President Sullivan Reinstated
The University of Virginia Board of Visitors ended 17 days of tumult Tuesday by voting unanimously to reinstate Teresa A. Sullivan as president, and called for the University community to unite behind her to address the many challenges facing it and higher education.
June 26, 2012 —
"While many believe that the past two weeks have threatened our great institution, I believe that we have been strengthened by the experience," Sullivan said. "It has, in fact, propelled our academic community to a new place and made it ready to face a quickened pace of change.
"My goal is to harness the enthusiasm that has been generated and use it to the University's competitive advantage."
Since the June 10 announcement of Sullivan's forced resignation, just 22 months into her tenure as the University's eighth president, the spotlight has focused with a rare intensity on the University – and on the challenges that face flagship public institutions of higher education.
Tens of thousands of words have been published in recent weeks. The members of the news media covering Tuesday's meeting in the Rotunda spilled into an overflow room, and more than 13,300 people viewed a live webcast of Tuesday's board meeting. Outside the Rotunda, more than 1,000 people gathered on the Lawn to await the results of the meeting.
With most faculty, alumni, students and administrators united behind Sullivan, she called for swift action to address the University's challenges, many of which had been enumerated Thursday in a statement by Rector Helen E. Dragas: reduced state and federal funding; the need to address the proper role of technology in the educational experience; coping with a rapidly changing health-care environment; making difficult decisions about resource allocation; reviewing faculty workloads and the quality of the student experience; reversing declining faculty compensation; increasing philanthropy; boosting research funding and activity; ensuring accountability for academic quality and productivity; and meeting the need for fortified, multiplatform communications.
"We are not in crisis, but change appropriate to our mission is necessary," Sullivan told a crowd assembled outside the Rotunda after the reinstatement vote. "This change is not the duty of the president alone, but will require all of us – the board, our donors, the leaders of the commonwealth, those of us who work here and study here now, as well as those who have studied here in the past and now constitute our global network of alumni."
Board of Visitors member W. Heywood Fralin, a former rector, said the University is "united unlike ever before in my memory."
"Speaking for myself, but probably with the agreement of every member of this Board of Visitors, I would like to thank the many students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who have demonstrated their strong opinions and concerns for the University of Virginia during this tumultuous time," he said. "You deeply love this University and want it to remain one of the world's top institutions. The University community – working together – will make this happen."
Before he introduced the resolution to reinstate Sullivan, Fralin called for the board to form a strategic planning committee, with representation from faculty, staff and students.
Dragas seconded Fralin's motion for reinstatement, and offered her own remarks.
"I believe real progress is more possible than ever now, because there is absolutely no denying that all of the wonderful people who make up this community are as awake and engaged as ever," she said. "… The work ahead will surely be charged with renewed passion and energy for accelerated progress in tackling the many challenges faced by every university today. It is unfortunate that we had to have a near-death experience to get here, but the University should not waste the enormous opportunity at hand."
Law professor George Cohen, who, as chair of the Faculty Senate, was among the leaders of the drive to reinstate Sullivan, smiled broadly as he accepted congratulations from well-wishers on the Rotunda's portico. He said he was ready "to take a breather," but looked forward to engaging in serious discussions to address the challenges ahead.
"We don't want to lose this momentum," he said. "We don't want to lose this energy. We want to take it and channel it into making this University a better place."
He said that volunteer faculty task forces set up during the leadership crisis would likely be reconfigured and reconstituted to address the issues the rector raised.