ACTA’s Role in Failed Sullivan Ouster

Alex writes:

The Washington Post’s Daniel de Vise has a most interesting story on his blog regarding some events that possibly influenced the forced resignation of UVA’s president Sullivan. It’s entitled “Are Virginia College Trustees Groomed for Activism?” It may shed some light on some murky forces that may have encouraged Ms. Dragas and Mr. Kington’s ousting of Dr. Sullivan. Up until now there has been comparatively little scrutiny on the prelude to the

My favorite remark by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s Ms. [Anne] Neal was, “I believe that the objection you encounter to ACTA’s role stems from those who like the status quo to be free of accountability or scrutiny.” She certainly has chutzpah. Ms. Dragas and Mr. Kington—seemingly indirectly egged on by Neal—mounted their coup in the dead of night and bristled at the attention they received. Not much accountability or scrutiny there.

I’ve had a strong hunch that Neal and ACTA were behind this failed coup, but I’ve got nothing more than circumstantial evidence to support that. de Vise appears to be on the trail.

13 thoughts on “ACTA’s Role in Failed Sullivan Ouster”

  1. Take a look at Farrell’s presentation, which Dragas may have attended:

    Search for “Cisco”. Does anyone know what Cisco has to do with anything? Distance learning technology. And it’s expensive as hell. I’ve used it to deliver training simultaneously to a company’s home office and their remote offices.

    Distance learning today is like banner ads in 2001. People believe in it and spend enormous amounts of money on it. Someday they will figure out it just doesn’t work and the money will dry up overnight.

  2. Very revealing, and I’m in complete agreement with “2003 UVA Graduate” – distance learning is to the second decade of the 21st century as CB radio was to the eighth decade of the 20th – the BIG THING. Wait a few years and ask again.

    Does anyone remember the late 90s UVa proposal to establish a campus in Qatar? That was another BIG THING, and colleges that did it are now regretting it. UVa was smart enough NOT to do it after investigation.


    When Casteen is asked what accomplishment makes him the most proud, he demurs.

    “I don’t think that way,” he said. “Instead, I’ll answer the opposite of your question and tell you our greatest failure.”

    The biggest failure, he said, was the Board of Visitors’ decision against opening a Middle Eastern branch campus in Doha, Qatar.

    “Our decision not to do that was a disaster,” Casteen said. “It was contrary to the U.S. national interest. Qatar has turned out to be an enormously important ally to the U.S. And [UVa] had, and we have maintained, one of the best programs in Islamic studies in the country.”

    Other schools — Texas A&M, Case Western Reserve and the University of Texas — used the plans written by UVa, he said, and went on to open branch campuses in Qatar to success that continues today.

  4. It’s my understanding that a single member of the BOV opposed the U.Va. branch in Qatar with all other members in favor. The Qataris, however, were unwilling to go forward without unanimity (and, unlike Ms. Dragas, they actually understood the meaning of the word).

    Other universities who did go forward with establishing such branches have been uniformly pleased with the quality of students, instruction and research opportunities as well as the revenues from their operations.

  5. Back to SCHEV. Check out their website. They do training and briefs for VA Public University Board members. It looks like to me that they have been having some interesting discussions in the past several months about things like online education and the relationship between commercialization at VA Public Universities and VA industrial policy in January and March. A coincidence? If one looks closely at their Board, many Board members relationship to big money, and their recent policy discussions, its hard to think that SCHEV is not a part of this corporate take over of public universities problem and they influence all boards of public universities in VA.

    So when there is a discussion about changing the way in which the BOV is appointed we should also pay attention to the SCHEV Board and how it is appointed. I hope the legislature includes that in their investigation/examination of the UVA BOV debacle. I understand that some folks over on the Reform the BOV Facebook page are doing an analysis of all of the VA public university boards of visitors. That seems a worthwhile examination. Its really time to look at the relationship of corporate power and public universities. The public is made up if more than corporate and wealth interests. Should Boards of Visitors look like the public?

  6. Dear Waldo,

    I’ll bet the American Council for Trustees and Alumni’s Ms. Neal—an extremely formidable and bright woman who should never, never be underestimated—dreams, she imagines U.S. higher education replaced by a multitude of Patrick Henry College—like institutions. (Readers will perhaps recall the outsized role the tiny fledgling school played in the Bush administration. By the way, ACTA came to the attention of most of us when the organization, formed in large part by Lynne Cheney, ham-handedly attempted to intimidate those of us who thought the disastrous war her husband was ginning up might be a bad idea.)

    Here’s an inspiring little tale about PHC students—who after learning about American history “firmly based on a Christian worldview”–learn more about the wholly salutary American System of Free Enterprise from the Koch brothers. These fresh-faced young people then go on to work at ACTA to battle the liberal brainwashing that occurs at publicly supported colleges and universities.

    Ms. Neal decries the failure of colleges and universities to require courses in American history. I’m with her here 100%. But the history I want to see taught includes not simply the many noble incidents in our country’s complex story but also the countless tales of dreams abated, voices stilled, and lives ruined. One wonders if the ACTA/Koch/PHC history even touches on labor’s heroic struggle for the right to organize, its battle to improve working conditions, and the motivation for federal regulation of private industry.

    Best wishes,


  7. “Should Boards of Visitors look like the public?”

    Overweight and stupid, or just overweight?

  8. @tbom

    No we don’t want the same BOV we have now. Overweight in terms of venality, corporate greed, and hubris, and stupid in terms of running a public university.

    The public who put Sullivan back in office was not stupid. Overweight, I can’t speak to, though when Dragas gets done eating all that crow, she and the BOV may have a weight problem. The BOV and the Legislature may realize she is too much excess baggage for their reputation. Also adding another member to the BOV via special legislation may convince the Gov. and the BOV of the need to cut the fat out, after eating all that crow, she’ll be the first to go.

    Stay on target: Dragas’ resignation or denail of confirmation. Restructuring the BOV selection process so that wealthy campaign donors and corporations don’t screw it up again. Make the BOV more representative of the constituencies of the University, not just the elite.

  9. Don’t think the wonks were behind it but it seems odd that all the boards have been pushing this pro-commercialization agenda: SCHEV, The BOV, the Batten school supported Jefferson Innovation Summit (, Darden and donor/Alums.

    Maybe the Hook needs to do one more article on that wealthy alum connection. And who really brokered this Online course contract, It sounds like Dragas and Sullivan were in the dark about it.

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