Faculty Senate Passes Vote of No Confidence

The Board of Visitors failed a vote of confidence by the UVA Faculty Senate’s executive committee. This is turning into a battle between faculty and the BOV.  #

11 Responses to “Faculty Senate Passes Vote of No Confidence”


  • Why does this have to be the turning point? It’s not like it’s Parliament and a vote will make any real difference. I’m interested to see if this has any teeth.

    Perhaps someone could tell me if this has any real effect (other than bad feelings and an unhappy workplace)

  • I’m not aware of any effect that it has, procedurally. Like you, I don’t think that this vote makes any real difference. That said, I think that it has the very real effect of unifying faculty. Instead of faculty talking amongst themselves, many perhaps wary of speaking out, this may well serve as a permission slip for faculty to stand up and be counted.

  • Waldo, I don’t think it’s just a battle between the faculty and the BOV. A lot of students and alumni are upset (including, apparently, former Virginia first lady Roxane Gilmore).

    You’re right that No Confidence votes are not effective in the same sense that “I now pronounce you man and wife” or “I now confer upon you these degrees” are. But for a university faculty to vote no confidence in its board of trustees is a pretty remarkable and dramatic thing. If I were Rector Dragas I’d be feeling pretty nervous right now.

  • Waldo, I don’t think it’s just a battle between the faculty and the BOV. A lot of students and alumni are upset (including, apparently, former Virginia first lady Roxane Gilmore).

    They can be as angry as they want, but they’re not in the fight. (Ditto for staff—as opposed to faculty—by the way. I’m UVA staff, but what am I going to do? All I can do is quit. I have no other leverage.) Students aren’t liable to quit the university as a result of this. Being summer, they’re not even around, so they can’t draw attention via protests, sit-ins, etc. All that alumni can do is withhold donations, and it’ll be many months until the effects of that would be seen. None of this is to say that there’s not some other things that alumni or students could do—I certainly don’t know what the limits of the possibilities are—but they’re not actually doing any of those things, so it doesn’t matter.

    Functionally speaking, right now, this is faculty vs. BOV. Other constituencies may take positions, but that would have the same sort of effect that France or England siding with the Confederate States of America would have had in the Civil War—perhaps of some limited importance, but that doesn’t make them party to the war.

  • But they (you) ARE doing those things. You’re writing about the issue on your website. Students and alumni are protesting, officially and unofficially (and at a place like UVA, unofficial protests from the right people–or even enough of the wrong people–can go a surprisingly long way).

    As management theory folks point out, when things go wrong in organizations, people have two main options: voice and exit. Faculty are no more in a position to exit than you are (mostly), but everybody’s got a voice.

  • This is just one more nail in the coffin for Rector Dragas.

    Now that the Governor’s office has publicly issued a statement to the effect that the Governor believed that the Board of Visitors was unanimous in its approval of Sullivan’s resignation, and all indications are that Rector Dragas was the source of this misinformation, he would be loathe to re-appoint her as rector.

    The faculty senate’s vote smooths her egress like the wind blowing a feather off a cliff. For that reason alone, it’s not an impotent gesture.

  • As management theory folks point out, when things go wrong in organizations, people have two main options: voice and exit.

    Ah, but things are different at universities, thanks to tenure. Faculty doesn’t have to exit. They can go on leave. They can reduce their course load to an absolute minimum. They can spend more time on research. Staff has a very limited capacity to do that sort of thing. Once I use up my 90 hours of leave, or whatever it is that I have left this year, I’ve got to quit or stay. Hence the proposed boycott. Also, faculty is unified. Staff is not. There’s no staff union. I have no contact with people outside of my department (and, practically speaking, I only have contact with about a dozen people in my department). If this is a war, staff amounts to a series of small mobs, content to yell and throw fruit.

    The clearest evidence of this will come in the form of the interactions that we see in the next 7–14 days. If I’m right, we’ll see a series of heated exchanges and threats between faculty and the BOV. If you’re right, we’ll see alumni, students, and staff organize and doing the same. To be clear, personally, I hope you’re right, and that alumni organize and the few students here protest, etc. But I fear that I’m right, and that my fellow staffers will be on the sidelines, just hoping to keep their jobs.

  • (It occurs to me, Greg, that I’ve kind of just framed the involvement of these other groups in my own terms, and ignoring your own frame of what their involvement could look like. I didn’t mean to ignore your point about unofficial protests from the right people, such as powerful donors or famous alumni. Those can be important, although I do think that they’re unlikely to organize sufficiently that it’s reasonable to group all donors or alumni together to claim that they’re part of a “war” on the BOV. That’s really just splitting metaphorical semantic hairs, though.)

  • Actually, in case you’re interested, the commonly accepted taxonomy of responses to dissatisfaction is:

    Exit – quitting
    Voice – trying to change the thing you’re dissatisfied with
    Loyalty – suffering in silence
    Neglect – reducing effort

    Sounds like a whole lot of voice being summoned right now

  • That’s interesting, Pete—thanks for that.

  • Faculty vs BOV indeed:

    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.

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