Opposition to Board from students across the political spectrum
Below are letters from the College Republicans, University Democrats and the Burke Society, a prominent conservative group on Grounds, which condemn the Board of Visitors' handling of President Teresa Sullivan's forced resignation:
Dear Governor McDonnell,
It is regrettable that we must contact you under these circumstances. The recent events at the University of Virginia have created great tension and confusion for all members of the UVA community. The lack of transparency among the Board of Visitors has caused a palpable breakdown of trust in the keepers of Mr. Jefferson's University.
The Executive Board of the College Republicans at the University of Virginia believes that, in principle, the Governor should generally not involve himself in University affairs, except in extraordinary times. The events of the last week, unprecedented in the University's history, are certainly extraordinary times. We call upon you to address the issue in-depth.
Secondly, we call upon you to seek increased transparency and communication between the Board of Visitors and the UVA community. The Board's lack of substantive statements has fueled an assortment of conspiracy theories and a fear among the UVA community of what this may mean for the future of the University – both academically and economically.
At this point, we are not going to make any judgments, given the lack of information, but we find it notable that Rector Helen E. Dragas was appointed by Governor Timothy M. Kaine.
As Mr. Jefferson rightly noted, "We might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant's books, so that every member of Congress and every man of any mind in the Union should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them." Mr. Jefferson believed in transparency in matters of state, and the events at UVA are no exception to this principle.
We thank you for your time and we hope that you will strongly consider our request.
Cameron Cawthorne\nVice Chair of Events
Rory Stolzenberg\nVice Chair of Campaigns
Will Lovell\nDirector of Communications
In light of recent events concerning the resignation of University of Virginia President Teresa\nSullivan, the University Democrats urges the involvement of the Virginia General Assembly\nto investigate this matter fully. It is the belief of the University Democrats that the University\nof Virginia acts best as a true public institution through transparency, integrity, and self-\ngovernance. To comply with these founding principles, the University Democrats urges you and\nyour fellow state legislators to act on the following proposals:
That the Board of Visitors reinstate President Sullivan.
That the Board of Visitors recommend representation by UVA faculty on the Board as voting\nmembers.
That the Rector resign in the best interests of the University.
The University of Virginia Board of Visitors has the authority to make employment decisions.\nThe Board of Visitors also has the power to keep the decision-making processes hidden from\npublic scrutiny. However, the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Virginia have the\nresponsibility, when wrongs have been made, to stand up and make their opinions known. The\nUniversity of Virginia students, faculty, and staff have the right to expect greater transparency\nfrom their governing body.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that "information is the currency of democracy." The University\nDemocrats recognizes that the University of Virginia is not a democracy, as clearly President\nSullivan would not have been forced to resign under such a governing system. However, the\nUniversity of Virginia possesses qualities of a democracy, a diversity of opinions, a forum\nfor open dialogue, and the need for an honest exchange of information upon which to base\njudgments and decisions. The University Democrats urges the Virginia House of Delegates\nand Senate to apply the aforementioned reforms, which are consistent with those proposed by\nthe University of Virginia Faculty Senate Executive Council, so that the University of Virginia\nstudents, faculty, and staff can better understand the events surrounding the resignation of\nPresident Sullivan and ensure the University of Virginia's continuation as a renowned institute of\nhigher learning.
Sincerely,\nThe Executive Board of the University Democrats
This letter will be sent to the leadership of the General Assembly from both parties and houses as\nwell as the legislators directly representing the Charlottesville/UVA area.
To the Board of Visitors and the community of the University of Virginia:
Over the past two weeks, our University has been engulfed in severe turmoil, the result of course of the Board of Visitors' decision to compel the resignation of Teresa Sullivan as University President. The Executive Board of the Burke Society, having reviewed the situation, is, as a part of this community, with a stake in its civic vitality, compelled to speak out now.
In the face of demands from students, faculty, and alumni, the Board has failed to adequately explain the reasoning behind its decision. Rector Dragas' most recent communication, outlining ten major challenges facing the University, is a start, but hardly a heartening one. Apart from blank hints, why exactly Teresa Sullivan was inadequate to the challenges outlined by the Board remains a mystery – perhaps one with a good \nanswer, perhaps not.
Most egregiously, the Board has failed to explain the process that led it to the decision to remove Teresa Sullivan. Neither faculty, nor students, nor staff, nor any but a select set of privileged alumni were consulted in the months leading up to this decision. It is little wonder that what reasoning has emerged has been greeted with such ridicule and hostility.
It has further been reported that one of several issues implicated in the Board's action was the administration's desire to secure the survival of such departments as Classics and German. If true, such reports are deeply troubling, evincing a Board deeply out of touch with the liberal arts tradition central to Mr. Jefferson's vision, its mind set only on pecuniary matters.
At heart, the current turmoil is a conflict over the soul of the University, over its academic mission and its constitution as a community. It has become clear that the Board of Visitors has at present no interest in explaining itself to, nor consulting with, the community in its care. It is now suffering the consequences. We therefore call on the Board to be mindful of three basic principles at this time:
1. Transparency: Right now, the University community needs to know that it can trust its governors. Not knowing what led to this decision makes this impossible. The Board should at this point explain fully to the community the process that led to Teresa Sullivan's resignation, and begin a real conversation about what policies are actually required to meet the challenges it identifies.
2. Consultancy: No university, let alone one intended to function around the communal model of the Academical Village, can prosper if its governors recklessly disregard the knowledge and opinions of the variable groups who make up this community. The Board of Visitors should take whatever procedural and structural changes are necessary to ensure that a decision like this will never again be taken without the input of the \nstakeholders – faculty, staff, students, and alumni– who make this institution what it is.
3. Academic Integrity: The University of Virginia cannot retain its unique identity if its liberal arts tradition is sacrificed in the name of short-term financial goals. Programs such as German and classics are essential to the wide vision of informed citizenship that this University exists to inculcate. The Board of Visitors should publicly vouchsafe our liberal arts tradition, and ensure that voices concerned with its vitality inform our future \ncourse.
It is our hope that this situation may be resolved as amicably as is now possible, and that the Board take what actions are necessary in the coming days and weeks to ensure that this community will be able to maintain trust and good government into the future.
Roraig Finney President \nNoah Reidelbach Vice President\nAlexander Mezick Membership Chair\nJohn Roach Finance Chair\nWendy Morrison Events Chair\nColleen Rigby Public Affairs Chair