Update, 6:02 p.m: Faculty leaders at the University of Virginia announced Friday that they will meet Monday morning with the university’s Board of Visitors to discuss the forced resignation of President Teresa Sullivan.
The meeting signals a potential diplomatic breakthrough after one of the most acrimonious weeks in the university’s two-century history. Two faculty groups have passed resolutions of no confidence in the governing board, saying the panel has needlessly disrupted the university by ousting Sullivan and has failed to give a suitable explanation.
“What I think, of course, is they need to promptly make a decision about an interim and promptly set up a very clear and transparent and open process about who will become the next president and they need to promptly engage the community, the faculty, and others ... to explain what the future of Virginia holds,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, reaction to Sullivan’s ouster, most of it critical, continued to accumulate Friday in mass e-mails, official statements and blog posts, with alumni and student leaders weighing in.
In a conference call with reporters from London, McDonnell (R) reiterated that he had no intention of “meddling” in the business of a governing board made up of what he termed “competent, professional people who love U-Va.
“When governors start meddling ... particularly on personnel decisions, it really undermines the authority of these boards,’’ he said. “There are 3,000 or 4,000 people that get appointed to these boards over the term of a governor, and the goal is really put the best people that you can on and then ask them to do the best that they can to run the place well.’’
McDonnell also restated that he enjoyed working with Sullivan, particularly on his goal to increase the number of slots for in-state students at the university, and that he was “surprised” at the board’s decision.
“When there is a leader who is replaced, there are always concerns about a change in leadership, and I’m very sympathetic to people in the community, the faculty, who have a positive relationship with President Sullivan,’’ he said.
U-Va.’s board is split equally between members appointed by McDonnell and former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D). Kaine, now the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, declined to comment Tuesday.
McDonnell will appoint another group of board members at the end of this month, including four at U-Va. Two members at U-Va. are term-limited, but the other two could stay on for another four years.
In other Sullivan news, the U-Va. Alumni Association dispatched an e-mail Friday seeking input, which will be presented to the university and the Board of Visitors by the end of next week. The response overwhelmed the association’s Internet servers.
“After making history as the University of Virginia’s first female president, Teresa Sullivan earned widespread popularity and respect among U.Va.’s faculty, staff, students and its alumni around the world,’’ said Tom Faulders, president of Alumni Association. “Her resignation, resulting from philosophical differences with the Board of Visitors, has shocked and angered many in the University community and has attracted national media coverage.”
The Alumni leader alluded to a message Thursday from Sullivan’s two top deputies, who are effectively running the university until an interim leader is named. The two — Provost John Simon and Chief Operating Officer Michael Strine — portrayed the board action as “resolute and authoritative.”
To Faulders, that comment suggested “that there is no going back, no reconciliation and no changing this decision.” Others have interpreted the adjectives differently; in any case, neither Sullivan nor the university board has made overtures of reconciliation.
The university’s Student Council released a statement Friday saying that the U-Va. community “is entitled to more information” about Sullivan’s exit. “The statements by the Board of Visitors and other University officials up to this point have been abstract, unclear and at times contradictory.”
Rector Helen Dragas has explained the board’s decision in broad terms but has declined to give specifics, citing the confidentiality of personnel actions.