Some prominent faculty members began lobbying one another to reject Zeithaml’s appointment as part of a broader campaign to expel the board leaders and reinstate Sullivan.
In a note to colleagues, politics professor James Ceaser termed Zeithaml a board “puppet” and urged deans to refuse to recognize the new chain of command, to sustain a mood of crisis on the Grounds that might “force the governor and others to find a solution different than the one the board is now pursuing.”
“Why should it be over?” Ceaser said in an interview. “There are maybe 16 people in the state of Virginia who favor the board, and they’re all on it.”
But leaders of the Faculty Senate said they would work with Zeithaml.
“We want to give him a chance to reach out to us, to meet with us,” said George Cohen, a law professor who chairs the faculty group. The senate has called for the board’s leaders to resign, but Cohen said its fight is not “with him personally.”
Zeithaml, one of 11 deans at U-Va., cut short a trip to Europe and flew home after the board’s vote. “I realize that it is a very difficult time for many people within our community, but I look forward to working with our faculty, students, staff, alumni and University leaders to move U-Va. forward,” he said in a statement.
Sullivan had warned the board that other universities would seize the moment to raid star faculty. On Tuesday, one of those stars, computer scientist William Wulf, delivered a choleric letter of resignation to Zeithaml.
“I do not wish to be associated with an institution being as badly run as the current UVa,” he wrote, saying he feared that the governing board would “make a lot more dumb decisions.”
Wulf is one of fewer than 20 “university professors” among 2,200 faculty members at U-Va., an honorific denoting significant stature.
Del. Joseph D. Morrissey (D-Richmond), a U-Va. graduate, is calling on his colleagues in the General Assembly to investigate the circumstances surrounding Sullivan’s forced resignation. “The taxpayers of Virginia, who support the university, deserve answers, not more excuses,’’ he said.
But most alumni, donors and community leaders, concerned for the health of one of the nation’s most prestigious public institutions, instead clamored for McDonnell to make further changes to the board. As of Tuesday, the governor’s office had received nearly 800 e-mails and calls on the topic.
McDonnell reiterated that he would not micromanage the university or the board, which he said is comprised of highly successful, deeply committed people who have “great love” for U-Va.
But McDonnell will be forced to play a role. Dragas’s four-year term expires at month’s end. Assuming she wants to return, McDonnell will have to decide whether to reappoint her. Whatever decision he makes will have political consequences. McDonnell said he will reveal his intentions “at the right time.’’
In a signed settlement, Sullivan will receive her presidential compensation package of $680,000 for another year of sabbatical, research and consulting after her Aug. 15 departure, according to a person briefed on the document. She could then return to teaching sociology at a salary of $170,000.
De Vise reported from Charlottesville.