WSJ Starts Shifting the Sullivan Narrative

In tomorrow morning’s Wall Street Journal there will appear an unsigned editorial that any right-minded individual would agree with. It’s about a university board who tried mightily to convince their new president to cut spending and modernize the school, but the president refused, instead kow-towing to powerful faculty interests. So the university board fired her. And the fat-cat faculty members all but rioted, while the president gave a speech to them. It’s a hell of a story and, of course, it’s not true. Almost none of it is true. What we’re seeing happen before our very eyes is the nationalization of the narrative.

Virginians know the real story: a pair of rogue members of the UVA Board of Visitors secretly engineered a coup against the university president, illegally declaring an “emergency” meeting at which just three members were present to accept the forced resignation. The president was never given a negative performance evaluation, and had been on the job for less than two years, with less than a year of her own budget cycle under her belt. Those board members refused to explain why the president had been fired until many days later, when a strange and illogical list was ginned up that appeared to have no relation to reality.

The facts are not convenient for those who oppose the existence of public education, so the lead intellectual mouthpiece of that group has created some new facts. This new story is one that’s more like the story of Governor Scott Walker and the Wisconsin unions, one with which half of the country may well sympathize, far more than those rare souls who are liable to sympathize with Dragas at the moment.

Although I suppose it’s possible that the Journal’s talented reporters simply misinformed the editorial board, mangling all of the basic facts of this matter, it’s rather more realistic to assume that this was a narrative dreamed up by Hill and Knowlton, Rector Helen Dragas’ personal PR firm (and paid for by the University of Virginia).

It’s the “why” part of this that’s more interesting. Why would they publish a wildly inaccurate editorial the day before the Board of Visitors convene to settle this matter? (Ignore the governor’s claim that this is the third time they will have met to address this. Assuming they actually hold a vote as to whether they want to retain Teresa Sullivan, it will be the first such vote that they’ve held, at least that anybody knows about.) It’s difficult to believe that such an editorial would sway any members of the BOV. (I’d write that “they’re not going to learn anything new from the editorial” but, in fact, they’d find themselves facing a wholly unfamiliar set of facts.) They know far more about the matter than any editorial board. I think it’s more likely that this exists to set the tone for national coverage after Tuesday’s vote. Now if Sullivan wins, right-wing interest groups across the country will claim that a powerful faculty union has won out against common sense in support of their hand-picked toady of a president. And if Sullivan loses, they’ll claim it as a Wisconsin-style victory against tax-wasting academic elites who have been suckling from the public teat for too long. These angles aren’t at all true, but it doesn’t matter.

The best thing that you and I can do about this editorial? Nothing. Nothing at all. This is a sign that national forces more powerful than any of us are getting involved, and facts clearly do not matter to them. I’m sure that UVA would love to push back mightily, but there’s no doubt that the university’s PR staff has been forbidden from doing so. Only Hill and Knowlton speak for UVA now, and their budget is going entirely to saying awful things about the university. Those who want to affect the outcome of Tuesday’s vote will do better to focus their attentions locally.

A sad, little-acknowledged aspect of this situation is that there are fourteen members of the Board of Visitors who aren’t saying a word. If they wanted, they could push back against this WSJ article mightily. Instead, they are silent which means that, implicitly, Dragas speaks for them. These people who claim to love the University of Virginia apparently regard it like one Army Major did the Vietnamese town of Bến Tre in 1968: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

81 thoughts on “WSJ Starts Shifting the Sullivan Narrative”

  1. It does appear that “national forces” are getting involved. They probably have been involved from the start. Particularly if all of this is a drive to make money off of the University or is a drive to take over a major university to set the stage for similar takeovers in other states. But I will not agree that these evil forces are “more powerful than any of us.” There is still the ballot box. There is still freedom of speech. But they must be used and used wisely in order to prevent a takeover like the one attempted here. The message – fight back with the weapons we have.

  2. Waldo! – What are you thinking that there is nothing we can do about this article? I call bullshit!

    Yes – there are powerful national forces getting involved, forces who believe that an educated populace is an impediment to them squeezing every nickel they can from the peasants. We damn well better get involved in this if we dont want to end up like “democratic” post-soviet Russia, where a few dozen mafia thug billionaires control everything and there is one only choice in any given election.

    In the short term, we can use the WSJ comment section to tell people the truth about what is going on here. In the long term, we need to figure out some better ways to break the spell that the 1% percent has on low information voters.

  3. David J. Llewellyn wrote:

    But I will not agree that these evil forces are “more powerful than any of us.” There is still the ballot box. There is still freedom of speech. But they must be used and used wisely in order to prevent a takeover like the one attempted here. The message – fight back with the weapons we have.

    And Kevin Lynch wrote:

    What are you thinking that there is nothing we can do about this article? I call bullshit!

    I don’t believe that there’s a thing that we can do about this in the next 36 hours. In fact, I think that spending much time on this at all is actively harmful, because I suspect all of us can do more useful things in the interim. The WSJ is not going to retract this Tuesday’s paper. They will not apologize and correct this. They know just what they’re doing. We might as well be arguing with a rock.

    The outcome of Tuesday’s vote will not be decided in the Journal’s boardroom in New York City. It’ll be decided in the Rotunda, here in Charlottesville.

    Kevin, you’re absolutely right about the long term, and I think that’s an entirely separate (and important!) matter. But I’ve got my eye on Tuesday.

  4. Even if larger forces are at play. Perhaps enough of the other BOV members will feel their consciences rebel at the idea of so deeply offending their fellow UVA community members. We can still convince the people who have genuine affection for the university and want to continue to be a part of this community.

  5. I’ve added a new sentence to the penultimate paragraph: “Those who want to affect the outcome of Tuesday’s vote will do better to focus their attentions locally.” I want to make clear to people that I’m not advocating surrender but, instead, remaining in the current theater of war rather than opening up a new front.

  6. I confess that I am a bit worn down from the last few weeks, and this WSJ piece — and Waldo’s analysis — makes me all the more depressed. The Richmond Times Dispatch has their newest fluff piece on the Rector, following the one in the Post. The DC TV stations spend their allocated 15 seconds of coverage on the H&K talking points. The Wash Post says it was the “students” who rallied today, not mentioning alumni or anyone else. Sigh. I am feeling very pessimistic. The “corrupted process” message seems to be slipping away in favor of a Sullivan v. BOV narrative.

    I hope I have reason to be cheered on Tuesday. If not, my calendar just freed up for Reunions weekend next year…

  7. Perhaps enough of the other BOV members will feel their consciences rebel at the idea of so deeply offending their fellow UVA community members. We can still convince the people who have genuine affection for the university and want to continue to be a part of this community.

    Ah-ha—now we’re getting somewhere, Joey. You’re talking about targeting not the WSJ, but BOV members. If this article can be used as a cudgel to help persuade some members to change their votes, wonderful!

  8. I’ve been thinking more about this very weird business of the BOV paying an enormous sum of money to a PR firm, who is using the money to attack UVA and shore up Dragas’ reputation. It’s awfully strange. It’s like Dragas (and, implicitly, the BOV) is so offended by UVA’s collective revulsion over their actions that they need to insult us until we start to feel that we deserve it, and then we’ll listen to them.

    On reflection, we’re all trapped in an abusive relationship with Dragas. She’s going to berate us until we’re so beat down that we’ll love her again. Dragas’ enabler, the BOV, is basically saying: “Let’s all just do what she says and then she’ll calm down. She loves us very much, you know. That’s why she does this. You know how she gets.” What we really need is for the BOV to take their role of authority properly and break this cycle, and they’re not doing it. When we need them the most, they’re silent.

  9. I am with Kevin on this.

    Up until now, the faculty, students, staff, alums,have been polite and civil. The UVA faulty are not evn really organized in a chapter of the AAUP.

    I think if sullivan is not reinstated, the line has been drawn and stepped over and we will be engaged in a wisconsn-like episode. If that occurs, its time for the kid gloves & the southern gentility to come off. We should become the new Berkeley.

    If that is the case, the UVA case should ne “nationalized” and we should become the center of a massive offensive to take back public universities nation-wide and even start a center for the integrity of public institutions. The S**t storm should occur on many fronts, public demonstrations, strikes, work disruptions, teach-ins, changing curriculum, massive media campaign, fund raising for a true national movement. We would need to host a national meeting in the Rotunda of all public university, boards, presidents, faculty, proffessional associations, etc, to launch a movement! We have alot of very well connected people at this university who traditionally act with gentility.

    So far we are not there and rational people like Rob Bell and Jim Gilmore get it. I hope the BOV members still wavering on the simple step of reinstating Sullivan, figure out the stakes by Tuesday. I still want to believe that the few who have not seen the errors and do really care about their University, will save us from a war.

    As far as the WSJ article, I want to say “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” But I also fear its a Koch brother-Scott walker declaration of war. The few wavering members of the BOVs considering reinstating President Sulivan you have a chance to do the right thing not the politically expedient thing. She has the balanced vision we need to move forward.

  10. TTP, I’m speaking only of what to do in the next 36 hours. If Sullivan is not reinstated, you’re damned right there’s going to be some serious push-back. I intend to do a lot of pushing myself. :)

  11. Here are the two most glaring errors (one factual, one logical) in the WSJ piece. First, the Dean of the Darden school did in fact sign the letter to the Board of Visitors asking them to reinstate President Sullivan:

    Second, the editorial criticizes Sullivan because “administrative spending jumped 68.9% between 2003 and 2009.” Sullivan took office in 2010. However much spending jumped between 2003 and 2009, there was nothing she could do about that.

    Fortunately, many Wahoos are putting their stellar educations to use in the WSJ’s online comments and putting out these glaring errors, in addition to the underlying problems with the editorial’s premise. Sad to see this level of journalism at the WSJ.

  12. If Charles and David don’t want to pay for it, then, dagnabit, it’s not worth paying for.

  13. As I wrote in a previous thread,

    Expect a WSJ opinion piece by Monday, unless they decide to steer clear. Fox has a lot of air to fill and I assume is testing a line for George Allen, who probably realizes it’s hard to go anti-U.Va. in Va. Though he might.

    What is more important than the WSJ opinion is the opinion of the state newspapers, and you don’t even need the Washington Post. (There has been some attempt on the right to vilify the Post, which has done the most reporting.) The Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial runs this way:

    A celebrated tombstone at Monticello does not identify Thomas Jefferson as the founder of the University of Phoenix… the absence of transparency mocks the public trust… Rector Helen Dragas plays the heavy in the U.Va. drama, yet she is not the dragon lady of caricature… She argues the board did the right thing the wrong way… The “wrong way” also rates as a firing offense. Our sympathies rest with Sullivan.

    This is every bit as strong as its traditionally opposite paper, the Va. Pilot.

    Tempting as it is for the left to ride this as a hobby horse for the obvious leftish issues – see my user name – it probably works best as a centrist issue the left & right can agree on. The state is just full of establishment UVa grads who are upset at this unseemly affair, and almost personally offended. Now if the governor comes out with more of his “protecting the women, take a strong had” stuff, that’s another matter. The similarities to the ACTA agenda in his letter, and the repudiation of Sullivan’s stand against “top-down” management may have been coincidental to his own proclivities and the appeal of a smack down, which even got some initial praise from the Sullivan supporters!

    So if it’s tempting to ride this as a leftish hobby horse, the WSJ can also call out damn the torpedoes and ride its own agenda. There is some money to be made after all this talking on TV and writing books, in becoming the Michele Rhee of higher ed and all that.

    The wavering of the student council was disappointing and you see there that left/right fractures could really hurt. Often in the history of UVa, sad to say, the student body has been more retrograde that the faculty, board and president, as when Colgate Darden was dragging the good old school in to the 20th century, in the 1950s. Lately the students have been progressive, and the council may just be an anomaly. (But already there have been predictions that if Dragas succeeds, the student body will be badly split, and it will be an ugly autumn on Grounds.)

    One small correction to Waldo’s post, it is unlikely the WSJ reporters told the editorial board anything. The board does its own reporting, unless something has seriously changed. And judging from the coverage of of the Murdoch scandal in Britain, I would say it has not.

  14. My humble opinion is – the only reason there is a chance of reinstating President Sullivan is that this has been a coming together of people of all political persuasions, and none, to protest a process that no intelligent person can condone.
    As long as we stay on that message we will prevail. If we focus on condemning the personalities involved we may fail.

    The individuals on the Board of Visitors are the ones making the decision and many of them went along with this in the first place. Philosophically they are probably on the same page as the WSJ and agree with Dragas and Kingdon, so if they feel that they or Dragas are being vilified they will circle the wagons as will the Governor.

    It was a joy to see so many, from different points of view, joined together yesterday for a common cause – Reinstate Teresa Sullivan. Let’s keep that energy going.

    I believe it is best to treat all of them with respect and humility at this hour in the process.

    The other issues of ” philosophical difference ” can wait. But the wrong we are now righting is the how and not the why.
    I agree with Waldo, for now, – focus on the Tuesday vote.
    Focus on the process and why it cannot stand.

  15. That editorial is absolutely stunning in its inaccuracies. And disheartening in its galvanization of uninformed readers who buy the narrative wholesale. They should have called this piece “The Virginia Fracture”, as it aims only to deepen the divide between us.

  16. It’s also hard to believe that her training as a “sociologist” was brought up for any reason other than its evocation of “socialism.”

  17. Against Waldo’s advice (which I should have taken, because I would have gotten much more sleep), I attempted to tackle one of the few statements in the piece that isn’t completely laughable at first glance:

    “Yet administrative spending jumped 68.9% between 2003 and 2009, compared to spending on teaching that rose 42.4% over the same period.”

    I’m certainly not well-versed in finance (please critique if you’re inclined), but here’s my response. The above data comes straight from ACTA, so I thought it might be useful or at least interesting to try to debunk:

    That jump in administrative spending is largely due to increased fundraising expenses. As UVA’s state funding has been repeatedly and drastically cut, the university has compensated by aggressively raising private funds over the past decade. In 2002 state funds accounted for 20.6% of UVA’s budget. They’ve since fallen to just 5.6%. Fundraising costs, which fall under general administrative spending in the annual budget, are significant, but they have helped UVA build the largest per capita endowment of any public university in the country ($5 billion+, $255,000 per student as of 2011). Gotta spend money to make money!

    “Fundraising and alumni relations” accounts for 40% of that 68.9% jump in administrative spending (see link below). If not for those huge state funding cuts, that increase would probably be much smaller.

    So this isn’t much of an indictment of administrative overspending, but more an example of what drastic cuts can do to public institutions, and how UVA responded with successful administrative investment in private fundraising.

    In the two annual budgets (both approved by the board) since Sullivan became president, the general administration budget has been reduced by 7.8 percent in 2011-2012 and by 7.6 percent for 2012-2013. It also dropped by 9.2 percent in 2010-2011. So why was she forced to resign again?

    ACTA report:

    UVA budget data:

    Presentation stating 40% of that 68.9% was “fundraising and alumni relations”:

  18. WSJ is no longer the paper it was of my younger days, it’s the more legitimate cousin of Fox News. After Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp purchased the WSJ many changes started to occur like shorter stories and more political conservative, less pure business editorials.

    It’s the largest circulation paper in the US but on Wednesday whatever happened at UVa on Tuesday will be obscured by the Supreme Court’s Obama health care decision.
    UVa will be washed away as a national story for most people (certainly not anyone here).

  19. Yep, pretty awful editorial. Not only becaue it’s so misleading and inaccurate, but it’s not even as clever or adroit in its myriad misrepresentations as others have been. I’m actually heartened by the comments; while some are clearly swayed by the piece, many, many more present cogent, accurate corrections.

    This kind of desperately wild swinging means they’re on the ropes, I think. Whoever the hell “they” are, anyway.

  20. I appreciate all those commenting on the factual inaccuracies in the WSJ at their website. We dob’r have a PR firm, but we have truth on our side.

  21. We are witnessing a collusion between the extraordinarily wealthy who see UVA as a potential profit center for private endeavors (on-line learning) and ultra conservative ideologies who want to gut the “liberal” from a liberal arts education. I believe that they are working together to give one another what each wants – money, philosophical control, power. Call me a crazy conspiracy theorist, but when the WSJ publishes a bit of tripe like this, you have to look for the common threads that place the very wealthy in the hands of the religious zealots and vice versa.

  22. I know, I’m giving into the conspiracy theories of this scandal that I’ve chided others for doing, but I’m coming to conclusion that UVa, as perhaps the most prominent and historically important PUBLIC institution of higher education in the nation, was targeted from the very beginning for this attack.

    By whom? Groups such as ACTA and other Koch Bros.-funded outlets, corporatists who have hijacked conservatism (at least the conservatism of Eisenhower and Reagan) and turned it into a vehicle for their agenda and politicians who want their money.

    And I’m mad as h*ll about

  23. In response to Isaac Wood, and with all due respect, the Dean that the piece referred to is Carl Zeithaml of the Commerce School, the person selected by the BOV to be the interim President. Of course, the WSJ neglected to mention that is maybe why he didn’t sign the letter.

  24. Actually, Sean, both you and Isaac are right. What the WSJ wrote was this:

    Tellingly, the one dean who didn’t sign the letter runs Virginia’s graduate business school—perhaps because the protestors are vilifying the trustees as wealthy corporate scoundrels who shouldn’t have a say in how a public university is run.

    The graduate business school is, of course, Darden, not McIntire, and the dean of that school is Bruner, not Zeithaml. Bruner did sign the letter, despite the editorial’s claim that he did not. But, Sean, you are right that they probably meant the undergraduate commerce school dean, which is where they go from a (potential) mistake to a distortion, having failed to mention that he was not asked to sign the letter because it would have put him in an awkward position.

  25. Waldo is right. The WSJ could care less about influencing the outcome of this. They are simply interested in leveraging a current controversy to advance their own nationally-scaled narrative. In fact, they’ve actually managed to contort the Sullivan ouster into no less than three of their favorites:

    1. Leftist academia not understanding how the real world works. Dragas plays the part of the business-minded realist trying to talk sense into a “sociologist” and her cadre of liberals (who are probably just indoctrinating their students, anyway).

    2. Unions protecting their own self-interest. With the Walker meme reaching the end of its useful life, WSJ wants to stoke this fire a little. This is why broader community and alumni opposition to the whole ordeal is omitted. It’s presented purely as a vested interest issue.

    3. People who are financially successful being blamed for stuff (a.k.a. they only hate us because we are successful).

    But I believe facts do matter, even strategically. Of course, the loyal WSJ readers will see these stories and not bother to look at reality (who has the time?). But the WSJ has just lost some credibility in the minds of a number of Virginians, across the political spectrum, who even have the slightest understanding of the issue.

  26. New statement by UVA’s Council of Foundations, “speaking as individuals,” and in-state newspaper editorials, those are better stories of the day.

  27. At the end of last week, I had come to the conclusion that Dragas was probably manipulated by certain wealthy, influential donors who didn’t want to get their own hands dirty with Sullivan’s dismissal.

    After reading the WSJ piece, and some other politically motivated websites, though, I am beginning to consider the possibility that the decision was politically motivated — perhaps not by McDonnell but by Romneyites. Read Romney’s views on what should happened with higher education.

    Quite curious, too, that he plans a visit to Virginia tomorrow.

  28. Following your twitter, but not a participant in that technology, I can only comment here: ‏@cvillenewscom
    Here’s the big mystery that remains: Who did Dragas intend to replace Sullivan with? You *know* she had somebody picked out.

    There was reporting (WashPo) that the coup leaders wanted one of their own, Ed Miller (the ex officio BOV member, CEO from JHU Health).

    “The board has called a special meeting Monday to name an interim president, weeks ahead of the original schedule, in a bid to calm the campus. Dragas had lined up a candidate, Edward Miller, an ex-officio board member and former chief executive of Johns Hopkins Medicine, before Sullivan’s departure was announced. But now the board is reconsidering that choice.”

  29. If things go wrong tomorrow, will the students, staff, and faculty consider occupying Madison against the takeover?

  30. Elux Troxl

    I hope so and they would be joined by community, alums, donors, ad parents, many of whom were behind the Rally for Honor on the Lawn yesterday. Many of those people are itching to bump up the level of protesting, civil but louder.

    If reason does not prevail on the BOV Meeting Tuesday, the gentility and southern passive protesting , I hope, is over and then despite, the outcome there, we start to look like Madison Wisconsin, and occupying Madison Hall will only be one of many strategies to move the BOV, and Governor to do the right thing. “From Madison to Madison”

    So much easier to just reinstate Sullivan. Everyone wins. McDonnell doesn’t have a political mess to clean up.

  31. @NewReality
    I think you are on the right track. Given the level of incompetence displayed by various principals, I have a hard time believing there is some kind of coordinated effort here, which targeted Sullivan months ago as way of promoting some shadowy national agenda. I think its far more likely that the WSJ, like Morici in his own piece, is simply exploting the event opprtunistically to advance their own, otherwise unrelated agendas. If there is collusion, it’s more like that of carrion-eaters gathering around a creature in distress, hoping to feed.

  32. Here are some talking points to keep in mind when discussing UVa’s funding and its status as a “public” university:

    • In 1984-85, the state’s share of UVa’s overall budget, which includes the Medical Center and the College at Wise, was 28%; the state portion for the academic division (UVa’s undergrad and grad programs here in C’ville) was 35%.

    • In 2001-02, the contribution from the state was 13% overall and 21% for the AD.

    • In 2011-12, state contribution overall was 5.8%; AD was 9.7%. Yep, the state’s share of UVa’s budget for all its units is now less than 6%, and for its undergrad and graduate programs, less than 10%.

    • The overall decline in state spending on UVa from 2001-02 to 2011-12 was a staggering 54% (AD 53%).

    These data are on UVa’s website at:

    I sometimes muse on this question: how little can a state pay for its so-called “public” institutions of higher education and still get away with calling them “public”? 4%? 3%? 2%? 0.005%? (It gets to be like homeopathy…)

    In table form:

    UVa budget All units (AD+ hosp+Wise) Acad. div. only
    1984-85 27.9% 34.8%
    2001-02 12.7% 20.6%
    2011-12 5.8% 9.7%

    Overall decline from 2001-02 to 2011-12: -54%

    Available at:

  33. Well, if I’ve learned one thing being around UVa this last decade, it is how much Hoos love love LOVE their traditions. Which gave me a thought…

    Who’s up for streaking the lawn tomorrow – say around 3pm?

    /remember kids, a protest is always more effective when it is fun and/or hilarious.

  34. GT Shin — who I didn’t know before — is my favorite smart guy. I love the deeds and the words.

    Keep it a-comin’.

  35. Coy Barefoot just reported – votes to reinstate are not yet there but his sources say they are close with 2 undecided

  36. What are the odds of probability that in the near future this summer, UVa ends up without either its president or a board of visitors? Not that of course that could even happpen.

  37. @Frankly Pseudo asking “what are the odds?”

    I can’t think of any scenario where UVa comes out undamaged for the next three or so years, no matter what happens in the BOV on Tuesday, whom the governor appoints by July 1, and whom the BOV elects as their new leadership.

    That’s the tragedy. Most of the damage has already been done — though we can’t see all of the consequences and their depths yet — and it has been reckless and completely avoidable by following normal rules and sensibilities.

  38. “/remember kids, a protest is always more effective when it is fun and/or hilarious.”

    Yes, if only the Montgomery Bus Boycott had been a little more impish. Imagine what they could have accomplished …

  39. Re:@Betty: I can’t understand why they’re two votes short. Who on the BOV would be undecided at this point? And what principles or set of facts would the undecided members be focusing on to keep them on the fence? And why would the vote even be close if the BOV was as abused and clueless as we’ve been led to believe?

  40. I have no idea and the fact that it is still undecided at this late hour, as reported by Coy Barefoot, quoting sources he is in touch with, is baffling and extremely disturbing. Even the Darden Board Foundation is calling for her reinstatement.

    The closeness says to me, money is very powerful in our country.

  41. Remember, we were warned from the outset that “Helen has this well in hand.” And that was before Hill & Knowlton.

    I am less disturbed by the puff pieces that H & K has been able to get into the Post and the News Leader. Those papers are almost obliged to print what a nice person the Rector is as a balast against claims that their otherwise critical reporting is biased.

    I do, however, share the concern with what H & K is doing with Fox and WJS to distort the national story, which will in any event damage the University.

    Remember the first season of Mad Men? It actually was Hill & Knowlton who came up with the idea of creating the Tobacco Research Council to fund the research proving that tobacco is not a health hazard. By their deeds shall you know them.

  42. I sometimes muse on this question: how little can a state pay for its so-called “public” institutions of higher education and still get away with calling them “public”? 4%? 3%? 2%? 0.005%? (It gets to be like homeopathy…)

    Great metaphor, Jane! I’ll be using that for years to come. :)

    GT Shin — who I didn’t know before — is my favorite smart guy. I love the deeds and the words.

    I’m with you, RTW. It’s folks like GT that cause total strangers to compliment me on what they’ve read here. They often forget that it’s the clever, informed folks posting useful comments, and come to believe it was me who wrote something brilliant. I confess that I do not always disabuse them of that notion. :)

    What are the odds of probability that in the near future this summer, UVa ends up without either its president or a board of visitors?

    Frank, I was chewing that over on the drive home after work. I’ve been thinking of this as something with two possible outcomes: Sullivan stays, or Dragas stays. But, of course, there are at least four: Sullivan stays, Dragas goes; Dragas stays, Sullivan goes; both of them go; both of them stay. Right now, 16 hours out, I think all of those possibilities seem equally realistic.

    the fact that it is still undecided at this late hour, as reported by Coy Barefoot, quoting sources he is in touch with, is baffling and extremely disturbing. Even the Darden Board Foundation is calling for her reinstatement.

    Betty, I felt the same way about surveys in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Polls in the first couple of days of November would be all about these “undecided” voters, and I had to wonder who these morons were who hadn’t made their mind up between Bush and Kerry or Obama and McCain. The contrasts between the candidates were so very sharp, the issues so relevant, that it looked (especially in 2004) as if the outcome of the race was going to depend on idiots.

    That’s precisely how I feel about any member of the BOV is truly undecided at this point.

  43. @RTW and Waldo, Thanks for the kind words. This is a wonderful forum in which to participate and hear others’ thoughts, which display wonderful depth, passion, and nuance.

  44. RTW, that question about Kington is very salient. The charitable side of me posits that it’s because he realized how deeply suckered he was, and that he had been so compromised as a leader that it was the honorable thing to do. That would be supported by his statement:

    “In order to better serve this university which I love and respect, and to help bring about new leadership on the board of visitors at this critical time, I am resigning my position as vice rector and as a board member effective immediately. I believe that this is the right thing to do and I hope that it will begin a needed healing process at the university.”

    Of course, it’s a pretty vague statement, and only begs the question of why new leadership was needed. If my speculation is accurate, then the honorable and courageous thing to do would have been to stand up to Dragas, demand a new meeting and vote, work as hard as he could to reinstate Sullivan, and then resign.

    I would give a lot to know exactly why he resigned. It could very well provide the smoking gun. I wonder that he still remains silent. Doing so only reinforces the case that he and Dragas considered their serial, clandestine meetings with individual BOV members official executive business and thus “protected”, thereby proving they deliberately subverted the official process.

    Speaking up would be very hard, and probably cost him personally, but that’s why I also believe it’s his best and only chance to achieve any sort of redemption. After all, when faced with an Honor offense, coming clean before being accused is regarded as a perfect defense.

  45. Vice Rector Kington serves with Dragas on the Board of Dominion Resources (VA Power). He also has served on the BoV since 2005. His buddy, Dracas, followed him to the BoV in 2010. These professional boarders (feeders?)support each other and often recommend each other for positions on other boards. The big change here is that Kington resigned and can not vote to support Dragas. He can only lobby behind the scenes with the other board members. He wielded a great deal of power as shown by the fact that he was elected V Rector which usually leads to being a future Rector. I doubt seriously if anyone can know exactly how the vote will tally because somebody may be offered a new board position tonight, either a position of leadership on the BoV or a position on a different board altogether. These people travel in rarefied circles and symbiotic relationships are often formed, relationships that are necessary for their continued grasp on power.
    However, I would like to speculate, after reading the Post link detailing the members of the board, that the vote will be 10 to 5 in favor of Sullivan even if it means the resulting lessening of the power the BoV now holds.

  46. I hope the BOV does the right thing tomorrow. On the other hand, the best reading of UVA crisis is The Wire–Baltimore–
    D.C.–Richmond–same neighborhood. So who is Clay Davis and so on.?

    It would be good if this was not partisan and as far as I know privatizing the army, prisons etc. has been bipartisan. Waldo nails it but this proxy is about finding a way to make for profit what is left of public entities–not many left.

  47. GT Says:

    “Of course, it’s a pretty vague statement, and only begs the question of why new leadership was needed. If my speculation is accurate, then the honorable and courageous thing to do would have been to stand up to Dragas, demand a new meeting and vote, work as hard as he could to reinstate Sullivan, and then resign.”

    It would have made their next Dominion Power Board meeting and cocktail hour so awkward and we couldn’t have that now could we?

  48. “Yes, if only the Montgomery Bus Boycott had been a little more impish. Imagine what they could have accomplished …”

    Yes, because clearly the power struggles of our local bourgeoisie are on par with the civil rights movement. Forgive my impudence, I had completely forgotten where the center of the universe lay.

  49. @RTW: Zeithaml adamantly excluded himself from any consideration for the Presidency in 2009-2010. He made it abundantly clear ot all involved that he had no interest whatsoever. FYI.

  50. From today’s Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star:

    House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford–who graduated from UVa. Law in 1967–said he, too, thinks Sullivan should be reinstated.

    “I don’t think it was handled properly,” Howell said. “I do think it would calm things down, and she has three years left on her contract, and see how it goes.”

    Howell said he doesn’t think the legislature needs to step in at this point–particularly because today’s meeting could go a long way toward resolving things–but he does think university boards, and other state boards, need to clarify that they can’t make big decisions like firing a university president without full meetings.

    “It seems to me that basically two people convened an executive committee” to make the decision, Howell said. “That’s wrong, and that ought to be in their operating procedures and their bylaws. I don’t think it takes the General Assembly to tell them they need to do this.”

  51. One thing that some may well have overlooked (that may or may not be salient to the discussion): the General Assembly is charged with approving the BOV appointments made by the Governor.

    In this instance, if McDonnell chooses to re-appoint Dragas (and he will need to do so on or by this coming Sunday), her appointment will still need to be vetted by the General Assembly. If the General Assembly does not approve her appointment, she will be unable to serve a second term.

    This leads to the question of timing. The General Assembly does not reconvene again until January. Is any reader here familiar with what means are used for members to cast their vote for appointment/non-appointment of BOV members? If there is dissention regarding the appointments suggested by the Governor, will he be required to call a special meeting to deliberate the appointments? Most importantly, what happens between July 1 (when the appointment period begins) and January when the General Assembly meets?

  52. She’s a star and this wil be a great loss if the BOV fails to reinstate her.
    Front page of Washington Post :

    “From the start, Sullivan outlined what she called “Sullivan’s laws”: Never surprise an administrator. Never punish the messenger. Don’t hide bad news; meet it head-on. People and time are our greatest resources; don’t waste them. When dealing with a difficult matter, don’t leave anyone out, or else be prepared for fallout. ”

  53. @truth to power
    Yes, it would. Unfortunately, I would not be surprised if that level of consideration is a factor. Personal connections. Personal psychology. How powerfully they prey on the decisons of the mighty. You know what would be amazing? If their intial decision to emabrk on this little jaunt went something like this:

    If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
    It were done quickly: if th’ assassination
    Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
    With his surcease success; that but this blow
    Might be the be-all and the end-all — here,
    But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
    We’ld jump the life to come. But in these cases
    We still have judgment here, that we but teach
    Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
    To plague the inventor.This even-handed justice
    Commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice
    To our own lips. He’s here in double trust;
    First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
    Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
    Who should against his murderer shut the door,
    Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
    Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
    So clear in his great office, that his virtues
    Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
    The deep damnation of his taking-off;
    And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
    Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubins, horsed
    Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
    Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
    That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur
    To prick the sides of my intent, but only
    Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
    And falls on the other —

    Enter LADY [MACBETH].
    How now? what news?

    He has almost supp’d: why have you left the chamber?

    Hath he ask’d for me?

    Know you not he has?

    We will proceed no further in this business:
    He hath honour’d me of late; and I have bought
    Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
    Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
    Not cast aside so soon.

    Was the hope drunk
    Wherein you dress’d yourself? Hath it slept since?
    And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
    At what it did so freely? From this time
    Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
    To be the same in thine own act and valour
    As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
    Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,
    And live a coward in thine own esteem,
    Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would,”
    Like the poor cat i’ the adage?

    Prithee, peace!
    I dare do all that may become a man;
    Who dares do more is none.

    What beast was’t, then,
    That made you break this enterprise to me?
    When you durst do it, then you were a man;
    And, to be more than what you were, you would
    Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
    Did then adhere, and yet you would make both:
    They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
    Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
    How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me:
    I would, while it was smiling in my face,
    Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums,
    And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you
    Have done to this.

    If we should fail?


    We fail!
    But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
    And we’ll not fail.

    I’ll leave it to the reader to decide who played which role.

  54. Like many others around the University, I too was apprised of “Sullivan’s Laws” following her arrival at UVA. The one that appears to stand out the most in light of the fiasco of the last two+ weeks is:

    “When dealing with a difficult matter, don’t leave anyone out, or else be prepared for fallout.”

    Would that Ms. Dragas, et. al. was aware of this simple, basic law of business and leadership, perhaps we might not be where we are today.

    As this entire event constitutes a consummately teachable moment, let us hope that Ms. Dragas reads the Post article referenced above.

  55. Have you seen the latest from the WSJ? Apparently, they don’t even know how to spell.

    Not at all sure that this is a simple case of piling on, rather than a coordinated attack. Two editorials in such a short period of time, with the lastest one referencing Morici’s claims?

  56. the board just voted unanimously to reinstate President Sullivan, as heard on WTJU.

  57. Dragas still must resign for the shame, dishonor, discord and turmoil she brought upon the University….

  58. Actually, cvillenews has the facts wrong. Three members of the board did meet to accept Sullivan’s resignation, but they did it with the express support of all but one board member, who declined to give his opinion on the matter. Regardless of how the situation was handled, Dragas and the two others did not simply force Sullivan to resign on their own. The entire board was behind her, and they acted in what they truly believed was the best interest of the university. Dragas has held strong on her position, and has not spoken a single bad word about Sullivan throughout the entire process, although Dragas herself has been relentlessly criticized and rumors have been spread. Now, all eyes will be on Sullivan to see if she can truly perform and address the very real concerns facing UVa.

  59. Anna, dear, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

  60. Anna strikes me as a likely PR hack doing ‘image restoration’ for the Rector. Go back into now-dormant threads and have the last word leaving the client in a favorable light. Years from now googlers who stumble upon these accounts and read the last few comments may be left with the impression that, well, yes, in the end Dragas WAS justified and acted with all due decorum and propriety, etc… Gotta earn the rest of that retainer..
    Closing comments might be one way to go.

  61. Worth disproving Anna:

    1. After the resignation Dragas listed the issues Sullivan had failed to address satisfactorily. This is what so appalled former Pres. O’Neill, the most prominent early opponent. The whole point of a resignation instead of a firing is that you do not snipe at each other.

    2. “It quickly became clear that Dragas and her allies had portrayed the board’s view as unanimous when in fact some members were supportive of the president,” says Robert McCartney in the WP today.

    3. All eyes are not on Sullivan. Board appointments and governance are the top topic this week. The governor had earlier promised to make his appointments before July 1, but now says it may be later.

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