I, like most alums of Thomas Jefferson’s University, have strong opinions regarding the goings-on at one of the top universities in the country. People who follow me on Twitter know this (sorry, Twitter friends). My opinions are in no way unique (since about 99.9% of alums, donors, taxpayers, students, faculty, etc feel the same way), but since this issue has taken up my time, energy & emotion over the last few days, I am going to briefly share my thoughts here.
First let me say that I have no strong loyalty to Terry Sullivan. I never attended UVa under her watch, and my only interaction with her was listening to her speak at my Reunions last year. I was impressed by her and thought she seemed competent & intelligent, and I know the faculty and students absolutely adored her. I say this to indicate that I’m not coming from a place of “OMG, Terry Sullivan HAS to be the President of UVa! No one else could possibly fill that role!” That being said, I am very against the way the Board of Visitors handled this situation, and, by default, I feel like that means I have to be on Sullivan’s side in this (at least until we are given answers). The shady way the BOV executed this ousting of Sullivan brought nothing but shame, dishonor and doubt upon our beloved University (you know, the one that prides itself on honor & integrity). They have tarnished our prestigious national (and worldwide) reputation with so much negative press. This is not the press UVa should be getting. Instead, the media attention bestowed upon UVa should be focused on our top-notch faculty, health care, academic programs and research programs. After all, we don’t volley back & forth with Berkeley for the #1 & 2 slots in US News & World Report’s college rankings for nothing. Instead, press has been focused on this chaotic circus that Rector Helen Dragas single-handedly created.
It truly saddens me that this is going on–just ask Brian & my coworkers who have had to deal with me over the last few days. It upsets me that the BOV has all but spit in the faces of alums, faculty and students and that they have deemed our opinion worthless. It is upsetting that, despite admitting that they owe us the truth, they will not give any answers or insight. Not everyone is asking for Sullivan to be reinstated (let’s face it, if I were her, I wouldn’t want that either), but what people are asking for is some sort of transparency in this bizarre situation. Though our endowment is huge and the state offers less than 10% of the budget, UVa is still a state institution (& Virginia’s capstone university), and as such, every Virginian deserves some answers. We are owed answers. We are owed more than Helen Dragas’ insincere statement where she tells us that we should believe her even though she won’t give us the truth. We certainly don’t need to hear her including herself in the UVa family. I was happy to hear that Kington resigned for the good of the University that he “loves,” and I had hoped that Dragas would follow suit, but it seems as if she’s in it for the long haul (or at least until her term is up in 2 weeks).
I am deeply saddened that premiere faculty have already resigned and it makes me uneasy to hear that UVa needs to prepare itself for the loss of more prominent faculty members because now other schools are just waiting to raid us. It is a dark day when professors feel as if they can no longer teach their students here and when the Provost doubts whether or not this was the same place of honor and integrity that it used to be. However, I personally hope that people won’t start jumping ship because it will only hurt the people and things that matter: our students and our beloved University. The BOV has already made it clear that they couldn’t care less about faculty, students and alums, so it is up to us to take care of each other and of Jefferson’s University. We can still be angry and demand answers (and resignations) from the BOV (please do), but we also need to support Dean Z so that UVA can heal and regain some credibility after this disaster caused by own BOV.
Oh, and also, I’d like my degree to maintain its value, so let’s figure this all out soon, okay?
And I still find myself breathless whenever I see this picture of the Lawn (I took it the night before my graduation)…