6/19/2012: The NYT reports on Dragas’s firing of UVA Pres:
The board’s united front showed its first serious cracks, as four of the 15 voting members sent an emissary on Sunday night to the president, Teresa Sullivan, to discuss the terms on which she would stay, according to people briefed on the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity.Still, the board’s leader, Helen E. Dragas, the university rector, showed no sign of backing away from replacing Dr. Sullivan, saying at the outset of the Board of Visitors meeting that the decision was the product of “an overwhelming consensus of the board.” She acknowledged the widespread view that the board had failed to explain the dismissal, but offered no further rationale.“We want to express our sincere regret for the pain, anger and confusion” the board’s actions have caused, Ms. Dragas said, adding that “our actions too readily lent themselves to perceptions of being opaque.”
Their November report on Pernsteiner’s firing of Lariviere is here.
6/17-18/2012 updates: The parallels are astonishing:
Statement of Faculty Senate Executive Council Concerning Meeting with Rector Dragas
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:
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.
Channel 29 News has some video. (Full disclosure: I worked in the Channel 29 control room 35 years ago, as an FCC licensed first class radiotelephone operator.) The criticisms revolve around lack of transparency and shared governance. The UVa Faculty Senate met Sunday night, voting confidence in Sullivan, no confidence in the Rector, Board, etc. The Daily Progress reports UVa’s Provost John Simon is considering resigning. He says:
“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,” he said. “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.
When the OUS Board fired Lariviere in November, UO’s Provost Jim Bean was enjoying a controversial and well paid administrative sabbatical. He immediately tried to get appointed to Lariviere’s job. The faculty stopped him. I’m trying to remember what Frohnmayer did and said when Lariviere was fired. Anyone? The Virginians are a bit tougher: former UVa President John Casteen said this at the meeting:
John T. Casteen III, the 20-year president of UVa before Sullivan was hired, said Sunday evening that the decision to remove Sullivan had been far too secretive.
“Obviously, I don’t know much about the ouster, because the board has not released very much information,” Casteen said. “And I’m not alone in thinking this, but I think there’s something flawed in the public process here. The assumption in Virginia law is that public business is done in view of the public, that people can see what’s going on, and it’s alarming to think that a decision this large was not made with the full time for discussion within the board and in particular not done within the appropriate view of the public.
“My situation is that I look for reasons and I don’t see them, and I look for information, evidence to show that the board has a formed philosophy that represents the future. And we haven’t heard what that philosophy is. Obviously, that need to be understood, and the president’s views of it need to be known and understood also. So the process is not what you’d want. It’s not the appropriate process.”
The secrecy is also at odds with the standards of sound university decision making, he said.
Casteen, who in earlier comments to the press had raised the idea of reconciliation between the board and Sullivan, said he’s “disappointed” if that conversation isn’t going on.
He also called for today’s meeting to be held entirely in open session.“The cure for excessive secrecy is not more secrecy,” Casteen said. “It is open and responsible public discussions.”
UVA’s former President Teresa Sullivan has now hired Ray Cotton to represent her. Hope she got a cheaper rate than the $45,500 he charged Pernsteiner for a 12 page report cribbed from Chronicle data.
A commenter points us to this WaPo article, full of intrigue:
And in a frank 12-page strategic memo last month, Sullivan laid out the university’s fundamental academic weakness. U-Va. has a peerless reputation for undergraduate study, she wrote, but its graduate programs and research endeavors suffer from a “reputation gap.” Some vaunted doctoral programs don’t actually rank very high, and others are buoyed by a few star faculty.
Last month, the board adopted an operating budget that included substantial language culled from Sullivan’s strategy document, although most did not know it came from her memo. Yet, after Sullivan’s ouster, Dragas chided the president for lacking a “credible statement of strategic direction.”
One thing that strikes me is that as high-handed as Dragas appears – and it’s pretty amazing – at the root this seems to be actual dispute about how best to improve UVA. Compare this to the dispute that got Lariviere fired: he had a plan to improve UO, but the board and the governor did not want UO to get better, because they thought that would distract from the other state schools.
6/16/2012 update: Insidehighered has a *very* comprehensive piece on this by Chris Olds, here. Thanks to anonymous for the link. Michael Redding has used UVA as an example of how an independent board for UO might be structured. How to do this right certainly needs to be revisited now. One lesson, I think, is that a board must have more than token faculty representation – picked by the faculty, not the board or governor!
One story notes that the board may have broken VA’s public meetings law:
UVa is a public university, and any decision made about its leader should be made in public.
“We’re not rabble-rousers here,” she said. “We’re simply calling for transparency.”She called the invocation of Thomas Jefferson by the Board of Visitors “disgusting.”
6/15/2012 update: Faculty protests, resignations:
The gulf between University of Virginia officials and the school’s outraged faculty appeared to widen Thursday, as calls for unity from officials were met with a vote of no confidence from the Faculty Senate’s executive council. Late in the day, the author of a leaked email became the first casualty from the continuing scandal over the ouster of UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan.In a resolution adopted by the body’s executive council during an emergency meeting, the faculty expressed “its lack of confidence in the Rector, the Vice Rector, and the Board of Visitors.”