By Kathryn Watson – Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA — Ousted University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan may choose to stay on at the university as a tenured professor — that is, if she wants to stay under the thumb of the Board of Visitors that abruptly asked her to leave.
Sullivan was a tenured faculty member in UVA’s School of Arts and Sciences Department of Sociology before becoming president in 2010. She’s still eligible to teach, according to her initial employment agreement. She could earn as much as 75 percent of her base presidential pay of $485,000, per a clause in her initial employment agreement. It was unclear Tuesday whether that provision was still in force.
But that isn’t the focus right now at UVA, where secrecy shrouds the so-called “mutually agreed”-to resignation decision between the university’s board and first female president. Faculty members are demanding the board divulge why Sullivan was told to resign just two years into her five-year agreement.
A letter from the UVA Faculty Senate Executive Council called the board’s justification “inadequate and unsatisfactory,” calling for a “full and candid explanation of this sudden and drastic change in university leadership.”
“We intend to investigate this matter thoroughly and expeditiously, and will meet with the board as soon as possible,” the faculty letter reads.
In remarks made Sunday to university vice presidents and deans, BOV Rector Helen Dragas said the university needs a president who can responsibly allocate tight resources, meet the demands of changes in higher education and health care, and take “bold and proactive leadership” to push UVA well into the 21st century.
The 16-member Board of Visitors, appointed by the governor, serve four-year terms.
Sullivan tenure as president ends Aug. 15.
The decision blindsided UVA faculty members, who are supportive of Sullivan’s leadership, Faculty Senate chairman and UVA law professor George Cohen told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“That came as a complete surprise, a complete shock,” said Cohen. “And the faculty is basically up in arms about it.”
But according to news accounts, faculty members weren’t the only ones blindsided. The BOV did not inform Sullivan of the decision until Friday, the Washington Post reported.
Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau on Monday submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request for documentation, including recent communication between Sullivan and Board of Visitors. The university responded in part to the request on Monday with Sullivan’s initial presidential employment agreement, and has until next week to respond to the rest of the request.
Dragas did not return phone and email requests for comment on Tuesday. Sullivan’s office directed all media inquiries to a university spokeswoman, who said the president was unavailable.
Sullivan is in Washington on business and is not responding to media inquiries, spokeswoman Cheryl Wood told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau.