We Deserve an Explanation: How the BOV is failing to make UVa a Community of Trust

RotundaThe events of the past two weeks at UVa have proved to be very controversial and influential to the current and future community of the University. As of now, all students have heard, or should have heard, about the resignation of President Sullivan. There has been great public outcry to the Board of Visitor’s opaque reasoning for their decision and their continued repression of a necessary explanation.

President Sullivan is an admired leader among the faculty and students at the University of Virginia and although novel in her presidential position, had forged a path that envisioned great growth and development in the future of UVa. Throughout the BOV’s statements to the public, they have mentioned “philosophical differences” shared with President Sullivan and the need for a new leader who can effectively achieve the board’s aspirations. These concerns are voiced in remarks from Helen Dragas, the UVa Rector, at a meeting with vice presidents and deans on June 11th, 2012.

“We want UVA to remain in that top echelon of universities well into the 21st century and beyond. We want this to be a place that lives up to Mr. Jefferson’s founding vision of excellence. We want it to be a place that attracts the best and the brightest in scholarship, teaching, patient care, and community service.

To achieve these aspirations, the board feels the need for a bold leader who can help develop, articulate, and implement a concrete and achievable strategic plan to re-elevate the University to its highest potential.  We need a leader with a great willingness to adapt the way we deliver our teaching, research, and patient care to the realities of the external environment.  We need a leader who is able to passionately convey a vision to our community, and effectively obtain gifts and buy-in towards our collective goals.”

Throughout this discourse, the board’s aspirations and requirements for a new leader infer the lack of these characteristics in President Sullivan. However, with such significant and serious concerns expressed and the inference that President Sullivan is not meeting them, one would imagine that this opinion would be shared widely throughout the faculty at UVa. This, however, is not the case. Many faculty members are outraged at the BOV’s decision, not only in the opacity of details but also because they believe that President Sullivan is a qualified and successful leader at UVa.

Because of the contrasting opinions and lack of necessary information, one is forced to make assumptions as to why the BOV would come to such a decision. Is there a political aspect to the decision that the university community is not aware of? What are these “philosophical differences” that are expressed? Why is information being held back from the University’s community? With no answer to these questions, it is not difficult to understand the public’s dismay and outrage towards to the BOV and concerns that the lack of co-operation and transparency is damaging to the future of the University and it’s reputation.

By Arrianne Talma, Managing Editor

3 thoughts on “We Deserve an Explanation: How the BOV is failing to make UVa a Community of Trust

  1. I think that the faculty’s urge for a representative on the Board is certainly justifiable. After all, there is a student representative, why not a faculty representative as well? Both the faculty and students provide critical insight that should be taken into consideration on the most important issues facing our University. There should be both a student and faculty member with full voting privileges.

    I see no justification for the Board’s forced and sudden removal of President Teresa A. Sullivan. The Board’s reasoning has been unsubstantial and ambiguous. Rector Dragas, for instance, claimed that President Sullivan was not moving fast enough with a bold vision for UVA’s future. Yet Sullivan’s statement to the Board in May (which Dragas withheld from Board members) proves the contrary. The Board also claims Sullivan was not doing enough to raise money for the University, yet this enormously unpopular decision to fire her has convinced some of our wealthiest donors to cut off their support. Furthermore, the Board’s utter secrecy and questionable tactics are a serious threat to our community of trust. The fact that the scramble to name an interim chair took over twelve hours, combined with the Board’s total ignorance of the University community’s sentiments, demonstrates that it is the Board, not Sullivan, which lacks a bold vision for UVA’s future. I think this all demonstrates that there are vast “philosophical differences” between the present Board of Visitors and the overwhelming majority, if not entirety, of the University community. Perhaps more than can be reconciled.

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