University of Virginia community acts to reinstate ousted president, US, 2012

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Timing
Time Period:  
10 June
2012
to
26 June
2012
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Charlottesville, Virginia
Location Description: 
Campus of the University of Virginia
Goals: 
Reinstatement of ousted university president Teresa Sullivan.
 

Teresa Sullivan took the position of President of the University of Virginia prior to the 2010-2011 school year. The Rector of the Board of Visitors (BOV), Helen Dragas, began in October 2011 to carry out a plan to remove Sullivan from office.

In May and June 2012, Dragas and Vice Rector Mark Kington approached other board members about Sullivan’s removal, accusing her of inadequate action on financial reform issues. Dragas and Kington eventually secured the majority of Board votes necessary to vote her out. On 8 June 2012, Dragas and Kington informed the president of the Board’s decision and told her that she could either resign or be formally fired. Sullivan chose to resign. Her resignation was announced to the campus community through email on 10 June, citing a “philosophical difference” with the BOV. This announcement came as a complete surprise to most of the university community, including professors, students, and alumni.

Between 11 June and 16 June, many groups spoke out against the BOV’s decision and unannounced action. The Faculty Senate, the student council, alumni (through a website with a comment and question submission feature), the American Association of University Professors, state legislators and many notable alumni all issued statements expressing surprise and concern about the secrecy and sudden nature of the ouster, many calling for the BOV to reconsider its decision. Governor Bob McDonnell expressed surprise at the BOV’s decision but stated that he would not intervene. On 12 June, thirty-three department chairs and program directors signed a letter addressed to Dragas and the BOV asking for “clarification” about the circumstances of Sullivan’s resignation. On 14 June, to protest the BOV’s lack of transparency and unwillingness to answer the public’s questions about the ouster, the Faculty Senate adopted a “no confidence” resolution against the BOV and the Rector.

In different statements throughout this period, Rector Dragas explained that Sullivan was not taking the action that she and other board members felt was necessary to make the university competitive in the current economy. Dragas highlighted Sullivan’s failure to implement online education programs like the University of Phoenix’s program, which Dragas considered a crucial development for the university to make. On 17 June Dragas wrote to the university’s faculty addressing the transparency complaints against the BOV and claimed that “We can, and we will, recruit a stellar new president.”

However, an email from Darden School of Business Foundation Board of Trustees chair Peter Kiernan to other program directors, sent 10 June, had been leaked to a local newspaper on 12 June. In the email, Kiernan admitted he had known about the plan to oust Sullivan. This detracted from claims that the BOV had acted appropriately during the ouster. Faculty, students and other university community members continued to decry the BOV’s conduct.

800 faculty members attended an emergency Faculty Senate meeting on the night of 17 June, again voting in favor of the “no confidence” resolution. University Provost John Simon made a statement at the meeting, dwelling on the university’s liberal arts tradition and his and the university’s high valuation of honor and integrity. He closed by saying “I am now wondering whether my own beliefs about the values of higher education are consistent with our Board.”

He did not end up resigning, but his speech garnered a lot of attention from the university community. The university’s Honor Committee also issued a statement condemning the actions of the BOV.

On the morning of 18 June, the Faculty Senate met with Dragas to ask questions about the BOV’s actions surrounding Sullivan’s ousting, which had become a nationally reported story. After the meeting, the Senate released four demands in a statement: “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.”

The BOV held a meeting the same day to name an interim president, which Sullivan also attended to speak on her behalf and to discuss the terms of what was then considered her inevitable firing. 2,000 to 3,000 protestors including faculty and students gathered outside the meeting, holding signs protesting Sullivan’s resignation, cheering for Sullivan when she entered the meeting. Sullivan left the meeting as it continued, and the meeting did not end until around 3 the next morning. The protesters stayed late into the night.

In the course of the Board’s meeting the dean of the School of Commerce, Carl Zeithaml, was named the interim president of the university. One board member, Hunter Craig, called for Sullivan’s reinstatement. One member left the meeting before it was over, two abstained from the vote, and one opposed the motion to hold an election.

Later that same day, 19 June, computer science professor Bill Wulf, one of around 30 people who held the university’s most prestigious title, “university professor,” resigned in a strongly worded letter addressed to interim president Zeithaml, stating “I do not wish to be associated with an institution being as badly run as the current U Va.”

The Vice Rector of the BOV, Mark Kington, announced his resignation on this day as well. The university’s student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, published emails between Dragas and Kington discussing their problems with Sullivan’s leadership and articles that Dragas used as evidence for her proposed methods of conducting the university’s programs.

On 20 June, 600 people convened at the Rotunda, a central building on campus, to protest the BOV’s decision and to call for Sullivan’s reinstatement. The Faculty Senate continued their call for Dragas to resign. The Faculty Senate chair, George Cohen, asked the Board again to explain the reasons behind Sullivan’s ouster, saying that the community was without answers about an issue that affected all of them.

The newly instated interim president, Zeithaml, declared that he did not support Sullivan’s ouster and would not permanently fill the position.

On 21 June, 10 of 11 deans of the university’s colleges called for Sullivan’s reinstatement. The other dean was Zeithaml, who was not asked to take a position. The growing media buzz around Sullivan’s resignation began to draw the attention of the university’s accreditation agency. Finally, three members of the BOV called for a meeting to vote on the reinstatement of Sullivan as president.

The next day, 22 June, Zeithaml suspended all his presidential activity and returned to his deanship position, citing the massive support for Sullivan as the reason. Governor McDonnell issued an ultimatum to the Board members: if they were unable to resolve the matter in a meeting on the upcoming Tuesday, 26 June, he would fire the entire board.

On Sunday, 24 June, a student-organized “Rally for Honor” featured music, slogans, signs, and two dozen speakers supporting the reinstatement of Sullivan. People gathered on the campus Lawn, eventually numbering around 3,000, calling for Sullivan to be reinstated and condemning the BOV’s actions.

After the pressure from demonstrations, Governor Bob McDonnell’s ultimatum, and public scrutiny, the BOV held a meeting on 26 June to discuss how to proceed. The meeting was monitored by 2,000 students, faculty, and other interested parties on the university’s lawn who watched a live feed.

After a short period of deliberation, the board voted unanimously to reinstate Sullivan to the university presidency.

Research Notes
Sources: 
"Board of Visitors." University of Virginia, n.d. Web. 4 November 2012. <http://www.virginia.edu/bov/>.

Carter, Zach and Linkins, Jason. "UVA Teresa Sullivan Ouster Reveals Corporate Control Of Public Education." Huff Post College, HuffingtonPost.com. The Huffington Post, 24 June 2012. Web. 4 November 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/24/uva-teresa-sullivan-ouster-_n_1619261.html>.

Harrington, Elizabeth. "Thousands rally in support of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan." WDBJ7.com Article Collections. WDBJ7 TV, 18 June 2012. Web. 4 November 2012. <http://articles.wdbj7.com/2012-06-18/thousands-rally_32303423>.

Johnson, Jenna. "U-Va. community rallies for Sullivan." Washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post, 25 June 2012. Web. 4 November 2012.

Kelly, Matt. "Rally for Honor Seeks Re-instatement of U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan." UVAToday, 24 June 2012. University of Virginia. 4 November 2012. <http://news.virginia.edu/content/rally-honor-seeks-re-instatement-uva-president-teresa-sullivan>.

Kumar, Anita and de Vise, Daniel. "Budget issues led to removal of U-Va. President." Washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post, 17 June 2012. Web. 4 November 2012.

Kumar, Anita and de Vise, Daniel. "Turmoil continues on U-Va. campus." Washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post, 20 June 2012. Web. 4 November 2012.

Pedersen, Kristen. "Future interim president holds press conference as Faculty Senate rallies." CavalierDaily.com. University of Virginia, 20 June 2012. Web. 4 November 2012. <http://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2012/06/interim-zeithaml-holds-press-conference-as-faculty-senate-rallies>.

Pérez-Peña, Richard. "Ousted Head of University Is Reinstated in Virginia." NYTimes.com. New York Times on the Web, 26 June 2012. Web. 4 November 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/27/education/university-of-virginia-reinstates-ousted-president.html?pagewanted=all>.

"Provost John Simon's address to the Faculty Senate." CavalierDaily.com. University of Virginia, 17 June 2012. Web. 4 November 2012. <http://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2012/06/provost-john-simons-address-to-faculty-senate>.

Rice, Andrew. "What the Failed Removal of UVA President Means for Higher Education." NYTimes.com. New York Times Magazine on the Web, 11 September 2012. Web. 4 November 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/magazine/teresa-sullivan-uva-ouster.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>.

Spencer, Hawes. "Sullivan oustermath: A timeline of UVA in tumult." The HooK. 25 June 2012. Better Publications LLC. 4 November 2012. <http://www.readthehook.com/104355/ouster-aftermath-timeline-uva-tumult>.

Spencer, Hawes. "Sullivan stripped: V-P Simon hints at quit if no BOV change." The HooK. 17 June 2012. Better Publications LLC. 4 November 2012. <http://www.readthehook.com/104263/sullivan-stripped-v-p-simon-hints-quit-if-bov-doesnt-change>.

Strauss, Valerie. "Text of letter protesting UVA president ouster." Post Local, Washington Post.com. The Washington Post, 13 June 2012. Web. 4 November 2012. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/text-of-letter-protesting-uva-president-ouster/2012/06/13/gJQAgmZ7aV_blog.html>.

Stuart, Courteney. "Unanimous: BOV votes to reinstate Sullivan." The HooK. Better Publications LLC, 26 June 2012. Web. 4 November 2012. <http://www.readthehook.com/104386/unanimous-bov-votes-reinstate-sullivan>.

Waller, Derrick. "Esteemed UVA Professor Resigns in Protest." NBC29.com. 19 June 2012. WorldNow and WVIR. 4 November 2012. <http://www.nbc29.com/story/18830481/esteemed-uva-professor-resigns-in-protest-could-others-follow>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Lekey Leidecker, 04/11/2012