College chairs, program directors issue letter to "protest" Sullivan's resignation

Below is the full text of an open letter co-signed by 33 chairs and program directors from the University's College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences in response to the resignation of President Teresa A. Sullivan:

12 June 2012

Dear Rector Dragas and members of the Board of Visitors:

The undersigned Department Chairs and Program Directors of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences write in support of the letter submitted by the Faculty Senate to protest the resignation of President Teresa Sullivan and to join in the university-wide request for clarification. We understand the Board's fiduciary responsibilities and believe they can be performed most effectively for the mission of the University in conversation with the faculty-the stewards of that mission of higher education. As leaders of the University's core academic unit, we think it crucial to understand better the rationale for this decision.

Our surprise and concern arise directly from the fact that we have been very pleased with the direction in which President Sullivan and her administrative team have been leading UVA and with her accomplishments thus far. She is an extraordinary academic leader, with superb administrative abilities, the heart of a faculty member, and evident strength of character. Her superlative judgment-the hallmark of any great leader-was seen most conspicuously in her filling the top two administrative vacancies with what everyone agrees are excellent choices in John Simon and Michael Strine. We were optimistic about her plans to retain as well as attract excellent faculty. We in Arts and Sciences are direct beneficiaries of important initiatives that she personally spearheaded, such as the new financial model, which promised to increase the transparency and effectiveness of resource allocation; the sizable grant recently won from the Mellon Foundation to hire new faculty; a sensible plan for accommodating increased enrollment; and cutting-edge innovations in science and technology. We moreover admired her efforts to build community, to bring together the various, sometimes competing, segments of the university. One hears from colleagues elsewhere that Terry Sullivan was widely recognized as a rising star among university presidents. We expect that her positive impact on the University of Virginia will be felt-and will be appreciated by all of us-for years to come.

The University of Virginia is first and foremost an institution devoted to the principles of open debate, discussion and deliberation. The central purpose of the University as articulated in the University's Faculty Handbook is the transmission of knowledge and skills, a fostering of "the habits of mind and character required to develop a generous receptivity to new ideas among our students" and a "desire to engage in a lifetime of learning." We stress the central role of faculty governance in matters of academic programming and curriculum. Faculty are the leaders of the University's intellectual and pedagogical life. We would welcome any discussion regarding our teaching mission, the defining quality of the UVA experience, including issues of distance and digital learning.

The entire university community would benefit from a full airing of the specific "philosophical differences" mentioned by you and President Sullivan in order to form a clear vision for the months and years ahead. We believe that this abrupt and, from our point of view, opaque decision will deeply threaten the way UVA is perceived by prospective as well as current faculty, students, and donors. We strongly urge the Board of Visitors to reopen discussion with President Sullivan and the faculty.

We share with you the urgent concern to ensure that this most distinctive of American universities can maintain the sources of excellence that have characterized it now for nearly two centuries.

Respectfully yours,

Cynthia Wall, English\nDavid Leblang, Politics\nBrian Owensby, History\nPaul Halliday, History (incoming)\nCharles Holt, Economics\nDouglas Taylor, Biology\nSiva Vaidhyanathan, Media Studies\nKrishan Kumar, Sociology\nJohn Miller, Classics\nFred Damon, Anthropology\nSusan McKinnon, Anthropology (incoming)\nTom Bloom, Drama\nEdmund Brodie, Mountain Lake Biological Station\nRichard Will, Music\nFarzaneh Milani, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages & Cultures\nDeborah Parker, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese\nJohn Arras, Biomedical Ethics\nEllen Contini-Morava, Linguistics\nCharlotte Patterson, Studies in Women & Gender\nDeborah McDowell, Carter G. Woodson Institute\nGabriel Finder, Jewish Studies Program\nTalbot Brewer, Philosophy\nAnne Behnke Kinney, East Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures\nDavid Herman, Slavic\nMichael Suarez, Rare Book School\nPatricia Wiberg, Environmental Sciences\nChristopher Krentz, American Sign Language\nChristopher Tilghman, Creative Writing\nDeborah McGrady, French\nSandhya Shukla, American Studies\nKevin Hart, Religious Studies\nEdward G. Lengel, Papers of George Washington\nColin Bird, Politics, Philosophy, & Law

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