Coalition of faculty, staff and students push for transparency
University advocacy group Progressive Action Network organizes Rotunda rally
More than 100 University faculty, staff and students convened in front of the Rotunda Friday evening demanding increased transparency from the Board of Visitors, despite rainy weather and the ongoing Rotunda construction.
The event, organized by the Progressive Action Network, a University advocacy group, called upon the Board to atone for the forced resignation of University President Teresa Sullivan and the subsequent 17 days of turmoil that affected the University community this summer.
“The main objective of the rally is to keep the pressure on the B.O.V. and to urge them to be more forthcoming with the University community and the public about this summer’s events as well as their general operating procedures,” said rally organizer Laura Goldblatt, a Graduate Arts & Sciences student.
The groups’ central demands included a full account of Sullivan’s resignation, a transparent budgeting process, the installment of a voting faculty or staff member on the Board to be elected by their constituencies, and a reformed appointment process to the Board.
“Every time that members of the faculty, or even the president herself, have tried to get to the bottom of what is going on, [what] the deep root causes of the crisis of June [were], they have been told to move on, because it is too unpleasant, and its just going to make us look bad,” said Prof. Siva Vaidhyanathan, chair of the media studies department, during a speech at the rally Friday. “Well what makes us look bad is looking the other way.”
Student activist groups that comprise the Progressive Action Network led the rally Friday and included the Black Student Alliance, the Latino Student Alliance, Queer and Allied Activism, Workers and Students United, and the University’s chapters of the NAACP and Amnesty International.
One such activist, Graduate Arts & Sciences student Suzie McCarthy, founded a Facebook group in June that touted a membership of about 16,000 individuals while petitioning for the president’s reinstatement and demanding answers from the Board.
McCarthy said she continued to fight for transparency Friday because the June events have disrupted academic life at the University, disturbing both professors and students and hurting the University’s ability to hire new faculty.
“We have no confidence in the U.Va. Board of Visitors,” she said. “By refusing to discuss the events of June you have created a toxic environment on the U.Va. campus … and by choosing to act in your own interests, you, not we, are hurting our standing within higher education.”
English Prof. Michael Levenson was among crowd members concerned about what rallyers termed “structural problems” facing the University’s administration.
“I’m here because this business is unfinished business”, he said.