Sullivan, Board tensions rise


An email exchange obtained by the Washington Post between University President Teresa Sullivan and Rector Helen Dragas concerning goals for the academic year reveal a continuing divide between the University’s leading officials.

“I am not averse to stretch goals, but I also do not care to be set up to fail,” Sullivan wrote in a Feb. 6 email to Board members, referring to a list of 65 goals for the University that Dragas sent to Sullivan on Feb. 2.

Sullivan sent the Board of Visitors what she referred to in the emails as “detailed” goals for Board approval back in November, and criticized the Board’s response for both its scope and its substance.

“You sent me 65 goals, 22 of which I had never before seen and which no one had previously discussed with me,” Sullivan wrote. “[O]ther flagship university presidents typically have a one-page list of six or seven high-level strategic goals to accomplish within one year.”

Sullivan accused Dragas of “micromanagement,” and the provision of unattainable goals, adding Dragas had not given her adequate time to prepare before the Feb. 20 Board meeting. “Four of [the goals] require me to prepare and present something at the February Board meeting, for which the posting deadline occurs in less than one week,” she wrote.

Sullivan also criticized the list of goals for omitting increasing faculty salaries, which she said was one of her top priorities. The Board approved the goal of increasing faculty salaries in its February session.

“On June 10, [2012], Helen [Dragas] cited inaction on faculty salaries as a reason to ask for my resignation, even though I had secured a 2 percent merit raise for the faculty,” Sullivan wrote. “The retention and hiring of faculty is our greatest challenge, and improving compensation is critical to resolving that challenge.”

Faculty Senate Chair George Cohen, a University Law professor, said before the Faculty Senate meeting Monday afternoon the faculty were “disheartened” to read these emails, but were encouraged by the Board’s endorsement of increasing faculty salaries at its recent meeting.

“Based on the information presented in [the Washington Post] article, we find regrettable Rector Dragas’ actions as well as the statements in her email and in her interview,” Cohen said.

Cohen said Dragas had not learned the lessons about University governance from the ouster and reinstatement of Sullivan last summer.

Sullivan’s email to the Board also said a list of goals needed to include addressing the concerns of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the University’s accrediting agency which placed the University on warning following the events of last June.

In response to Sullivan’s email, Dragas said the list of goals were the result of several contributors.

“It appears, though, that the divergence in opinion are too significant to be harmonized yet,” Dragas said, adding that the issues would be further discussed at the February Board meeting.

Responding to the Washington Post’s initial article, Sullivan said in a statement the correspondence was released without her consent or knowledge, and emphasized the importance of her relationship with the Board and her respect for their policy.

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