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U-Va. to scrutinize Virginia Quarterly Review after editor's suicide

By Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 20, 2010; B04

University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan on Thursday ordered "a thorough review" of the management of the school's acclaimed literary journal, following the suicide of a top editor last month.

The death of Kevin Morrissey, managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, has drawn attention because of questions that a sister and some co-workers have raised about the work environment at the journal and Morrisey's efforts to contact university officials before he shot himself July 30 near the Charlottesville campus. Morrissey was 52.

"The untimely death of Kevin Morrissey . . . has caused a great deal of pain for his family, friends and colleagues," Sullivan said in a statement. "It has also raised questions about the university's response to employees' concerns about the workplace climate in the VQR office. I therefore am announcing that we will be undertaking a thorough review of VQR's operations.

"Conducting this review does not in any way presume that any members of the VQR staff have been involved in improper conduct," she continued. "The review will, I hope, provide a factual basis for understanding this workplace and deciding what corrective actions, if any, the university should undertake."

In the two weeks before his death, Morrissey's phone records show he made more than a dozen calls to university officials, according to Maria Morrissey, his sister. Morrissey said her brother suffered from depression but was pushed to suicide by "a very hostile work environment."

Ted Genoways, editor of the journal since 2003 and Morrissey's supervisor, is on leave and unavailable for comment, said his attorney, Lloyd Snook. "We've said all along that we welcome a university investigation," Snook said. He acknowledged that there had been some "dissension in the ranks" of the journal's staff.

In a written statement to the Chronicle of Higher Education published Aug. 12, Genoways denied that he had mistreated Morrissey. "His long history of depression caused him trouble throughout his career," Genoways wrote, "leading often to conflicts with his bosses."

Sullivan said Barbara Deily, the university's chief audit executive, would lead the review.

The Virginia Quarterly Review, founded in 1925, publishes fiction, poetry and essays and other works on topics such as society, politics and literature.

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