Sullivan Wins

In a unanimous vote, the Board of Visitors rescinded Teresa Sullivan’s resignation and returned her employment as the president of the University of Virginia to its five-year contract. In another unanimous vote held immediately afterwards, the BOV passed a vote of confidence for Rector Helen Dragas who started the whole mess. Sullivan remains president, and Dragas now has the political clearance for a re-appointment to her seat on July 1. A cheering crowd of thousands greeted Sullivan as she emerged from the brief BOV meeting, who gave a short speech. After joining in for the first verse of the Good Old Song, the cheerful throngs dissipated.

62 thoughts on “Sullivan Wins”

  1. @ belmont yo, thanks for the live stream link in the other thread! I wouldn’t have known it was available, otherwise.

    I also agree with your observation about the complexion of the room, not only with regards to diversity, but also the utter pallor of the remarks and overall tone. Bloodless! Feckless!

    I am overjoyed that President Sullivan has been reinstated, and look forward to seeing her wield what must be the most political clout any UVa President has had in some time, but as for the rest of that farce they called a meeting…fah!

    A great deal has been made of the term “honor” in all this, but the source of honor is integrity, and I believe that is still in very scant supply. That wasn’t a meeting, it was the third act of a wretched and puerile morality play. It was a PR event. Just about every word spoken was scripted ahead of time, including Dragas’ point that she and Sullivan met before the meeting. And the rest of her speech…it was not an apology, not an owning up to her actions. It wasn’t even a defiant defense of her actions. It was a mewling, intellectually bankrupt attempt to save face. She actually took credit for UVa’s resounding, unified resistance and reaction to her actions as the reason that we know know how much we love the university in ways we never knew before. Unbelievable!

    And that vote! I have no doubt that some of the BOV did vote their conscience, but I am equally sure that others voted yes out of gutless expedience. I actually would have been much happier to see a split vote; at least that would have been some evidence of integrity, of standing by one’s convictions. But rather than the BOV taking the opportunity to publicly own up to their mistake indivdually, to state openly why each one had done what they had done, apologize, and state why they were now voting to support President Sullivan, they all just voted yes in resounding voices as though it were the simplest and most obvious thing in the world, as though they were the heroes in this little melodrama.

    I can’t even speak about the vote of confidence for Dragas at the end.

    Oh, well. At least one critical question has been resolved. Yay!

  2. Is it now the self-interests of the co-conspirators (known, confessed, posited, and speculated) to speak (truthfully or not) or to remain silent?

    Will we see statements from the likes of Jones and Kiernan, or will they just slink away? Will they speak with their wallets?

    If Dragas is re-appointed, will she be re-elected Rector? Or would she refuse? If not her, then who is the leading candidate?

    When will a new Vice-Rector be elected? Who will it likely be?

  3. It appears that the One Ring has been unmade… Attempts to contact Rector Dragas at her offices at Mordor Construction were unsuccessful. As a conciliatory gesture, President Sullivan was hosting a backyard barbecue for the BOV at what is still her residence at Carrs Hill – an informed source reported the the menu included a choice of Crow or Humble Pie….

  4. The one thing all sides agreed on going into this meeting was that the process for removing Sullivan fell somewhere between insufficiently transparent and deplorably opaque. How do they resolve the issue of the public’s lack of faith? Why another secret meeting of course! Why sure they’ll observe the letter of the law and break it down into 20 or 30 private chit-chats but sure enough, they’ll walk into the Rotunda having fully and clearly resovled all the outstanding issues to their own satisfaction, if no one else’s. What a sham.
    Oh, and Dragas spoke of working together in the future with Sullivan as leaders of the University or some such nonsense, so clearly she’s had the re-appointment discussion with McDonnell already and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her stay on as Rector for another year. In fact its probably part of the deal making that led to today’s performance.

  5. Dragas made a very good tactical retreat. Not to be trusted, even if she is not re-appointed.

  6. Bravo ! And many many sincere thanks to all in this comments section,and other online dialogues, Thanks to Waldo for the background and analysis thru out these two weeks.Thanks again to all.
    A special acknowledgement to Ms Annemarieangelo for her early revelation about the online aspect of perhaps the reasons behind this the fiasco, and her suggestion of the investment firms and the certain individuals who may be involved.

  7. In light of the result, I am willing to suspend the ascription of evil intent pending further developments.

    I am proud to be a member of this virtual community that is UVa, and hope this will be a long-remembered lesson in the right way and the wrong way of exploring new concepts in higher education.

    Thanks to Waldo, and thanks also to the folks at the Cav Daily. Their FOIA request and subsequent work really shed important light on the things done in secret and helped pave the way for this result.

  8. In what healthy public University would a Rector be able to pull off the clandestine removal of the President without presenting the public with charges, and assembling the full Board for a hearing (and vote)? Why should the public trust a “vote of confidence” from a Board so ethically compromised?

    The University of Virginia deserves a better Board of Visitors. These people are dangerous.

  9. Walter R Mead and Glenn Reynolds, two academics who have done quite a bit of thinking on this issue seem to generally agree with the Board’s initial vision while commenting on how their tactics undermined the effort. Mead in particular suggests that Sullivan’s slow walk will doom UVA to an eventual budget crisis. In short, change is coming to the academic industry (MIT and Stanford leading the way) regardless of how many conspiracy theories about private interests (are they worse then the fiefdoms some professors and Deans run?) and cloak and dagger ideas some get.

  10. I agree with Robert. Such lack of integrity and principle among so many is troubling. A split vote would have at least let them maintain the appearance of having a rational basis to do what they did.

    Well, as someone else said, this will provide *many* teachable moments for the students in the years to come.

    Thanks Waldo, Cav Daily and all those who were posting here and elsewhere. It’s been great reading and learning.

  11. Ok, even though President Sullivan’s statement is a huge win, I am still really, really angry. This is very perplexing. So, let’s recap:

    1. Dragas decides President Sullivan is not doing something enough. (What, exactly that is, is still unclear. How she came to this determination is also unclear, but it seems to involve reading at least a few articles in the NY Times.)

    2. Dragas then does not tell Sullivan that she is not doing something enough. Repeatedly.

    3. Dragas receives a detailed memo from Sullivan describing a strategic approach to address complex and inter-related problems at UVa, based on months of work consulting with the “Provost, the Chief Operating Officer, deans, and other key personnel”. Dragas then does not share this memo with the board.

    4. Dragas then colludes with Kington and non-BOV member Kiernan to conduct a series of clandestine meetings with individual Visitors to garner their support to force Sullivan out for not doing whatever it was she wasn’t telling Sullivan she wasn’t doing. This takes months, over which time Dragas continues to not tell Sullivan that anything is amiss.

    5. Dragas and Kington carefully avoid talking with three Board members who are widely believed to have been enthusiastic Sullivan supporters, and therefore unlikely to go along with such a subversive action.

    6. Dragas lies to the Governor, saying that she has the BOV’s unanimous support for ousting Sullivan.

    7. Dragas and Kington begin composing the announcement of Sullivan’s resignation a week before arranging a surprise, informal visit to Sullivan late on a Friday afternoon to inform her they have the votes to force her out. Stunned, Sullivan agrees to resign to save the University embarrassment.

    8. Dragas then calls an emergency meeting for the following Sunday morning for an event she knew was going to occur at least a week in advance with complete disregard for the notice requirements as stipulated in the BOV Manual

    SECTION 2.34 NOTICE OF MEETINGS—Due notice in writing of the Annual Meeting and all regular meetings and of any changes in the dates, times, or places of a regular meeting shall be given by the Secretary of the Board of Visitors. Such written notice shall be sent at least ten days prior to the meeting. Written notice of all special meetings shall be sent by the Secretary at least five days in advance of the meeting. (Emphasis mine)

    So, either Dragas knew this and chose to disregard it, or she was acting in ignorance of the Manual. Coincidentally, the three prominent Sullivan supporters are unable to attend.

    9. In fact, only three board members are able to attend to accept Sullivan’s resignation, which is far below the requisite 2/3 needed to do so as stipulated by the BOV’s Manual.

    SECTION 4.21 ELECTION—The President shall be elected by the Board of Visitors and may be removed only by assent of two-thirds of the whole number of Visitors.

    Now, while she may have garnered such assent informally, Dragas never convened a meeting of the board, which Sullivan would have been expected and required to attend, again as stipulated in the Section 4.21 of the BOV Manual.

    The President shall attend all meetings of the Board and shall have notice of and the privilege of attending all meetings of its committees.

    So, again, either Dragas deliberately disregarded these rules or was completely ignorant of them.

    10. Dragas’ announcement of Sullivan’s resignation sets off a firestorm of protest, resulting in several actions unprecedented in UVa’s history, including a vote of no confidence by the Faculty Senate, Kiernan’s resignation from the Darden Board, Kington’s resignation from the BOV, and massive demonstrations by students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

    11. Dragas hires a PR firm at $750 an hour to control the fallout, which fails miserably and only serves to make her case even more transparently insupportable. (Can we FOIA the final bill?)

    12. The end result of Dragas’ subversive, illegal and/or incompetent actions is to force the board to meet in special session and reverse themselves publically while streaming live with thousands and thousands of people watching for the first time in UVa history, reinstating Sullivan.

    13. In conclusion, the BOV votes unanimously to express its confidence in Dragas.

    Now I know why I am angry. In reinstating Sullivan’s presidency, the BOV redressed a grievous error, but instead of following up the first motion with a second one calling for Dragas’ resignation, they let her get away with it. By expressing unanimous confidence in Rector Dragas, they utterly failed to hold accountable the chief agent responsible for that error, and made themselves accessories in the process.

    So, either the confidence vote was a cowardly attempt to present the world with a veneer of integrity, or they really, truly don’t understand that what Dragas did was wrong.

    SECTION 2.4 POWERS AND DUTIES—The powers and duties conferred upon the Board are to be exercised for the purpose of carrying into effect the Statement of Institutional Purpose contained in Chapter 1.
    The major powers and duties are
    1 the preservation of the ideals and traditions of the University and particularly encouragement of the maintenance of the Honor System by the student body(…)


    The central purpose of the University of Virginia is to enrich the mind by stimulating and sustaining a spirit of free inquiry directed to understanding the nature of the universe and the role of mankind in it. Activities designed to quicken, discipline, and enlarge the intellectual and creative capacities, as well as the aesthetic and ethical awareness, of the members of the University and to record, preserve, and disseminate the results of intellectual discovery and creative endeavor serve this purpose. In fulfilling it, the University places the highest priority on achieving eminence as a center of higher learning.

    While Dragas’ actions were reprehensible, the Board’s constitute a massive failure of governance and responsibility.

  12. I was just thinking oh, God, I think I need to write up a recap of all of this for Then I saw GT’s comment. Yet again, you’re rendering me totally unnecessary here. So I’m just going to tweet a link to your comment, watch an episode of “Bob’s Burgers,” and go to bed. Keep it up and this place will run itself.

  13. Rector, from Latin, itself from rectus, past participle of regere ‘to direct’

    rēctus m. (feminine rēcta, neuter rēctum); first/second declension

    1.ruled, having been ruled, governed, having been governed
    2.guided, having been guided, steered, having been steered
    5.proper, honest

  14. Random observations:

    * Given the two unanimous votes and the highly scripted nature of the meeting, this must have been known to be the outcome for at least a few days, perhaps as far back as last week, when this meeting was called.
    * The hug. Can you imagine the same thing occurring if either or both of them were men? Just something to think about.
    * Will he or won’t he? McDonnell, that is. If he reappoints her, I’m going to interpret that as a sign that he was in on this. If he doesn’t, I’m going to interpret that as a sign that he was not (or, if he was, that he was misled by Dragas in the manner that some of the BOV members apparently were).
    * If Dragas is reappointed, is it possible that she could be re-elected Rector?
    * Who will be elected Vice Rector?
    * Is there anybody who actually believes that vote of confidence was anything other than total bullshit?
    * Are we pretending that the problem is solved now? (As GT Shin explains.) Dragas is still Rector. Nothing has changed.

  15. Yet…

    I believe in the power of human nature, or, as Will put it:

    Now does he feel
    His secret murders sticking on his hands;
    Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach;
    Those he commands move only in command,
    Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title
    Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe
    Upon a dwarfish thief.

    Macbeth, 5:2

  16. @GT Shin@Waldo,@Kevinl Lynch et al….Mr Jefferson (in his grave) with a sigh of satisfaction reflects that there is wisdom still and critical thinking yet remain on The Grounds and on the web of community. I can now roll back over and get a good nights seep !

  17. I can only hope that having the excellent higher ed contract attorney she retained, that Sullivan is walking back into this with more protection than it seems like she is. I wonder who provides legal representation for the bov- who has Sullivan’s attorney been working with?

    Seems possible to me that McD and the bov have prearranged for Dragas not to be reappointed, thus saving face for everyone with the vote of confidence and show of “unity” but satisfying Sullivan’s demand.

    I echo everyone’s appreciation for the analysis here! I come back to check on the comments frequently.

    I must say I feel a little sad for Sullivan, wondering how the bov will treat her going forward. Will the sharks circle for the remaining three years of her contract? Is she going to have to push bov priorities that she does not believe in, even as half measures? will she be held responsible for existential threats beyond her control? she comes back with a lot of political capital from below, but her situation doesn’t seem that great from above.

  18. Something to more to parse. I wonder if it’s part of the second wave of spin.

    I know nothing of these things, but the “Bain” jumped out at me and I’m interested in what those who are better informed than me think.

    “Another key reform would be to reclaim academics as a top priority. Administrative expenses have grown faster than instruction on many campuses. In 2009, the consulting firm Bain & Company identified $112 million in annual savings just within the business operations at the University of California, Berkeley.”

  19. Speculation aside … I think there will be scrutiny of the minutes of the BoV going forward … by many astute analysts. This is not over, as has been said by others. Teresa Sullivan is smarter than any visitor, and I have confidence in her ability to pursue the strategic approach she outlined in May. She has more backing than any President of UVa has ever had, and it may be amazing what she can accomplish in her next three years. A huge contingent will be watching her back.

  20. Last week I wrote the entire BOV, the Governor, all of my elected state representatives, and Sullivan. I asked for Sullivan to be reinstated and for Dragas to resign and issue a brief apology.

    I’m going to write another letter. Dragas remaining on the BOV is bullshit. She is a disgrace and it is wrong for her to remain.

  21. want to thank Heywood Fralin profusely for the character he displayed and his efforts over the course of this episode. The reticence and humility he displayed today are characteristic; but it is my strong impression that, without his actions, today’s meeting would never have occurred.

    The term “Virginia Gentleman” is antiquated to some and, deservedly, carries both positive and negative connotations. Mr. Fralin has pulled those two words into the 21st Century in a manner that should make us all proud.

  22. I think it must be obvious to all that the show of unity is a good faith effort to maintain some semblance of respect for the BOV, instead of removing anyone. I wonder if the thinking went along the lines that the worse the trainwreck, the greater damage to all potential UVA supporters. Watching yesterday’s announcement, I get the sense that everyone in the room was relieved to have survived the whole calamity. President Sullivan has demonstrated incredible grace under fire.

    I agree with Waldo, McDonnell’s actions will be telling. Surely there must be a change in the BOV, I am waiting, but think that less invective is better.

  23. Technology is just a means of automating existing processes. What many people, including this BOV, don’t get is that the process must come before the technology. In other words, what is the function of online clasess? What is it meant to do? Are there ways to get there without the technology first?

    In this case, if the goal is to allow more people to access UVa then why not make UVa more friendly to non-traditional students? Core classes should be offered at night, and anyone should be able to come back for a second degree (just like you can at almost any other public University). It would also make a huge amount of sense to partner more with PVCC. It seems pointless to make UVa accessible to more people virtually until they make these kinds of reforms in real-life. Oh, and they should reinstitute educational credits for all employees.

    Did I mention that non-traditional students often have money and are willing to pay? Why doesn’t UVa want our money? Why do so many of us have to go to Virginia Tech, VCU, or JMU instead of using the university in out own backyard?

  24. Dirt Worshipper these are excellent comments. I believe partnering more with PVCC would be a huge benefit.

  25. If the unanimous votes were worked out ahead of time, and no BOV meetings were announced, then didn’t someone have one-on-one meetings to gauge and/or rally support? And if so, isn’t that just as bad as the one-on-one meetings held to build support for ousting President Sullivan in the first place?

    I suspect I’m over-simplifying, but I want to be sure we don’t simply feel that the end justifies the means … because that seems to be what Dragas thought to begin with.

  26. “Oh, and they should reinstitute educational credits for all employees.”

    Ha ha ha. Yeah, they should, but they won’t. The administration doesn’t care about the employees. Honestly, if you fall into the non-administrative, bottom 80% of staff, you are a necessary pariah.

    Call me when there are 2000 people on the lawn because Frank from Facilities, who has spent 20 years fixing your AC, got done in in a shady way.

  27. “Oh, and they should reinstitute educational credits for all employees.”

    Perhaps for McYoga only. With co-branded merchandise (“Jois Ashtanga” and those darned V-Sabres) for sale on-site at the gyms.

    It’ll be for the good of the institution, of course, to “transform” itself and then all of higher education through implementation of contemplative “sciences” and yogic practices.

  28. @Kirsten,
    Good faith efforts of this kind are irrelevant. And I am not interested in a semblance of respect, I am interested in the much vaunted Board of Visitors living up to their charge and performing their duties in a truly respectable manner. It was Dragas’ working for the semblance of virtue that got us into this mess to begin with.

    Your trainwreck analogy is very apt, and probably not far from the BOV’s thinking. However, this train was already wrecked and you can’t unwreck it by telling the person who was not simply asleep at the switch, but who deliberately caused the wreck in the first place that you are sure they really had the best of intentions, pat her on the head and let her go back to manning the switch.

    Tom Snyder’s observation is a good one. The BOV essentially replicated Dragas’ behind-the-scene’s methods to reinstate Sullivan, but in doing so also compounded the problem. Holding real deliberations in the full light of day would not have caused greater damage, it would have begun to fix the actual problem with the BOV, not just the effect. It has often been said during the past two weeks that the problem was a “lack of transparency”. That is certainly true, but it is not the root of the problem.

    So, why the opacity? Why not make act in an open and transparent manner? I can only believe that it is a lack of trust, or to build on your original terms, genuine faith in the efficacy of due process and in the capacity and intelligence of the others to understand and bring their best efforts to the endeavor. I surmise that it was precisely this lack of genuine faith in Sullivan which led Dragas to fail in her duties as Rector. The BOV’s same lack of faith in both themselves and the public compounded that failure by not openly holding her and others accountable for their actions.

    Of course, it is appropriate at times to have closed meetings, but in this case having secret deliberations to make decisions and then holding a patently artificial PR event to satisfy the public outcry does not reduce “damage to all potential UVA supporters”, it only compounds injury with insult and worse, leaves us all vulnerable to further harm.

  29. I’m reminded of my high school mathematics classes. If we just got the answer right, but didn’t show the process by which we arrived at the answer, we would not get any credit for a correct answer. It was important that we understood and were able to follow the process.

    I think we got the “right answer” yesterday, but we didn’t see a single bit of “process”. I don’t believe that I’ve ever witnessed a more tightly scripted meeting of a public meeting by a deliberative body in my life.

  30. G.T.,

    You say that good faith efforts of this type are irrelevant, and you are not interested. I am not certain that the kind of respect you ask for is a given next step for a board which would act in this fashion, and yes Howard, the meeting seemed, if not scripted, certainly not deliberative.

    I do think that the board’s decision was an attempt to both avoid a further trainwreck if you will, and to protect itself. I think G.T. is spot-on, that they definitely do not display trust in the stakeholders of the university, or faith in the system they are bound by, and those they sought to put trust in would only be stakeholders in a corporate context. That is telling. The following comment is worrisome, in terms of what it spells for future actions.

    “The BOV’s same lack of faith in both themselves and the public compounded that failure by not openly holding her and others accountable for their actions.”

    President Sullivan ended her talk to the crowd yesterday on the note that she and the world can be confident that she is not alone in what she seeks to do… and it is not time to lower the antennae, I think vigilance needs to be maintained.

  31. GT Shin – Your analysis has been very solid. Indeed, Dragas has behaved entirely dishonorably throughout this whole ordeal. Is it true that she did not share President Sullivan’s strategy memo with the board? I had not picked up on this before. If that is correct, that is truly reprehensible and it causes me to hold her in even lower estimation than before, if that is possible.

    Yes, the recent actions of the BOV do not pass the smell test. In my time in public office, one thing that I learned the hard way is that when a board makes bad decisions, it is not enough for them to correct themselves. The people who made the bad decisions must be removed or else you can be sure that they will continue to make bad decisions, but they will be better concealed next time. For my part, I am not going to let up on this until Dragas is gone. We cannot afford otherwise. Out, Out, Damn Spot!

    RTW – while I’m sure your comment was meant tongue-in-cheek, it reminds me of a point that Jon Stewart made Monday when Marco Rubio was on his show. Jon’s point (which went right over Rubio’s head) was that many republicans seem to have fairly reasonable opinions on matters that effect them personally, such as Rubio on immigration, Dick Cheney on LGBT issues and John McCain on torture. (Jon might have also added Nancy Reagan on stem cell research, Olympia Snow on a woman’s right to choose, Rush Limbaugh on drug treatment for addicts, etc. etc.). Yet on any issue that does NOT concern them personally, they tend to act like impetuous assholes. Why, its almost as if their entire world view is informed by a combination of deeply felt entitlement and hostility towards any Others who dont share their exact world view. This seems to me to be something that swing voters and maybe even a few of the remaining Eisenhower and Reagan republicans ought to ponder as we go into the upcoming election season.

    Which brings us to Paul “serious business” Jones, who apparantly cant countenance the thought of Virginia’s students wasting their precious study time and education dollars on frivolous subjects such as German and the Classics. Oh the Humanities! No! Paul wants more focus on the practical subjects! And By God, Paul’s gonna put his money where is mouth is! And so he funds … a basketball area! and a yoga center! Because, you know, these are Serious Academic Subjects. And, um.. Paul likes to watch a little hoops with his buds in the skybox, and uh,..he hopes to keep getting laid for a while. Jeez – No wonder that he gives money to republican candidates.

    Belmont Yo – This is not about President Sullivan. This is about whether Frank from Facilities is going to be able to afford a decent education for his kids or is he going to have to settle for sending them to some pseudo trade school where the overriding educational philosophy is fealty to the self dealing grifters who put our economy in the tank after we bailed out their gambling habits.

    Dont get me wrong – My parents did not have much money and I’ve been to trade school. Thanks to CATEC, I was able to make decent money working construction when I was in my late teens and 20s. If it wasnt for the generous education policies of Virginia in the 70s and 80s, I’d probably still be swinging a hammer (if I didnt blow out my elbows or knees by now). But luckily for me, Virginia DID invest in higher education 30 years ago. In State tuition at UVA was $650 a semester in 1980. Like many of my friends, I got student loans, Pell grants and worked part time, and so was able to pay my own way and graduate with very little debt. Now every year, the amount of Virginia Tax that I pay is roughly twice what I got in financial aid from Virginia. So not a bad investment for the State. But for some reason the State is unwilling to make this same investment for the next generation.

    This is what makes me the most angry about the current situation. Because Dragas and Kington and Kiernen all went to UVA around the same time that I did. They got the same quality education that I did at an extremely affordable price and they did quite well for themselves. Virginia’s higher education policies in the 70’s and 80’s are responsible for allowing a lot of us boomers to become middle class (or in some cases, extremely wealthy) But for some reason, instead of being grateful to the previous generation for giving us this opportunity, and wanting to do something of equal value to help the next generation, its all about us and maybe our own kids. Screw everyone else’s kids. The same is true for many in the State legislature. Many of the same Scrooges who refuse to fund higher higher education got a very affordable State education for themselves, if not at UVA, then at one of the many fine Virginia State schools. Now, they are happily screwing the next generation because God Forbid that we should suffer the terrible oppression of paying the same tax rates that our parents did. Somehow, when these legislators only paid $400 a semester in the 70’s and got generous financial aid, that was “them pulling themselves by their bootstraps” but if a graduating high school senior balks at paying over 25K per year IN STATE to go to UVA, well, those lazy kids just need to sack up and work 3 jobs or else borrow 100K so that they can graduate so deep in dept that they will be thankful for any work that they get. Well, at least it isnt the hunger games. So far, its just the Yoga games. But dont kid yourself about where these trends are headed.

  32. @blockhead – Wrecktor? Damn near killed her!

    Sorry, saw that and couldnt help myself. OK back to to work now.

  33. @Kevin
    Two sources for the claim that Dragas did not share SUllivan’s memo with the Board:
    A WaPo story which states that Dragas actually plagiarized Sullivan’s memo in drafting her own communication to the board:

    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.”

    Delegate Toscano’s statement

  34. Put Kevin Lynch on the BOV. You can nominate him here, right-hand column: Include the full text of his comment. Couldn’t hurt them to read it.

    GT Shin, don’t you know all memos belong to the boss! :) How else can they crib a performance review against you? They’re busy people!

  35. I was struck by this comment made by Rector Dragas yesterday:

    “It is unfortunate,” she told the board in the meeting, “that we had to have a near death experience to get here.”

    First, a few grammatical and usage notes: shouldn’t that be “near-death”? And what, exactly does that mean? Near-death for the University? Near-death for the Board? And what about “had to have”? Was this somehow required? Could we have gotten here–whatever “here” is–some other way?

    Note also the passive construction; to Dragas, it is as if someone–certainly not her and her cabal–had caused a hurricane and then lamented that the hurricane had happened. To Dragas and her briefly held majority of the Board, the hurricane was caused by the Fates or some other unseen force, not by their own actions, or to take a longer view, the Board of Visitors’ collective actions over the last several years during which they ineffectively addressed the problems they fired Sullivan for not fixing faster.
    Regardless of the merits of the case for dismissing Sullivan, the process and lack of transparency was stunningly amateurish and the proposed solution–find a super duper new president after several months of an interim presidency–little short of juvenile. The cabal in effect suggested that everything that is wrong with UVA could be corrected by a new leader who would, deus ex machina, fix all problems.

    It was a lazy (not our job to help find solutions to these tough problems), dilatory (nothing wrong with waiting several months to have someone on board who can fix these “existential” threats), and uncertain (we’ll find a new president and all will be well–what could possibly go wrong?) way to address the problems at hand. Dragas, as her case for the dismissal started sinking, attempted an apologetic explanation–the board, she said, had gone about doing the right thing in the wrong way. No, the board did the wrong thing in the wrong way, causing an unnecessary crisis and lasting damage to UVA and its reputation.

    Do Dragas and her cabal have any shame? We have to ask: As part of community that so values honor, why are you still in office?

  36. So it appears the very folks who the Board is supposed to be overseeing have nearly succeeded in a complete capture of it for their own interests, regardless of what the rest of the Commonwealth may or may not think. Well you folks own the problem now. Much like baby who has a stinky diaper on, you probably know it smells, but dammit, its warm and its yours, so no one should try changing you. Those who understand how the facade of higher ed will soon fall are going to eat UVA’s lunch.

  37. Pete, sweetheart, darling boy: you may have your own opinion, but not your own facts.

    Wow, these folks are suddenly turning out in droves, aren’t they?

    Drill down into the governor’s first statement & you see that he believes UVA exists to train people for jobs. TJ thought UVA exists to teach people to think for themsevles. Two very different goals. That discussion hasn’t explicitly occurred yet, but it needs to be the real conversation.

  38. When I take a moment for a breather and allow myself to ask about the context of this debacle I am reminded: We are in a period in which the rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class sliding into the poor column, the disparities between wealthy and poor have never been greater and the United States is one of the worst countries in this regard. According to Pro Publica, our area is one of the worst in terms of the disparity and has one of the highest concentrations of millionaires in the Country. Corporate Tax rates and taxes on the wealthy are the lowest in decades.

    Wall Street and CEOs with no sense of morality created the depression we are in now stretching back from Enron to AIG. (I love small and medium businesses and middle class people-don’t raise their taxes. Strategic and tactical tax hikes.)

    Our system of Government has been swallowed an polluted by the economy and the interests of the 1%. Decisions like Citizens United and the Garcetti Supreme Court case ensure that the forces of concentrated capital can purchase elections and politicians, attack all things public, and silence voices of opposition. Partisan issues start to fade here. It has become much more about class than about parties. The conservatives crow that these facts are just “class war” associating them with “bad Marxism,” “Socialists,” when in fact they are just facts and only some middle class people who are still duped by patriotic, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” fantasies. For some reason when they hear “raise taxes,” they think its their taxes being discussed when the real call is simply for corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share and contribute to the betterment of society as a whole. But the Fox news people spin so well.

    Reagan waved his magic Jedi wand and said higher education is a private good to be funded by private not public funds and we as a nation all believed him and went along with it, no push back. Then the politicians of both parties helped to create the biggest system of indentured servitude since the end of the Civil war-The student loan system.

    Democrat and Republican governors in Virginia have been stacking the BOV with wealthy, corporate board members as payoffs for campaign contributions-we don’t flinch or bat an eye. At the same time the politicians have been dancing to their corporate masters and keeping tax rates for the wealthy and corporations egregiously low for years. They have starved the public beast, blamed it on the “global competitive environment” and made out like robber barons. They have passed on college costs to students and parents, who now see the University as the enemy, not the state legislature that refuses to fully fund public institutions by taxing appropriately and fairly.

    When the beast is weakened by the anti-tax ideologues, they pick off a couple from the herd and the governing boards, full of the same privatizing, “everything exists in market of competition,” “survival of the fittest” ideologues and cannibals, go after the University Presidents and faculty, who are not used to playing politics or thinking strategically and who are isolated. Job for life… how unAmerican it seems. We are of course seeing this across the country. Everyone knows by now the Koch Brothers’ strategy and state by state Shermanesque march through the public institutions, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, the University of Oregon, University of Wisconsin, etc.

    How did we get here at UVA? Simple, middle class people have been sitting in a pot, the heat under which has been going up a degree or two every year. It’s boiling: real wages down, unemployment skyrocketed, health care costs up, student loans come due, tuition up. But in a Republic, you can’t just consume, you have to participate, not shy away from reasonable disagreement with our fellow citizens, and do more than vote.

    In the middle of all this are faculty and university presidents. Some university presidents and administrators just go along to get along. They dance to the conservative corporate tune of privatize and corporatize. They get large salaries, free housing, cars, jets, cooks, maids and corporate board spots as golden parachutes. They accept the fabrication that the “environment has changed” and we must be more competitive to survive, do more with less. They decide to forget about their profession and become bagmen for the boys upstairs. The stop asking the questions like” Why BOVs are you not collectively pushing back against the legislature when they defund the university little by little over the years? Is asking for a less regressive tax system really so heretical that it is never to be spoken? Some deans participate in this as well. Look carefully at the first responses to the Sullivan forced resignation by deans in the College, McIntyre, and at Curry for instance. They seemed very accommodating and welcoming of Dragas’ critiques and directions for the University. Maybe some have bought into the BOV vision. I hope they stop now to consider Sullivan’s vision.

    But then the Kochs Bros. and their friends Jones, Kiernan, etc. messed with the wrong marine in the form of the University of Virginia, a symbol of all things public. In their hubris they thought they could pull a fast one, a coup in the dark of night, at the Public University that is the symbol of everything that is the opposite of what they stand for, a place that prepares its students for the polis not only the market place. A place that prepares its students to think like citizens not merely consumers. They ran into a President who loves her profession and has some ethical standards who said no to the chain of command, who questioned authority! ( I want to beleive the Living Wage issue was one where Sulliva was forced to pick her battles under duress) Wrong qualifications for a President of a corporatized BOV. How did she slip by us they were probably asking themselves? Then they run into a faculty that has, traditionally kept quiet but had had enough and for the first time in a long while was not afraid to act in an not so gentile manner and speak out along with alums, students, community members who didn’t want to see their University, rich in tradition sold off. Perhaps the example of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria folded back to UVA.

    While this may not have been a conspiracy orchestrated by the Koch brothers on top (but maybe it was) the corporatized, consumerist environment in which we operate and allow ourselves to operate create conditions conducive to Dragas’ little corporate power play; allowing them to test the waters to see how much and where they can get away with it. Where’s the next target? Should we help them figure out how to resist?

    To reinstate Sullivan, as @GT says in his very insightful analyses,and think we have solved the problem is ludicrous. Even Dragas’ resignation would be symbolic. When you line up the dominoes from Sullivan’s reinstatement back, the whole context has to be examined at every level from the legislature to the Governor to the BOV appointment process, to the president’s office to the Deans and department chair management and the solution is really a larger social movement to reclaim the public from the forces of privatization and economy. Eventually the students and staff and faculty at Berkeley started CALPIRG an interest and advocacy group to stay focused on issues of public interest Do we need VAPIRG?.

    I hope UVA becomes the center of a movement to reclaim public higher education from the Koch brother’s plan to eliminate tenure and academic freedom as one of the last remaining institution as in a system of checks and balances on the unmitigated power of raw capital and moneyed interests. The best Jefferson Quote I have seen in this whole episode was the one put forth by Courtney Stuart of the Hook:

    “I hope we shall,” wrote Jefferson, “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of their country.”

    I can’t think of a better place than the Rotunda to host a national meeting launching an offensive movement to clean up the politics of higher education and its governance.

    We have spent a lot of time looking up and back at this spectacle: The governor, the Legislature, the BOV. But what does it mean for UVA and @ Yo Belmont is on to something critical: Why should we tolerate a university that treats its staff and some faculty as poorly as the BOV treated President Sullivan.

    I hope she will take this opporunity to clean up the Plantation from Madison Hall to each college, school, and department. Ask staff and regular, average faculty what it looks like from their POV and then act on that information. End the top-down management by bullying and marginalization. Create a university where no one lives in fear of expressing their opinion and complaints. Implement shared governance at the school level. Address the University’s legacy of slavery and repair it in an honest way that rebuilds the trust with the African American community in this town and state. How about opeing up the university to real diversity. Where is the Native American Studies Dept for example?

    Some of the BOVs tried to bamboozle everyone into accepting their corporate definition of a “changing world.” Their definition is one of global competition, market place dominance, private wealth accumulation, and consumption. I think the real definition of the changing world is one of the increasing multicultural world, diversity, and the collaboration necessary to be a world citizen. This includes democratic interactions in the work place, collaboration in the global networked economy, and participation in the production and maintenance of the social and public good. Its one where the ethic of caring replaces the ethic of dog eat dog. Where unity and progress are achieved through diversity. We all know about the changing racial demographics in the country but we do nothing to prepare our students for that world. Maybe the world is changing in that way and that’s the type of environment President Sullivan should be leading us toward. Who knows?

    If she did these things, it would build a true model of Jeffersonian Democracy that would blow Cabell Hall right off its foundation and open up that limitless expanse of education and freedom that TJ envisioned looking out from the steps of the Rotunda. We would be the envy of the world and people would vie to contribute just to be a part of it. This episode has shown that we have the opportunity to transform the University into a global beacon of education for democracy not a cheap imitation of IVY league privates. We can be better than that if we get creative with TJ’s original intentions.

    Don’t give in to the press for the southern gentility of forgive and forget. Even President Sullivan said we should not sweep this under the carpet. The activism that started 2 weeks ago needs to continue on a daily basis, it has to become the norm not the exception. That’s when we will know we have gotten to the bottom of this story. We played nice, got the reinstatement but maybe that was only a bone and a way to buy our silence.

  39. Why do I feel that whatever of substance was in that long winded post could have been stated in about a tenth of the space or less?

    Honestly, no one in power would waste their time reading that mushy load of “truth.” Powerless me is sympathetic to what I suspect to be its point, but I can’t even be bothered to confirm my suspicions. Rants didn’t win this battle, well reasoned arguments did. Rants won’t win the next round either.

  40. Phew, ….. you sure juggled a lot the passed weeks herein along with a conference attended Waldo. I thank you along with everyone elses’ praise that you do deserve. At one point with the exception of 3 other different post entree topics, your blog was bleeding orange and blue through and through.

    Now what looks from here until to the fulfillment with the rest of three in five contractual years to go for UVa, President Sullivan will certainly have an undeniable image of operational strength.

    “…….. If he reappoints her, I’m going to interpret that as a sign that he was in on this. If he doesn’t, I’m going to interpret that as a sign that he was not (or, if he was, that he was misled by Dragas in the manner that some of the BOV members apparently were).”

    I’m inclined to think whether he does or doesn’t is irrelevant. What rather does matter is: Governor McDonnell has the potential with getting away with something far more expansive in scope. That would be the possibility of having the stage already set for an ENTIRE replacement of the whole BOVs.

    @ your real name
    …..”Administrative expenses have grown faster than instruction on many campuses. In 2009, the consulting firm Bain & Company identified $112 million in annual savings just within the business operations at the University of California, Berkeley.”
    [[[ Nah, you don’t say? bse grins]]]]

    as Christian Roberts said …..”A huge contingent will be watching her back.”
    And quite an encompassing diverse mixed contingent at that.

    @ Kevin Lynch
    Oh please without enough….. go on, you shouldn’t let up any at all! If the shoe don’t fit, force one or any streotrype on your (depiction of) loyal opposition.

    @ Barbara Myer
    “[to] Pete, sweetheart, darling boy: you may have your own opinion, but not your own facts.”

    Barbara, don’t tell us you never played a game of Monopoly, where a pile of other people’s money wasn’t set for the player landing on free parking to collect.

    Truth to Power said
    …”I hope they stop now to consider Sullivan’s vision.” …

    Is there really any hope being held out for much of another alternative?

    …..”I can’t think of a better place than the Rotunda to host a national meeting launching an offensive movement to clean up the politics of higher education and its governance.” …..

    And that way we’ll also catch every fox, wolf, chicken and sheep who play a part in the entire animal farm mangerie too. No, there’s no part of taxing (SAY INCOME only for example) that could not ever be unjust or unreasonable. Yes, remake the words in the prior sentence to fit and work into the image you mean and want.

    ….. “Don’t give in to the press for the southern gentility of forgive and forget. Even President Sullivan said we should not sweep this under the carpet. The activism that started 2 weeks ago needs to continue on a daily basis, it has to become the norm not the exception. That’s when we will know we have gotten to the bottom of this……..”

    I suspect were notice of graveside services for every facet of capitalism printed in the obituaries, you’d still find something either connected or else wrong. Exemplary mentoring on that piece of personal dogma serving as your own pursuit of happiness there. Encore!

    Some of us are more than ready for this to be over!

  41. Sharp op-ed in the WP today, from Danielle Allen, who reveals she was in the running for both the president & provost job. Selections:

    1. Comparing Princeton and NYU, and the moves they are making. UVa is more like NYU in that it is “no longer a top-tier institution” but instead has areas of strength. Wasn’t that always true?

    2. Cautiously supportive of Sullivan, skeptical of the BOV, leaves out Dragas.

    3. Except for the Yoga center. She notes both Dragas and Sullivan have a made a big deal about it in their recent comments, and she finds it ridiculous & small potatoes. Perhaps doesn’t realize their statements were to reassure large, single-project donors.

  42. As for the long posts and sniping here, I like wide ranging discussion. I even found something of worth in the Hook’s ridiculously written “fat” article. Somehow academic shrinks and social scientists (& humanities scholars!) are still making bank on the “elaborate restatement of the extremely obvious,” as the saying goes. Guess what? Hidden prejudices play a role in business decisions! It is likely personality and image did play the largest role in this disaster, which will hurt UVa for years. The issues of corporate governance, varieties of change, increasing wealth imbalance, workers rights, administrative empire building on the backs of student loans, decreasing state aid (after the states current crop of leaders all got their foot in the door with $600 tuitions) are valid, yet….


    Came to me this morning, since he’s in the news. Charlie Sheen is the perfect example of the thrill for creative destruction the plotters found in the banal reading and sexy video watching they passed around in their FOIA’ed emails as they got amped up for the coup. (Watch a bit of the Munich one, as Mr. Udacity is introduced.)

    Though the forces at play are complex & intellectual, the same cannot be said of the people involved.

  43. Another commonsense reform UVa could make is to require that a significant percentage of every donation go towards academic programs. I’ve seen UVa build some really crazy buildings just because some donor wanted them and had put up some money. Also, if we put nearly as much into academic programs as we apparently do into sports then there’d be no financial issues whatsoever.

    So… the next time someone approaches UVa about donating X million for a new stadium or special collections library, UVa should say “We’d love to help you, but %40 of your donation must go towards classrooms and instruction”.

  44. Guys. Guys… GUYS!


    Just wanted to say that I heard the governor on the radio this morning say that this whole kerfuffle at UVa is “…no big deal, just a family fight…”.

    So. See?

    I bet you all feel pretty silly now.

  45. Dagnabbit! Well, in my family the fight is not over until the car pulls over and the instigator gets his/her ass whupped on the side of the highway!

  46. You know, I love it when someone has the self-righteousness to tell me that my concerns are not really concerns, that “it’s no big deal, just be quiet, lie down, enjoy it…”

    When somone says that, I just feel all kinds of need to misbehave.

    @truth to power
    Let me know when you get that meeting organized. I’m in.

  47. To be fair, GT, it may have been his hair that said that. It was radio. I couldn’t be sure.

  48. Well, you don’t burnish your Virginia chief executive credentials if you preside over the discrediting of Mr. Jefferson’s University do you?

    I’ll judge Governor McDonnell on his actions, not his words. Like finding a Rector with personal integrity and a documented record of public service.

  49. ……..”Let me know when you get that meeting organized. …..”

    Am curious, as to if a plastic floor mat with four distinctly separate color dots and a piece of cardboard with a spinning hand might be involved too. Any chance to pass the hat around, so GT could pick up and grab a quick covered dish from Great Harvest Bread?

  50. belmont, a real man doesn’t let his hair speak for him…:)

    Robert, it would be quite interesting to search the records of Rectors and see how many fit that description.

    FP, couldn’t I go to Ariana’s instead?

  51. Well, you don’t burnish your Virginia chief executive credentials if you preside over the discrediting of Mr. Jefferson’s University do you?

    Nor do you do so by largely ignoring such a major crisis at your “flagship” university.

    I’ll judge Governor McDonnell on his actions, not his words.

    Well since his words amounted to:

    1) “Yo, BOV… get this sorted and make it go away, or its your ass”.

    2) “No biggie, just a little squabble. These are not the droids you’re looking for”.

    …I’m inclined to agree with you. As for his actions? Well, jetting off to a resort in San Diego to bathe in some of those sweet sweet Koch dollars *was* pretty decisive.

    Or were you referring to the rape wands? the making gays illegal? the vast raft of fetus related bills? the ‘unlimited guns for everyone, yipeee!’ bill getting tied to a pro life slate? the global warming email witch hunt?

    Oh, you meant future actions like “finding a Rector with personal integrity and a documented record of public service”? Got it. But you know thats not gonna happen. Its just not. I mean, what so far in this whole escapade could possibly lead one to believe that this is the next chapter?

    (어이 GT, 우리의 아들들은 가까운 친구입니다.)

  52. I feel certain that when Governor McDonnell assigned his spreadsheet technicians to the UVA BOV his intention was to de-Liberalize the place, not pull off some ham-handed mafia hit on the President. I feel equally certain that the majority of the Gov’s rightwing UVA-alumni allies see themselves above such stupid thuggery. So while McDonnell isn’t taking my calls, he is taking the calls of his peeved rightwing ‘Hoo friends with no interest in seeing their diplomas devalued by a Strayer-ized UVA.

  53. Governor McDonnell to the entire UVa Faculty, Deans, staff, alumni, and to all supporters of President Sullivan:

    You’re all childish and simple. Sit down, shut up, and do as you’re told.

Comments are closed.