Updated, 4:13 p.m.: The Faculty Senate Executive Council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday that expressed a lack of confidence in the rector, vice rector and the entire Board of Visitors. After the council met in emergency session, it also again expressed strong support of Sullivan.
In a note to the university population, Provost John Simon and Chief Operating Officer Michael Strine acknowledged that Sullivan’s forced resignation Sunday had “generated anxiety on the Grounds,” and that “many of you are uncertain about their implications.”
They praised those academic leaders who responded to the tumult by “reassuring their faculty and staff with strength, vision and optimism.” They did not directly address the many other academicians at U-Va. who have responded in protest, with letters calling for the governing board to explain and reconsider their decision.
“The Board of Visitors’ action is resolute and authoritative,” they wrote. They promised that the panel would follow “a deliberate, principled and thoughtful search process for our next president” after installing an interim leader next week.
“We encourage all of us, even as we adjust and absorb to this change, to focus constructively forward” in preparing for the next administration, they wrote.
Sullivan’s unexpected exit has sparked wide protest among faculty, alumni and students. A new petition seeking Sullivan’s reinstatement had collected 650 signatures as of 2:30 p.m. A Facebook page, also seeking Sullivan’s reinstatement, had nearly 350 members.
A viral blog post, penned by an alumna, laid out one of many theories, all of them speculative, to explain the ouster. The Darden School of Business has become a particular source of antipathy among Sullivan loyalists, following the revelation by a Darden Foundation board chairman that he “worked with” Rector Helen E. Dragas on the “project” of removing Sullivan.
Sullivan’s supporters circulated a strategic memo, penned by the president and delivered to board members last month, as evidence that she knew the university’s problems and had a plan to address them. Board members faulted Sullivan for lacking such a plan and for moving too slowly in facing the institution’s many fiscal challenges. Sullivan has offered no comment and may be bound not to speak by the terms of her resignation.
Here is the full text of the statement from Simon and Strine:
Deans, Vice Presidents, Faculty, Staff and Students of the University of Virginia and the Medical Center and the College at Wise,
The decisions of the weekend have generated anxiety on the Grounds and many of you are uncertain about their implications. We know that our community is presently unsettled by the unexpected resignation of President Sullivan.
We recognize that some seek more complete knowledge of events and details, some are still absorbing the news, and many have reached out to offer their understanding and solid support of our present duty. We are particularly appreciative of our academic and administrative leaders who have stepped up to share this challenge by reassuring their faculty and staff with strength, vision and optimism.
The Board of Visitors’ action is resolute and authoritative. The BoV will take the next steps on Monday to put an interim President in place and will follow with the establishment of a deliberate, principled and thoughtful search process for our next President.
We are committed to advance the University of Virginia, in partnership, and will support the leadership of the interim and next President. We encourage all of us, even as we adjust and absorb this change, to focus constructively forward in preparing the institution for its next stage of leadership and our shared commitment to quality and excellence in teaching, discovery and patient care.
We ask that you join us in assuring that the University of Virginia continues to be a leader on the forefront of higher education and health care in the world.
This post has been updated since it was first published.