included a thoughtful assessment by uninvested third parties who, in collaboration with the institution's stakeholders, would have examined everything from academic programs, faculty assignments, student services, research activity, technology, tuition and admissions strategies, administrative expenditures,public service and outreach, private support, the Medical School and hospital, and, yes, governance, both at the administrative and board levels.
With this said, I agree with critics who say that we should have handled the situation better. In my view, we did the right thing, the wrong way. For this, I sincerely apologize, and this and future boards will learn from our mistakes. However, as much as our action to effect a change in leadership has created a wave of controversy, it was motivated by an understanding of the very stiff headwinds we face as a University, and our resolve to push through them to forge a future that is even brighter than imaginable today.
June 21, 2012
We, the deans of the Colleges of the University of Virginia, respectfully request that the Board of Visitors (BOV) reconsider their decision of June 8, 2012 and restore Teresa A. Sullivan to the position of President of the University of Virginia.
The Deans do not make this suggestion lightly. We are aware of both the dedication and responsibility that the BOV has for the University, and the fact that the Board has acted in what they believe are the best interests of the University despite a substantial amount of discord evoked by the decision in the faculty, the student body, and many members of the staff.
Among the reasons for the BOV’s decision were concern for the fiscal status of the University and more rapid action on fiscal and other issues, such as the role of on-line learning in our educational models and proactive approaches to the demographic changes that will occur in the faculty (retirements, etc.) in the next 5-8 years.
Appointment of an interim President (Dr. Zeithaml, the esteemed Dean of the highly rated McIntire School of Commerce) will clearly delay rapid action on the fiscal issues and other substantial changes that would await the installation of a permanent President. We recommend strongly that discussions begin immediately to reset the relationship with President Sullivan, reconstitute the team she had put together over that past year, and accelerate the important decisions to be made. The circumstances of the last two weeks have impressed on Dr. Sullivan, the Vice Presidents, and the Deans the seriousness with which the BOV takes the challenges that face the University—and the need to address these issues rapidly, thoughtfully, and in a collegial but urgent fashion.
June 21, 2012
To members of the University community:
Vigorous debate is one of the hallmarks of our university, and indeed of our nation. Freedom of speech is one of the great gifts ensured to us by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other Founders of the Republic.
Civility is also an important hallmark of our university. Our faculty and students distinguish themselves by their ability to make a reasoned argument without resort to crude, vulgar, or abusive language. I know that emotions are running high on Grounds, but there is no excuse for abusing anyone with whom you disagree. Let me say in particular that Carl Zeithaml has been an exemplary member of the University community, and he and his family in no way deserve abusive language. The Board of Visitors is made up of dedicated volunteers, and abusive behavior toward them or anyone else is destructive of our community's values.
The defacing of the Rotunda goes beyond free speech into vandalism. The Rotunda needs our careful attention to restore it, not to carry graffiti for any side in any debate.
Teresa A. Sullivan, President
June 21, 2012
Most of you know by now that Carl Zeithaml, Dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, has been appointed Interim President, effective August 16. By any measure, Carl is one of the most gifted faculty leaders of the University. In the last six years, the McIntire School has been ranked by Bloomberg BusinessWeek as first or second in the nation. The special talents that have enabled Carl to lead McIntire to its preeminent position will serve the University well during this period of transition.
While glad to share the news about the appointment of our Interim President, I would be remiss if I did not speak to the issues that have engulfed our University in painful controversy. I want to say three things.
First, I want to express to President Terry Sullivan profound gratitude for her service to the University. From her first day at the University, she has worked tirelessly to enhance the University. Whatever the differences in management or philosophy that led to the BOV’s disagreement with her, Terry is immensely likeable, exceptionally talented and she has devoted herself unsparingly to our University. For her and all of her many contributions, I am extremely grateful and I am confident that you share my feeling.
Second, while it is not my place to second guess the BOV’s decision to ask Terry to step down as President, there can be no doubt that the manner in which that decision was made and carried out has caused immediate and substantial harm to the University. This troubles me greatly. My fervent hope is that, with the appointment of Carl as our Interim President, the grief we all feel will give way to healing and, as it does, to hope—hope that from the anguish and anger of the past week, there will emerge a stronger, greater University.
Finally, I want to speak to leadership. Leading in good times is easy. It is akin to running downhill, wind to your back. That is not where we find ourselves. You, the members of NCOUR, are the key volunteer leaders of the University. Never has your leadership been more needed. There are, as this situation demonstrates, serious governance issues at the University that need to be addressed but that, as one might say, is “above our pay grade.” What we can offer is the reaffirmation to others our belief in and unyielding support for this institution that has such a hold on our hearts, minds and affections.
I have attached to this email; a message announcing Carl’s appointment from Gordon Rainey, Chair of the Campaign for the University of Virginia, to the members of the Campaign Executive Committee, a message from Jeff Walker, Chair of the University of Virginia Council of Foundations, to the members of the Council of Foundations as well as an email that Carl sent to McIntire Alumni concerning his appointment for your review.
Thank you for all you have done and are doing to help the University. Please feel free to contact me by email or cell phone (404 626-5383).
June 21, 2012
The Honorable Robert F. McDonnell
Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Thomas Jefferson considered the founding of the University of Virginia to be one of his most significant contributions to the American Republic. The University, he wrote, would be “based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind to explore and to expose every subject susceptible of its contemplation.” UVa is one of the nation’s most distinguished public universities. Here we teach, create knowledge, and train future leaders. We are bound to uphold the principles upon which Mr. Jefferson founded this University: “For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”
The forced resignation of Teresa Sullivan represents the most serious threat to the academic integrity, intellectual reputation, and national standing of the University in modern history. We agree with the Honor Committee that the failure of the Board of Visitors to provide a full and clear explanation of its decision has “created an environment that is inconsistent with the value of trust that runs through the very fabric of our University.”
As members of the faculty who are also loyal alumni of the University, our role as stewards gives us a special obligation to speak out when we believe this institution’s core values are at risk. We call upon Rector Helen Dragas to follow the Vice Rector’s lead and resign immediately. We also call for President Teresa Sullivan’s reinstatement. The Board has failed to follow proper procedures and has shown an utter disregard for the institution’s commitment to shared governance. President Sullivan was selected after a rigorous national search process that incorporated input from stakeholders across our community. She is beloved by faculty, students, staff, and alumni. She understands the financial challenges facing public higher education today – as well as the enduring values of honor, openness, and trust that cannot be compromised at any cost. Dean Carl Zeithaml is an enormously talented and highly respected academic leader, but we disagree with the Board’s decision to approve an interim president without faculty consultation. We call upon the Board of Visitors, our fellow alumni, and the people of the Commonwealth to restore the values that define our great University.
Eric M. Patashnik (College, 1987)
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
Professor of Public Policy and Politics
Maurie McInnis (College, 1988)
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs, College of Arts and Sciences
Professor of Art History
Jeanine Braithwaite (College, 1982)
Professor, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
Jennifer L. Geddes (College, 1987, GSAS, 1995 and 1999)
Research Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Permanent Faculty & Director of Publications, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture
Co-Principal, Brown College at Monroe Hill
Christopher Krentz (GSAS, 2002)
Associate Professor of English
Margaret E. Mohrmann (GSAS, 1995)
Emily Davie and Joseph S. Kornfeld Foundation Professor of Biomedical Ethics
Professor of Pediatrics
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Laurence G. Mueller (College, 1989, Darden 1993, GSAS 2002)
Assistant Dean for the Global MBA for Executives
Executive Director for the Center for Global Initiatives
Darden School of Business
Victoria Olwell (College, 1989)
Associate Professor of English
Ricardo Padron (College, 1989)
Associate Professor, Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
Jahan Ramazani (College, 1981)
Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English
R.K. Ramazani (Law, 1954)
Edward R. Stettinius Professor Emeritus of Government and Foreign Affairs
Department of Politics
Caroline Rody (GSAS 1995)
Professor of English
Micah J. Schwartzman (College, 1998; Law, 2005)
Associate Professor of Law
University of Virginia School of Law
Andrew Stauffer (GSAS 1998)
Associate Professor of English
Stephen K. White (College, 1970)
James Hart Professor of Politics
June 21, 2012
Fellow Council of Foundation Members,
I am truly worried for the University and am still very frustrated thinking about the damage one week has caused to a community I have worked to live in and support over the 35 years since I took my degree. I have many deep relationships with faculty, students, administration and alumni (including many of you) and it saddens me to think of us not working well together as a team. Since I retired five years ago to spend full-time in the non-profit world, I have studied models of collaborative leadership. We all have much to learn at UVA regarding how to work best together. Our community coming together is a powerful resource and I look forward to working with you to reunite our community.
I want to thank each of you who, over the last week, got involved and worked to ensure that the best interests of the University are protected in this time of tumultuous change. The Board of Visitor’s (BOV) decision process was not well managed. As I live life I ask myself, at times, “what would Mr. Jefferson do”? I am convinced that when he was Rector he would not have handled a transition like this. In fact, I cannot imagine a more poorly coordinated crisis management process. There are many learning points here and as we move ahead I am sure it will develop into a fascinating leadership and board management case at the Batten School.
With regard to Terry Sullivan, I consider Terry a friend and honored partner. She cared about the University and worked to ensure that people knew she wanted to have them as partners. There are many examples I can remember of her positive impact on the University: coming to the Council meetings (we had not seen a President at our meetings for a long time)…getting to know us all…walking the Lawn talking to students and faculty…having engaging faculty dinners at Carr’s Hill…kicking off a new budgeting process…receiving strategy training from Darden and McIntire strategy professors…hiring a strong new team. While the BOV was within their technical rights to move her aside I do not believe the process they used to do that was honorable. It was not handled as I would envision we at the University should treat anyone. Thank you Terry for all you did for us.
As we move on to repair the relations at the University I believe it is important to focus on a few key actions:
Please email (email@example.com) or call me with any thoughts or suggestions you might have. Thank all of you for the work you have done so far and for the hard work we all have ahead of us.
Chairman, Council of Foundations
June 20, 2012
The Faculty Senate calls on all faculty, students, and staff to attend a silent vigil in support of the reinstatement of President Sullivan at 5 PM TODAY at the steps of the Rotunda facing the Lawn. Please come if at all possible. Tell everyone you can. This is not over.
FILL THE LAWN
Chair, Faculty Senate
June 20, 2012
June 20, 2012
As you probably know, yesterday I was asked by the Board of Visitors to serve as Interim President of the University, effective August 16. I accepted this daunting responsibility because, at this time of turmoil and uncertainty, we need all members of the UVA community to step forward and ensure that the mission of our great University is fulfilled. When it became clear to me that the decision which created this situation would not be reversed, I agreed to join with many colleagues across the University who recognize that we need to reestablish a clear and positive momentum. We cannot, even for a moment, abandon our immediate and exceptional commitment to our students, our patients, learning and knowledge creation, community and professional service, and, very simply, to each other. We may not agree with the recent decision involving President Sullivan or the process, but, rather than walk away, it is up to us, faculty, staff, students, and alumni, to continue to forge UVA as a preeminent global university. Everyone, from Mr. Jefferson to our entering students, should expect no less.
Some people disagree with my decision to serve in this role, and I understand their reasons. After profound deliberation, however, I felt that I had no choice. I am sorry if you disagree with my decision, but please join me in my efforts to move the University forward. I intend to rely on the same formula for success that we use in the McIntire School: a shared understanding and commitment to an ambitious strategy, an unselfish and dedicated community, and a phenomenal team effort. I will need each of you to help me in this new role, and the School will need you. I hope you will understand my reasons for making this very difficult decision.
Because I am temporarily leaving the job that I truly love, I have asked Senior Associate Dean Rick Netemeyer to serve as the Interim Dean of the McIntire School until I return. He agreed with his usual thoughtful and humble dedication to the School. Rick is an extraordinary scholar, teacher, and academic leader, and I know he will work closely with the rest of our terrific leadership team to continue our tradition of excellence, innovation, and community. As always, it will be an exciting and challenging year, and please provide Rick and the rest of our School leaders with the extraordinary and generous support that I enjoyed for the past 15 years.
I look forward to seeing you in my travels and on Grounds, to your essential engagement in the School and University, and to your overall great support. The McIntire School has a strong foundation built on its people, and I know that we will excel through this time. Thank you very much for everything, and I hope to see you soon.
June 19, 2012
Professor Larry Sabato tweeted Monday that the current Board of Visitors “has done more damage to the University I love than the 1895 Rotunda fire.” Buildings can be rebuilt, traditions can be restored, funding recouped and rankings reestablished. What cannot be replaced are the people. The students, faculty and administrators who are the living embodiment of Thomas Jefferson’s vision — we cannot be replaced. Without the human aspect of the Jeffersonian dream, the University is merely a collection of buildings; beautifully designed, but mere blueprints without architects.
Thus, I was dismayed by the announcement of Computer Science Prof. William Wulf’s resignation Tuesday morning, submitted in a letter of explanation: “A BOV that so poorly understands UVa… is going to make a lot more dumb decisions, so the University is headed for disaster,” he wrote. I do not blame him. Given the way Rector Helen Dragas has treated and ignored the University community, such a reaction is understandable. Just as any potential student or potential faculty may no longer wish to join the University, Wulf’s are legitimate concerns given recent events.
That said, however, I urge Prof. Wulf to return to the University and to take back his resignation. Moreover, I urge other faculty to stay onboard. Our University may be lost in turbulent waters, but now is not the time to abandon this ship.
Despite never having taken a computer science course, I am sympathetic to the keen sense of loss no doubt felt by the computer science faculty and students. And though I am by no means a spokesperson for the student body, I suspect our wishes are here aligned — we certainly do not want to lose our beloved faculty. Whatever reasons we give for coming to the University, one should transcend them all — learning.
Ultimately, students ought to attend the University to be taught, to interact with the faculty in the lifelong conversation called education. All of our proud traditions — the student self-governance, Greek life, athletics — would be tarnished if we received an inadequate education.
Moreover, when Prof. Wulf noted the Board does not understand the University nor academic culture, clearly he had a point. Who does then? It seems to me the faculty is the lasting guardian of our University’s vision. Students come and go, and as President Sullivan’s dismissal has shown, so do administrators. Faculty, with the possibility of tenure, can be the sole enduring wardens of Jefferson’s vision and the University’s name and tradition. They, more so than anyone else, should define the lasting image of the University.
It is difficult, if not impossible to imagine the University without our favorite professors. Many seem as permanent as the fields they teach. Without the dedicated faculty who have so faithfully served the University, our cherished traditions and academic culture would be easily lost.
It may seem that I am counseling remaining calm and weathering the storm. I am not. This is a justifiable time to express anger at the undignified and unrepentant actions taken by the rector and the former vice rector. Their resignations and nothing less is the necessary first step. At the same time, we must direct our anger, and seek not to damage the University at-large, but to demand justice from those responsible. More importantly, rather than simply demanding that the rector and vice rector be held accountable, we should also seek to better the situation.
I do not pretend to have plotted a course for us to chart, but former Vice Rector Mark Kington’s resignation seems to be that first glimmer of sunlight amidst the sinister cover of clouds. If anything, the rally on the Lawn Monday in support of President Sullivan confirmed the spirit of the University is alive and well and will not be cowed by the disgraceful actions of a few members of the Board. The time now has come to correct course and work to return the University to her rightful place.
June 19, 2012
Dear Governor McDonnell,
It is regrettable that we must contact you under these circumstances. The recent events at the University of Virginia have created great tension and confusion for all members of the UVA community. The lack of transparency among the Board of Visitors has caused a palpable breakdown of trust in the keepers of Mr. Jefferson’s University.
The Executive Board of the College Republicans at the University of Virginia believes that, in principle, the Governor should generally not involve himself in University affairs, except in extraordinary times. The events of the last week, unprecedented in the University’s history, are certainly extraordinary times. We call upon you to address the issue in-depth.
Secondly, we call upon you to seek increased transparency and communication between the Board of Visitors and the UVA community. The Board’s lack of substantive statements has fueled an assortment of conspiracy theories and a fear among the UVA community of what this may mean for the future of the University – both academically and economically.
At this point, we are not going to make any judgments, given the lack of information, but we find it notable that Rector Helen E. Dragas was appointed by Governor Timothy M. Kaine.
As Mr. Jefferson rightly noted, “We might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant’s books, so that every member of Congress and every man of any mind in the Union should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them.” Mr. Jefferson believed in transparency in matters of state, and the events at UVA are no exception to this principle.
We thank you for your time and we hope that you will strongly consider our request.
Vice Chair of Events
Vice Chair of Campaigns
Director of Communications
June 19, 2012
It has been a great honor to serve on the board of visitors of the University of Virginia, and I am deeply grateful to you for giving me that opportunity.
In order to better serve this university which I love and respect, and to help bring about new leadership on the board of visitors at this critical time, I am resigning my position as vice rector and as a board member effective immediately. I believe that this is the right thing to do and I hope that it will begin a needed healing process at the university.
June 19, 2012
I am sincerely honored and humbled to be called upon to serve the University in this capacity. I realize that it is a very difficult time for many people within our community, but I look forward to working with our faculty, students, staff, alumni and university leaders to move UVa forward.
June 19, 2012
June 18, 2012
In 1816, our founder Thomas Jefferson said, "as new discoveries are made, new truth discovered and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times."
We are all aware that the UVA needs to change and for the past 2 years I have been working to do just that. Apparently, the area of disagreement appears to be just how that change should occur and at what pace.
I certainly want to take some time and talk about the many changes that I have made because they are significant. But first, I need to make one thing clear. The current reaction by the faculty, staff, and students on and off Grounds, and among the donors and alumni to my impending departure, is not something I have stirred up. I have made no public statement. I have done my best to keep the lowest possible profile. I have fulfilled previous commitments at the White House and elsewhere in Washington, and I have visited with friends in another state. I have not even responded to the innumerable people who have reached out to me personally and demonstrated their love for this great institution. I did not cause this reaction in the last ten days, but perhaps the reaction speaks to the depth of the connections I have made in the last 22 months. Through all of the last ten days, my overriding concern has been the welfare of the University of Virginia.
I have been described as an incrementalist. It is true. Sweeping action may be gratifying and may create the aura of strong leadership, but its unintended consequences may lead to costs that are too high to bear. There has been substantial change on Grounds in the past two years, and this change is laying the groundwork for greater change. But it has all been carefully planned and executed in collaboration with Vice Presidents and Deans and representatives of the faculty. This is the best, most constructive, most long lasting, and beneficial way to change a university. Until the last ten days, the change at UVA has not been disruptive change, and it has not been high-risk change.
Corporate-style, top-down leadership does not work in a great university. Sustained change with buy-in does work. UVA is one of the world's greatest universities.
Being an incrementalist does not mean that I lack vision. My vision was clearly outlined in my strategic vision statement. It encompasses the thoughts developed by me and my team as to what UVA can become in the 21st century and parts of it were incorporated into the budget narrative that you adopted last month .
FACULTY: One of the great strengths of UVA is our outstanding faculty. As a tenured member of faculty, I have tried to view the campus not only from the president's chair, but from the faculty's lectern and it has been an amazing and rewarding experience. Nearly every faculty member here has opportunity costs for staying and has attractive options elsewhere. The faculty we most need to keep have many options elsewhere. Most of the faculty could earn more in some other organization, academic or non-academic. They stay to participate with other faculty "of the highest grade" and to interact with students who will be the leaders of the next generation. Their financial sacrifices have their limits; of course the faculty must be appropriately compensated.
June 18, 2012
June 18, 2012
June 18, 2012
On behalf of the Board of Visitors, I’d like to speak directly to the extended U.Va. family – to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. We reach out to you today as fellow sons and daughters of this University, who studied here, matured into adulthood here, made friends here, met spouses here, and walked the hallowed Lawn.
We share your love of this institution and its core values of honor, integrity, and trust. Like you, we have given our energy, commitment, and resources to the University. And, like you, we are inspired by the magic of U.Va. every time we speak with students and faculty. Through service to the University, we have had the true honor of witnessing up close all that the University community does so well.
This has been a difficult week for the University. It is never easy to announce a change in leadership, particularly after a relatively short period of time since the last selection.
While our actions in this matter were firmly grounded in what we believe to be in the very best and long-term interests of the University, and our students, faculty, staff and alumni, we want to express our sincere regret for the pain, anger and confusion they have caused among many in our U.Va. family. We certainly never wished nor intended to ignite such a reaction from the community of trust and honor that we all love so dearly. We recognize that, while genuinely well-intended to protect the dignity of all parties, our actions too readily lent themselves to perceptions of being opaque and not in keeping with the honored traditions of this University. For that reason, let me state clearly and unequivocally: you – our U.Va. family – deserved better from this Board, and we have heard your concerns loud and clear.
The Board of Visitors exists to make these kinds of judgments on behalf of all the constituencies of the University. While the broader U.Va. community – our students, faculty, alumni, and donors, among others – have varied and important interactions and touch-points with our University leadership, the Board is the one entity that has a unique vantage point that enables us to oversee the big picture of those interactions, and how the leadership shapes the strategic trajectory of the University. Simply put, we have the responsibility, on behalf of the entire community, to make these important and often difficult calls.
June 18, 2012
The past week has been a tumultuous one – to put it mildly – for everyone at UVA. Every student was surprised – every student was confused – many are angry. President Sullivan was well-liked by many students and the pervasive anxiety has been compounded day-by-day by newspapers, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. To summarize what I am hearing from students, there is a sense that something has been broken here.
Today, students are sitting outside our meeting because they care. Students are creating Facebook pages because they care. Students are writing letters to the Board of Visitors because they care. While this widespread discontent can make things uncomfortable, it shows we have a healthy institution – one where apathy is not a virtue.
Not everyone agrees on what course the Board should take. But the most common element of their concern is simply a desire for a better explanation. What is the reason for the actions take by the Board? What is the reason for the actions taken last week? What is the reason for the actions that will be taken moving forward?
And so, as the Board moves forward today – regardless of the path it takes – I ask that there be more openness and better communication between the Board and students, both of whom care so much about this great University.
June 18, 2012
This morning, the Faculty Senate Executive Council met with Rector Dragas to discuss the recent resignation of President Sullivan. We invited the Vice Rector, but he did not attend. The purpose of the meeting was to allow the Council to ask questions raised by the University faculty concerning recent events, and to hear the Board’s perspective.
We asked the Rector about the process and the reasons behind President Sullivan’s resignation; the principles of shared governance between the faculty, administration and the Board; the Board’s desire for a strategic plan; and the Board’s justification for the speedy and secretive nature of its actions.
We had a cordial discussion. Based on extensive input from our faculty constituents and the Rector’s responses to our questions, we made the following requests:
June 17, 2012
Today is father’s day. This is for my sons, so that they have personal examples of courage during a crisis.
This morning, I got the following email:
Dear Provost Simon,
As someone who walked the Lawn and received a degree from the College four weeks ago, I’ve been closely following the news regarding President Sullivan’s resignation. I’ve seen how this situation has quickly escalated into one capable of inflicting great harm upon the University, perhaps even the most harm the University has seen in recent memory. I can also imagine how all of this has put you in a tough position both professionally and personally.
While I don’t know what the next couple of days will entail, I just wanted to send a quick message of appreciation. You’re an important figure on Grounds, someone who both faculty and the greater community is looking to for support in these uncertain circumstances. Don’t hesitate to do what you think is right, and don’t hesitate to be a leader, especially now when there’s quite the leadership vacuum at the University.
Finally, I hope our paths may cross sometime soon; I believe this is the first time I’ve tried to directly contact you.
What struck me in this email was the phrase “Don’t hesitate to do what you think is right, and don’t hesitate to be a leader.” I have been trying to do this, with talking at the town hall meeting with the Darden community, meeting with the chairs of the College, and other faculty meetings. But you, the faculty, are the University, and as the Chief Academic Office, I would be running away from my responsibilities if I did not address you. So here it is.
In 2001, then President Casteen established a University-wide committee to explore the concept of honor at the University. The committee was chaired by Patricia Werhane, Ruffin Professor of Business Ethics. Their report entitled, “Envisioning Integrity at the University of Virginia: Invigorating a Community of Trust,” stated in the executive summary, “The revised aim of the Envisioning Integrity Team is to expose the entire University community to sets of experiences in which they confront, question, and reflect on honor, comprised of integrity and trust, as a core value underpinning all University life.”
I came to the University of Virginia because I was convinced this was the right time and the right opportunity to be part of a leadership team at one of America’s greatest universities. Economic and political challenges are placing higher education at risk at precisely the time when higher education is needed most to provide the ideas and people to guide our nation and world into the future. I saw the opportunity to work with outstanding faculty, staff and students and through partnership with the loyal alumni and other supporters of this great institution, the University of Virginia had the opportunity to be a beacon for the value of public education, especially given its legacy as Thomas Jefferson’s University. I am a firm believer that at the core of the University of Virginia is, and needs to be, a strong and broad liberal arts education. It is a liberal arts education that provides students with the tools to become the lifelong learners as they must be, and to develop the skills and self-confidence needed to take on the challenges that they will face in their lives.
I now find myself at a defining moment, confronting and questioning whether honor, integrity, and trust are truly the foundational pillars of life at the University of Virginia. I find myself at a moment when the future of the University is at risk and what our political leadership value in the University is no longer clear. Much has appeared in the press over the last week, and the reputational consequences will be with us for many years to come. But I am now wondering whether my own beliefs about the values of higher education are consistent with our Board.
The Board actions over the next few days will inform me as to whether the University of Virginia remains the type of institution I am willing to dedicate my efforts to help lead.
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