Student Council, College faculty criticize Board's handling of Sullivan's resignation
Board to meet with Faculty Senate executive council ahead of Monday's discussion of interim presidential candidates
This morning, Student Council added its voice to the growing number of people and organizations calling on the Board of Visitors to provide more information about University President Teresa A. Sullivan’s sudden resignation. University Rector Helen Dragas announced Sunday in a University-wide email that Sullivan would step down Aug. 15 after two years as president. Her email quoted Sullivan as saying a “philosophical difference of opinion” led to the departure. But members of the University community continue to clamor for specifics.
A statement posted to Council’s website this morning described communications from the Board and other University officials about Sullivan’s departure as “abstract, unclear, and at times contradictory.”
“We belong to an institution of honor and honesty, of openness and respect,” Council wrote in the statement. “And it is under these values that we deem the current state of information on President Sullivan’s departure wholly untenable.”
Council’s Director of University Relations Eric McDaniel, a third-year College student, said Council hopes to “sway the Board of Visitors to kind of open up and stay true to [the University’s] code of honor.”
“We’re not taking a position and saying what the Board of Visitors did was wrong,” McDaniel said. “The whole point is we felt it was our responsibility to help get enough information out to students and to the University community so everyone would be [as] equipped as possible to understand the situation and move forward.”
In addition to Council’s statement, the Arts & Sciences Steering Committee passed a resolution this afternoon expressing no confidence in the Rector, Vice Rector and the Board. The nine-member faculty committee leads meetings for the faculty of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
The resolution stated that the Board’s handling of Sullivan’s departure had brought “a tarnished reputation and considerable embarrassment” upon the University. It warned that the Board’s actions would “inevitably discourage the appeal of the University” to prospective faculty, students and donors.
Much of the pushback from students and faculty has occurred online, in the form of statements, resolutions and a change.org petition urging Sullivan’s reinstatement that has notched nearly 2,000 signatures. The University Alumni Association provided another outlet for feedback Friday when it established an online suggestion box in which alumni could voice their concerns to the Board. After an email notifying association members was sent at 2:15 p.m., the Alumni Association website proceeded to crash at 2:40 p.m. for approximately an hour before being restored.
But resistance may soon turn to organized protest. When the Board meets in closed session Monday at 3 p.m. in the Rotunda to discuss candidates for interim president, Sullivan supporters will silently gather on the Lawn, according to a June 15 Faculty Senate press release. Although Assoc. Medicine Prof. Chris Holstege, the chair-elect of the Faculty Senate, said he did not know how many participants would attend the demonstration, he said he had “never seen such a cohesive response among the faculty, who are shocked at the removal of President Sullivan and dismayed by it.”
The Faculty Senate’s executive council passed a no-confidence measure of its own yesterday and will meet in emergency session Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Darden School. It is “exceedingly rare” for the Faculty Senate to call an emergency session, Holstege said. But the body’s leadership wanted to assemble before the Board meets Monday.
The purpose of the emergency meeting is to ratify yesterday’s no-confidence resolution and “to discuss whatever the faculty want to discuss about recent events,” said Faculty Senate Chair George Cohen, a professor in the Law School.
Faculty Senate leadership received a phone call from Vice Rector Mark Kington yesterday at 6 p.m. – the first direct communication between faculty and the Board about Sullivan’s departure, Holstege said. A discussion between Dragas, Kington, Cohen, Holstege and Drama Prof. Gweneth West, who chaired the Faculty Senate last year, took place later last night.
Cohen described the tone of last night’s conversation as “civil.”
An email from Cohen, Holstege and West sent late Friday afternoon said the Board has agreed to meet with the Faculty Senate executive council at 9 a.m. Monday.