Sullivan indicated through a spokesman that she could not discuss her resignation beyond an official statement that lamented a “philosophical difference of opinion” with the board that had hired her. She and her husband, law scholar Douglas Laycock, are tenured professors and free to remain on the U-Va. faculty.
The Faculty Senate chided the board for an “inadequate and unsatisfactory” explanation of Sullivan’s departure. “[W]e are entitled to a full and candid explanation of this sudden and drastic change in University leadership,” the group said in a statement.
“The faculty is in shock. The faculty is hysterical. This is like a death in the family,” said Gweneth West, a drama professor and former chairman of the Faculty Senate. “She was everything we had hoped for and more. And she remains so today.”
Prominent figures in the university community affirmed Sullivan’s record.
“I think history will show that she performed in the time that she was here in an extraordinary manner,” said Leonard Sandridge, a former chief operating officer at U-Va. who served under Sullivan’s predecessor, John T. Casteen. Sandridge said Sullivan understood the operations of a major research university “as well as anyone I have ever seen.”
Board members insisted they made the decision with no input from Richmond.
“The board is given the authority to operate,’’ said board member Alan Diamonstein, a former Democratic state delegate. “We really try not to get politics involved in the university.”
“I’ve never been prouder of the utter transparency of a process,’’ another member, businessman R.J. Kirk, said.
Other board members referred questions to Dragas.
Several academic leaders contend Sullivan had a clear vision for the university. Her top priority was to foster “the premier undergraduate experience in the United States,” along with top-ranked professional programs, and the capacity to hire and keep the best scholars for the faculty, Simon said. She envisioned a “radical” shift in undergraduate teaching, he said, to stress in-depth and one-on-one interactions for
upper-level students, technology, and academic innovation for freshmen and sophomores.
Sullivan drew standing-room crowds at speaking engagements and forged deep relationships in Washington and Richmond.
“I thought she was a breath of fresh air,’’ said state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), who represents Charlottesville. “I really liked her.”
More from The Washington Post:
Column: U-Va. board, tell us why you pushed out president
Column: What was behind the putsch at U-Va.?
Was U-Va. president Teresa Sullivan paid too much?
Kumar reported from Richmond and de Vise from Charlottesville. Staff writer Ben Pershing and researcher Sue Noftsinger contributed to this report.