- Kenneth Elzinga Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics; Department of Economics
- Susan Fraiman Professor, Department of English
- Mitchell Green NEH/Horace Goldsmith Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy, Corcoran Department of Philosophy
- Leigh Grossman Professor of Pediatric Medicine, Chief of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Division; former Vice Provost of International Affairs
- Suzie McCarthy Graduate student, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics; Organizer, United For Honor Protest
- Jon Mikalson William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Classics and Interim Chair, Department of Classics
- Stephen Nash Chair, University of Virginia Honor Committee
- Louis Nelson Associate Professor, Department of Architectural History
- Peter Norton Assistant Professor, Department of Science, Technology & Society; Chair, Policy Committee, Faculty Senate
- Larry G. Richards Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
- Kristen Szakos Vice Mayor, City of Charlottesville
- Joel Voss Graduate student, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics
Kenneth Elzinga Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics; Department of Economics
My name is Ken Elzinga and I teach economics at UVA. I am an unlikely person to speak at this rally. By nature, I am not drawn to demonstrations or collective action of this sort. In addition, as a person who for many years has served on the board of trustees of another college, I have great respect for the principle that the board hires and fires the president of a college or university. A board of trustees (or a board of visitors in our situation) has only a few responsibilities. Selecting the president is one of them.
But I believe our Board of Visitors made a mistake in calling for Terry Sullivan’s resignation. I thought so at the time and events of the past several days have confirmed this. From my perspective, Terry Sullivan’s performance as president of this institution has been exemplary. The first time I met her was not in Charlottesville but in Los Angeles, where each of us was speaking at a UVA fund-raising event. Terry had just become president. This was her first trip on behalf of the University. She gave a great talk, but what really floored me was that she already knew the words to the good-old-song, all of them, by heart.
I have been told that I have taught more students at UVA than any other faculty member in the history of this school: around 40,000 students. I cannot say I have heard from all 40,000 of them, but I can say that every communication I have received from former students has been one of disappointment at Terry Sullivan’s forced resignation and desirous of her reinstatement.
Let me read just one illustration from a former student, Chris Burger:
“As a student I was involved in many aspects of the University and I’ve continued to be involved as a Trustee, volunteer, donor, etc. Everything I heard and continue to hear about President Sullivan is that she has been great for the University and I’ve always received glowing comments about the job she is doing and the person she is.”
UVA has had only eight presidents. I have served under five of them. It would be inappropriate for me to rank the five by some metric of performance. But I will say this: in every circumstance I have encountered Terry Sullivan, whether it has been at a lunch at Carr’s Hill, or speaking before hundreds of alumni, or the winsome manner in which she attends and watches a UVA wrestling match, or listening to her speak to an audience of faculty, or her compassion in caring for the parents and grandparents of a beloved student of mine who died from a fall off the roof of the Physics building — whatever the circumstance — Terry Sullivan strikes me as the complete package.
I hope the Board of Visitors is able to realize that a mistake has been made, to admit this, and remedy the mistake. It is not easy for any of us to admit we made a mistake. I can tell you that, as a Board member at another college, it is not easy for a board to admit error and walk back from a mistake.
While I teach economics, I think of the world in theological terms. I have tried to look at this event through a Biblical lens. The Scriptures are all about atonement, grace, and forgiveness.
I hope the Board of Visitors will atone for its mistake and reinstate Terry Sullivan. If the Board were to do so, it would not diminish the Board or its authority. Just the opposite: the Board of Visitors would be enhanced. This is the great paradox: if the Board were to reinstate Terry Sullivan, most of us will come away with a renewed appreciation for the Board – because its members demonstrated the courage to walk back from a mistake and atone for an error.
If the Board were to reinstate Terry Sullivan, the virtue required of us – faculty, students, staff, and alumni – is that of grace toward the Board of Visitors, not condemnation. Part of the genius of this University is that, as Mr. Jefferson instructed us, this is to be a place where (in his words) we “tolerate error.” So more than any other institution, we should “tolerate error” graciously and when error is corrected, to accept this with gratitude.
And may I mention one thing that we must ask of Terry Sullivan if she is reinstated – and this also is not something done easily. To flourish as president, she must be able to forgive those who sought her resignation.
Very few people can demonstrate, outwardly and in their hearts, true forgiveness. It is not easy to do. But you know what: the Bible says it is not supposed to be easy. Recrimination and revenge: they’re easy. That is why true forgiveness is so noteworthy when it happens.
Forgiveness, and then healing, is what our University needs at this time. Not lawsuits; not commissions; not investigations; not years of ill will. Those of us at this rally must model out forgiveness so there can be healing. And I believe Terry Sullivan, with all her administrative skills, is the kind of person who can forgive. Of this I am confident: she will be empowered to do so if those of us who seek her reinstatement do so as well.
I already have dated myself in this talk; in closing, I’ll do so again by citing one of the last speeches given by Robert F. Kennedy. Paraphrasing words from the gospel of John written above the columns of Old Cabell Hall, Kennedy said “For today, as it was in the beginning, it is the truth that makes us free.”
The truth of the matter is that all of us regret the forced resignation of Terry Sullivan, all of us respectfully ask the Board to atone for its action, and all of us are prepared to respond with gratitude, forgiveness, and renewed enthusiasm to be part of UVA.
Thank you for your attention and your devotion to this University.
Susan Fraiman Professor, Department of English
Echoing many others, I want to begin by thanking all of you—and especially those who have taken the lead—for what continues to be an extraordinary show of solidarity. As a result of our collective efforts, I am hopeful that we are now on the verge of retiring Rector Dragas and reinstating President Sullivan. This would be a wonderful and important victory. But what I want to say today is that reinstating the President is only the first step. Her firing was not only an injustice in its own right; it was also a symptom of a larger, ongoing threat to the academic mission and humane values of this university—the threat, that is, of private-sector, profit-oriented, corporate values and practices contrary to those of a public, non-profit school of higher education. Even if President Sullivan is reinstated, she will need our support in countering this threat, resisting this pressure, and acting on the mandate we have given her. Genuinely shared governance will require all of us to remain mobilized on behalf of our own core values. We will need to consider not simply whether rapid or incremental change is best, but what kind of change we want—or, in some cases, do not want. We will need to continue rallying for HONOR in the sense of TRUTH and also in the sense of adherence to what is RIGHT. Here, briefly, is my personal wish list for the future:
1. I would like to see elected, voting members of faculty and staff included on the Board of Visitors. If schools from Virginia Tech to the University of California can have Boards representing multiple constituencies and walks of life, so can we.
2. I would like to see a steadfast commitment to our mission as a public university, accessible to an economically and racially diverse group of students. As we know, UVA has not always been open to all. Even today, we have not yet achieved full inclusion at every level. Clearly a generous financial aid program is crucial to reaching this goal, especially in light of climbing tuition rates. I call on us to fiercely defend current levels of financial aid.
3. I would like to see us question the logic of so-called “merit-based” raises for faculty. Faculty salaries are already lagging. Without across-the-board raises, these salaries will not only stagnate but actually diminish in real terms. In my opinion, the notion that only a few, star faculty are deserving of raises is both specious and divisive.
4. I would like to hold the line against further outsourcing of maintenance and other services—a strategy apparently favored by Dean Zeithaml as a cost-cutting measure for McIntire. The BOV has recently seen fit to raise starting wages for staff from $10.65 to $11.30. But even this modest gain will be meaningless if jobs are increasingly contracted out to companies paying minimal wages.
5. I would like to see us question the rush to online teaching as a quick fix—much less as a cash cow. Before anything else, we will need to evaluate the academic and economic merits of existing courses, starting with those offered, since the 1980s, by our own School of Engineering. (Among the egg-headed professoriat, this quaint practice of laboriously gathering and analyzing information as the basis for drawing conclusions is known as “research.”)
6. And finally, I would like to see us resist the automatic promotion of “profitable” sectors over others deemed less profitable. Just as English cannot function well without Classics, so faculty and students cannot function without librarians, custodians, and administrative staff. Faculty, students, and staff—we are all voting members of this Academical Village. Now that we have found our voice, now that we have proved there is strength in numbers, I urge us to stand together for as long as it takes to safeguard the values of academic integrity, broad accessibility, caring community, and equitable working conditions for all.
Mitchell Green NEH/Horace Goldsmith Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy, Corcoran Department of Philosophy
On “Philosophical Differences”
When news of President Sullivan’s dismissal was made public on June 10, we were told that the event was a result of philosophical differences between her and the Board of Visitors, or at least certain members thereof. Having a passing interest in philosophy, this explanation piqued my curiosity, and so I was eager to hear more about what those differences were and how they could have led to such a dramatic outcome. I was expecting differences of opinion about whether essence precedes existence, about whether we possess free will in a world governed by physical laws, or about the biological basis of consciousness. Instead I learned that the differences in question revolved around such issues as the pace at which President Sullivan was effecting change on Grounds, and the means by which she proposed to do so. For instance, while certain members of the Board of Visitors have expressed breathless enthusiasm for the prospects of online education, President Sullivan has been clear that this area is a highly speculative one in which no distinguished university is—at least thus far–making money. Again, while Rector Dragas has complained in a recent, widely distributed letter that the University has not formulated a Strategic Plan since 2002, President Sullivan has remarked that she has been told since her appointment by the Board of Visitors not to formulate such a plan.
These are differences alright, but to call them philosophical suggests that they are too abstract or speculative to merit reasoned discussion, or at least to make possible the hope of resolution. This would be a mistake. The minutes of the Board of Visitors will answer the question what that body said to President Sullivan about strategic plans. Likewise, a sober assessment of the prospects of online education makes it clear that it’s a terribly expensive enterprise that might help promote a University’s “brand” globally, but is a problematic source of tuition revenue. Nothing very philosophical here, alas.
This is not to say that there are no differences of approach between certain members of the Board and President Sullivan. However, what I resist is the suggestion that to call those differences philosophical is to imply that they are beyond the pale of reasoned discussion. As one of the core disciplines of the humanities, Philosophy is devoted above all other things to the giving and asking for reasons for answers to difficult questions. You’re not doing philosophy when you merely assert a grand position. What is instead required is coming to the table with a putative answer to a hard question and giving the best reasons for it that one can. This is what the Board of Visitors has stunningly failed to do. Instead of approaching President Sullivan in the spirit of, “We’re really worried about some challenges ahead, and would like to be convinced that you are doing enough to address them,” and then going on to describe those challenges in detail, the Board summarily dismissed her. Instead of finding out about the progress that faculty and administrators have made in transitioning the University to a Responsibility Center Management approach to fiscal organization, the Board appears to have concluded on the basis of little or no evidence that the University is in business-as-usual mode. That is what Immanuel Kant would have called dogmatic slumber.
Pundits from elsewhere in the nation have been reinforcing this refusal to engage. For instance Anne Neal, President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, has asserted in a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch piece entitled, “Time to Innovate or Die”: “If institutions want to remain viable, trustees are going to have to demand leaders who innovate and think differently. If the president is not moving in a direction that encourages fiscal efficiency and accountability, then the difficult decision to change leadership will have to be made.” This sounds eminently reasonable to me, but one wonders why Anne Neal thinks that these platitudes would justify firing anyone around here. As I mentioned above a propos the RCM model, my colleagues and I have seen more encouragement of fiscal efficiency and accountability in the last two years than we had seen for quite some time. Again, Anne Neal writes, “…it bears remembering that those in Charlottesville who are now enraged are the same folks who have, for decades, resisted cutting costs and providing accountability to the public they serve. While surveys show that the public believes universities can do more and better with less, faculty and administrators simply don’t agree — reflexively asserting that quality requires more money. For them, enough is never enough.” I would reply that I and most of my colleagues can provide excruciating detail about how we spend our time in education, outreach, and the creation of new knowledge. But this is not to deny the imperative to do more and better with less. Higher education is one of the few major industries that have failed to see dramatic improvements in efficiency in the last fifty years. The reason is that it is far from clear how we can become more efficient without compromising standards. Education is incredibly labor intensive, and the most obvious ways of economizing on that labor (multiple choice tests, huge lecture courses) don’t hold much promise for maintaining academic excellence. But contrary to what Anne Neal would have one think, we as a faculty are open to ideas as to how this apparent limitation might be addressed. All evidence I have seen suggests that President Sullivan is as well.
Here is what I would like to see as a satisfying, perhaps even inspiring outcome of the choices that need to be made in the next few days. The Board of Visitors will, I hope, see the wisdom of reinstating President Sullivan with the expectation that she should at least be given a five-year run to prove her mettle. As well, those on the Board who have concerns about President Sullivan’s stewardship of the University will engage in meaningful, patient, and informed dialogue about the very real challenges facing this institution and how they might be addressed. Those dialogues may or may not produce agreement among all parties, but they bid fair to allow each side of the table to discern where the other is coming from and why. That would be a case of philosophical differences. So far, however, some parties to the current dispute have yet to rise above the level of dogma, and I urge them to try some philosophy!
Leigh Grossman Professor of Pediatric Medicine, Chief of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Division; former Vice Provost of International Affairs
In 1975, I came to the University of Virginia as a Pediatric Intern, joining a medium sized University in a small southern town, a University that prided itself on being Mr. Jefferson’s University. UVA, at that time, had only recently accepted women undergraduates, there were only 4 women in the graduating medical school class and the changing rooms in the operating room were for doctors and nurses and there was no place for a woman doctor to put on scrubs! We had black and white wards and a huge divide in public and private patient care.
The last 37 years has seen incredible change. Our Schools and our classes have equal numbers of men and women. We rank in the first or second spot for public universities. Our Schools, Departments, Centers, Research Programs, Clinical Service and national and international programming matches that of any university in the world. We are diverse and cosmopolitan and we have worked for equal access and equal opportunity. Our growth continues!
2 years ago, this University selected Teresa Sullivan as our President and we quickly learned that we had recruited one of the finest academic administrators in the country. Over her short tenure here, President Sullivan has proven herself worthy of her reputation and until Sunday, the 10th of June at 11 a.m., I have never heard a negative comment about her—–how can that be——everyone is impressed with her knowledge, her experience, her expertise and her wisdom. She has endeared herself and garnered the respect of students, faculty, administrators, alumni and donors from across grounds, across the country and around the world. Our growth continues!
She then hires 2 senior administrators over the past year and begins to create her goals and move towards incremental implementation. Our growth continues!
And then, the news hits—–Teresa Sullivan is forced to resign by a Board, well no, not the whole Board, because she and the Board have “philosophical differences”. I have spent my entire career in academia because “philosophical differences” are the foundation of learning and are actually the celebrated purpose of the academic tenure process. So, this is the reason that she is forced to resign with no process? The Board of Visitors—–well, no, not the whole Board, have acted in corporate fashion, a style which may be required in the business world but is the antithesis of what we teach and require of our students. This bold move has set us back decades!
So, why, after 14 days of student, faculty, alumni, donor and national and international outcry by our academic colleagues and the press (the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New Republic, the American Association of University Professors, etc.) have we lost 2 weeks of focus and work, thousands, if not millions, of alumni dollars, loss of future applicants and recruited faculty and expenditures for public relations and damage control (which, by the way, is not working) to see no change in the Board’s position? In fact, the only real leadership we have seen during this turmoil has been by our President, who has insisted that we honor the real strengths of this great University—to honor and respect those “philosophical differences” and use them as a platform for steady and incremental growth.
Thus, I conclude by saying that I (and probably all of us here today) want to return to the work that we are here to do. To do that would require the immediate reinstatement of President Sullivan so that we cease spending our precious resources on this flawed decision and reaffirm that we abide by the values, of honor, respect and justifiable action that only our President has so gracefully role modeled during this entire debacle. Only then can we continue to grow!
Suzie McCarthy Graduate student, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics; Organizer, United For Honor Protest
As I look into this crowd, I can honestly say that I have never been prouder to be a member of the UVA community.
One Wednesday June 13th, just 11 days ago, I formed a group on Facebook called “Students, Family, and Friends United for the Reinstatement of President Sullivan” with the goal of bringing media attention to the feelings of anger and confusion within our community, adding our voices to those of the Faculty Senate.
I posted a link to the group in the comments section of the very few news articles that had been written about the resignation at that point and waited.
I thought that maybe I would get a few hundred people. Little did I know that that group would become a central rallying point for UVA students, faculty, staff, alums, family and friends from around the world.
When I last checked this morning we had over 15,750 members. Those who cannot be here today are watching the rally via live streaming.
As I have watched this online community grow, the thing that has most impressed me has been the spirit of civility.
To be sure there have been many spirited debates and at times emotions have run hot but even then there has been an amazing sense of common purpose and unity.
I know I speak for all of us when I say that I have never been prouder to be a Hoo!
Thank you for all of your support and hard work to make this rally a reality. This is much larger than any one person—this rally is a genuine manifestation of our community.
We stand here united under a common purpose—the reinstatement of our President– President Sullivan.
Thank you and Wa-hoo-wa!
Jon Mikalson William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Classics and Interim Chair, Department of Classics
Good afternoon; I want to first thank Suzie McCarthy for organizing this event and all of you for being here today.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about the events of the last two weeks and what they mean for our community. Some have characterized these fourteen days as harmful to our University’s reputation and stature. Others question how U.Va. can fully recover from such a controversy. For me, what is transpiring here in Charlottesville is not causing lasting damage to this institution. In a difficult situation, we are not abandoning our principles, but instead holding them up as the measure of what is right. When students and faculty at other institutions might have let defining decisions go unchallenged and talk amongst themselves in hushed tones, we Wahoos ask questions and speak out for all to hear. Our sense of Honor goes far beyond the sixteen-word pledge that hangs in nearly every classroom. Our Honor Code requires each of us to act with honesty and integrity at all times, and gives us the special responsibility to be not only accountable to ourselves but to the larger community. So when we use the terms honor, integrity, and Community of Trust, we are not using them for rhetorical flourishes to be printed in an admissions brochure. These words capture the essence of who we are and what we do, down to our very core.
To onlookers, the emotions and tensions of the last two weeks might seem ugly, but to me, they demonstrate the distinctive values of our University and the exact reasons why we love it so much.
The Board’s actions this past week leave us with an environment that remains inconsistent with the value of trust. While I will let history render the ultimate judgment on the conduct of the Board, I do believe that the last two weeks have made clear why our Community of Trust and its Honor System have been so important to us for the last 170 years. We have seen what happens to our community when the foundation of trust is shaken. We have seen what happens when important stakeholders are excluded from critical conversations. And, at the same time, we have seen what happens when people stand up to do what is right. The events of the last two weeks have shown us exactly why this Honor System has served for so many years as the guiding ethical framework for our community, and your presence here today demonstrates the strength and promise of our Community of Trust for many years to come.
Whether you are a student standing in the middle of a rally, an alumnus following what’s happening on Grounds from miles away, or a member of the Board of Visitors contemplating a difficult vote, this community calls us all to uphold our foundational pillars of honor, integrity, and trust. If we stay true to our core values, this University will sustain its Community of Trust, endure any challenge, and continue to be one of the greatest universities in the country.
As we head into the upcoming week and steadily approach Tuesday’s meeting, I ask us all to remember the guiding principles that have gotten us here. For as long as we stay true to those ideals, Mr. Jefferson’s University, and the spirit of this rally, will never diminish.
Louis Nelson Associate Professor, Department of Architectural History
Hello, my name is Louis Nelson. I’m an architectural historian and an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture here at UVA. The events of these past two weeks have brought to mind an admonition from my PhD director in discussions about the subject and method of my dissertation. I insisted that I wanted to write an exemplary study of a place in history, engaging that one place’s complexity, textures, and nuance. “Well, that’s fine,” he said, “but you cannot know one place until you know another.” To evaluate your subject in high relief, you have to compare it against someplace else.
I tell you this because I have just returned from a glorious 6 month sabbatical at Oxford University. As a visiting fellow, I roamed freely through the colleges at will, from the early Medieval Quads at Merton College to the spectacular Victorian quads of Keble. High Table at St. John’s is spectacular and evensong in the chapel of New College is nothing short of sublime. But it was not just the physical spaces and ancient traditions that impressed. Conversations with colleagues and students consistently challenged me to communicate the methods and significance of my work with clarity and precision. Oxford is an extraordinary physical place abounding in intellect. I reveled in the opportunity to be a part of that community, if only for a season. Steeped in mystery and antiquity, there is just no place like Oxford.
But an academic sabbatical always gives one the opportunity to reflect on the place you have left. No matter how engaging and enchanting Oxford may be, it is no UVA. We, too, have an amazing physical environment. The sophisticated classical clarity of Jefferson’s original vision was realized through what was at the time the largest construction program in the new nation. It is a landscape so compelling that we argue with deeply held and vital passion about expanding on that vision. Here we have a deep and abiding commitment to intellectual engagement, one that freely jumps disciplinary boundaries. My classes are not populated entirely by architectural historians, for that would be a small class indeed. My classes, some of 100 or more, are filled with students from architecture and history, but also religious studies, biology, sociology, and even business… intellectually curious students who wonder about the power of architecture to shape our lives. These students are not going to be architectural historians. But they are going to be better citizens. And here we have a culture of honesty, integrity, open debate, peer-evaluation, and transparent governance. These virtues have over time created a distinctive academic community. Fashioned from the ideals of classical Democracy, there is just no place like UVA.
I was in my office at Oxford when I first read the news. Stunned by the sweeping and seemingly final judgment by the Board of Visitors, I scoured the media for some justifiable explanation. All to no avail. Over the course of the afternoon as I faced the questions of my colleagues at Oxford, I could offer no rationale. Such measures stood contrary to the tenants I knew to define my university. Maybe, in fact, UVA is not so distinctive after all. I touched down at Dulles at 2:30 pm this past Monday and I was here on the lawn by 5:00. For the next 9 hours I stayed and conversed with colleagues, students, alumni and locals while the Board of Visitors deliberated behind closed doors. In the midst of that community I was reminded what makes this place great. Strong leadership, clarity of mind, rigor of analysis, abundance of commitment and dedication tempered with whit and good humor—classical ideals manifest in the ancient grandeur of this place. We all recognize that the university—in fact all of higher education—faces an uphill climb. In face of that climb, these virtues embodied in the people of this community are what make UVA so special. Two weeks ago, this beautiful community was torn asunder. But there is hope for restoration. I call the UVA Board of Visitors to make the right choice, to reinstate President Theresa Sullivan on her terms and in doing so to rejoin our distinctive community of honor, integrity and trust.
Peter Norton Assistant Professor, Department of Science, Technology & Society; Chair, Policy Committee, Faculty Senate
We come from many perspectives but we’re here to stand up for one shared value: honor.
I thank the organizers of the Rally for Honor, in particular Suzie McCarthy and Anastasia Dakouri-Hild. And thanks to every single person here, physically or remotely, for making this happen.
I’m here at their invitation to represent the Faculty Senate—and, by extension, the faculty of our University. The Faculty Senate supports the positive message of the organizers of the Rally for Honor.
I want to thank the leadership of the Faculty Senate: George Cohen, Chris Holstege, Bob Kemp, and Gweneth West—who have shown by example how to guide chaotic but positive energy into constructive and effective channels. I also thank all my colleagues on the Faculty Senate. Two weeks ago, many of them were only familiar faces—and now many of them are dear friends.
Though I’m here to represent the Faculty Senate, and to express our solidarity with the organizers of the Rally for Honor, I find that since June 10 the distinctions between the populations that compose our university have become insignificant. The faculty, the students, the staff, the alumni and the friends of our university have come together in a common cause. Our energy is awesome and positive. Following the reinstatement of President Sullivan on Tuesday, that powerful energy will guide our university through the rapidly changing environment of higher education. The Board, if it chooses well on Tuesday, will be amazed by the productive and positive energy we have to offer.
Civility and collegial dialogue
“As I’ve crossed these grounds … I’ve been struck by how their beauty and openness contribute to an atmosphere of civility in which collegial dialogue can thrive.”
Those were not my words. I’ve quoted them. I predict you’ll hear Jefferson quoted more than once this afternoon. So I wanted to quote the words of our president, Dr. Teresa A. Sullivan. It will surprise no one here that in her inaugural address, delivered in the Dome Room behind me on January 11, 2010, President Sullivan spoke wisely about civility and collegial dialogue. These values seem to guide her conduct at every meeting she attends, and in every speech she gives. Most presidents are good speakers—but we are blessed
with a president who is also an exemplary listener.
In the last two weeks, however, we have seen failures of civility and collegial dialogue. The first was the failure by those interested in a new direction for our university to engage the president in collegial dialogue about their vision. The advocates of this vision, to their credit, have admitted this failure. And since then there have been failures of civility on both sides of this matter.
But these failures are as nothing compared to the awesome collegial dialogue we have witnessed and participated in on these grounds since June 10. Today’s rally is yet one more instance. And much of credit for this civil and collegial dialogue is due to President Sullivan. President Sullivan, through the Day of Dialogue, Respect@UVa, and other bold, unprecedented and non-incremental initiatives, has fostered a culture of civil and collegial dialogue that is a model for universities nationwide. Some say our reputation has been damaged. And perhaps in some ways it has. But I’m sure you’ve noticed that since June 10 we’ve been building a national reputation as a university community that is more committed to each other and to excellence in higher education than any other university in the world.
Incrementalism and bold visions
Some people suppose that bold visions and incremental planning are incompatible. President Sullivan’s record proves the contrary. Bold visions succeed when they’re founded upon careful incremental work.
Incrementalism is a new catchword for an old virtue—one of the four cardinal virtues we’ve inherited from Ancient Greece. It’s called prudence. Some people confuse prudence with timidity. But philosophers say that prudence is the optimum point on the continuum of courage, between timidity and recklessness. In an environment of rapid change, we need a prudent leader to guide us. We are fortunate to have such a leader in President Sullivan.
President Sullivan was a bold visionary to start the Day of Dialogue. It took a bold visionary to start Respect@UVa. It took a bold visionary to lift the curtain on our university’s finances so that taxpayers of the Commonwealth can see where the money goes and so that we can find and eliminate inefficiencies. It took a bold visionary to demand that the faculty become entrepreneurs who take responsibility for the financial health of our university.
Any successful researcher will tell you that their boldest accomplishments were built upon a solid foundation of hard incremental work.
Set loose from the foundation of patient incremental effort, however, bold visions become dangerous. A case in point might be the plan to dismiss the president, which appears to have been based upon insufficient incremental work. Those who devised this plan would presumably be the first to agree. But to be fair to them, they are in good company.
Many others have made the same mistakes. They supposed that incremental effort and bold action are incompatible, and then failed to build bold action on incremental work. There was very bold action at Enron—at Arthur Andersen—and at Bear Stearns. Does anyone remember the Edsel? If you need to check Wikipedia, it’s E-D-S-E-L. With bold action unguided by incremental effort, we risk becoming the Enron higher education, or the manufacturer of academic Edsels.
Incrementalism does not preclude bold action—to the contrary, it is the prerequisite to successful bold action. The Apollo 11 astronauts spent less than three hours walking on the moon. When NASA was founded in 1958, such a walk was surely the boldest of visions. The astronauts’ brief visit eleven years later—and Apollo’s extraordinary and bold success—was the product of a decade of patient work by tens of thousands of unsung incrementalists—many of them in universities led by presidents who appreciated what their incrementalist researchers had to offer. They provided a sure foundation for the bold visionaries these universities also house, then and today.
Process and result
So our university’s community of renowned researchers—faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates—can offer some advice earned through training and experience.
Recently we have heard the contention that while the process was admittedly flawed, its result was correct. To quote: “we did the right thing, the wrong way.”
Our researchers would respectfully suggest: process and result cannot be dissociated. If the process is deficient, the result is unreliable.
Researchers report their methods carefully, because a bad process will yield an unreliable result. When this happens, good researchers will not proceed. They will not say, “we got the right results the wrong way.” They begin again.
So if, in fact, flawed methods culminated in the conclusion that our president should resign, we suggest that the conclusion is unreliable. It needs validation through better methods. To those who see our president as a barrier to our university’s best future, we ask: Make the case. Begin again. And in the meantime, please reach no premature conclusions.
Indispensable to the research process is the quality control mechanism. We call it peer review. Sound peer review by outside experts is never a challenge to the researcher’s authority. It is a formal consultation method that prevents errors, promotes reliable work, and gives results credibility. Good researchers do not see peer reviewers as a threat or an obstacle, but as their best ally—because they catch the flaws the researcher has missed before they are published. If, as everyone agrees, the process culminating in the president’s resignation was flawed, let me suggest that the absence of peer review was the flaw that enabled all other flaws. We the faculty offer our services as peer reviewers in a common effort with the Board of Visitors to serve our university.
There are fair questions to be asked about where the line lies between absolute authority by the Board of Visitors and shared governance with the faculty, students, staff and alumni. This debate has been oversimplified on both sides. No matter what happens on Tuesday, we need a rational discussion on these questions with all concerned. But today our message is different. Today we’re here to tell the Board of Visitors that they got it right. On January 11, 2010, the Board of Visitors unanimously elected Dr. Teresa A. Sullivan the eighth president of our University. The following two years has demonstrated the wisdom of their judgment. The proof lies among you, in the unwavering support you and thousand of others have given her. The Board of Visitors has the opportunity now to prove that it was right in 2010. It can make allies out of thousands of dedicated champions of our university. We thank the board for that wise decision, and we ask them to stand by it by reinstating President Sullivan.
Larry G. Richards Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
In Ms. Dragas’ message to the university community and in a series of e-mails between members of the BOV, an editorial by David Brooks The Campus Tsunami (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/04/opinion/brooks-the-campus-tsunami.html?_r=1&ref=davidbrooks) is cited as justification for radical change at UVA. They fear we will miss the revolution in higher education and lose students to those schools who embrace on-line learning. Unfortunately their knowledge about distance learning is limited and they failed to do their homework. Let’s try separating the hype from reality!
1. Things are not as they seem!
The perceived threat to our future comes primarily from two experiments in delivering courses to large numbers of students (known as massively open online courses, or MOOCs): edX (MIT and Harvard) and UDACITY (Stanford)
MIT’s first venture in this area did not go too well; the Open Courseware project videotaped classes and put the unedited footage on-line. One of their most distinguished professors admitted that the school should have done one or two courses right, rather than a bunch badly. Perhaps their current project with Harvard will be better. However,
edX’s first course, Circuits and Electronics enrolled 120,000 students, but only 10,000 made it through the midterm exam. Those who complete the course will get a certificate of mastery and a grade, but no official credit
Udacity (http://www.udacity.com) and the Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org/) are wonderful experiments; and both provide great resources for education. They are not University programs: they do not charge tuition or give degrees. They are free to students because of the wealth of their founders and support from Bill Gates (among others). Admission is based solely on interest, and students are free to drop out at any time without penalty. In a recent keynote address to the Sloan Consortium, UDACITY founder Sebastian Thrun noted that in the 2011 graduate class he taught on-line, 160,000 students enrolled but only 23,000 completed the course at the expected performance level.
By contrast, in my on-line graduate statistics class I rarely lose any students. Last semester one (out of 65) dropped during the first week of class for financial reasons. He expects to take the class next spring.
Two UVA Computer Science professors are teaching for UDACITY. We recently had a seminar by Dave Evans from his California office, and asked about the current logistics of UDACITY and their long term business model.
In the long term, they may develop a viable business model but it is not likely to compete with traditional universities.
In the short term, we have time to observe and assess, and learn from their experiences.
Our real competition is not Harvard or MIT – relative startups in distance learning, but schools like the University of Illinois (http://www.online.uillinois.edu/) which have a track record of significant accomplishments in this area.
2. UVA is already a leader in distance education
We have state of the art technology (visit the basement of Rice Hall) and dedicated faculty members actually delivering distance education
In my school (Engineering and Applied Science), we have
CGEP = Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program; since 1983, we have been offering graduate courses and degree programs for students from around the state and nation.
Produced in Virginia – focused on undergraduate students
Introduction to Engineering for high school students
I know of other major distance education initiatives in Engineering and in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, the Curry School, Nursing, McIntire, and Darden: Approximately one-third of the Darden Executive MBA curriculum is delivered via distance learning!
UVA is involved in an e-text experiment with McGraw Hill that provides electronic texts to selected classes. I am one of several professors in the engineering school who is participating in this program.
Teaching in this mode requires additional effort by the faculty. Course content has to be restructured and presented in new ways. President Sullivan’s new budget model would encourage activities in this arena by rewarding faculty and schools that choose to pursue them. With appropriate resources and faculty commitment, we can do much more! And through our efforts, we will maintain UVA as a leader in distance education, and a vital resource for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Kristen Szakos Vice Mayor, City of Charlottesville
I have been asked to speak to you as Vice Mayor of the City of Charlottesville, as a representative of a community whose fate is closely intertwined with that of the University of Virginia. (The mayor is out of town, and can’t be here.) While the Council has not met to take an official position, I would like to say a few words from my own perspective.
If there is anything I have learned as a City Councilor in Charlottesville, it is that this community is fiercely committed to transparency in government.
Ours is a community of principle. We believe in things like democracy and representative government, like the right of the people to freely assemble and to seek redress, like the need for the government to be accountable to the consent of the governed. We live in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe and James Madison; we rehash the arguments and quotations of our nation’s founders as if they were still in our midst. We have even erected a Monument to Free Speech on our City’s main street, right in front of City Hall.
What the Board of Visitors did while visiting our community two weeks ago flies in the face of all that and violates the democratic principles we hold so dear. On a Sunday morning in June, far from the prying eyes of their constituents, the press, or even their fellow Board members, three powerful people – none of them educators, none of them elected by anyone – made a decision that threatens to damage not only this university, but this whole community’s reputation, its identity, and its economy.
When our local public schools had their funding cut by the state, our constituents flooded our e-mail boxes with requests that we raise taxes to be sure that we didn’t cut back on education. Education, they told us, is a community’s investment in its future, not a business venture where the aim is to cut the bottom line.
This community is committed to education. The notion that it is an important role of government to create and support institutions of learning began with Mr. Jefferson’s creation of the University of Virginia. Our nation’s commitment to public education as a means to an informed electorate started right here.
That’s why every state has at least one public university – a place where the cost of education is not borne only by private donors and student tuitions, where a top quality education is affordable and accessible. Virginia has forgotten that, and the University of Virginia is paying the price.
The Washington Post reports today that the state share of UVa’s budget has dropped over the past 23 years from 26 percent to 6 percent. Virginia now spends only $8,600 per in-state student at its flagship university — only a third of North Carolina’s $26,000 per in-state student at Chapel Hill, and less than half what Maryland spends per in-state student at the University of Maryland.
Charlottesville has always been proud to be known as “the home of the University of Virginia”. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York once said that the way to create a great city is to “create a great university and wait 200 years.”
Of course there are some downsides to having a large university in our midst: Huge areas of our city and county are untaxed property, while the cost of services – police, transportation infrastructure, public works – required by the presence of tens of thousands of extra 18-22 year olds is largely borne by our taxpayers. Their need for places to live drives housing prices up and pushes long-time residents out of low-rent neighborhoods. Large numbers of low-wage jobs at the University in food service, housekeeping, grounds maintenance, and health care keeps wages among our poorest residents artificially low.
Teresa Sullivan understands that. Over the past two years, her call for a Caring community has spurred and encouraged students, faculty and staff to become engaged in community matters, giving back to the community that has nurtured and sheltered it for two centuries.
But we know that the positive impacts of the University’s presence in our community are enormous – and endangered by the recent move by the Board of Visitors. The University enriches our community in the arts, in innovation, in job creation, and in the availability of all these amazing brains in one place!
John Knapp and William Shobe of the Weldon Cooper Center wrote a report in 2007 showing that total local spending by the University was more than $1 billion in 2005. University-related visitors alone spent $122 million in 2005, with 1.6 million visitor-days – and that’s before John Paul Jones Arena was opened. Those visitors are drawn here by the reputation of the University of Virginia, and by a desire to be a part of it.
If that reputation is damaged – as it most certainly has been by this debacle – it does more than damage the reputation of our community. If those alumni and prospective students and boosters and fans stop coming, the economic impact to our community could be devastating.
I urge the Board of Visitors to revisit its decision to remove Theresa Sullivan from the leadership of this University. And I implore Mrs. Sullivan to withdraw her resignation and return to the presidency – for all our sakes.
Joel Voss Graduate student, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics
In 1822, in a letter to C.C. Blatchly, Jefferson said, “I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue, and advancing the happiness of man.”
I believe this quotation is perfect example of why education and the institutions that educate us are so important to the United States. Without education, we have very little.
First, let me state that I agree with the Faculty Senate’s resolution. President Sullivan should be formally reinstated, faculty should be represented in some meaningful way on the B.O.V, and Helen Dragas should resign. In addition it is a good idea to increase overall transparency at the University, including among all faculty, all students, all staff and the B.O.V. Wiser people, both at the University, at other universities, and in the press have stated the reasons why this should occur. So, I will not go into depth here. However, I will simply say, because of the actions of some members of the B.O.V., the Board has, at least for the moment, lost legitimacy. This is why most people are here today. However, there is still time for the Board to act and to be leaders of the community that they cherish so dearly.
Now, I will briefly explain why I am here and why I believe many other graduate students and faculty members are here. I am a graduate student in the department of politics. A person whose biggest dream is to become a college professor. I want to be a professor so I can help so many of you reach your greatest dreams. A few weeks ago, I, like most of you, was rocked to the core after hearing the process by which the B.O.V precipitated the ouster of President Sullivan. This process shook us deeply because it goes against one of UVa’s core beliefs: that the values of honor, integrity, and trust, along with hard work, will improve the conditions of people everywhere.
However, because of the actions of all of you, because of the virtues and leadership coming from all corners of the university, including students (undergraduates, graduates, and life-long learners), staff (both waged and hourly), faculty (both tenured and non-tenured), as well as alumni and the larger community, I believe, more than ever, that people have the agency to make a difference. I believe that we are stronger today than we have ever been. I am so very proud of our university and I know its future is bright. It is bright because we all hold dear the values of Thomas Jefferson. We are all acting with great honor and integrity.
I want to end with a reminder of why we are here rallying.
We are here to rally for HONOR.
We are here to rally for Dear Old U-V-A.
And, finally, and this one is important… I want the cheers to be heard from Carr’s Hill to Richmond to Virginia Beach. We are here to rally for President Sullivan!