Sullivan Gets the Upper Hand on Dragas

The momentum of the Dragas vs. Sullivan power struggle shifted decidedly to President Teresa Sullivan’s advantage this afternoon, after a day of small victories for her was capped off by news that a Board of Visitors meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. First came word that ten of the eleven deans of the schools had signed a letter demanding the restoration of Sullivan to the presidency—the only non-signatory was McIntire Dean Carl Zeithaml, who wasn’t asked to sign, what with his position as kinda-sorta-interim president. (“Relationship status: it’s complicated.”) Then President Sullivan issued a statement calling for civility, the first communication from her since all of this went down, the real purpose of which seems to have been to remind people that she’s still president.

Finally, the big news of the day came out just a few minutes before 5 PM—at the last possible moment—that a special meeting of the Board of Visitors is scheduled for 3 PM on Tuesday, with a topic of “possible changes in the terms of employment of the President.” It was clear this morning that a board coup against Dragas was underway, with at least three members prepared to call for a meeting (the necessary number), but they wouldn’t want to have called that meeting unless they knew that they had a majority of the board in support of restoring Sullivan to the presidency. Implicitly, calling this meeting means that they’ve got the votes. This came at the end of a long day of vocal rabble-rousing by Sullivan supporters in the community, who have been organizing on the “United4Honor” Facebook group to get people to call and write the BOV and the governor, to embolden members of the BOV to come out as Sullivan supporters.

Another small bit of news today came in the form of a letter to the Cavalier Daily from BOV member Glynn Key. You’ll remember Key for having left the board’s marathon late-night session on Monday night/Tuesday morning. It hasn’t been clear why Key left, or whether she supported or opposed the coup against Sullivan. In the letter, she writes:

It would be personally convenient and gratifying if I described what happened in Executive Session, in order to explain to you why I departed at 1:30 am. But you know that it would be improper and dishonorable for me to breach the confidentiality requirements for Executive Session.

At a minimum, we now know that she left in protest of something occurring in that meeting. A think that a reasonable person reading this would conclude that she did not support the ouster of Sullivan, and her premature departure was tied to that.

There is still a rally scheduled for 2 PM on Sunday afternoon, which will now surely be infused with a level of enthusiasm—and probably attendance—not yet seen in this multi-week showdown.

33 thoughts on “Sullivan Gets the Upper Hand on Dragas”

  1. I am heartened by the increasing momentum for the reinstatement of President Sullivan. Let’s hope the BOV does the right thing next week.

    My question is: What will it take to get President Sullivan to stay and will it be tied to the resignation/removal/non-reappointment of Dragas?

    As for Glynn Key, while I can understand that she might not have supported the ouster of President Sullivan, leaving the meeting early was not the best way to express that because it expressed nothing whatsoever. Voting in the negative, as Fralin did, would have been more of a statement. Along those lines, I am very curious as to why Caputo and Hardie abstained from voting. Again, a non-vote does not make the same statement as a yea or a nay.

  2. And Dragas isn’t giving an inch:

    A few comments that caught my eye:

    “…the bottom line is the days of incremental decision-making in higher education are over, or should be.”

    “At the time of President Casteen’s retirement, the search process should have included a thoughtful assessment by uninvested third parties…”

    Basically she still wants a do-over on the hiring of Sullivan at all, thus she believes she’s right. Simply stunning.

  3. Let’s be clear that momentum is not inevitability. The momentum has clearly reversed here, but that’s no indication that it’s safe for supporters of Sullivan to let up. Dragas is no idiot, and if she’s got any sense, she’s got a backup plan. She may not, but why take the chance?

  4. I think Dragas really IS an idiot, Waldo, but that doesn’t mean you’re not right.

  5. If you download the pdf that contains Dragas’ June 21 statement and do File>Properties
    you will see that it was written on a MAC that belongs to John Ullyot. Who is this guy?
    Here is the answer:

    My inference is that this was written by Ullyot. So I believe we have a case
    of Dragas submitting under her own name someone else’s work. There is a name for this behavior at UVA and there is a Single Sanction for it.

  6. AS, I just read your post and headed over here to reference it as exactly the sort of information that inquiring minds want to know. Ironic that a memo calling in part for “…faster, multi-platform communications including cutting-edge use of mobile, digital and social media to complement a more traditional media-relations function and press outreach to tell the UVA story” can fall prey to a simple right click of a mouse.

  7. Does anyone know why it had to be scheduled by 5pm? I know you have a certain amount of days before but what was the hard cap? Perhaps appointments were coming on the 28th?

  8. Ugh. So her PR is being paid for by my donations to UVA? Can the BOV fire Hill and Knowlton on Tuesday too?

  9. where PR firms go to die. Or at least get shamed (if they have any).

  10. That’s very interesting Waldo on showing who the author is but doesn’t it really show who the final wordsmith was? Would there ever be traces of other authors who had made edits or is this proof who wrote it out of whole cloth.

    Is it easy to supress such info or strip it out?

  11. one can only imagine how illuminating the e-mails between Mr Ullyot and Ms Dragas would be.
    I don’t suppose they would be subject to FOIA, that they are part of the public’s business, with the PR firm being paid for by the taxpayer and all.

  12. Full credit to ‘AS’ for being the first to notice the implications of the meta data on the statement here and elsewhere before it hit Twitter. Nicely done!
    Once again Dragas falls short of understanding the communications technology she so strenuously pushes.
    As, apparently, do the people she hires at top $$ to do her thinking and talking for her…

  13. on the one hand:

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a copy of Microsoft Word that had my own name on it… the name listed when booting up my copy has always been that of my parents, or a roommate, or a current or former employer. that’s largely a side-effect of the fact that I’ve never made more than $25,000 a year in my life, unlike Rector Dragas.

    on the other hand:

    that’s really fucking funny (if also both inevitable and sad). I also find it deliciously ironic that Dragas’s flimsy non-justification for wanting to oust Sullivan was some kind of fear (seemingly half-inferred solely from maybe one or two David Brooks editorials?) that UVA might fall behind as education enters the 21st century, and yet she herself is getting a first-hand schooling in how 21st-century technology works this week.

  14. Actually, the “author” associated with the PDF file says nothing about who composed the document in MS Word, if a quick experiment is correct.

    I created a file in MS Word and edited its properties to assign “Jim Beam” as author, then saved the file. Viewed within Word, this file will henceforth show Jim Beam as author.

    But if I open the file and then Save As PDF, the resulting PDF file shows my account user name (David Sewell) as Author.

    It’s perfectly plausible that Helen Dragas wrote the document and forwarded it to Hill & Knowlton for (possibly) editing and distribution. Someone there converted it to PDF and distributed. You don’t want to send out a Word file for the obvious reason that it can be altered much more easily.

    So I don’t think this is at all a clear case of ghostwriting.

  15. perlogik and David raise important points that I only realize in retrospect are non-obvious.

    The authorship ID system here is not fancy. This is not like Word with “track changes” turned on, where one can see who contributed one. It simply indicates who saved it. In this case, with the PDF producer of Quartz PDFContext, which tells us that (unless this is a forgery) this was created by saving a Microsoft Word file entitled “Dragas Statement” as a PDF, by somebody who was logged into Mac OS X as a user named “John Ullyot.” We have no idea who wrote that Word file, although it strikes me as unlikely that somebody would name a file with their own name. (It’s only “Dragas Statement” to somebody else—to her it’s just “My Statement.”) Again, though, none of that tells us who wrote it for sure.

    What we can conclude safely, I think, is that Hill + Knowlton has done a sloppy job of hiding their tracks.

  16. I think the next interesting thing to be done is to attempt to connect John Ullyot (or, more likely, Hill + Knowlton) to Peter Morici, the author of this atrocious Fox News opinion piece. I’m extremely dubious that Morici just up and wrote this piece. I suspect that, if he wasn’t paid to do it, a favor was called in to convince him to do so. Who at H+K knows him? I’ll do a little googling before bed.

    Good Lord, look at the time. Well, maybe on my lunch break tomorrow.

  17. Am I missing something, or is there no way for anyone to comment on the Fox News website? As near as I can tell, one is only allowed to “follow” Fox News. Ha! – typical. I suppose that is prudent though. No telling what sort of nonsense their regular readers might unleash on the interwebs if given the opportunity.

  18. “Ugh. So her PR is being paid for by my donations to UVA? ”

    Not to mention $5,000 a night at the Clifton Inn. For what its worth, that is where the BOV PR team’s base camp is. And no, that number is not hyperbolic.

    Pro tip to power brokers: I know that you think the ‘servant class’ aren’t really people, which is why you are perfectly fine running your mouth around them. But all those busboys, bartenders maids and what not? They’re not stupid, and they do pay attention to current events. So next time you’re having that extra drink at Farmington? Yeah, maybe you should not dish so loud while the busboy is removing your overpriced talapia from the table. He knows damn well who you are.

    /been having the best time cross indexing official statements, info from this site, and the juicy stuff from my many brothers and sisters in the service industry.

  19. Email just went out to the university community that zeithaml is suspending his negotiations and activities as interim president and resuming his focus on the McIntire School.

  20. Spill, b’yo. Also, rereading Zeithaml’s letter, I wonder if someone on the board was pestering him. “Suspending negotiations…” The PR firm and Dragas may have been trying to get something ready for Tuesday along the lines of, “now is not the time to turn back. Pres. Zeithaml and I are already moving forward with a plan to address the points articulated…” Etc.

    Zeithaml of course must just see this as a massive management failure by the board, whatever his feelings on amped up disruptive ego freaking strategeric dynamoppy.

  21. Do I remember correctly, from some report amidst the fray, that the PR company was in the Rotunda that night to advise the BOV?

  22. One minor point on the filename questions: I’ve had many occasions in a corporate environment where I’ve named files using my own name. If there’s any chance I’ll send what I’m working on to someone else who might dump it into a directory with other similar files (document reviews, forms, even resumes), last name goes on it at a minimum.

    From what we’ve seen of Dragas’s writing in the Cavalier Daily FOI product, it seems unlikely to me that her input went much past feeding ideas to the PR team. But I don’t think the filename is much of a tell.

  23. From what we’ve seen of Dragas’s writing in the Cavalier Daily FOI product, it seems unlikely to me that her input went much past feeding ideas to the PR team. But I don’t think the filename is much of a tell.

    On its own, no, it’s not much of a tell. But taken along with other evidence, I think it weighs on the side of “written by PR firm.”

  24. Don’t we have a big PR Dept. at UVA? How come they are not fighting back against Hill and Knowlton.

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