FELICE: U.Va. will need a new president with a bold vision

As we round out 200 years, strong leadership is as important as ever

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The search is on for President Teresa Sullivan's successor.

Marshall Bronfin | Cavalier Daily

When University President Teresa Sullivan first announced she would be stepping down in summer of 2018, my first question was which direction would the selection committee take in finding her successor. Will the next president be from the University? Will the successor be someone with prior university administration experience? Will the committee’s choice make a statement?

All of these questions come at a tumultuous time, with a controversial president ending her term during the bicentennial celebration of the University. Over her tenure, she has faced an “ousting” by the Board of Visitors, a debunked rape allegation from a Rolling Stone’s article against members of the Phi Psi fraternity, the disappearance and murder of a student and the detainment of a Theta Chi fraternity member in North Korea. There is no doubt she has also faced economic and financial challenges running a public university during a recession while also pushing the Cornerstone Plan for strategic excellence.

Regardless of your opinion on her ability to manage a crisis or her record as the head of the University, we need a new direction with the next president. This individual must be able to effectively lead a university plagued by a continuous lack of ethnic and economic diversity. Our acceptance of Thomas Jefferson’s use of slaves, the controversial arrest of Martese Johnson and the lack of a proportional minority population are just a few of the major problems the new president will face.

A proactive university president is critical when it comes to minority rights. We need to commit to gradually adjusting our admissions statistics with programs which will improve the enrollment and inclusion of minority students. The new president should organize initiatives such as a fast-track program with Virginia schools in low-income and minority-heavy areas. Additionally, the new president must be a leader who will expand admissions outreach and special programs for minorities and who will work to enact new financial-aid programs. This will bring in more low-income families and make the burden on those already in attendance more manageable.

Retaining female leadership within University faculty should also be addressed. There needs to be more organization in encouraging female faculty to stay longer and to establish themselves in leadership roles. We need a bold visionary who will take us to the next level during the beginning of the University’s third century.

Ultimately, the search for the University’s next president must include all of these concerns. Although Sullivan’s term has been fraught with undesirable media attention, she nevertheless has done a commendable job of steering the University in the right direction. The selection committee must ensure her replacement understands the difficulties of the job and is willing to make necessary reforms.

Mark Felice is a Viewpoint writer for the Opinion section. He may be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com

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