Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell has warned the University of Virginia’s governing board to resolve the school's leadership crisis by Tuesday or he will ask the board’s 15 members to step down.
“I want final action by the Board on Tuesday,” McDonnell said in a statement released Friday. “If you fail to do so, I will ask for the resignation of the entire Board on Wednesday. Regardless of your decision, I expect you to make a clear, detailed and unified statement on the future leadership of the University.”
Protests and resignations have roiled the Charlottesville campus since the governing Board of Visitors on June 10 forced Teresa Sullivan, the university's first female president, to resign midway through a five-year contract. The resignation is effective Aug. 15.
On Thursday evening, supporters of Sullivan on the 15-member board called for a special meeting after they were able to secure enough votes to retain her, The Washington Post reported. The board is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Ten of the university's 11 school deans, as well as the Faculty Senate, have demanded Sullivan's reinstatement amid wide condemnations of the board's abrupt firing of the popular 62-year-old educator.
The Board of Visitors, headed by Helen Dragas, claimed they were unhappy with Sullivan's progress on financial, health care and other issues.
Sullivan defended her performance, saying, "Corporate-style, top-down leadership does not work in a great university.”
On Friday, Sullivan’s possible reinstatement prompted her interim successor McIntyre School of Commerce Dean Carl Zeithaml to suspend his plans to take over, effective Aug. 15. Excerpts of his letter posted by The Cavalier Daily, the university’s student publication:
In the three days since I accepted this position, I have talked to many in our community about what transpired on Grounds while I was out of the country on University business, and I received a great deal of input from numerous colleagues, including members of the faculty. I deeply appreciate and respect this input.
Clearly, we agree that the University and its reputation have been damaged these past 13 days, but that together we can mend the harm done and move our great University forward. Trust, one of our core institutional values, has been compromised.
There is an enormous groundswell of support for Terry Sullivan’s reinstatement as our president, and I understand that the Board will meet next week to consider this possibility. As a result, I am suspending any further negotiations with the Board regarding my status as interim president, as well as any activities associated with this role. In the meantime, I will return my focus to the McIntire School.
Trust cannot be restored in our community until the President Sullivan’s status is clarified and ultimately resolved.
Sullivan was elected to her position in January 2010, having previously served as the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan.
Supporters decried the board's move to remove Sullivan, announced on June 10 in an university-wide email sent to staff and students.
The fallout from the decision brought the resignation of a key ally of Dragas, Vice Rector Mark Kington. He announced his resignation on Monday, nearly two years before the end of his term.
"I believe that this is the right thing to do and I hope that it will begin a needed healing process at the university," Kington said in the letter.
Several professors have also resigned in protest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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