By Kathryn Watson – Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
CHARLOTTESVILLE — It’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks for the University of Virginia.
To put it mildly.
President Teresa Sullivan is back, reinstated in a unanimous vote by the Board of Visitors, which forced her resignation June 10.
A Pandora’s box of questions remains, still unopened as the school searches for a return to normalcy.
How will the university address challenges of affordability? Will the board members allow faculty to join their ranks? What does this mean for the world of higher education?
Community members — Sullivan included — emphasized the need for harmony. The anwers will come.
“The unity of the board and this community is very important and will help us make progress,” Sullivan told reporters after the meeting, adding, perhaps quixotically, that she was “grateful” for the ordeal.
“One of the big challenges facing the community now will be just regaining and maintaining the trust,” said Beth Molmen, a 2009 UVA grad. “Because right now, the university is very united, but there can be a sense that it’s, you know, us versus the board.”
But the hundreds of UVA faculty, staff, alumni and students who gathered around the rotunda on Tuesday appeared hopeful.
“Certainly if we show the sort of unity that the university community has shown over the last two weeks, there’s no reason why we can’t move forward and rebuild the reputation of the university that got a little sullied over the last couple of weeks,” said Jay Anderson, a ’93 UVA law grad.
Now, Gov. Bob McDonnell — who had threatened to force the entire board’s resignations if they didn’t make a decision about Sullivan on Tuesday — will have to decide whether to reappoint a handful of the embattled board members. The controversial Rector Helen Dragas is among those whose term ends July 1.
In a speech before the 15-0 vote to reinstate Sullivan, Dragas focused on the future.
“I believe real progress is more possible than ever now,” Dragas told her fellow board members and the media. “… People are focused not only on our values, but also on our challenges.”