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Board of Visitors will return to Rotunda to discuss Sullivan's employment

Statement from deans adds to pressure as Board plans to reconvene

The University's Board of Visitors will reconvene Tuesday in the Rotunda's Board Room to "discuss possible changes in the terms of employment with the President," according to a University media alert, and could potentially reverse the controversial decision that led to President Teresa A. Sullivan's forced resignation.

The June 10 announcement of Sullivan's stepping down caused widespread shock across Grounds and incited a flurry of dissent targeted at the Board.

An estimated two thousand Sullivan supporters gathered at the Rotunda Monday to cheer Sullivan as she arrived to address the Board before it deliberated on her employment in closed session.

The Board will need a minimum of eight votes to reinstate Sullivan, or a majority of its 15 voting members. A Board coalition seeking to re-instate Sullivan held eight votes at one point during its Monday evening meeting, The Washington Post reported, but the Board eventually voted 12-1 to appoint McIntire School of Commerce Dean Carl Zeithaml as the future interim president.

Vice Rector Mark Kington, an important architect in Sullivan's ouster, resigned Tuesday. His absence leaves one fewer vote for those in favor of solidifying Sullivan's resignation.

Ten deans from the University's 11 schools, along with the Admissions Dean and the University Librarian, released a statement Thursday urging the Board to reinstate Sullivan because the search for an interim president would "clearly delay rapid action on the fiscal issues and other substantial changes."

"We recommend strongly that discussions begin immediately to reset the relationship with President Sullivan, reconstitute the team she had put together over that past year and accelerate the important decisions to be made," the statement said.

Zeithaml, who would have been the 11th dean in advocacy, was not asked to sign the statement because the other deans "felt it would put him in an extraordinarily difficult position even to be asked," according to the statement.

As reported by The Washington Post, Sullivan has indicated that she would be willing to remain in the presidency if Rector Helen Dragas were to resign. Dragas has given no suggestion that she is planning to do so, instead releasing a statement Thursday shortly after the Board's meeting was announced. She defended her efforts to oust Sullivan, saying the Board "did the right thing, the wrong way."

Dragas supported her actions by listing 10 areas of concern to the University, such as declines in state funding and faculty salaries, rapid changes in the field of health care and the need for the University to pursue online learning.

"Put together, these challenges represent an extremely steep climb, even if the University were lean and on top of its game," Dragas said. "As much as our action to effect a change in leadership has created a wave of controversy, it was motivated by an understanding of the very stiff headwinds we face as a University, and our resolve to push through them to forge a future that is even brighter than imaginable today."

Dragas' term as Rector is set to expire July 1, though she is eligible to serve one more four-year term on the Board if reappointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell. McDonnell has not made any indication yet as to whether or not he plans to reappoint her.


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