AAUP Investigating Governance Issues at UVA

By B. Robert Kreiser

On June 8, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors asked for and obtained the resignation of Teresa Sullivan from the presidency of the university without explanation to her, the other chief administrative officers, or the university’s faculty and student body of the specific grounds for its displeasure with her performance. On June 16, at the AAUP’s 2012 annual meeting, the delegates unanimously adopted a resolution that concurred with the faculty senate’s expression of “dismay that due process for President Sullivan and the legitimate interests of the UVA faculty [had] been ignored in the precipitate action taken by the board of visitors. We join in calling upon the board to reconsider its decision.” (Read the complete resolution at http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/newsroom/2012PRs/UVA.htm.)

By letter of June 21 addressed to the members of the board of visitors, AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum wrote that the Association had “been following with intense interest reported developments over the past few days in the matter of President Teresa Sullivan and has authorized an investigation of the case.” The letter, which was accompanied by a copy of the June 16 resolution, concluded: “We earnestly hope, consistent with what appear to be the wishes of the vast majority of the University of Virginia faculty, academic staff, and student body, that the board will now rescind its previous decision and that President Sullivan will agree to remain in office.”

President Sullivan was offered and accepted reinstatement on June 26. AAUP associate general secretary Jordan Kurland wrote to congratulate her on having “prevailed over the tumultuous events of the past few weeks.” After noting that an investigation of the matter had been authorized, he observed that “among the hundreds of investigations the AAUP has undertaken over the near-century of its existence, a handful have been the subject of reports on cases with happy endings. We see what UVA has experienced as belonging in that handful, and we intend to proceed with an investigation and report that will focus on an assessment from the AAUP’s standpoint of the vital issues that have been aired at UVA and that confront all our major universities.”

The investigating committee is chaired by Matthew W. Finkin, with Lawrence S. Poston and Joan Wallach Scott as its other members. It has scheduled a site visit to the university in late October and expects to issue a prompt report.