Sullivan, protestors share concerns as Board continues to meet
The Board of Visitors meets in open, closed sessions respectively while community gathers outside
University President Teresa A. Sullivan entered the top of the Rotunda to thunderous applause from a crowd of several thousand gathered on the Lawn, and disappeared behind closed doors to meet with the Rector, Vice Rector and remainder of the Board of Visitors Monday afternoon.
Before Sullivan's arrival, University Rector Helen Dragas delivered an address to the University apologizing for the uproar following the announcement last Sunday that Sullivan would step down Aug. 15. She also reasserted the Board's authority to ask the president to resign.
"Simply put, we have the responsibility, on behalf of the entire community, to make these important and often difficult calls," Dragas said. "While our answers may seem insufficient and poorly communicated, we have responded with the best we have to offer – the truth."
After Dragas's remarks the Board went into a closed session, which included dialogue with Sullivan.
Former University president John T. Casteen III appeared outside the Rotunda before the Board convened, saying the past week had damaged the University's "institutional integrity" and called into question the governance system overseeing the Board.
"This is a public university, which means among other things it is an entity of the commonwealth of Virginia," Casteen said. "In Virginia you can't make secret plans for the allocation of public resources."
After emerging from the Rotunda, Sullivan addressed the crowd gathered on the Lawn. She then walked down the Rotunda steps and through teeming masses of supporters who cheered and sang the "Good Ole Song" as she departed.
Sullivan released a statement which enumerated her accomplishments during her two-year term and cautioned the Board about the dangers of rapid change to the University. She defended her belief in "sustained change with buy-in" as the proper way to lead the school. She voiced dissatisfaction that the Board did not express its disagreements more frankly and pointed out that philanthropic donations had increased during her tenure by 15.6 percent - with Reunions Weekend alone raking in $44 million.
"A dramatic top-down reallocation in our general fund, simply to show that we are 'changing,' or that we are not 'incremental,' seems to me fiscally imprudent, highly alarming to faculty and unfair to students who expect to get a broadly inclusive education here," Sullivan said. "A university that does not teach the full range of arts and sciences will no longer be a university. Certainly it will no longer be respected as such by its former peers."
Sullivan also claimed other universities were preparing to take advantage of the current turmoil on Grounds and "raid" the University of its star faculty members next year.
Law Prof. George Cohen, chair of the Faculty Senate, delivered a statement after Sullivan departed in which he called on Dragas and University Vice Rector Mark Kington to resign. Dragas's term ends July 1, though she is eligible for reappointment by Gov. Bob McDonnell. Kington's term expires July 1, 2014.
The Faculty Senate's executive council met with Dragas this morning before the Board convened. Faculty Senate Chair-elect Chris Holstege, an associate professor of emergency medicine, called the morning meeting "vague" and said the rally outside the Rotunda showed solidarity for the president. "The faculty, the students, the alumni are all frustrated and there's a complete show of support for Terry Sullivan," Holstege said.
As the Board continued in closed session this afternoon, members of the Faculty Senate read Sullivan's statement aloud to a dwindling crowd. At one point, Drama Prof. Gweneth West, past chair of the Faculty Senate, asked the crowd to turn and face Old Cabell Hall in solidarity with the University. As the crowd dispersed it chanted, "Whose University? Our University!"
The Board is expected to announce an interim president tonight.