Then Sullivan emerged and acknowledged her supporters. As the crowd chanted “TE-RE-SA,” she said, “I appreciate this so much.”
In her statement to the board, Sullivan defended her administration and its measured pace of change, which Dragas had repeatedly criticized as too slow.
“I have been described as an incrementalist. It is true,” Sullivan said. “Sweeping action may be gratifying and may create the aura of strong leadership, but its unintended consequences may lead to costs that are too high to bear.”
Sullivan said she had worked in collaboration with vice presidents, deans and faculty leaders, building a foundation for “greater change” later. “This is the best, most constructive, most long lasting, and beneficial way to change a university. Until the last ten days, the change at U-Va. has not been disruptive change, and it has not been high-risk change. Corporate-style, top-down leadership does not work in a great university.”
Sullivan indicated that board leaders pressed her to make “deep, top-down cuts,” potentially eroding the university’s portfolio of core programs.
“A university that does not teach the full range of arts and sciences will no longer be a university,” she said. “Certainly it will no longer be respected as such by its former peers.” She underlined the word “former.’’
In a proposed settlement, Sullivan would receive her presidential compensation package, $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, plus about $360,000 in deferred compensation.
Dragas has hired Hill+Knowlton, a public relations firm, to help the board ride out the backlash from Sullivan’s ouster, two knowledgeable university employees said. The U-Va. Foundation is picking up the tab.
Dragas met privately with U-Va. faculty leaders Monday morning at an undisclosed locale. Afterward, the Executive Council of the Faculty Senate issued a statement asking that Sullivan be reinstated and that the naming of an interim leader be delayed. The faculty leaders also asked that Dragas and Kington resign and that a faculty representative be added to the board.
Major donors to the university also continued to call for a change.
“The whole handling of this thing was outrageous,’’ said Mortimer Caplin, a lawyer and U-Va. alumnus who has donated millions of dollars to the school. He said the makeup of the board needs to change but stopped short of saying who needs to be removed.
Sullivan’s ouster has taken an incalculable toll, according to Casteen and others, in terms of potential for loss of donors, faculty defections and censure from higher education leaders. The action has spawned more than a dozen letters of protest and no-confidence votes from various campus constituencies. Sullivan herself warned that deans at competing schools “are setting aside funds now to raid the University of Virginia” of its stars.
Between Sunday night and Monday morning, a vandal spray-painted the letters “G-R-E-E-E-D” on the six columns of the historic Rotunda. Campus workers painted and repainted them until the letters were obscured.
Dragas had lined up a candidate for interim chief before Sullivan’s departure was announced, according to several officials who have knowledge of the situation but were not authorized to speak. He was Edward Miller, an ex-officio U-Va. board member and former chief executive of Johns Hopkins Medicine. But Miller has since said he does not want to serve, the sources said. Provost John Simon also was said to have taken his name out of the running.
Kumar reported from Richmond.