Details About Sullivan’s Departure are Emerging

One day after news broke that Teresa Sullivan is stepping down as UVA president, more facts are coming out that are starting to fill in the gaps. It’s looking like Sullivan may well be, in all practical senses, no longer the president of the university. Here are a few other updates:

There’s way too much interest in this matter, and too many egos involved, for the whole story not to come out eventually.

38 thoughts on “Details About Sullivan’s Departure are Emerging”

  1. also, re: severance, same article:

    Details of how the university will end Sullivan’s contract have not yet been worked out, said UVa spokeswoman Carol Wood. Those discussions will be held in the next week to two weeks, she said.

  2. Here is my speculation as the details start to leak out:

    1) She was too faculty and staff friendly for the BOV (probably some differences over the Living Wage issue); They apparently want a MBA CEO to run the place and follow orders without thought;
    2) Perhaps a Darden-Med School and alumni orchestrated putsch because the MBA’s now run higher education qua big business, The deans who are in favor of turning the place into a business seem to be saying supportive things about the move; Those that want to be reappointed or appointed as a BOV seemed to have an interest in booting her out.
    3) The conservatives in the State didn’t like her and probably have a problem with a women with so much power and influence, perhaps the new McDonnell BOV appointees finally coalesced, I am sure they want UVA to be a business enterprise ASAP
    4) When your endowment is in the billions, the question becomes who owns and runs the university? Perhaps the big donors had a hand in it and they probably want the place turned into a Business as well.

    That’s my speculation after being around the plantation for many years.

    We best start having a discussion of what a public University means, and examine how the BOVs are appointed. I think 51% of the BOV should be elected from faculty, students, and parents; not merely pay offs to wealthy corporate contributors to Gov campaigns; benign during dem gov’ships and apparently malignant with conservative gov’ships.

  3. From RT-D: “And you should be comforted by the fact that both the rector and vice rector, Helen Dragas and Mark Kington are Darden alums,” wrote Kiernan, who received his MBA from U.Va.

    In other contexts, that’s called inbreeding.

  4. Did they really think this wouldn’t blow up ?

    “Trust me, Helen has things well in hand,” Kiernan, a former Goldman Sachs partner, said in the email, which was obtained by The Times-Dispatch.

  5. From what I’ve read here and elsewhere it seems that the executive committee of the BOV has the power to accept a resignation if it does so unanimously (btw, were the other members of that committee apprised of the situation and asked to attend or was this quorum of three intentional?). But accepting a resignation spontaneously or freely offered and forcing a resignation under duress are two different things.

  6. So who were the 2 important Va alums behind “The Project ” to oust Sullinan ?

    “Trust me, Helen has things well in hand,” Kiernan, a former Goldman Sachs partner, said in the email, which was obtained by The Times-Dispatch.

    “A number of you have asked if we were surprised by this announcement. Here is the truth,” his email states. “Several weeks ago I was contacted by two important Virginia alums about working with Helen Dragas on this project, particularly from the standpoint of the search process and the strategic dynamism effort.”

  7. No university is going to benefit from being run by people who use phrases like “strategic dynamism effort.”

  8. Some interesting info from the Cav Daily…

    First article with comments from the student representative the BOV:

    And this article on the faculty senate/administration where the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences seems to speak favorably of the change:

  9. The Board appointed Hurd. Here is the Cavalier Daily announcement.:

    BOV appoints Hurd
    The Board of Visitors Friday appointed third-year College student Hillary Hurd the body’s student member.

    As the Board’s student member, Hurd will attend its meetings to predict and assess student opinion on long-term appointments and policies affecting the University community.

    “U.Va is such a large, diverse student body… it’s going to be a challenge to fully represent student opinion when I don’t think there’s a consensus on very many issues,” Hurd said. “My opinion may or may not represent the majority opinion.”

    Hurd said clearer communication would ensure mutual understanding of student-life issues, citing the mixed student reception of the Living Wage Campaign.

    “There’s certainly a disconnect right now, and it shouldn’t have to be that way,” Hurd said.

    Hurd said students should educate themselves about the Board by attending meetings or referring to the minutes of Board meetings, which are posted online.

    The Board has 16 full members and a non-voting student member, who serves for one year.

    Hurd’s one-year term begins June 1.

  10. And conservatives are known supporters of online learning which puts Ms Hurd in sync with the Darden folks on the BOV as articulated in
    Ms. Dargas’s public remarks.

    ” There very well could be a political aspect to her ousting. Conservatives have a vision of online teaching, in which schools cut back on supposed “waste and inefficiency” by making their classes available online, sometimes through for-profit companies they back. Traditionalist professors worry that too much online teaching will ruin quality instruction. It could be that the board thought Sullivan was moving too slowly on turning U.Va. into DeVry or the University of Phoenix.

  11. Thanks Jo, Your link provides more confirmation that The push for online learning could have been a major factor and the desire to play in the big leagues and to do that they will need to take money from some and give it to this effort.
    Who will be the losers ? And who stands to gain?

    “Many have focused on Ms. Dragas’ specific reference to the transformative potential that online learning may have for higher education, as well as her insistence that tough financial decisions need to be made.”

  12. Dragas and Craig are both residential real estate developers. Now that they & Goldman have made a hash of the financial industry they are coming for the university.

  13. Online teaching is a great strategy if you want to make money and bilk students out of their loan money. It is commonly known that attrition rates for online learning programs are high. The scam runs like this. The Feds, the banks, and higher ed institutions have constructed a system where students late out loans, the universities get their cut, the banks get their cut, then students enroll in these online programs and drop out with no degree and a huge debt and the students are left holding the bag.

    The idea that UVA wants to jump into this racket is appalling for Mr. Jefferson’s reputation.

    Democrat-Republican is irrelevant here, since the Clinton era many democrats have joined the neoliberal bandwagon where the goal is to privatize everything and starve anything public , hence the defunding of UVA by the legislature with no push back from democrats in the state.

    It looks to me like Dragas is angling for a reappointment from a conservative Gov. and is just doing the bidding of the wealthy business interests who want to privatize and corporatize everything.

    The problem with elite public universities is that the public doesn’t see it as theirs, so in these types of situations, there is not much public support for pushing back against the venal interests destroying the University. The Faculty Senate may be on its own.

    Sad that we let the MBAs rule the world and take over the University. They will look for a president like the one at Arizona State University who came in to privatize the operation.

    TJ must be turning over in his grave.

  14. I thought conservatives were supposed to be the paranoid ones, and yet I see many liberals ascribing Sullivan’s firing to some gigantic conspiracy led by McDonnell and implemented by his minions – all w/out a shred of evidence. Has it occurred to anyone that the BoV’s reticence to provide a more explicit explanation for her termination may be b/c they wish to spare Sullivan the humiliation of revealing her incompetence? Yeah, yeah, I doubt it too, but it’s at least as plausible as the theory that a brave woman (Karen Silkwood? Joan of Arc?) was unfairly ousted by evil, greedy, old, white men in a diabolical bid to put one of their own (Virgil Goode, anyone?) in Madison Hall.

    Given that Dragas (a woman!)& Kington were both originally appointed by Gov. Kaine, I think your conspiracy theories need a little more work.

  15. As I said, its not a republican-democrat issue. Its a neoliberal corporate class issue. Many “Democrats” have bought into the privatize everything mentality.

    When the BOV executive politburo operates the way it did, the public is only left with speculation. Why are they being so cagey about it all? Why was it not a public matter with sunshine? Why didn’t the full BOV vote on it? The little bits of evidence the public does have points in nefarious directions, but hey if it was on the up and up, why not just come clean and show your cards?

    If its incompetence, how come it didn’t come out in the vetting process? Who is incompetent in that scenario? It has to be the BOV itself. Its a public university run by private, political appointees who mostly gave large sums of money to Govs campaigning, Kaine or McDonnell-it doesn’t matter. The process like our Citizens United political process has been bought off by monied interests, democracy itself is being corporatized. The process of democratic governance of our public universities has been corrupted. Just look at who the BOVs are individually, there is a pattern there.

    The UVA Sullivan ouster is just one more example of a corrupted democratic process.

  16. Much guessing and pure speculation
    Has followed surprise resignation.
    A small band of Visitors
    Like former Inquisitors,
    Has rocked the whole administration.

  17. UVA Rector Helen Dragas has said, “The appropriate day of judgment on this decision will come at the time that a new president has been installed…” OK, but signs point to a second, even larger failure on the horizon…UR President Ed Ayers has been floated in the Chronicle of Higher Ed by some.

    Ed Ayers????

    Fire UVA’s first female president, only to replace her with a Governing Board Member of Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy?….

    Check out the wide variety of Confederate Flags and Confederate Flag apparal that they sell in their museum gift shop.

    Hey, maybe some of these fine items could be distributed as party favors at his inauguration. After all, that flag is just a part of the southern history he teaches and it used to be displayed widely all across the UVA campus.

    Seriously, do you think the UVA BOV messed up now? (Well, maybe Ms. Dragas doesn’t, but many others would disagree.)

    Let them choose Ayers as Sullivan’s successor. Send the message that the “distinguished public-Ivy” is keenly aware of its southern heritage. Display the roots of what many had hoped was a bygone era.

    Boot the woman for the Good Ole Boy and then let’s see how that “day of judgement” plays in the media for y’all educated folk. Perception is reality!

  18. Listen to yourselves. At first it’s a cabal orchestrated by the governor (somehow through the appointees of his predecessor of the opposite party). Now it’s gubernatorial disinterest that he didn’t jump into a board operation (of said predecessor appointees) that was apparently kept secret from people with considerably more day-to-day focus on university operations.

    What do you people want this to be, West Virginia? To this point, Sullivan’s dismissal looks sleazy and unwise, but legal and nothing that should risk accreditation. Create an expectation that the governor should regularly stick his or her nose into state universities’ academic administration and things will get worse than that with a quickness.

  19. Right, We want the Governor and big money out of the governance of public higher education. Legislation should be introduced that bars any appointment to the BOV with fiduciary history with any politician.
    While we are at it let’s make it mandatory that BOV be 51% faculty, parent, student.

  20. I’m wondering about Sullivan’s severance. If it turns out that it must be paid, where will the $600,000+ come from? Increased tuition? Additional funding from the state?

  21. there are many articles+comments to read so I may not have the correct information, but if it’s true that 3 voting members of the BOV were able to make this happen a change in power needs to be discussed. right or wrong you should need more than 3 of 16 votes to make such a major change.

  22. Betty, just FYI, while the student member is “appointed” by the board, he/she is actually selected by a panel of student leaders and faculty/administrators.

    Rick, it sounds like the three voting members are only needed to accept a resignation. If Sullivan would have stood her ground and the BOV were to try to force her out publicly (rather than with a veiled threat), then I believe that would have gone to a full vote.

  23. Thanks Karl, Bottom line she’s 21 and gave her statement after spending 2 hours with Dragas .
    No surprise

  24. The legislature should dismiss the Bd. of Visitors for mismanagement and threatening the stability of the State’s flagship University. They have the power.

    Then it should change the rules by which they are appointed and make sure big political donors don’t control the governance of the University.

    They should rehire Sullivan and give her a raise for pain and suffering of fools.

  25. PS how come only certain faculty like those in some College departments and the Faculty Senate have the guts to push back and write public responses? Why nothing from Darden, School of Med., Curry, SEAS Architecture faculty?

    Fear of reprisal from their Deans?

  26. A link to this blog post just showed up on the Association of American University Presses email list. It contains an interesting and detailed theory about Pres. Sullivan’s resignation. The gist: “Goldman Sachs’s Education Management Corporation, a for-profit education provider, wanted to make or made a bid to offer online education through UVA. From this endeavor, EMC would invest profits back into the University, helping to heal some of the University’s fiscal woes. When Sullivan was reluctant or refused to agree to the venture, key members of the Board threatened litigation related to her performance as a fundraiser for the University.”

    I have no clue whether it’s a likely explanation, but the fact that it is not out of the question underlines the need for a full, thorough, and speedy investigation of the whole matter. (But quis custodet custodes here?)

  27. OK, so she couldn’t raise money at the astronomical level of her predecessor, John Casteen. She could LEAD A UNIVERSITY, though, which he was never interested in.

    Isn’t Development’s Bob Sweeney to blame for that, not Sullivan? I like the Goldman Sachs conspiracy theory myself.

  28. Re: the conspiracy theory piece: her gushing paragraph to start quite belies the assertion of UVa having “an incredible sense of groundedness,” or at least engendering such among its alumni.

    Whether or not the Goldman Sachs theory has any basis, what is in evidence so far is that Darden wants to run the show. At a major research university (i.e. Sullivan’s heritage), the MBA program doesn’t get to do that. So, given the choice of striving toward being either a top-tier academic and scientific institution or an inbred status symbol, it looks like the BoV prefers option B.

  29. Betty please STFU all your comments are ignorant and complete assumptions.

Comments are closed.