Faculty Senate criticizes "inadequate" explanation for Sullivan's departure

Opinions of faculty, administrators appear to diverge as Dean Woo says she has "trust in the wisdom of the Board of Visitors"

The University's Faculty Senate released a statement Monday describing the Board of Visitors' statement on the sudden resignation of President Teresa A. Sullivan as "inadequate and unsatisfactory" and calling for more details about the decision to part ways with Sullivan.

Law Prof. George Cohen, the Chair of the Faculty Senate, said the Senate wanted to release a statement quickly to "diffuse any notion out there that the faculty had anything to do with this," which Cohen said it did not.

"I have not heard any support from the faculty to date for this position on the part of the Board," Cohen said.

The faculty was "shocked and dismayed" to learn of Sullivan's resignation, and called for increased transparency. "As elected representatives of the faculty, we are entitled to a full and candid explanation of this sudden and drastic change in University leadership," the statement said.

Cohen said faculty members were working to set up a meeting with Rector Helen Dragas and other Board members to discuss the events, but did not yet know when such a meeting would take place.

In contrast to the Faculty Senate statement, College Dean Meredith Woo said in an email sent to members of the College Monday she believes transitions can inspire reinvigoration. "I trust in the wisdom of the Board of Visitors which is unequivocally resolved to swift and bold action to ensure that the University remains in the top echelon of universities well into the 21st century and beyond," she said.

Since the Board's announcement of Sullivan's departure Sunday, much speculation has arisen about the origins of the decision. Dragas has declined to provide additional details on the matter since the Board officially accepted Sullivan's resignation Sunday afternoon, instead sending a University-wide email containing her remarks made to vice presidents and deans which had been previously available.

Dragas cited the rapidly changing fields of academia and health care as influential in the Board's decision, but said that ultimately it sought "bold and proactive leadership on tackling the difficult issues that we face," implying that Sullivan did not have these desired traits. "We wanted [Sullivan's presidency] to work as well," Dragas said in her remarks. "That certainly would have been easier on all of us."

Also at the center of speculation surrounding the dismissal has been the University's struggles to remain financially viable in an era of declining state support and growing class sizes. Faculty salaries have been frozen since 2008, per a state mandate.

"We have calls internally for resolution of tough financial issues that require hard decisions on resource allocation," Dragas told the vice presidents and deans. "The compensation of our valued faculty and staff has continued to decline in real terms, and we acknowledge the tremendous task ahead of making star hires to fill the many spots that will be vacated over the next few years as our eminent faculty members retire in great numbers."

Cohen said that while salaries were a large concern for the faculty, he thought that Sullivan understood the issue well and was working to address it. "There's no magic solution for that problem," he said. "We thought that she was making progress"

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