Some faculty members said they would not work with the interim president and criticized him for accepting the post.
Leaders of the 16-member governing board have labored to present a united front in the decision to remove Sullivan, who resigned June 10 in the face of seemingly overwhelming opposition on the panel.
But board members have found few public supporters, and an 11-hour session to name Sullivan’s successor exposed internal rifts. Carl P. Zeithaml, dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, was named to the interim post early Tuesday on a 12-1 vote, with two members abstaining and one absent.
On Tuesday, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said for the first time that the board made a mistake by not being open with the community, leading to a week of mounting protest on the usually tranquil Grounds.
“There are absolutely things they should have done differently,’’ McDonnell said in a conference call with reporters as he was traveling in Sweden. “There’s been a lot of heartache and crisis and grief on that campus.’’
McDonnell, whose twin sons attend U-Va., said he was closely monitoring the situation in Charlottesville and would weigh recent events as he makes appointments to the board in the coming weeks.
In a marathon session, which began Monday afternoon and stretched past 2 a.m. Tuesday, an uncharacteristically divided board pressed ahead with the transition.
The negotiations pitted Sullivan’s supporters against her opponents. Rector Helen E. Dragas, who led the campaign to remove her, has repeatedly claimed near-unanimous approval for replacing Sullivan. But within the oval board room in the Rotunda, the rector’s majority appeared to wear thin. At one point, the pro-Sullivan faction had eight votes, or half the board, according to several people briefed on the meeting.
The anti-Sullivan faction won the day, and 12 of 16 members cast votes for Zeithaml in the public portion of an almost completely closed meeting. But when it was over, two board members spoke out in Sullivan’s defense for the first time.
“I have not been presented with evidence that I believe merits asking for her resignation, nor have I ever indicated that I would be willing to support such an effort,’’ said W. Heywood Fralin, a medical executive who cast the only vote against Zeithaml. “Given an opportunity I would have also voted to support her reinstatement. It is my opinion that the process leading to her resignation was flawed.”
Board members Robert D. Hardie and A. Macdonald Caputo abstained, and Glynn D. Key left before the vote..
Board member Hunter E. Craig, who supported the Zeithaml appointment, said he had nonetheless hoped to undo Sullivan’s resignation and had worked “to reaffirm her status as president of the University of Virginia.’’