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UVA Board Appoints Interim President To Replace Teresa Sullivan

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A statue of Homer at the Unversity of Virginia. The university has been the site of much dispute in recent weeks as the board announced the resignation of its former president, Teresa Sullivan.
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A statue of Homer at the Unversity of Virginia. The university has been the site of much dispute in recent weeks as the board announced the resignation of its former president, Teresa Sullivan.

More than 2,000 people rallied around the university's rotunda yesterday to demand former University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan be reinstated, but it was to no avail. The UVA Board of Visitors instead chose a new, interim president.

After a marathon meeting of nearly 12 hours, the board selected Carl Zeithaml, dean of the university’s undergraduate business school, to serve as interim president while UVA begins a formal search for Sullivan’s permanent replacement. The board stunned faculty and students earlier this month by pushing Sullivan out after less than two years on the job. 

Sullivan had not been seen in Charlottesville since the Board of Visitors announced she would step down June 10, but she returned Monday to a hero's welcome from about 2,000 people who rallied outside the rotunda, demanding she be reinstated. She defended her record in a closed door meeting with the board of visitors.

She said she was well aware of the need for change at UVA and had been working on that for the past two years. The area of disagreement with the board, she supposed, was how that change should occur and at what pace. Corporate-style, top-down leadership does not work in a great university, she said.

"I have been described as an incrementalist. It is true," Sullivan said. "Sweeping action may be gratifying and may create the aura of strong leadership, but its unintended consequences may lead to costs that are too high to bear."

The faculty senate had urged the board of visitors to reinstate Sullivan, but it was clear from her speech that she did not intend to return.

Rector Helen Dragas, who faced calls to step down after the Sullivan announcement, made it clear Monday she would not resign. Instead, she and the board would continue to serve many constituents, Dragas said.

"We want the very best caliber education and experience delivered to the 21,000 students for whom we are responsible," Dragas said. "We crave the highest quality healthcare for the almost 900,000 patient visits attended to by the exceptional doctors, nurses and staff members in the UVA Medical Center, and in our push for excellence, we seek also be responsive to families and taxpayers who foot our bills and to legislators who demand accountability."

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