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Some UVA Board Members Seek Teresa Sullivan's Reinstatement

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The rotunda at the University of Virginia. UVA officials are urging the community to move on after former President Teresa Sullivan was forced to resign earlier this month. 
Zach Stern: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachstern/2979579333/
The rotunda at the University of Virginia. UVA officials are urging the community to move on after former President Teresa Sullivan was forced to resign earlier this month. 

Officials at the University of Virginia are talking about moving on after the forced resignation of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, even as several board members may be quietly organizing an attempt to get Sullivan reinstated.

Several members who are in support of Sullivan — who was forced out earlier this month — are counting votes to determine if there is enough support on the board to reinstate her, the Washington Post reports. 

Sullivan reportedly told those board members that she would accept a reinstatement if UVA Rector Helen Dragas resigned. The supporters would have to schedule a board meeting on Sullivan by 5 p.m. today; that meeting would take place June 27, according to the Post

Interim president commits to a year

The University on Monday introduced its new, interim president: Carl Zeithaml, dean of the undergraduate school of business. He took the job for the sake of the university, he said. He will stay only until UVA finds a permanent replacement, he assured reporters. 

He expects it to take about a year before someone new is hired, and in that time, he said, he promises to take care of business. 

"Whether it’s academic or fundraising, new financial model, whatever it happens to be," Zeithaml says. "I think the online issue, we can’t wait on that. We really need to dig into that and decide what is the best match for the UVA. What Stanford does or what MIT does may not be right for us."

Online classes became an issue

Online education is a profitable and expanding field and was a big concern for Dragas, the rector, when she called for Sullivan’s resignation. Dragas told UVA Vice Rector Mark Kington, "We can’t afford to wait," on online classes in an email she sent before Sullivan's resignation.

Zeithaml wouldn't say whether Dragas should resign when he spoke to reporters earlier this week. 

"I am not in her shoes, and I’m happy that I’m not in her shoes," Zeithaml said. "My shoes are hard enough to deal with at the moment." 

But he made it clear he did not think President Sullivan should have been pushed out, and that he believes the process used to replace her was deeply flawed. A few hours later, about 500 faculty members gathered on the lawn for a silent vigil. 

Faculty reluctant to 'move on'

Among them was Margaret Plews-Ogan, an associate professor at the medical school who didn't think UVA was ready to move on.

"There's been unanimity in this community that is just astonishing. And it speaks, I think, to the egregious nature of what happened, but it also speaks to the kind of trust that President Sullivan had built over the past two years, and the kind of community this is," Plews-Ogan says. "This really does challenge our deepest values, and when you challenge people's deepest values, you're going to have trouble. 

She and other faculty members want professors, students and alumni to have voting representation on the university's board of visitors. They want Sullivan reinstated, and they want Rector Helen Dragas out. 

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