Timeline, Part 3 (June 19 through June 25)
The appointment of McIntire School of Commerce Dean Carl P. Zeithaml as interim university president seemed for a brief moment to be a resolution to the furious controversy that has engaged the University Community since the abrupt announcement on June 10 that the popular President Teresa A. Sullivan would resign. But Dean Zeithaml’s appointment was quickly followed by two high-profile resignations, the publication of email communications obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, reports of a move toward reinstatement by a pro-Sullivan faction within the Board of Visitors – and one week later, the University and higher education communities anxiously await a final decision by the BoV on the future of the Unversity’s leadership, while media attention is as intense as ever.
In Part 1 (LINK) and Part 2 (LINK) of my timeline, I covered the development of the controversy starting with the announcement of President Sullivan’s resignation on June 10, and ending with the appointment of the interim president on June 19. In Part 3, below, I continue my summary of events where I left off, ending with the situation as it stands today, Monday, June 24. In Part 4, which I will endeavor to post as soon as possible following the imminent ruling by the BoV, I will summarize the events of tomorrow and media commentary on the significance of the decision.
As always, feedback is welcome via the blog’s comment feature.
Summary of Events (Continued from Part 2):
Tuesday, June 19
At 2:33 AM, The Board of Visitors (BoV) emerges from closed session to announce that Carl P. Zeithaml, Dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, has been named interim university president (LINK to news release and video of BoV vote).
Dr. William Wulf, University Professor in the Department of Computer Science and President Emeritus of the National Academy of Engineering, issues a public letter to interim president Zeithaml announcing his resignation from the University. He labels the BoV’s handling of the President’s resignation “the worst example of corporate governance I have ever seen,” and calls on fellow faculty to follow his lead, stating that “the BOV needs to understand that there are real and immediate consequences to their actions” (FULL LETTER as printed in the Cavalier Daily).
Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Cavalier Daily obtains and publishes emails sent by Rector Helen E. Dragas and Vice Rector Mark Kington around the time of President Sullivan’s resignation. The emails expose more clearly the BoV’s motivations for the leadership change, and particularly their concerns related to threats posed by online learning at peer institutions (LINK to all FOIAed resources | LINK to summary article).
The Vice Rector issues a public letter to Governor Bob McDonnell in which he announces his resignation from the BoV in an effort to allow the University to “begin a needed healing process” (FULL LETTER).
Joe Morrissey, a Delegate to the Virginia General Assembly, calls for an official inquiry into the circumstances surrounding President Sullivan’s dismissal, and offers to pay for the investigation himself (LINK to article from the Washington Post).
Wednesday, June 20
In an open email to alumni of the McIntire School of Commerce, Interim President Zeithaml acknowledges widespread dissatisfaction with the BoV’s actions and with his decision to accept the interim presidency. He justifies his decision based on a desire to “move the University forward” (FULL LETTER).
The Faculty Senate issues a statement expressing gratitude for Vice Rector Kington’s resignation, while reiterating its call for Rector Dragas’ resignation and articulating that its ultimate goal is still the reinstatement of President Sullivan (FULL STATEMENT).
At 3pm, Dean Zeithaml holds his first press conference since assuming the role of interim president (FULL VIDEO | LINK to article in the Cavalier Daily). He says that he repeatedly turned down offers from the Rector and Vice Rector for the interim presidency, but ultimately accepted the role because he believed it was the best way he could help the university move forward. He also makes clear that he does not support the BoV’s decision to remove President Sullivan and that he has no interest in the permanent presidency.
George Cohen, Chair of the Faculty Senate, issues a statement calling for participation in a silent vigil in support of President Sullivan. At 5pm approximately 1000 people gather for the second rally in three days in support of President Sullivan (FULL STATEMENT).
The Washington Post reports that a group of pro-Sullivan BoV members are working to secure votes for her reinstatement, and that the President herself has indicated that she will accept reinstatement if Rector Dragas steps down from her position (FULL ARTICLE). The article states that BoV members have until 5pm Thursday to call a meeting for the following Tuesday, and that doing so will be an indication that they believe they have the 8 votes necessary to reinstate President Sullivan.
The Department Chairs of the University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences issue an open letter in which they not only echo the Faculty Senate’s lack of confidence in the current BoV and call for President Sullivan’s reinstatement, but also articulate the need for a reconstituted BoV that includes full representation by members of the faculty, staff, and student body (FULL TEXT).
Thursday, June 21
Marcus L. Martin, Vice President for Diversity & Equity, issues a statement in support of the reinstatement of President Sullivan (FULL STATEMENT).
President Sullivan issues a statement calling on the university community to uphold respect and civility irrespective of point-of-view, and particularly condemns abusive language directed at Dean Zeithaml and members of the BoV (FULL STATEMENT).
Rector Dragas issues a statement outlining in detail the ten most pressing external threats to the University’s continued excellence from the perspective of the BoV (FULL STATEMENT). The statement acknowledges the BoV’s mishandling of the situation, but defends its reasons for seeking new leadership: “…the bottom line is the days of incremental decision-making in higher education are over, or should be.”
The Deans of ten of the University’s eleven Colleges*, the Dean of Admissions, and the University Librarian issue a joint statement calling for the reinstatement of President Sullivan. They also call for open and collaborative dialogue between the BoV, President Sullivan, and the Deans on how to address the external threats identified by Rector Dragas going forward (FULL STATEMENT).
*NOTE: The statement gives the following reason for the absence of Dean Zeithaml’s signature: “…we did not offer Dean Zeithaml the opportunity to join in this communication, as we felt it would put him in an extraordinarily difficult position even to be asked.”
Fifteen UVa faculty members who are alumni of the University issue an open letter to Governor Bob McDonnell calling for the resignation of Rector Dragas and the reinstatement of President Sullivan (FULL STATEMENT).
The BoV announces a meeting scheduled for 3pm on Tuesday, June 26, to discuss the terms of President Sullivan’s employment. It is widely speculated that the 8 votes needed to reinstate President Sullivan have been secured by her supporters on the BoV (LINK to Cavalier Daily article).
Friday, June 22
Dean Zeithaml suspends activities related to his interim presidency pending the BoV’s forthcoming final decision on President Sullivan’s reinstatement (FULL STATEMENT).
The University issues a statement clarifying the BoV’s contract with a professional public relations firm and the source of funding for its services (FULL STATEMENT).
A group of eight Delegates to the Virginia General Assembly, all graduates of the University of Virginia, issue an open letter to Rector Dragas calling on the BoV to reconsider it’s decision to dismiss President Sullivan (FULL LETTER as printed by the Cavalier Daily).
Governor McDonnell issues a letter to the BoV demanding a final judgment on President Sullivan’s reinstatement in their Tuesday meeting. If the BoV fails to decide with finality, he will ask for the immediate resignation of each Board member on Wednesday. In a public statement, Gov. McDonnell calls upon members of the University community to accept the finality of the BoV’s Tuesday decision and move forward (FULL STATEMENT | FULL LETTER to the BoV).
Rector Dragas issues a statement in response to the Governor, thanking him for “affirming the importance of Board governance…free of influence from outside political, personal, or media pressure” (FULL STATEMENT).
Saturday, June 23
The Council of Foundations, a body representing the various philanthropic organizations that support the University, issues a statement calling for the reinstatement of President Sullivan (FULL STATEMENT).
Sunday, June 24
The Student Council meets via conference call to formulate its stance regarding President Sullivan’s reinstatement, discuss a measure to call for full student representation on the BoV, and announce an emergency call-in meeting scheduled for Sunday, July 1 at 3pm.(LINK to Cavalier Daily article).
A “Rally for Honor,” organized by graduate student Suzie McCarthy, is held at the Rotunda from 2-4pm and attended by approximately 2000 people. The assembly features a schedule of speakers including Charlottesville Vice Mayor Kristin Szakos, faculty and staff members, and representatives of the Student Council and Honor Committee. While most speeches call for President Sullivan’s reinstatement, the discourse also centers on moving the University forward with constructive dialogue open to all of its constituencies (LINK to news release | LINK to Cavalier Daily article).
Monday, June 25
A Wall Street Journal editorial briefly summarizes the events since June 10 and the issues they raise. The article is heavily criticized for factual inaccuracies regarding the role of the Darden School of Business and the lack of a general grasp on the order in which key events actually occurred (LINK).
Dean Robert F. Bruner of the Darden School of Business responds to the Wall Street Journal in a widely-circulated post on his personal blog (LINK). He addresses several inaccuracies about the Darden School perpetuated throughout the controversy and again in the WSJ editorial.
George Cohen, Chair of the Faculty Senate, again calls on members of the University to join in a silent gathering outside the Tuesday BoV meeting, starting at 2:30 (FULL STATEMENT).
As the community awaits the BoV’s decision tomorrow, both sides of the issue have made clear the expectation that they will prevail. National media attention is as intense as ever, and higher ed commentators have predicted that the outcome of tomorrow’s BoV meeting will set an enormous precedent on the future of online learning and the role of state funding and public governance in higher education.
In Part 4, coming as soon as possible after the BoV’s decision is announced, I will recap tomorrow’s events and provide links to commentary on the significance of the decision.
Thanks for reading!