Tuesday, June 19, 2012


The University of Virginia Board of Visitors laid down the gauntlet by naming McIntire Business School Dean Zeithaml as the "interim President."  It is hard to see this appointment as anything but a thumb in the eye to the University faculty and student body, concerned that outside financial interests have taken over University governance.  There was no vote taken on the resignation and/or termination of President Teresa Sullivan, avoiding the hard question of who does or does not support her removal, not to mention the haunting question of why.  As has become normal operating procedure for this Board of Visitors, all relevant activity took place in secret under the cloak of "executive sessions," further arousing the suspicions of those who view all of this as a massive conspiracy.

This sets the stage for a protracted battle between virtually the entire University of Virginia community and the school's governing Board and raises serious questions about where future funding will come from, given recent statements from major donors.  The idea that this will "soon blow over" is wishful thinking.  The road ahead probably signals the decline of what once was one of the very top public universities in the country.  Nothing good lies ahead as the cohesion required for a major institution to thrive has been ripped asunder.

Surprisingly, Governor McDonnell has decided to go with this outcome and he now earns the dubious distinction of being the Governor who, effectively by proxy, removed the first woman President in the history of the University of Virginia.  I guess he wanted this mantle, otherwise he might have acted differently.  I suspect he must know by now that Mitt Romney has no interest in adding him to his presidential run this year.   Ironically, this entire episode could easily be enough of a political problem for Republicans to ensure an Obama victory in Virginia in this year's presidential election, even though Sullivan's removal seems to have been mainly orchestrated by two Board members first appointed by Democratic governors.