In a surprising development (because this virtually never happens in academia), this afternoon the University of Virginia board of visitors unanimously voted to reinstate Teresa Sullivan as president of the university.
The board fired Sullivan earlier this month after expressing concern about the show pace of change at the institution. Sullivan, who had been president for only two years, was quite popular at UVA and her ouster provoked protests, by both students and faculty.
And so the board backed down. According to an article by Bill Sizemore in The Virginian-Pilot:
The University of Virginia Board of Visitors reinstated Teresa Sullivan as president at a special meeting today. Sullivan and Helen Dragas, rector of the board, walked in together to the 3 p.m. meeting.
Shortly after the vote, which capped a brief meeting, Sullivan thanked the board for their confidence in her.”I want to partner with you in bringing about what’s best for the university,” Sullivan said even as cheers erupted outside the Rotunda where her supporters had gathered.
A majority of the 15-member board was needed to approve the reinstatement for Sullivan to remain in office. Dragas, who was central to the initial move to oust the president, opened the meeting with comments seeking to reunite the university community. She said she was convinced the university would emerge stronger after the controversy and reiterated an apology for the way the matter was handled initially.
Well perhaps, though the central issues here appear unresolved.
Will the university continue with the ill-conceived Dragas plan to go forward with more online courses? Her unhappiness with Sullivan appeared to stem from a fear that UVA was falling behind other schools in prestige rankings. Is that still a priority? Without new lines of funding (or more money from the state) Dragas (or Sullivan) won’t be able to make big changes at UVA.
For now, though, the struggle is over. Sullivan is back, and no one on the board even had to resign.
Virginia governor Bob McDonnell threatened to replace the entire board if it didn’t resolve the UVA leadership problem by today’s meeting. Virginia law gives the governor the power to fire board members for incompetence or gross neglect of duty.