Timeline: Teresa Sullivan’s Resignation and Reinstatement

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Dragas and Kington ask for Sullivan's resignation

Board of Visitors Rector Helen Dragas and Vice Rector Mark Kington meet with Teresa Sullivan in her Madison Hall office at 5 p.m. They inform her they are not satisfied with her performance and have the Board votes to remove her. They present her with a separation agreement and give her 24 hours to sign it.



Sullivan agrees to resign

Teresa Sullivan calls Helen Dragas to say she will sign the separation agreement.


Helen Dragas delivers remarks to UVA VPs and deans

Rector Helen Dragas gathers UVA deans and vice presidents together to announce that Sullivan has agreed to resign. "The Board feels the need for a bold leader who can help develop, articulate and implement a concrete and achievable strategic plan to re-elevate the University to its highest potential. We need a leader with a great willingness to adapt the way we deliver our teaching, research and patient care to the realities of the external environment," she says.


President Sullivan speaks at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church before resignation is announced

A Darden faculty member's blog post details President Sullivan's visit to Mount Zion First African Baptist Church in Charlottesville, where she spoke just before the email announcing her resignation was sent out.



Teresa Sullivan's resignation is announced

Helen Dragas speaks at a press conference just before attending an emergency executive committee BOV meeting where she, Mark Kington and Hunter Craig accept Sullivan's resignation. Earlier that day, an email went out to the University community announcing the resignation.



McDonnell responds

Governor Bob McDonnell releases a statement thanking Sullivan for her leadership and listing her accomplishments. He goes on to say that he has "great confidence that the Board of Visitors will conduct a thorough and diligent search for the next President of the University and will find the right individual for this prestigious and pivotal post."



Deans send emails

Deans from each school send emails to students, faculty and alumni. The emails are similar in tone, remarking on the suddenness of the decision, praising Sullivan for her accomplishments and reassuring everyone that the University will make it through the transition.



Faculty Senate releases first statement

The UVA Faculty Senate, led by law professor George Cohen, responds to Sullivan's resignation with shock. "We are blindsided by this decision," they write. "We find the Board’s statement inadequate and unsatisfactory." They state that they will meet with the Board as soon as possible to investigate why the decision was made.



Student Council releases statement

UVA Student Council thanks President Sullivan for her service and extends its well wishes to the BOV as they begin their search for a new president.


Arts & Sciences department chairs and program directors release statement

The College of Arts & Sciences program chairs and department heads release a statement protesting Sullivan's resignation and requesting clarification from the BOV. "The University of Virginia is first and foremost an institution devoted to the principles of open debate, discussion and deliberation," they write. "We stress the central role of faculty governance in matters of academic programming and curriculum."



BOV's student representative supports Sullivan's resignation

Fourth-year student Hillary Hurd, the student representative to the Board of Visitors, gives an interview to the Cavalier Daily. “This is a decision which I think will prove in time to have been a wise one, and that it’s hard now, on the Monday after the decision was officially released, to fully appreciate kind of what the Board was considering,” Hurd says. “Students would be best to remember that these Board members are people who know and love UVA.”



Peter Kiernan email leaks

The Richmond Times-Dispatch obtains an email sent by Peter Kiernan, then the chair of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, to fellow board members and others in the Darden community. The email reveals that Kiernan had worked with Dragas and "two important alums" on the "project" of planning Sullivan's resignation.



Facebook group is formed supporting President Sullivan

" Students, Family, & Friends United to Reinstate President Sullivan," a Facebook group, is started by graduate student Suzie McCarthy. "The goal is to get enough members that the Board will have to make a public statement detailing why they decided that Professor Sullivan was not up to the task of leading UVA," McCarthy writes.



President Sullivan's strategic plan released

The Washington Post reveals that Sullivan submitted an academic strategy plan to the Board on May 3, 2012. The plan seems to address many of the concerns Dragas and the BOV raised as their reasons for asking Sullivan to resign.


Petition to reinstate Sullivan begins

An alumnus starts an online petition directed to the Board of Visitors asking for Teresa Sullivan's immediate reinstatement. The petition gets 5,206 signatures before it is closed.



Helen Dragas responds to faculty

Rector Dragas issues a statement responding to the Faculty Senate and College department chairs and program directors asking for greater transparency about the resignation decision. "Consistent with sound employment practices, it is the policy of the Board to keep confidential matters of disagreement and those relating to evaluation of progress against mutually agreed upon goals," she writes.



Simon and Strine issue a statement

Provost John Simon and COO Michael Strine send a joint statement to the University community. "The Board of Visitors' action is resolute and authoritative," they write. "We encourage all of us, even as we adjust and absorb this change, to focus constructively forward in preparing the institution for its next stage of leadership and our shared commitment to quality and excellence in teaching, discovery and patient care."


Provost Employee Communication Council issues statement

The Provost Employee Communication Council, which facilitates communication between UVA staff and the Provost's Office, issues a resolution supporting the Faculty Senate's call for a fuller explanation of President Sullivan's resignation. "[We request that] the Board of Visitors clearly outline their vision and goals so that the University employees may better fulfill the Board's direction and desires," the council writes.



Peter Kiernan resigns from Darden board

In a letter to the UVA community, Peter Kiernan announces that he is stepping down as chair of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees and resigning from the board. "No one from Darden — not the dean, nor the faculty, nor the administration, nor the Foundation board — was involved. The conversations about President Sullivan’s transition that I referred to in my e-mail were conducted through my own personal relationships and not in any official capacity," he writes.


Faculty Senate declares lack of confidence in the Board

George Cohen, chair of the Faculty Senate, issues a resolution reached unanimously that morning. The Faculty Senate, he writes, "expresses its strong support of President Sullivan" and "expresses its lack of confidence in the Rector, the Vice Rector and the Board of Visitors."



Student Council asks for greater transparency

Student Council members issue a statement to the Board of Visitors. "Above all else, we belong to an institution of honor and honesty, of openness and respect. And it is under these values that we deem the current state of information on President Sullivan’s departure wholly untenable. The University of Virginia community is entitled to more information," they write.


College of Arts & Sciences Steering Committee issues response

The College of Arts & Sciences faculty issues a resolution to the Board of Visitors: "The Faculty of Arts and Sciences expresses its high respect and deep appreciation to President Sullivan for her contributions to the academic programs of the University and to the spirit of the University community; and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has no confidence in the Rector, the Vice-Rector and the Board of Visitors as a whole," they write.


Alumni Association solicits comments from alumni for the BOV

The UVA Alumni Association sends an email to all alumni. "Clearly, most alumni are concerned, angry and confused about the recent developments at our beloved university," writes Tom Faulders, president of the association. "We have created an official repository in which alumni can share their concerns, questions and comments with the Board of Visitors." The association's servers crash soon after the email goes out, due to the large amount of comments submitted.


AAUP issues statement

The American Association of University Professors issues a statement on Sullivan's resignation: "We join in the Senate Executive Council's dismay that due process for President Sullivan and the legitimate interests of the UVA faculty have been ignored in the precipitate action taken by the Board of Visitors. We join in calling upon the board to reconsider its decision," they write.



Honor Committee issues statement

The UVA Honor Committee issues a statement saying the Board's actions have been "unsettling to our Community of Trust." The committee notes that while they do not deny the Board's authority, "the lack of a clear and full explanation has created an environment that is inconsistent with the value of trust that runs through the very fabric of our University."


Major donor states she will withhold funds

The Washington Post publishes an article in which Hunter Smith, a major donor to UVA with her husband Carl W. Smith, says she "will not donate until changes to the governing board are made." Jane Batten, whose family has given over $170 million to UVA, is concerned about the way President Sullivan's resignation was handled.



Paul Tudor Jones publishes op-ed in support of the Board

Paul Tudor Jones, a major donor to the University, publishes an op-ed in the Daily Progress supporting Sullivan's resignation as well as the Board's actions. "Change is never easy and often quite messy," he writes. "The spirit of Thomas Jefferson, the first rector of the University of Virginia, is cheering this action by the Board of Visitors." Jones and his wife Sonia recently gave a $12 million pledge to UVA to build a contemplative sciences center.



Faculty Senate holds emergency meeting

The Faculty Senate meets to ratify its earlier resolution declaring no confidence in the Board. Eight hundred people attended the meeting, and Provost John Simon address the crowd, decisively speaking out against the Board's actions.


Rotunda is vandalized

Someone spray paints "GREEED" on the north side columns of the Rotunda. Police investigate but no one has yet been found responsible.



"Strategic Transparency" on Beta Bridge

"Strategic Transparency" is painted on Beta Bridge, a spin on "strategic dynamism," a term that became infamous through Peter Kiernan's email.


Faculty Senate members meet with Helen Dragas

The Faculty Senate Executive Council meets with Rector Dragas in an undisclosed location to discuss Sullivan's resignation. The council makes the following requests: 1) That the Board delay the naming of any interim president to provide an opportunity for shared governance; 2) that President Sullivan be reinstated; 3) that the Board recommend representation by UVA faculty on the Board as voting members; and 4) that the Rector and Vice Rector resign in the best interests of the University.



BOV holds special meeting

The Board holds a special meeting to determine an interim president. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 people gather outside on the Lawn to rally in support of President Sullivan.



Student BOV member address the Board

Hillary Hurd, the student member of the BOV, addresses the Board near the start of the special meeting. "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," she says.



Dragas addresses UVA community at BOV meeting

Rector Dragas makes a statement to the University community. "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 UVA family," she says.



President Sullivan addresses the Board as well as her supporters

Sullivan walks up the Lawn to the Rotunda through a cheering crowd. She delivers a statement to the Board and then addresses her supporters on the steps of the Rotunda.



BOV names Carl P. Zeithaml as interim president of the University

After meeting in closed session for nearly 12 hours, the BOV names Carl Zeithaml, dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, as interim president. "Carl Zeithaml is the perfect choice to serve as interim president while we undertake a national search for a new president," Dragas says.


Professor resigns in protest

Computer science professor William Wulf resigns in protest of the BOV's actions. "I do not wish to be associated with an institution being as badly run as the current UVA. A BOV that so poorly understands UVA, and academic culture more generally, is going to make a lot more dumb decisions, so the University is headed for disaster, and I don’t want to be any part of that," he writes in his resignation letter.



Vice Rector Mark Kington resigns

Kington resigns from his post via a letter to Governor McDonnell. "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," he writes.



Cavalier Daily tweets emails between Dragas and Kington

The Cavalier Daily is the first media outlet to request emails through the Freedom of Information Act. On June 19, editors began tweeting snippets from emails between Helen Dragas, Mark Kington and others. Later they publish PDFs of all the emails they received.



Carl Zeithaml holds a press conference

Carl Zeithaml meets with the media to discuss his interim presidency appointment. "My number one goal in all of this is to try to make sure that step by step, day by day, meeting by meeting, conversation by conversation, we're going to rebuild . . . trust. I'm committed to trying to do that," he says.



Faculty holds silent vigil on the Lawn

About 1,000 people turn out for a faculty-run vigil on the Lawn in support of President Sullivan. When alerting the UVA community about the vigil, George Cohen writes: "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."


The Virginian-Pilot says Dragas should resign

The Virginian-Pilot, Helen Dragas's hometown newspaper, runs an editorial stating she should resign from the Board.


Alumni faculty members write to Governor McDonnell

Fifteen faculty members who are also alumni  write to Governor McDonnell asking for Helen Dragas's resignation and Teresa Sullivan's reinstatement. "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 the Board of Visitors, our fellow alumni and the people of the Commonwealth to restore the values that define our great University," they write.



President Sullivan speaks out on civility

Sullivan sends an email to the UVA community acknowledging that vigorous debate is an important part of University life. But, she notes, "there is no excuse for abusing anyone with whom you disagree . . . In particular, 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."


Deans ask BOV to reinstate Sullivan

The deans of nearly every school at UVA sign a letter to the Board asking for Sullivan's reinstatement. "It is clear after nearly two week of outrage, indignation, upset, threats of withdrawal of support and loyalty, that the people of the University of Virginia, and their ideas, which together comprise the University much more than buildings or landscapes, regard the decision as a mistake made in the absence of open discourse and courtesy," they write.



Rector Dragas issues statement

Rector Dragas issues a statement to the University community. "While the UVA student experience remains premiere, though our faculty creates dynamic new knowledge 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," she writes. She lays out 10 strategic issues the University faces.


BOV plans to meet on June 26

News breaks on Twitter that the "UVA BOV will meet Tues. [June 26] to discuss possible changes in President Sullivan's employment contract." For those supporting Sullivan's reinstatement, this news is greeted with joy.



Marcus Martin speaks in support of President Sullivan

Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity Marcus Martin releases a statement in support of Sullivan. He is the first UVA vice president to do so. "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," he says.



Carl Zeithaml suspends interim presidency negotiations

Carl Zeithaml sends an email to the UVA community saying he will suspend negotiations with the Board regarding his interim presidency in light of the "enormous groundswell of support for Terry Sullivan's reinstatement as our president." Later that day he meets with the media again.



McDonnell sends letter to the BOV

Governor McDonnell sends a letter to the Board of Visitors addressing the Sullivan resignation and subsequent outcry. He states that he will not dictate how the Board should govern personnel decisions. However, he writes, "I want final action by the Board on Tuesday. If you fail to do so, I will ask for the resignation of the entire Board on Wednesday." McDonnell also issues a statement to the UVA community.


Dragas responds to Governor's letter

Rector Dragas issues a statement to the UVA community in response to Governor McDonnell's letter. "I look forward to a respectful and dignified meeting on Tuesday, and to an important discussion of the implications of any decision we make on the ability of future Boards to lead the University," she writes.



Alumni Association delivers alumni comments to the BOV

Tom Faulders, president of the UVA Alumni Association, delivers a printout of the more than 5,500 comments the association received from alumni regarding Sullivan's resignation to the BOV office in the Rotunda.



UVA officials respond to erroneous Wall Street Journal editorial

University Spokeswoman Carol Wood and Dean of the Darden School Bob Bruner each   respond to a Wall Street Journal editorial that contains numerous factual errors about the situation at UVA.



Thousands turn out for the "Rally For Honor"

An estimated 2,000-3,000 people rally on the Lawn in support of Sullivan's reinstatement. The rally, which was organized by graduate student Suzie McCarthy, features numerous faculty speakers.


Numerous UVA foundations support Sullivan's reinstatement

The College Foundation, School of Architecture Foundation Board of Trustees, the Trustees of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Trustees of the Darden School Foundation, the Curry School of Education Foundation, the Trustees of the Law School Foundation, the UVA Health Foundation Trustees, the Executive Committee of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, the Medical Alumni Association and Medical School Foundation all write to the Board in support of Sullivan's reinstatement.



"Fill the Lawn with Grace and Dignity"

George Cohen sends an email to the UVA community asking people to gather on the Lawn the following day for the Board meeting. "We intend to be a silent force of support for President Sullivan, as well as for members of the Board," he writes.



Board votes to reinstate Sullivan

After Sullivan and Dragas walk to the Rotunda from Carr's Hill together, the Board meeting begins at 3 p.m. Heywood Fralin, former rector and the one Board member to vote against Carl Zeithaml's interim presidency, offers the resolution to reinstate Sullivan. The Board votes unanimously in favor, 15-0.



Dragas and Sullivan address Board

After Sullivan's reinstatement, Heywood Fralin makes a motion in support of Helen Dragas. "There has never been any question about her integrity," he says. The Board votes unanimously in support of the motion. Dragas says she is humbled by their support. Sullivan speaks to the Board, thanking them for renewing their confidence in her. "All of us seek only one thing: what is best for our University," she says.



Sullivan addresses crowd from Rotunda steps

After her reinstatement, President Sullivan addresses the crowd from the steps of the Rotunda. "I am grateful to the Visitors for this renewed opportunity, but more than that, I am grateful to them for the example they have given us in reconsidering and reversing their previous action. This is not a sign of weakness on their part, but a sign of strength and deliberation, and a good example to each of us," she says. After her speech, the administrators and the crowd sing the "Good Old Song."



McDonnell makes statement

Governor McDonnell makes a statement in support of the Board's decision. "Today, in settling this disagreement within the family, the University of Virginia has taken another step forward towards reconciliation and the pursuit of excellence. I ask all concerned Virginians, no matter which side they may have taken over the past few weeks, to now take that step forward as well," he says.



Dragas reappointed to Board

Governor McDonnell announces six new BOV appointments, including the reappointment of Helen Dragas. "Just as I was disappointed to see the lack of transparency and communication surrounding the request for the resignation of the first female president of UVA, I am also concerned that the first female rector seemed to become the sole target of recent criticism," he says.


Reactions to BOV appointments

President Sullivan, Rector Dragas and the Faculty Senate all release statements in response to the Board appointments.

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Comments (15)

Robert on 07/20/2012

I think one’s actions speak volumes about one’s character.  Sometimes it takes awhile for who one really is to appear in such a way that it overcomes the inertia of gushy perception.  In Helen’s case, this was not a simple one-act play.  She saw weakness in the transition of UVA from one president to another and she did what she has no doubt always done prior, although tempered by those who knew her wiles and were able to squash them to the extent possible as a result of their long standing tenure.  In Sullivan’s case, she was not around long enough to capitalize on relationships forged in the heat of endless battles over years prior having been on grounds for only twelve months and so she received the brunt of what Helen has done behind the scenes for countless years.  In any case, we all reap what we sow and I’m quite sure, knowing what we all know about these situations, that this dork-up played out by Helen in front of the public and requiring Governor intervention will be dealt with appropriately in due time.  It surely is not over until she is gone.  And having given much to the University, let her exit be with all due pomp and circumstance for I would not wish that her outrageous stupidity in this stunt ruin all her great contributions.  Yet accountability must proceed else others following in her footsteps may somehow believe they can do as much or more and still retain all the rights and privileges afforded such a senior position on grounds.

Dr. Christopher Nicholas on 07/20/2012

Hearing calls for the removal of Helen Dragas is disappointing. As Mr. Jefferson was well aware, tough decisions that are made can sometimes be unpopular. The rector has been a long time supporter of our University and had its best long-term interests in mind. Before we burn the barn let’s remember who helped build it, steadfast alumni like Helen Dragas. Personal opinion: our University President in today’s economy needs to be plugged into the worlds of business and politics. I think President…er.. Mr. Jefferson would agree.  Take a peek down I64 and you will find a perfect example in Christopher Newport University.

barbara sedwick on 07/20/2012

We were very glad to hear that President Sullivan had resigned
as we did not consider her up to the standards of the University -  hence we are disappointed to hear the amazing
fact that she has been reinstated !!!
Dr lee sediwck

Steven Lowe on 07/19/2012

I understand that it is still possible to oust Dragas.  McDonnell’s apointments to the BOV must still be approved by the legislature.  Contact them NOW to influence their vote.

John Flack on 07/19/2012

If I had been President Sullivan, I would have let my resignation stand.  While I would have been touched by the outpouring of support, how could I stay while knowing that Ms. Dragas still stands by her original opinions of my administration - that the firing was the right thing to do?

Willam Coleman GA&S 1966 on 07/19/2012

I heartily agree with Edith Curry’s point that Helen Dragas’s conduct requires a equivalent response and that her re-appointment establishes a dangerous precedent.  If this were done so that she can make a quiet departure in a year’s time, perhaps this is a more dignified response.  But if she continues as rector with a mission to cause further disruption to Pres. Sullivan’s tenure at the University, this will be viewed as a seriously flawed decision.

Edith Curry on 07/19/2012

Ms. Dragas has yet to take responsibility or be held accountable for bringing the University to a “near death experience.”  Her mantra that her “intent” was pure but she only faltered in how she carried out her plans is, at best, disingenuous and unsupported by the FOIA correspondence.  Worse, she gives license to EVERYONE on grounds to hide behind that excuse.  “I was caught cheating, but my INTENT was to get a better grade, I only went about it the wrong way…”; “I was driving while intoxicated, but my INTENT was to get home safely…”; “I falsified the results of our research, but my INTENT was to get better funding for the University…”  What a slippery slope Ms. Dragas’ precedent has established for the University community.  How someone could bring UVA to a “near death experience” and not be held accountable for her actions is a travesty and dishonors the entire community.

Jeff Cockrell on 07/19/2012

I agree with Denis McNamara, there seems to be a lot of “what”, and very little “why”.

If there were sufficient reason to oust President Sullivan, the University community’s revolt could have been quelled (or prevented) by clearly communicating the BOV’s reasoning and providing appropriate supporting evidence.  At the very least, the revolt should not have led to her reinstatement, nor to the resignation of the Vice Rector and a University professor.

As a result, future decisions by this BOV will be suspect.

Conversely, I am heartened by former (and now current, again) President Sullivan’s public display of grace and poise under very trying circumstances.  She showed a level of character and integrity we to which we should all aspire.  I believe she will prove to be an outstanding leader as Mr. Jefferson’s University moves into the 21st century.

Philip Hurst on 07/19/2012

I watched these events from several thousand miles away, with increasing dismay and profound alarm. As the details of the “project” to decapitate the academic leadership of my university leaked and came to light through various sources, it strains my credulity to understand why Ms Dragas not only remained in her post as Rector, but has actually been reappointed by the Governor of Virginia.  I can only believe that this reappointment has been made by the “establishment” wishing to rescue something from the wreckage of this debacle. Thus the rector who endeavoured to engineer the removal of the president has been reappointed to that post by gubernatorial fiat. The most unbelievable aspect of this sorry story is that Ms Dragas believes herself to be a fit and proper person to occupy that position, notwithstanding the overwhelming antipathy to her doing from the entire university community.

Denis McNamara on 07/19/2012

There’s a lot of the “what” here…but not much of the “why.” That is still largely a mystery to me.

Bob McFadden on 07/18/2012

Excellent to finally understand these events. One wonders why Dragas et al are still there

Robert on 07/18/2012

Ahhhh no edit button to add this to my prior post; forgot to say what a great article this was in timelining the events from the visual to the written.  Great job “The University of Virginia Magazine!!

Robert on 07/18/2012

Sad to see Helen Dragas still there with her display of such outrageous behavior working on the “project” to oust Sullivan.  She should have received what she intended for Sullivan… Clearly her little fight didn’t work out so well as expected and the right course is for her to “move on” somewhere else!

Chapman Hood Frazier on 07/18/2012

As a faculty member at JMU and a UVA Alum, I am heartened by the reinstatement of President Sullivan after the actions taken by the faculty and students at UVA.

Though I am certainly not in favor of the appointment of Helen Dragas to continue on the BOV by Governor McDonnell, I do think that this is a good time for faculty from around the commonwealth to join together to let the public know that we, as state employees and colleagues, stand united in opposition to such acts as were demonstrated here. We need to continue to stand together against such abuses of power.

John V Tunney on 07/18/2012

I am extremely pleased that the BOV reversed their decision regarding the dismissal of President Sullivan. I am proud of the faculty, students and alumni who overwhelmingly expressed their support of the President and pressured the BOV to repeal the misguided vote to force Sullivan’s resignation. I am proud of President Sullivan in the way she accepted her reappointment with dignity, humility and expressions of desired comity with the newly constituted BOV.
This saga is a marvelous learning experience for those who would try to derail proper consultative and transparency procedures in the management of the administrative affairs of a great university.

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