Future interim president holds press conference as Faculty Senate rallies
Zeithaml, University faculty share opposition to Board's removal of Sullivan but respond with diverging approaches
Press Conference with interim President Carl Zeithaml - Video Part 1\nPress Conference with interim President Carl Zeithaml - Video Part 2\nPress Conference with interim President Carl Zeithaml - Video Part 3
McIntire Dean Carl Zeithaml made his first public appearance after being announced as the future interim University president, fielding direct questions Wednesday afternoon about his outlook and opinion of President Teresa A. Sullivan's departure.
While cultivating an apologetic and open demeanor about the tumultuous days since Sullivan's resignation was announced, Zeithaml emphasized his belief that the University community must find a way to trust itself again and move forward. He called accepting the interim job "one of the most daunting things I'll ever do."
Zeithaml said that though he did not support the Board of Visitors' decision to remove Sullivan, her ouster was "at this point, frankly less important to me than the University… and trying to get back to the tasks at hand."
His introduction, however, did not seem to have an immediate effect on those taking issue with the process leading to Sullivan's resignation. Shortly after the conclusion of Zeithaml's press conference, roughly a thousand people gathered at the Rotunda to protest the Board's decision and call for Sullivan's reinstatement.
Law Prof. George Cohen, the chair of the Faculty Senate, said the group's executive council had met with community members all day and decided based on their input to continue advocating for Sullivan's reinstatement and for Rector Helen Dragas to resign. "We are doing our best to try to work in the best interests of the University," he said.
John Simon, the executive vice president and provost, also surprised community members when he announced he would remain at the University after implying in an address Sunday evening he could resign if the Board did not prove itself to be consistent with his values.
Simon, who reportedly played an important role within the Board meeting which eventually selected Zeithaml as interim president, said he still had not received a satisfactory answer about Sullivan's dismissal but felt continuing as provost was the best way for him to serve the University.
He said he would offer to remain on as provost for the next permanent president, but that "every long-term president has the right to choose their own leadership."
Zeithaml said former Vice Rector Mark Kington had originally approached him about being a permanent candidate for replacing Sullivan but that he turned down the role because he wanted to remain the dean of the McIntire School of Commerce. Zeithaml also said he was not interested in retaining the position of president permanently.
Cohen said the University community would not be able to heal until the Board provided a complete answer about why it had replaced Sullivan.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Sullivan would possibly still be open to reinstatement if Dragas were to resign. Kington turned in his resignation Tuesday after widespread public calls for both he and Dragas to leave their posts.