Trustees | Trusteeship

Virginia Faculty Confronts Board Over President’s Ouster

BLOOMBERG NEWS   |  June 18, 2012 by Oliver Staley

University of Virginia professors are meeting with the school’s governing board today over the ouster of President Teresa Sullivan, after faculty members voted to oppose her departure.

The executive council of the faculty senate sat down with members of the board of visitors at 9 a.m. to discuss the June 10 removal of Sullivan, who has served less than two years, according to the school’s media relations office. Sullivan, former provost of the University of Michigan, is the eighth president of the Charlottesville-based university founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson and the first woman to hold the post.

The full faculty senate voted yesterday to ratify the June 14 resolution of its executive council supporting Sullivan and saying it had no confidence in the university’s rector, vice rector and board of visitors. At the meeting, attended by more than 500 people, university Provost John Simon questioned “the honor, integrity and trust” of the institution and its leaders.

“I am now wondering whether my own beliefs about the values of higher education are consistent with our board,” Simon said at the meeting, according to a statement on the university’s website. “The board actions over the next few days will inform as to whether the University of Virginia remains the type of institution I am willing to dedicate my efforts to help lead.”

‘Philosophical Difference’

Sullivan’s departure was “mutually agreed” with the board and concerned what she described as “a philosophical difference of opinion,” according to a university statement. Sullivan will step down Aug. 15.

The board of visitors is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. today to consider candidates for an interim president. Sullivan has asked to address the board, according to the statement.

The American Association of University Professors passed a resolution asking the Virginia board to reconsider its decision, which it said should have been made with the same degree of consultation with students and faculty as her hiring.

The association shares the Virginia faculty’s “dismay that due process for President Sullivan and the legitimate interests of the UVA faculty have been ignored,” the association, based in Washington, said in a June 16 statement.

The board of visitors is charged with the well-being of the university and its most important job is the hiring and removal of leadership, said Anne Neal, president of the Washington-based American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

Different Directions

“They are legally responsible for the institution, no one else is, and as fiduciaries it is up to them to decide if they and the president are not going in the same direction,” Neal said in a phone interview. “Once a board has lost confidence that it and the CEO have the same vision, it doesn’t make sense to keep going down that direction.”

Public universities across the U.S. are adjusting to cuts in funds from taxpayers. The University of Virginia is expected to receive 5.8 percent of its revenue from state funds in the 2012-13 academic year, down from 26 percent in 1989-90, according to its website.

The university received $242.6 million in donations last year, according to its website. Fundraising may be jeopardized by the removal of Sullivan, as donors have pledged to withhold gifts to protest her treatment, according to an article in the Washington Post. Hunter Smith, whose family has donated more than $60 million to the university, won’t donate until changes are made to the board of visitors, according to the newspaper.

With assistance from Janet Lorin in New York. Editors: Robert Valpuesta, Lisa Wolfson.


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