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Making Sense Of Upheavals At University Of Virginia

Protestors rallied Sunday afternoon on UVA's campus in support of former president Teresa Sullivan.
Armando Trull
Protestors rallied Sunday afternoon on UVA's campus in support of former president Teresa Sullivan.

The sudden ouster of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan took faculty, alumni and the public by surprise. Some are blaming partisan politics, while others see a culture clash between corporate-world board members and academics. But everyone seems to agree the upheaval is tied to the economic pressures felt on college campuses across the country. We explore the latest developments from Charlottesville.

Perspectives From UVA Alumni

University of Virginia alumni reacted to the ouster of President Teresa Sullivan. We found these alumni through an online survey using the Public Insight Network.

Ross Kane from Alexandria, Va., is a member of the class of 2002 and currently pursuing a doctorate in religious studies:

"Teresa Sullivan's resignation has been profoundly damaging to the University of Virginia. The action was done without any semblance of transparency and without sufficient justification. Sullivan has performed exceptionally well and displays great promise as a leader in higher education.

I do not plan on giving to UVA's general funding structure until the board behaves more transparently. I do intend to support other initiatives like AccessUVA, a program that offers scholarships to low-income students."

  1. Listen to Kane discuss his surprise about the decision, which he says ran counter to the school's community of trust, and hear from Alexandra Staeben, class of 2012, on how she learned about the resignation:

Suzanne Holland from Falls Church, Va. Holland earned a bachelor's in commerce in 1978. Holland's son is a 2009 UVA graduate with a degree in communication and psychology:
"Extremely disappointed with the University's board ousting President Sullivan after two years of meritorious work following the initial goals set by the board. President Sullivan's stand to protect academic arenas from further budget cuts prompted the unwarranted termination. The President's role is to defend and maintain the highest academic standards of the school. She correctly did not wield the ax to balance a budget "corporate-style" as Helen Dragas desired.

UVA prides itself on its tradition. The women students are no longer referred to as unattractive "peach pits" in favor of the "peaches" at schools that the frat boys would "roll" to on weekends: Randolph Macon, Sweetbriar, Westhampton (now University of Richmond) and Mary Washington University.

UVA's diversity, tolerance and sensitivity has grown in all realms. The focus on the first woman rector being opposed to the first woman president from the outset places the focus inappropriately for many on the sex of the participants, not the heart of the issue of governance."

Kellen Squire from Charlottesville, Va.:
"I'm very disappointed in the Board of Visitors; mortified, in fact. Thomas Jefferson would be appalled. Especially if the Board acted they way they did for the reasons cited in the press -- wanting to run the University like a corporation. This is the University of Virginia, not the University of Phoenix."

Russ Mayes from Glen Allen, Va. Mayes holds a master's and doctorate from UVA:
"It is hard to underestimate how angry the faculty is, and how unusual it is for faculty across the entire university to come together in this way. I still have friends on the faculty from my time at UVA, and one has told me that she has met and discussed this with people far outside her department -- something that has not occurred in her 20+ years at the university."

Chandlee Bryan from Lebanon, NH. Bryan graduated with a master's degree in 1998:
"One of the things that bothers me most is how the debate over online education and degree programs has been handled. I was a graduate assistant for an teacher education program taught online through the education school from 1996 to 1998 when video cameras were not common and Skype was years from being created. While there is significant activity among other institutions in this area, I think a disagreement on online education between Sullivan and the Board of Visitors should not have been one of the primary factors in the Board of Visitors asking for her resignation. In reality, UVA has been involved in online education for years."


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