Jeff Walker's letter to the Council of Foundations
Below is a letter sent to members of the Council of Foundations, "which comprises representatives from all schools and programs and their related foundations," according to the University's website, by its chair, Jeff Walker. In an email correspondence with University Rector Helen Dragas and former Vice Rector Mark Kington, Walker had written that "the on-line learning world has now reached the top of the line universities and they need to have strategies or will be left behind."
"June 20, 2012\n \nFellow Council of Foundation Members,\n \nI am truly worried for the University and am still very frustrated thinking about the damage one week has caused to a community I have worked to live in and support over the 35 years since I took my degree. I have many deep relationships with faculty, students, administration and alumni (including many of you) and it saddens me to think of us not working well together as a team. Since I retired five years ago to spend full-time in the non-profit world, I have studied models of collaborative leadership. We all have much to learn at UVA regarding how to work best together. Our community coming together is a powerful resource and I look forward to working with you to reunite our community. \n \nI want to thank each of you who, over the last week, got involved and worked to ensure that the best interests of the University are protected in this time of tumultuous change. The Board of Visitor's (BOV) decision process was not well managed. As I live life I ask myself, at times, "what would Mr. Jefferson do"? I am convinced that when he was Rector he would not have handled a transition like this. In fact, I cannot imagine a more poorly coordinated crisis management process. There are many learning points here and as we move ahead I am sure it will develop into a fascinating leadership and board management case at the Batten School.\n \nWith regard to Terry Sullivan, I consider Terry a friend and honored partner. She cared about the University and worked to ensure that people knew she wanted to have them as partners. There are many examples I can remember of her positive impact on the University: coming to the Council meetings (we had not seen a President at our meetings for a long time)…getting to know us all…walking the Lawn talking to students and faculty…having engaging faculty dinners at Carr's Hill…kicking off a new budgeting process…receiving strategy training from Darden and McIntire strategy professors…hiring a strong new team. While the BOV was within their technical rights to move her aside I do not believe the process they used to do that was honorable. It was not handled as I would envision we at the University should treat anyone. Thank you Terry for all you did for us.\n \nAs we move on to repair the relations at the University I believe it is important to focus on a few key actions:\n \nSupport the team of interim President, Carl Zeithaml and John Simon, the Provost. I have known Carl since he became Dean of the McIntire School (I served on his search committee and supported him for ten years in my role as the President of the McIntire Foundation). I could not think of a better person to work with to help bring the University (students, faculty, alumni and administration) back together and moving forward. He led the McIntire School to become the best undergrad business school in the country, created a unified faculty, expanded the school's reach globally, managed a supportive foundation board who worked with him as a partner while also carrying a teaching load. He is as impressive a partner/leader as I have ever seen. I ask that you do everything you can within your foundations and schools to support he and John. Carl did not ask for this job and I respect him for agreeing to take on this challenging but critical role. And John has been exemplary in his efforts over the last week.
Improve the overall governance model at the University. The Board of Visitors is seen as distant and disconnected from the rest of the University. How can we drop the walls between them and all others? How can the partnership between faculty, alumni, students, the administration and the BOV be enhanced? We must all collaborate and have free and open communication. We must ensure that the leaders at the University are given the ability to lead but are seen to listen well and work, with managed egos, for the best interests of the University. The University governance will be the major topic at our next Council meeting. Issues can be considered such as how to include a voice of the faculty (as we have a voice of the students) on the BOV and how do we open the board to others from other perspectives. While we have no authority to change governance we do have a voice that needs to be heard.
Improve communications both internal and external to the University. How can we work to ensure key voices around the University are heard and that we utilize all the best skills, contacts, resources and knowledge of those parties for the good of the University? How can we work to collaborate across schools and minimize silos of knowledge and resources that have been built up?
And, how can we develop a strategic review process that is inclusive and action oriented that will move the University to even higher levels of achievement? Key issues such as faculty compensation, tuition, financial support (including Access UVA), the financial model for the Medical Center, moving ahead with the new budgeting system for the University, career support for students, on-line learning, and many others will need to be addressed. However, they can only be considered by all of the University's constituents coming together and being part of the process.
Please email (email@example.com) or call me with any thoughts or suggestions you might have. Thank all of you for the work you have done so far and for the hard work we all have ahead of us.\n \nSincerely,\n \n \nJeff [Walker]\n \nChairman\nCouncil of Foundations\nUniversity of Virgini"