Sullivan finishes eventful fall term
New president focuses on finances as stimulus money soon will expire, begins search for top administratorsí successors
Next week marks the end of Teresa A. Sullivan's first semester as the University's eighth president. Sullivan, who succeeded John T. Casteen, III in August, described her first four months as a "busy" transitional period.
"The big challenge has been to meet as many of the constituent groups as possible; I've kept a pretty aggressive schedule to try and do that," Sullivan said in an interview.
Overall, Sullivan expressed satisfaction with the strides made in her short time at the University.
"I had a couple of big goals this year, and we've made progress on them," Sullivan said.
Her primary objectives for the academic year include securing replacements for her outgoing executive vice presidents, Leonard Sandridge and Arthur Garson, as well as addressing budgetary concerns. Sullivan noted the difficulty of securing funds for the operating budget when many revenue streams are dedicated for specific purposes. Furthermore, she acknowledged that $14.7 million of the state's $120 million contribution comes from stimulus money, which is set to expire during the next 3-5 years.
"It's a pretty lean operation right now," Sullivan said. "This is not a university that wastes a lot of money."
Despite these difficulties, Sullivan vowed to preserve the jobs of University employees.
"President Casteen did not lay anybody off when the economy deteriorated. And I have no plans to lay anybody off now, either," Sullivan said.
Sullivan also expressed the urgent need for funds to repair the Rotunda, which has suffered significant structural damage.
"We need to repair those columns. The roof leaks, and we have some other structural repairs that need to be made," Sullivan said.
The president praised the efforts behind the September "Day of Dialogue," which was intended to help the University community recover and learn from the murder of Yeardley Love and the recent surge in crime on Grounds. Sullivan speculated that a number of factors may have contributed to this trend.
"It's a little hard to know exactly why there have been more incidents reported this year," Sullivan said, citing the declining economy and increased sensitivity as possible reasons for the surge.\nStill, she commended the University and city responses to the incidents.
"I do think the University has made a serious effort, and so has the City of Charlottesville, to increase police patrols, particularly down at the Corner, and also to increase the coverage of the buses," Sullivan said.
In response to controversy surrounding the honor code's definition of 'intent' with respect to plagiarism, Sullivan acknowledged the importance of allowing students to determine the enforcement of the honor code but encouraged greater dialogue between students and faculty members to establish a clear definition of what constitutes plagiarism.
"I think it is genuinely an issue that people need to think through and talk about," Sullivan said. "Faculty have to be careful in talking with their classes, to be sure that the class understands where the line gets drawn."
Amid talk of the University expanding, Sullivan recognized the University's capacity to grow by 1,500 students during the next five years while maintaining the same in-state to out-of-state ratio.
"We'll have the physical space available. We'll have enough dining halls, we'll have enough [recreational] space, we'll have enough residence halls. What we don't have is enough faculty," Sullivan warned. "We would have to hire more faculty to take care of them, and I'm not willing to bring more students here and just have classes get bigger."
Sullivan has, for the most part, received a warm welcome from her colleagues at the University.
She "is wasting no time in helping us realize our objectives for quality, effectiveness and efficiency in all that we do. I find her to be an extraordinary leader," Sandridge said. "The transition has been very smooth."
Garson also commended the new president's leadership style.
"She has been willing to dive into issues personally and get them fixed quickly. She has been a wonderful person to work with," Garson added.
Similarly, Student Council President Colin Hood commended Sullivan for her willingness to work with students.
"I really appreciate the effort she's taking to reach out to Council, to students as a whole and everything she's done for the university," Hood said.
Going forward, Sullivan hopes to equip students with the self-confidence and skills necessary to take on complex 21st century challenges.
"I think we need to have students who are not afraid to tackle problems and have the self-confidence to believe they have the skills to do it," Sullivan said. "I think Virginia is uniquely poised to produce that kind of student"