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Trouble in the Old Dominion
June 18, 2012 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Uproar over forced resignation of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan enters second week.

Timeline of events:The Faculty Senate has been updating this list of relevant information and articles as the saga continues.
posted by Partial Law (371 comments total) 86 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd like just to note that I love this clear timeline of events layout. I wish more "news" type posts, especially legal ones, did this.
posted by DU at 10:32 AM on June 18, 2012 [111 favorites]


UVA May need a narcissist at the top
posted by lalochezia at 10:34 AM on June 18, 2012


Seconded, great post topic with an even greater layout.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:34 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't get it. Is Sullivan *not* wanting to leave voluntarily?
posted by Ardiril at 10:38 AM on June 18, 2012


Adriril: short answer - the head of the BOV rounded up votes by personal contact (ie backroom meetings, not official meets) and told the president they (BOV) had enough votes to fire her. So president resigns. BOV never took an actual vote, just the head claimed to have the votes. At least 3 BOV members (of I think 17) never knew about the secret counting of votes the head did.
posted by k5.user at 10:40 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a Hokie, I read these developments with nothing less than unbridled glee.
posted by joecacti at 10:40 AM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't get it. Is Sullivan *not* wanting to leave voluntarily?

I don't think anybody knows what she wants at this point, but it seems clear that she was offered a reign-or-be-fired choice by the board, and chose to resign. That's not the same thing as wanting to leave voluntarily.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:41 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've been following this avidly since the news broke -the trainwreck aspect increases every day. Thanks for all the extra links so I can indulge myself even more.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:42 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I am puzzled about it is what was the reason the board wanted her gone? What had she done wrong/not done right? And was she on double-secret probation?
posted by notme at 10:42 AM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hi Ardiril I haven't read the post either but I got this out of what is written above Sullivan cites "a philosophical difference of opinion,"
So in a word No.
posted by adamvasco at 10:42 AM on June 18, 2012


One of the key complaints of the board members who orchestrated the ouster of Teresa A. Sullivan as president of the University of Virginia was that she rebuffed their suggestions that she eliminate or sharply cut German programs, sources familiar with the discussions have told Inside Higher Ed.

posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:43 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, k5, and so?

HR: It's not the same as wanting to leave involuntarily, either.
posted by Ardiril at 10:45 AM on June 18, 2012


I'm wondering if there's a skeleton in the closet they're trying not to expose.

Either that, or it's a Saturday Night Massacre situation.

Or I'm totally off, but I think they may be headed towards something like Rice University's Masterson Crisis of 1969. I hope it goes as well for Mr. Jefferson's University as it did for Rice.
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:45 AM on June 18, 2012


*blink*

Okay, when I saw "philosophical difference of opinion" I was thinking something like "try to make us more of a residential school than a commuter one" or "step up our sports programs" or "put a cap on endowments" or something like that.

But -- are you honestly saying that the big reason she was being let go was over cutbacks in the German language department? That's just so....out there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


German... as well as the Classics.

Think of that ... eliminating Classics at the university Thomas Jefferson founded.
posted by notyou at 10:48 AM on June 18, 2012 [33 favorites]


Thank god rich people are stepping in to manage higher education. Their expertise in managing the economy and government has, after all, been so overwhelmingly productive.
posted by mightygodking at 10:49 AM on June 18, 2012 [103 favorites]


There are other rumors afoot. Ranging in degrees of evilness from German Cutbacks to selling the brand of the University to a "Goldman Sachs owned For-Profit Education Company" to sell distance learning.
posted by JPD at 10:49 AM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, cut to the chase; is is this about fiscal conservative donors angry that someone wants to spend taxpayer money on such un-hedge-fund-like matters as German?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:49 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


From Horace Rumpole's link:
she "lacked the mettle to trim or shut down programs that couldn't sustain themselves financially, such as obscure academic departments in classics and German."
Holy crap.
posted by shothotbot at 10:49 AM on June 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


A German department? A dean, a couple profs, and a secretary? I cannot think of a curriculum with lower overhead.
posted by Ardiril at 10:50 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Obscure departments like....German?

I find it darkly hilarious that I'm reading this on the same day that Angela Merkel may decide the fate of the European Union.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:51 AM on June 18, 2012 [66 favorites]


Trying to imagine a financially sustaining public university -- a football team, a basketball team, an MBA program, and a pharma research lab?
posted by notyou at 10:52 AM on June 18, 2012 [31 favorites]


This is what happens when you fill the board of public universities with MBAs and venture capitalists.
posted by demiurge at 10:52 AM on June 18, 2012 [59 favorites]


trim or shut down programs that couldn't sustain themselves financially

This is the same reason I didn't teach my kids to read. How is a 5 year old going to earn money reading??
posted by DU at 10:53 AM on June 18, 2012 [113 favorites]


German... as well as the Classics.

Ohhhhhhh. Okay, yeah, now that makes sense.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:53 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


But -- are you honestly saying that the big reason she was being let go was over cutbacks in the German language department? That's just so....out there.

Inside Higher Ed says:The reports that board leaders pushed for cuts of some liberal arts programs and that Sullivan resisted are the most specific details to date about what led the board to seek her removal.


It sounds to me like she wanted to run a university and the Board wanted more focus on "salable degrees." This is, indeed, a thing, and something to be wary of. There is a very real movement to gut public institutions into technical schools where the major assessment is the salaries the graduates can earn.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:54 AM on June 18, 2012 [29 favorites]


This is totally UNNAMED RICH PEOPLE on the Board saying "Oh, what we need is a go-getting self-starter who'll run this place on a profit-generating basis!"

Maybe Mitt Romney will be free in November.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:54 AM on June 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


I have been following this rather obsessively since it happened mainly through Twitter. Here's a take from Slate on the leaked Kiernan email and my new favorite buzz-phrase, "strategic dynamism," which apparently Sullivan lacked.

This is what happens when you fill the board of public universities with MBAs and venture capitalists.

Basically, yes.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:55 AM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm still waiting to see if there's any more coverage of what was said at the all-hands faculty meeting — please do post a link here if you have one. It was described as an inspiring occasion by some of the people in attendance.

The faculty are apparently organizing quickly; the AAUP has also issued a statement condemning the board's actions.
posted by RogerB at 10:55 AM on June 18, 2012


As Jefferson understood, education is a public good. Someone should let these guys know that we already have "for-profit" universities and we don't need another one.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:56 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, seismologists all over the Eastern Seaboard are picking up some kind of odd activity, which seems to be coming from a rapidly spinning object located at latitude 38°00'43N and longitude 078°27'03W.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:56 AM on June 18, 2012 [42 favorites]


Ardiril: "OK, k5, and so?

HR: It's not the same as wanting to leave involuntarily, either.
"

When Gene Nichol was ousted from The College of William & Mary a few years ago, he was offered a significant sum of money to keep quiet about his termination. Given the blatant political motivation behind his firing, he declined the money.

My guess is that Sullivan took the cash and ran with it.

Virginia seems dead-set on gutting its world-class public university system, which is an absolute crying shame. (And, for all that "small government" shouting you hear from right-wing Virginians, VA has arguably one of the most topheavy and overbearing state governments that miserably fails to manage any portions of the state that are urban, educated, or nonwhite.)
posted by schmod at 10:58 AM on June 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


"the major assessment is the salaries the graduates can earn"

I understand that in the long term, but Classics and Languages with decent marketing should be a fiscal cash cow.
posted by Ardiril at 10:58 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


education is a public good

i.e. socialism
posted by DU at 10:58 AM on June 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Huh. I took a German class at UVa.

As far as the composition of the BOV: it was ever thus, and I think there has been a lot of discussion about just making UVa a fully private school since their state funding has suffered the same fate as many other public schools.

As a Hokie, I read these developments with nothing less than unbridled glee.

I'm impressed that you're able to read it! :P
posted by LionIndex at 10:59 AM on June 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


Think of that ... eliminating Classics at the university Thomas Jefferson founded.

...and then tour guides will tell visitors that the inscription over Old Cabell is an invocation of Cthulhu, so for God's sake don't try to read it. Don't even look at it!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:59 AM on June 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Does "strategic dynamism" have a meaning other than "do anything that pops into your money-addcted, cocaine-addled brain and hope something appears to increase profits", or do I need a refresher in business-speak?
posted by junco at 11:00 AM on June 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


You'd think that supposedly smart people would know that it's secrecy and cover-up that create shitstorms. If the BoV really had such big differences with the president, then bring it out in the open for discussion and deliberation. It's an academic institution, for crissakes - did they think that sneaking around and not talking about it would actually avoid trouble rather than create it?

I imagine that Mistah Jefferson (as my Charlottesville-native partner tells me everyone in Albemarle County calls him) is rolling in his grave.
posted by rtha at 11:01 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Despite my careful check, the link I just posted is already in the FPP. Oh, well, I encourage everyone to read it. Siva Vaidhyanathan (@sivavaid) is who I've been following, and has probably bee the most outspoken of all UVA faculty on this issue. On his Twitter, from a few hours ago:
"Breaking: Several members of #UVa Board asked President Teresa Sullivan to reconsider resignation"
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:02 AM on June 18, 2012


rtha, but that's how you do it in business. Thus the talk about whether schools should be run as a business or not.
posted by k5.user at 11:03 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


As Jefferson understood, education is a public good.

You don't need to convince him; it's the current leaders (and, in fairness, the last 10 years worth as well) of VA government who need to be convinces.

The current state of university financing is untenable and it's hard to know where it'll be solved. The Slate article almost blows past it without mention, but the writer comments on how when State governments slash public university budgets that means money instead comes from the feds or federally guaranteed student loans. The division of authority between States and the fed makes this a hard problem to figure out how to solve.
posted by phearlez at 11:03 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also: This goes beyond just gutting the liberal arts at a major university. We're talking about a major state university. If you live in Virginia, you can go to UVA and get a really good education in the subject of your choice, including the classics, German, or maybe even classical German, for half of what it would cost you to go to a private institution (which, horrifyingly, still puts you $20,000 per year in the hole, but that's a rant for a different day). You slash those programs, and you eliminate the first option for many, many people who would otherwise be able to take advantage of a liberal-arts education. And their second, third and fourth options involve an extra five digits of debt, per year.

Disgusting.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:03 AM on June 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


A top donor to the University of Virginia said she plans to withhold future contributions unless members of the school’s governing board who are responsible for the ouster of President Teresa Sullivan are removed
posted by exogenous at 11:04 AM on June 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Just a reminder that humanities departments like German and Classics almost certainly pay for themselves, and likely produce surplus money for the university as a whole. In addition to being completely antithetical to the mission of the university, these calls to cut humanities programs on supposed cost-cutting grounds are almost always factually incorrect as well.
posted by gerryblog at 11:05 AM on June 18, 2012 [37 favorites]


"Closed-Door Meetings" is something I see time and time again when it comes to stories that blow up this way. Maybe it's time we open up some of these doors, let people have a look inside.
posted by Fizz at 11:06 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Think of that ... eliminating Classics at the university Thomas Jefferson founded.

It's also one of the strongest classics programs in the country and is a main reason for the state's high school Latin programs being so strong nationally. I don't know if it is still the case, but a decade ago there was a rather large number of students attending UVa because of the Latin scholarships they received.

I should also point out that at every school where I've taught (including both large state schools and small private schools) the classics programs are always near or at the top of the school's cheapest departments to run. Yes, we teach small language classes and other expensive courses, but we also usually teach the large (usually the largest) intro courses (myth, history, etc.) that bring in a huge number of funds. (On preview, what gerryblog just said)
posted by zeugitai_guy at 11:07 AM on June 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


The University system in America is about profit - even public universities.
The goal of education takes a back-seat to the goal of fund-raising millions.

Banksters and University Deans, marching to the same tune.
posted by Flood at 11:07 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry I don't have a link yet, but @sivavaid posted to Twitter that "Rector just met w Fac Senate leaders. They asked her to resign, reinstate Sullivan." about 2 hrs ago.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:07 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It seems odd to me that so many people are calling for the decision to be reversed, rather than explained.

If the board refuses to explain its decision and you believe, as a member of the university community, that you deserve an explanation, that seems reasonable to me. But if you don't know why the board made a rather bold decision, how can you feel confident demanding that it be reversed?
posted by cribcage at 11:08 AM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Does "strategic dynamism" have a meaning other than "do anything that pops into your money-addcted, cocaine-addled brain and hope something appears to increase profits", or do I need a refresher in business-speak?

Nope, I think that's pretty much the crux of it. So, makes total sense for an educational institution like UVA, right? Ugh.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:09 AM on June 18, 2012


I kind of like Paul Tudor Jones, in the sense he is doing good things with his philanthropy. It's unclear what the situation is with the German and classics departments at UVA, it's possible they are anemic and unimportant compared to other schools in VA, the loss would-not-be-a-loss-to-the-discipline-overall-and-meanwhile-UVA-may-have-serious-budget-problems so it's a question of triage.
posted by stbalbach at 11:09 AM on June 18, 2012


Cribcage, from Ring TFAs we know exactly why the board made a bold decision -- or rather, we know that it *didn't* make a decision, but that on the strength of a decision that it was falsely claimed to have made, Sullivan was forced out.
posted by Yesterday's camel at 11:09 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: right before I entered UVa, they cut the Journalism and Rhetoric departments. TJ's school without rhetoric? I think the school has been gradually moving in this direction for a long time, and this incident may just be a more visible symptom of that shift than what's occurred previously.
posted by LionIndex at 11:10 AM on June 18, 2012


There is a very real movement to gut public institutions into technical schools where the major assessment is the salaries the graduates can earn.

Even if that was an acceptable aim, it's not achievable. Universities are not set up to design curricula for the job market even ten years into the enrollee's working lifetime. Show me a faculty or administration that knows where the money will be even by the time a new student graduates, let alone well into that student's adult life. Imagine how students would have ended up if in 1990 their Universities had steered them toward studies in Japanese language and business culture. Because that's the kind of thinking we're talking about here.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:10 AM on June 18, 2012 [24 favorites]


Holy crap. What a Godawful mess...

Don't mess with the Classics, Rightwing austerity MBA-douchebags, see what happens, the Classics kick your ass back...
posted by Skygazer at 11:10 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


the university Thomas Jefferson founded

Thank god rich people are stepping in to manage higher education.

As far as the composition of the BOV: it was ever thus


It was ever thus indeed! What, you think old TJ wasn't some rich white bastard who didn't his poop smelled?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:12 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


As many have pointed out, this is what happens when you slash public funding for public institutions and allow profit-oriented MBA types to run the show instead. What I want to know is, how do we counter-mobilize? There's plenty of recognition on the part of the left and many liberals that public institutions need public support -- but it seems like no one knows how to make that case to the public as a whole. Why not?

The one-way ratchet of austerity and the neoliberal program of letting the market colonize every last part of the public sphere is just super depressing.
posted by Yesterday's camel at 11:12 AM on June 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Here is my take on this, regarding Strategic Dynamism.

I envision "education on demand", or as I call it EaaS (Education as a service) in which classes or entire departments can be created and destroyed at will. Have 12 people who want to learn german? Spin up an instance of a distance learning platform and provision instructors out of your instructor pool in Mumbai. Nobody want to learn germam this semester? Simply transfer your resources to instructing something else. Lease all existing space as incubator space and space for "learning pods", students who want to work in the same geographical location can lease them. Run early stage startups out of the remaining space.

UVA, If you would like to hear more about my ideas for disrupting the stagnating education industry, MeMail me. I am available to head your institution for low 7 figures base with stock and performance incentives TBD.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:12 AM on June 18, 2012 [19 favorites]


As far as I can tell, the faculty, students, and administration *have* been asking for an explanation since Sullivan resigned; however, the board has apparently only offered "philosophical differences."
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:13 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can only assume that means they also wanted to axe Philosophy.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:14 AM on June 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


Ad hominem, I believe you mean "disrupting the education space".
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:14 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


But if you don't know why the board made a rather bold decision, how can you feel confident demanding that it be reversed?

I suspect at this point it is a matter of who they trust more. The secrecy and methods used to orchestrate the whole thing worked directly against the board, they dug a hole and dumped whatever trust they had into it and buried it. So, in the complete absence of wrongdoing or legitimate cause Sullivan receives a massive benefit of the doubt.

If there was a legitimate reason for her ousting and a real need for discretion there seems to have been plenty of opportunity for the board to hold private meetings with a handful of their most vocal critics and explain the decision. From reading the articles it seems like the most that has been offered is pretty weak sauce excuses and a bunch of DYNAMIC sounding bullshit.
posted by edgeways at 11:14 AM on June 18, 2012


they cut the Journalism and Rhetoric departments

I'll give them a pass on the journalism department, for now. You can't teach something that's going to be completely different in four years (or less).
posted by Melismata at 11:19 AM on June 18, 2012


I think what the hedge-fund types want is to turn universities into a source of free labor (e.g. unpaid internships normalized as an unavoidable phase of working life), but more importantly to eventually degrade their status in society's eyes enough to really do away with them completely and replace them with a corporation-overseen pipeline from childhood to working life. It starts with charter schools, where kids can be fined for infractions and nobody is accountable to the public, and ends with a workforce which has been essentially brainwashed into accepting the perspective of the corporation as the only reasonable way to think about social relations and the world in general.

When corporations control education, people will be taught to think like corporations, and will view their own lives and the lives of others as simple resources for businesses to use.
posted by clockzero at 11:21 AM on June 18, 2012 [36 favorites]


The University of Maine got rid of German as a major, as well as French, Spanish, Latin, Public Administration, Women's Studies, Theatre and Music.

That should give you an idea what a worldly, enlightened place Maine is.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:22 AM on June 18, 2012


and yet it also seems on the brink of legalizing SSM by popular vote
posted by edgeways at 11:23 AM on June 18, 2012


Ad hom, I think I'm going to vomit
posted by junco at 11:23 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll give them a pass on the journalism department, for now. You can't teach something that's going to be completely different in four years (or less).

Rapidly-changing fields are perhaps the most important to provide high-quality education in, though. It's not as though the basic tenets or journalism aren't valid, it's just that the business models are in great flux. I would think that fact would make this moment a great time to put lots of resources into exploring what new things are possible, and moreover, we badly need well-informed perspectives on exactly what's changing, which is what academia produces.
posted by clockzero at 11:24 AM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ego defecit latine? Quod est unpossibile!
posted by General Malaise at 11:25 AM on June 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Methinks the Board needs to read the school's mission statement because clearly they have forgotten that they are overseeing a university and not a business.
posted by smirkette at 11:25 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


That should give you an idea what a worldly, enlightened place Maine is.

I'm less convinced every day that you can learn anything about the culture or attitudes of any given population from the actions of those with money and power. A trend that is accelerating out of control since Citizens United has helped to remove any distinction between those latter two attributes.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:25 AM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ugh. It seems like the forces of barbarism are winning. The richest society in the history of the world finds respect for the history of thought itself to be a luxury it cannot afford. This is in addition to not only the toleration but the celebration, in many quarters, of the skill by the few in skimming an ever more disproportionate share of wealth. The health care debate, the rubber-stamping of war after war. I feel very out of step with my country.
posted by shothotbot at 11:25 AM on June 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


It's nice to see people defending classics. Hopefully a lot of you are inspired to crack open your books tonight.
posted by michaelh at 11:25 AM on June 18, 2012


A bit of background on Dragas from Bacon's Rebellion:
Helen E. Dragas, 50, president of the The Dragas Cos., was appointed to the Board of Visitors of U.Va. by then Gov. Tim Kaine in 2008. Now Rector or chairman of the BOV, Dragas has been the moving force in the dramatic and secretive effort to remove university President Teresa Sullivan, one of the top academic in the country, after less than two years in office.

Both Dragas and Sullivan have something in common. Dragas is the school’s first female Rector and Sullivan is its first female president. While only giving vague hints at her displeasure with Sullivan, Dragas herself has come under intense fire for allegedly keeping at three of the 16 board members in the dark about her maneuvering to get Sullivan to resign, holding a legally questionable meeting to do so and then giving conflicting information about Sullivan’s alleged inadequacies as an academic visionary and administrator.

Dragas has complained that Sullivan lacked a needed long-term vision and philosophy for the school and fell behind on applying technology, such as online classes, to push Mr. Jefferson’s University into the future. On the contrary, reports The Washington Post, Sullivan had been lobbying to upgrade parts of the school that seemed to be resting on their laurels and had been advocating the use of digital classroom techniques to get undergraduates through introductory courses so more time could be spent in personal instruction in more advanced courses taken by upper classmen.

Sullivan’s outstanding popularity at U.Va. and Dragas’ secretive management tactics have sparked furor at the school.
...
In business, she defines herself as an “ultraconservative” in handling finances and even uses personal credit scores as a criterion for hiring a worker. “We have a very conservative way of managing our balance sheet,” she has said in interviews. “Emotional intelligence” is another trait she looks for in her employees. Her company has branched from residential into mixed use projects. The Dragas Co. received favorable publicity for replacing badly-made and unhealthy drywall imported from China that had been used in the condominiums it sold.

Her successful operation has generated political campaign contributions mostly to Democratic candidates. She gave more than $7,000 in 2008 to Jody Wagner, A Democrat who had run unsuccessfully for U.S. Congresswoman and as Lieutenant Governor, losing to Bill Bolling. Other recipients of her funds are PACs such as Moving Virginia Forward and One Virginia PAC where she has joined other prominent state political players as Sheila Johnson, Ted Leonsis and James Ukrop.
...
According to a regional business magazine, Dragas was supporting Sullivan as recently as January. In an interview, she said: “I don’t consider myself the chief executive at U.Va. What I am is more like the chair of the board. My job really is to engage the board and include the board in setting the long-term direction for the university. The academic environment is one of shared governance, which is quite different than running a for-profit company.”
posted by Challahtronix at 11:27 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Come on, the board is just preparing for a future where student loans are replaced by futures markets in students' career incomes, after all.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:28 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile another president at another public ivy faces untoward political pressure.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2012


I'm less convinced every day that you can learn anything about the culture or attitudes of any given population from the actions of those with money and power.

I'm no classics scholar, but isn't there some sort of Latin saying about what happens to people that abuse thier power?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:31 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Slate article is indeed excellent. One thing that struck me is how popular Sullivan is/was with the faculty. That's not always the case, by any means, as a quick glance at the AAUP active grievances will show.

The other thing that struck me was how slimy the business school people seem to be acting. That email is a piece of work. I'd very much like to have been a fly on the wall when the BOV discovered that the Kiernan email had accidentally been made public.

Also, I will note that the university which pays my salary has an Executive Associate Vice President for PR. An Executive Associate Vice President--what an assemblage of words. Better yet, try figuring out the org chart when it contains both VPs and Provosts, Deans, etc.
posted by librarylis at 11:33 AM on June 18, 2012


As a student of the classics, this makes me want to weep into my embroidered sleeve hanky.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:34 AM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's not as though the basic tenets or journalism aren't valid, it's just that the business models are in great flux. I would think that fact would make this moment a great time to put lots of resources into exploring what new things are possible, and moreover, we badly need well-informed perspectives on exactly what's changing, which is what academia produces.

I agree completely. However, I know at least one big school in the Boston area (there are lots here) where they tried to get the journalism professors to stop teaching that the ultimate goal is to work for a daily newspaper. The faculty was set in their ways, however; sometimes it's easier to just cut a whole department.
posted by Melismata at 11:35 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's nice to see people defending classics. Hopefully a lot of you are inspired to crack open your books tonight.

And what if I decline?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:35 AM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm afraid I don't quite understand this: she had a contract, right? How is an "ouster" even possible? Why can she not just say "You can't fire me without paying that off plus any other damages your breach causes me"? Is the implication here that she accepted a settlement not to drag it through the courts?
posted by tyllwin at 11:35 AM on June 18, 2012


So she was "fired" for being a German sympathizer?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:35 AM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


They'll get their way and abolish everything they see as useless frippery. And 15 years from now they'll look around at the wasteland that UVa is, the massive budget hole they've created by pouring money into ventures only to shift to the next big thing as soon as it appears and because they've axed cheap departments, and a massive fall in reputation of their institution and say 'how were we to know?' And then they'll write memoirs on their genius and run for elected office.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:36 AM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Perhaps a freemium model? Everyone can audit courses online for free but extras such as diplomas cost. Or my innovative grading plan I call "Pay-For-A". I can certainly see a place for an incubator model where especially qualified students get free access in exchange for a percentage of future earnings. UVA is a good brand and we could certainly leverage that to provide innovative modern education solutions.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:38 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's unclear what the situation is with the German and classics departments at UVA, it's possible they are anemic and unimportant compared to other schools in VA

I can't speak to the German department, but the Classics Department at UVA is one of the top in the US.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:38 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hopefully a lot of you are inspired to crack open your books tonight.

Is that a pony request?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:39 AM on June 18, 2012


For those who don't know, the Darden School is the business school. Which can at least argue that its newer campus is nicer to look at than the neighboring law school's.

I find it incredibly odd that a school with the size, wealth and background as UVa, feels the need to eliminate programs like German and the Classics. As someone who grew up in C'ville, the University has an omnipresence to it. You always hear about how the University has bought that up or just purchased this land, etc....etc. It doesn't sound like an institution wanting for cash, so much as an obese cavalier greedily attempting to cram more food down his rapier's blade to munch on later.
posted by Atreides at 11:39 AM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


In any case, it a valid question to ask how are the students being served. Of course it's criminal to cut the classics. However, 40 years ago you could graduate with a classics degree and still be able to afford your own small apartment when you got out. You can't now. Cutting classics isn't the answer. What is?
posted by Melismata at 11:41 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a Hokie myself, I read these developments with substantially less than unbridled glee.

The point of college rivalries is to have some fun competing to see which school is better. If you "win", whether that be in athletic or academic competition, it's meaningful because both sides did great work and you did even better work.

Thus, if something prevents your rivals from putting forth their best effort, it makes your victory less significant. You didn't prove anything particularly impressive by beating them. You may just have been the least bad, and that's not something to be proud of.

So there's that... oh, and plus, no matter what the rivalry you shouldn't be gleeful about bad things happening to other people. God, I wish that went without saying.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:41 AM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


The pillars on the portico of Jefferson's rotunda on campus has been tagged with G-R-E-E-D.
posted by General Malaise at 11:45 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


“Emotional intelligence” is another trait she looks for in her employees.

What does that even mean? The only times I've ever heard anyone state that was because they were pretty much uninformed cretins who had no grasp of facts and preferred to make decisions based on their "gut feeling" rather than actually looking at statistical models and facts to build a working solution. "Emotional intelligence" to me says "I prefer to manipulate people through emotional constructs, rather than having a strong intellectual and rigorous backing to my ideas."

The Dragas Co. received favorable publicity for replacing badly-made and unhealthy drywall imported from China that had been used in the condominiums it sold.

Oh, so her company built condos with cheap unhealthy building material and then when problems arose they covered their asses by replacing it before they got sued? Good on them for being cheap morons to begin with I guess.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by daq at 11:48 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thank god rich people are stepping in to manage higher education. Their expertise in managing the economy and government has, after all, been so overwhelmingly productive.

Well, everyone knows that a college education is only for snobs!
posted by ericb at 11:49 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do my eyes decieve me or haven't they been tagged G-R-E-E-E-D?
posted by Bookhouse at 11:49 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


U.Va. Faculty Senate calls for resignation of Rector Helen Dragas and Vice Rector Mark Kington
posted by stbalbach at 11:50 AM on June 18, 2012


mightygodking: "Thank god rich people are stepping in to manage higher education. Their expertise in managing the economy and government has, after all, been so overwhelmingly productive."

What it really needs is more business school.
posted by symbioid at 11:50 AM on June 18, 2012


The pillars on the portico of Jefferson's rotunda on campus has been tagged with G-R-E-E-D.

Not to nit-pick, but it appears that they were tagged with G-R-E-E-E-D.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:50 AM on June 18, 2012


BookhouseDo my eyes decieve me or haven't they been tagged G-R-E-E-E-D?

Indeeed.
posted by Mad_Carew at 11:51 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The extra E is for extra Greed
posted by shothotbot at 11:51 AM on June 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Greed" is Germanic in origin.
posted by stbalbach at 11:52 AM on June 18, 2012


"Greed" is Germanic in origin.

That explains why no UVA student could spell it correctly.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:53 AM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


I feel certain that Mister Jefferson would pronounce this shit cray.
posted by argonauta at 11:53 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


As for the vandalism on the fabled Rotunda, mischievous spray-painting is nothing new to the campus. The Beta Bridge, on Rugby Road, is the frequent target of rogue artists. In 2005, students who graffitied the bridge with an image of a woman's breasts were the subject of a brief FBI investigation.

Did the breasts cross state lines? Did the breasts make a threatening statement? Were the breasts attempting to kidnap a minor?
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:53 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the Charlottesville police are now making the culprit rewrite "GREED" all over campus spelling it correctly?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:54 AM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


In any case, it a valid question to ask how are the students being served. Of course it's criminal to cut the classics. However, 40 years ago you could graduate with a classics degree and still be able to afford your own small apartment when you got out. You can't now. Cutting classics isn't the answer. What is?

If there are insufficient positions to provide jobs for graduates in a field, programs may want to think about lowering the number of majors admitted. However, departments serve more than their majors. Programs like classics and rhetoric provide essential courses for general liberal arts education (education that, I suggest, serves students in helping them understand and respond to some of the disastrous social trends in recent years).
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:55 AM on June 18, 2012


I understand that in the long term, but Classics and Languages with decent marketing should be a fiscal cash cow.

I'm not sure about classics, but philosophy is most certainly a profit center for universities. Hundred person undergraduate classes taught by graduate students who may end up earning less than minimum wage per hour? Ka-ching!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:56 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


In any case, it a valid question to ask how are the students being served. Of course it's criminal to cut the classics. However, 40 years ago you could graduate with a classics degree and still be able to afford your own small apartment when you got out. You can't now.

I have no idea what the employment rate for UVa Classics program is, but there is a surprisingly robust market for Latin teachers in high schools (there was a shortage for years). I taught in a school in Los Angeles where Latin was the second most popular language; it was particularly popular with Korean-Americans who were wildly enthusiastic about the discipline the language provided. The only reason I mention this is to show that frequently there are still markets for skills that might appear abstruse or outmoded. Before I went back into a PhD program I, despite my antiquated Classics degree, worked for an educational video company and a software company. If you can't afford a small apartment now as a Classics graduate that might have more to do with the woeful state Of the economy as much as the discipline.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:59 AM on June 18, 2012


Did the breasts cross state lines? Did the breasts make a threatening statement? Were the breasts attempting to kidnap a minor?

Because, terrorism. Shut up, citizen, before we investigate you next.
posted by tyllwin at 11:59 AM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


However, 40 years ago you could graduate with a classics degree and still be able to afford your own small apartment when you got out

I'd argue the job market for classics majors has been relatively stagnant since the Renaissance. And speaking as a woman with a Literature degree and seven years of Latin in my past, I'd argue that no classics major expects to pay the bills translating Ovid. But I have plenty of friends who were classics majors who do all right for themselves doing the same sort of jobs business majors do. And if trying to put your pitch script into dactylic hexameter makes sales calls less soul-sucking or if re-reading the Iliad during your cigarette break at the diner briefly reminds you that the world can be occasionally sublime as well as generally disappointing, then more power to you.
posted by thivaia at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [22 favorites]


I wonder if the Charlottesville police are now making the culprit rewrite "GREED" all over campus spelling it correctly?

Romanes eunt domus
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'll give them a pass on the journalism department, for now. You can't teach something that's going to be completely different in four years (or less).

Well, they cut them 20 years ago. Journalism conceivably still had a pulse back then, and the school is home to an excellent student paper (that is technically independent from the University).

That explains why no UVA student could spell it correctly.


The Rotunda has 6 columns. What do you want? I guess an exclamation point would have probably worked better.

The Beta Bridge, on Rugby Road, is the frequent target of rogue artists.

Pfft. Yeah, on a daily basis. The bridge is basically a student billboard that student organizations paint over a couple times a week to advertise their programs and events; or students just get some friends together and paint messages on it. And there's a healthy tradition of student secret societies painting their logos on buildings and other various places around grounds, but they've been prohibited from adding NEW logos for quite some time.
posted by LionIndex at 12:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


could spell it correctly

As a descriptivist, I'd say that the number of es is proportional to the quantity of greed being signified.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find it darkly hilarious that I'm reading this on the same day that Angela Merkel may decide the fate of the European Union.

I agree. So darkly hilarious that I feel there must be a German word that best describes the situation, something that means: "so darkly hilarious as to not be not hilarious at all but then you just keep laughing anyway so you don't cry."

Of course, looks like future students won't be able to translate it anyway, so c'est la vie.

And though we already did this at the beginning of the thread -- thanks for this post and discussion; stuff like this would not affect my immediate life at all if not for Metafilter (even though the results may affect all of our lives soon enough) and I feel like posts like this keep me informed because ...and occasionally enraged...even though that should never be anyone's motivation for making a post! (seriously)

posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


stbalbach: "I kind of like Paul Tudor Jones, in the sense he is doing good things with his philanthropy. It's unclear what the situation is with the German and classics departments at UVA, it's possible they are anemic and unimportant compared to other schools in VA, the loss would-not-be-a-loss-to-the-discipline-overall-and-meanwhile-UVA-may-have-serious-budget-problems so it's a question of triage."

Hm. Interesting. My guess is that this is approximately half-true.

My alma mater has eliminated tiny departments, and consolidated others. Although this is always controversial on the surface, it's also almost always been a good decision in hindsight. Sometimes a department loses its way, fails to adapt to the times, etc. and just needs to be put out of its misery.

Imagine if medical schools didn't shutter their schools of homeopathy?

On one hand, I'm disheartened to see anti-intellectualism influencing our public universities. On the other, I don't think we should be treating the liberal arts as sacred. UVa should be allowed to close and open departments as they see fit.
posted by schmod at 12:11 PM on June 18, 2012


I wish I could invite you all to my house/work for this. It is the subject of breathless conversation throughout UVA/C-ville/Albemarle County.

Conspiracy theories abound (political appointees/Classics axed/etc), vandalism of TJ's beloved Rotunda in the name of something, and there's this insane witch-hunt mentality brewing about certain members of the BOV.

Shit is cray in C-ville.
posted by kuanes at 12:13 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


thivaia: "And if trying to put your pitch script into dactylic hexameter makes sales calls less soul-sucking or if re-reading the Iliad during your cigarette break at the diner briefly reminds you that the world can be occasionally sublime as well as generally disappointing, then more power to you."

So hey, this line is kind of amazing and I'm having a better day for having read it. Thanks, thivaia.
posted by Phire at 12:15 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


This all is bizarre, but the most bizarre part of it is that there appears to be no substantive reason for Dragas wanting Sullivan gone. Not even the speculation makes any sense. You would think that in a situation like this, there would have been at least some hint of tension, some public clashes that people could point to, or some obvious mistakes that Sullivan made. As it is, it looks like an arbitrary power play....
posted by mr_roboto at 12:15 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The most bizarre part of this, from my perspective, is that university presidents get fired by boards of directors all the time for exactly the sort of reason they seem to be firing sullivan. They just state plainly that's what their reasoning is, there's a little fuss, and everyone moves on. It sucks, but everyone moves on.

By so radically and obviously mismanaging their PR on the subject, they've ensured that can't happen, now.

So, bully for the BoV. Let them sleep in the bed they've made.
posted by lodurr at 12:15 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was sympathetic until they vandalized the Rotunda. What the eff? Everyone knows that the window to vandalize Jefferson's academic village closed when an engineering professor attempted to put out a fire in the Rotunda with dynamite. Yeeesh.
posted by Atreides at 12:17 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


the board is just preparing for a future where student loans are replaced by futures markets in students' career incomes, after all.

You've read Mary Doria Russel's The Sparrow, too? I just got to the part where she describes "the lively secondary market...where one could invest in an eight-year-old who'd tested extraordinarily high in mathematical ability" or "trade rights to the earnings of a medical student for those of a talented young bioengineer."

Yeah. Brave new thing coming soon, I'm sure.
posted by mediareport at 12:17 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, bully for the BoV. Let them sleep in the bed they've made.

Perhaps they felt the need for an object lesson in "Strategic Dynamism".
posted by fatbird at 12:19 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe this thread will finally convince the people that poo-pooed it in past to watch the Parking Lot documentary.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:25 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


navelgazer: the board is just preparing for a future where student loans are replaced by futures markets in students' career incomes, after all.

You have been reading too much Bacigalupi, my friend.
posted by lodurr at 12:25 PM on June 18, 2012


Heh. I was going to post the same thing as Kuanes. Central Virginia is agog and the fact that there's so much mystery and a slow leak of information and indicators just feeds the constant conversation. There was some particularly crazy conspiracy theory at the Social Security Office this morning (All language schools moved to business! All science programs moved to the medical school! Making the English department teach history! Requiring all athletes to graduate from Darden! Having the new Yoga Center move into the German Department Offices -- this one won't happen because the donor's wife gave them enough money to refurbish an old house the University owns for the Yoga program... ).

I don't think the BOV properly understood Sullivan's popularity, the more ... academically-oriented members of the communities being on edge after the Cooch tried to interfere with hiring/research/who could be employeed, and that there is a division between the professional schools and the traditional academic disciplines that is deceptively deep with suspicion and disdain directed both ways (and the balance of power between the two isn't quite as imbalanced as they expected in favor of the professional schools). I can't think of a decision they could have made that would have stirred up so much sturm und drang -- I mean drama. Wait, that's a classical term. Shoot.

You'd hope that a Board of Visitors/Trustees/whatever would have a better sense of the state of their campus.
posted by julen at 12:26 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Cut and paste from an email I received June 14th:

A theory of what led to Sullivan’s ouster

by

Anne-Marie Angelo UVA CLAS '01 - now at Duke in the History PhD program.

http://www.annemarieangelo.com/

13Jun12


“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”
- Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, 27 December 1820

This one’s for you, TJ.

I write this post as a proud UVA alumna (CLAS ’01), one who knows the devotion we alums share for the education we received at Virginia. UVA offers one of the best public educations in the nation, and it’s open to all who meet its rigorous standards. UVA is an institution with an incredible sense of groundedness, as well as a dynamic, thoughtful group of students, faculty, and administrators who care deeply about the place. For better and sometimes for worse, Mr. Jefferson’s University, The University, has not been easily moved by the fashions of the day. It’s a place where reason and truth are valued, and where students and faculty do not simply shrug off questionable actions as par for the course. It’s no surprise, then, that the lack of clarity and transparency over the sudden resignation of our President this past Sunday is eating away at many of us.

I am also a writer and historian, currently finishing up a Ph.D. in History at Duke University. The research skills I’ve learned at Duke and Virginia have enabled me to know where and how to find information quickly. When the news broke of President Sullivan’s sudden resignation from UVA, I became very curious. Sullivan arrived at UVA as a highly respected administrator of public higher education, one of the best in the business. Something must have gone very amiss for her to agree to resign in this way.

I’ve poked around the internet and have come up with a theory about what I think may have been happening in Charlottesville to force Sullivan to leave. Some parts of it may turn out to be a bit off, time will tell, but I’m confident enough in what I’ve found to present it as plausible. I am neither a journalist, nor a lawyer or a higher education administrator, and I am sure there are elements here that would benefit from the input of those professionals’ expertise.

All of this is information freely accessible to the public. I am sharing it in hopes that others may form their opinions and offer their insights, so that we might build a fuller picture of what has happened.

The theory I have is that Goldman Sachs’s Education Management Corporation, a for-profit education provider, wanted to make or made a bid to offer online education through UVA. From this endeavor, EMC would invest profits back into the University, helping to heal some of the University’s fiscal woes. When Sullivan was reluctant or refused to agree to the venture, key members of the Board threatened litigation related to her performance as a fundraiser for the University.

Here is how I’ve arrived at this theory:

1. On Sunday, the Richmond-Times Dispatch reported that Sullivan only learned that she was being forced to resign on Friday, and that the Chairman of the Darden School of Business’s Foundation knew of the “project” to oust her several weeks ago.

2. An examination of the minutes of the Board of Visitors meetings from 2011-12 reveals that Sullivan’s departure was discussed over several months and may have been related to fundraising:

At the September meeting, Sullivan reported a 13% decrease from the previous fiscal year in giving to the University (p. 8534).

In November, the BOV created and adopted a Presidential Performance Evaluation, with individual members of the Board writing reviews of Sullivan. Although this is a common professional practice and has obvious benefits for organizational health, it was an unprecedented action taken by the Board (p. 8615).

In February, the BOV met in closed executive session with its General Counsel to discuss pending and threatened litigation and to discuss “personnel matters relating to the appointment and performance of University employees in connection with fundraising activities and potential gifts to the University related to the Capital Campaign” (p. 8656)

The Board held a closed executive session at its May meeting in which it discussed personnel matters related to University officers, presumably Sullivan. In the executive session, they also consulted with the University’s General Counsel on a “privileged legal report” on “pending and anticipated litigation affecting the University.” (pgs. 8708-09)

3. Today, an article from Charlottesville’s The Hook raised questions about the potential role of Peter Kiernan, the chair of the Trustees at the Darden Foundation, the Board of UVA’s Graduate Business School, in the circumstances leading to Sullivan’s ouster. The article noted in particular Kiernan’s role as a former partner at Goldman Sachs and that Goldman Sachs “recently took a major ownership position in a group of online universities.”
I learned that the group of online universities to which The Hook refers are known as the Education Management Corporation, profiled here by the Huffington Post.
A bit of searching revealed an announcement by news station NBC 29, Charlottesville’s NBC affiliate, about an EMC investor presentation in the area in February and March.
Conspicuously, the article has been taken down on NBC 29s website, but the cached version on Google (from a search for the “Education Management Corporation and the University of Virginia”) mentions the University of Virginia:
http://www.nbc29.com/story/16935176/education-management-corporation-announces-february-and-march-investor-presentation-and-webcast-schedule
From the site’s cache: “/PRNewswire/ — Education Management Corporation … to take for granted just how beautiful and historic the University of Virginia is, …”
It also turns out that EMC’s General Counsel is a two-time University of Virginia alumnus:
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/robert-kelley/14/583/b82

So, the theory is that EMC approached the University with the potential of offering the “online education” component to which Dragas has referred, as a subsidiary of UVA’s educational offerings, one that would have healed a lot of fiscal woes for the University. As an independent entity who invested its profits back into the University, EMC’s involvement wouldn’t have made the University in and of itself private. Essentially it would have been selling the UVA ‘brand name’ for the opportunity to receive major gifts for the University. When Sullivan resisted this venture, the Board found fault with her performance as a fundraiser and made moves to oust her.

Given the heavy involvement of Darden in this scenario, I’d be curious to know more about the ways Darden has privatized over the years, and whether this model bears any resemblance to those processes.
4. Back to the Board of Visitors: All members of the Board are appointed by the Governor of Virginia. Virginia’s Governor, Bob McDonnell, has appointed 8 members of the current 16 on the Board since the time that Sullivan was selected as President. McDonnell refused to reappoint the Rector-elect of the Board, Daniel Abramson, reportedly because he had donated to the campaigns of McDonnell’s predecessors Tim Kaine and Senator Mark Warner. From the point of view of the Board who hired Sullivan, Dragas was not intended to be the Rector right now; Abramson was, and now he is no longer a Board member.
5. In January of this year, McDonnell announced a plan to sell off naming rights to public infrastructure, in this case transportation, indicating he was not opposed to the private branding of public goods and services.
I think it’s no huge jump to suggest that a Governor who was interested in privatizing state infrastructure, and who was making a bid for Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential nomination (and given that Goldman Sachs was Romney’s largest corporate contributor in the 2008 election) would have gone along with Goldman’s plan and turned a blind eye when they ousted Sullivan.
That’s my two cents. As I mentioned, this is a theory-in-progress, so I look forward to people’s feedback, details, corrections, etc. Thank you for reading.-------
posted by TheTingTangTong at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


I am a Hokie, through and through. I have nothing but mad respect for UVa, though; it is a first-rate university. (Virginia is home to several of the finest colleges in the country.)

This whole fiasco stinks to high heaven. I will be truly surprised if the coup scenario doesn't turn out to be true.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:35 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


And what if I decline?

Then make a good FPP or something.
posted by michaelh at 12:37 PM on June 18, 2012


obscure academic departments in classics

Oh. My. God.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:37 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


@TheTingTangTong - Both The Darden School and the Law School at UVA have essentially been stand-alone facilities for a long period of time, so I'm not sure the concept that Darden was "privatized over the years" is entirely accurate.
posted by kuanes at 12:38 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I had to guess, I'd say this quote from the bluntly realistic "Academic Strategy" memo Sullivan shared with the board in May was a major trigger for her removal:

Sullivan’s Academic Strategy memo, obtained by The Washington Post, was written in comparatively candid terms and identified five areas of broad concern.

First, a siloed budgeting model that frustrates innovation and collaboration. Second, a projection that fully half of the U-Va. faculty will depart by 2020, mainly because of retirement. Third, a “reputation gap”: In many academic areas, Sullivan suggests, the university is “reputed to be better than we actually are.” Fourth, the “fragile” Top 10 stature of many university departments and professional schools, driven by a precariously small number of actual academic stars.


There's more in the full memo [pdf]:

Third, the University of Virginia suffers from a reputation gap—or, alternatively, we have somehow been overachieving. In a number of critical areas we are reputed to be better than we actually are. Even simple metrics (number of National Academy Members, members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, International Award Winners) show that we are not as excellent as our rankings imply. Our traditional strengths and international reputation have come from the humanities and the professional schools....

Fourth, we have a fragile “top-ten” standing of some of the professional schools and academic departments. It must be candidly admitted that some of the fields that bring us the greatest distinction are not those in which most people would today invest (e.g., Spanish, English, Religious Studies). In some of these units, our reputation is derived from a small number of faculty, rendering the reputation of those units particularly vulnerable to the outside recruitment of a single person or a few departures of senior leaders. This problem has been accentuated in the last few years by our inability to keep faculty salaries of our best people competitive with those at peer institutions.


Not many Board members who'd be happy with that kind of assessment of the university they donated gazillions to. No wonder some of the big donors got upset.
posted by mediareport at 12:48 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


B-schools are often fastidiously distinct from their affiliated universities -- they often even take pains to minimize the parent school's branding, as though they might be tainted by admitting to an association. (Wharton & Simon spring to mind as examples in addition to Darden.) They often seem to devote great gusto and zeal to portraying themselves as a higher order of life.

The major exceptions I've noted are at engineering schools and smaller colleges. At those schools, the B-school is often pretty integrated. The difference is that they're often making a lot of their revenue from either engineers or returning adults in search of that a career-boosting MBA -- hoi polloi, as it were, ,and not the higher order of being that the Ivy & name-branded B-schools are seeking.
posted by lodurr at 12:49 PM on June 18, 2012


It must be candidly admitted that some of the fields that bring us the greatest distinction are not those in which most people would today invest (e.g., Spanish, English, Religious Studies).

What does the word "invest" mean here? I don't understand whether the idea is (a) that we shouldn't place too much metaphorical stock in these programs' continuing to rank highly, because their star faculty may depart or retire, or (b) that the humanities are not worth spending money on.
posted by RogerB at 12:55 PM on June 18, 2012


And what if I decline?

No conjugal visits.
posted by kenko at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think she must have meant both senses.

Thanks for the link, btw, mediareport. I don't have a ton of personal investment in UVA (wanted to go there as a kid, brother got his PhD there, childhood admirer of TJ, but beyond that...), but this whole tempest is a good bellwether I think for the coming conflicts and that memo is indeed really candid. Probably a major miscalculation -- but then, maybe she saw the writing on the wall and wanted to leave some graffiti of her own. Who knows.
posted by lodurr at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2012


lodurr: Darden is the graduate business school, so it being it's own thing isn't so much of a problem; I tend to think of it in a similar way as the medical or law schools. There is an undergrad business school, the McIntire School of Commerce, that has been pretty reputable as well.

Of course, graduate schools in other departments at the University are a bit more integrated with the school as a whole compared to the "professional" schools, but it's still a hodge-podge. At most schools, I think engineering and architecture would count as a professional school, but at UVa, the graduate divisions are not all that separate from the undergrad.
posted by LionIndex at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2012


mediareport: "we are not as excellent as our rankings imply"

Oh, wow. Those are not words I'd want to utter on UVa's campus. UVa tends to be a big fan of itself.

You'd pretty much be upending the entire worldview of Virginia higher education if you were to openly admit that UVa was full of itself and not very good in some subject areas, that W&M's adoration of the liberal arts was incongruent with its mission, that Tech could benefit from being a bit more selective, that UMW is grossly undervalued, that JMU is a football team with a school, that GMU CNU ODU and VCU each have programs that are substantially better than their counterparts at W&M or UVa, or that the whole enterprise was far more "northern" and left-wing than anybody is ever willing to admit.
posted by schmod at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


What does the word "invest" mean here? I don't understand whether the idea is (a) that we shouldn't place too much metaphorical stock in these programs' continuing to rank highly, because their star faculty may depart or retire, or (b) that the humanities are not worth spending money on.

If you read the memo, she goes on to discuss how the University's lack of funding for faculty salaries in these areas is leading top faculty to depart (one was hired away with a salary increase of over $100K), and fears that there won't be money to replace retiring faculty in these top-ranked but (as the Board seems to think) "impractical" departments.
posted by junco at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


And, I see you probably knew that.
posted by LionIndex at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2012


Darden is the graduate business schoo

I should have been clearer, but that's exactly what I meant by 'B-school.' I did not mean the place undergrad business majors go. Those are usually pretty lowly places, and the graduate B-schools take great pains to distance themselves from them.

My point was that if this scheming is coming out of a name-branded B-school, it's already pretty suspect because they tend to already have an agenda that's not well-aligned with that of the larger institution.

The Ivies are an exception, of course, but that's mostly because their brand is so powerful.
posted by lodurr at 1:07 PM on June 18, 2012


Statement from Rector Helen Dragas...
posted by gorbichov at 1:08 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a UVa graduate I'd like to extend a fuck you to Bob McDonnell, Goldman Sachs, Helen Dragas, the Darden business school and any other meddling capitalist prick. Even if Goldman Sachs was not involved, the fuck you stands.

In an unrelated note, dorky note... I am friends with the dudes in the Parking Lot documentary and am even featured in it at a couple points. I thought it was just a student film being made when I was chilling with them (I used to work at the music store on the other side of the parking lot). They're good people, I'll be DJing one of their weddings in a couple months.
posted by cloeburner at 1:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, that statement from Dragas is almost a textbook example of how not to try to recover from something like this. She tells at least one bald-faced and easily exposable lie, and then slathers on platitudes without details.

But she proceeds to elaborate her language to great degree. That's death in this kind of thing. This is just going to compound her problems.

If there does end up being a Goldman-Sachs connection, Dragas is toast. (Though I predict the business deal would still go through.)
posted by lodurr at 1:13 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Selling the brand to a for-profit distance learning firm is epically and transparently stupid. That's like Luxury Marketing 001.
posted by JPD at 1:17 PM on June 18, 2012


Statement from Rector Helen Dragas...

So, I read that twice, and hey, I have a PhD, and I can't find any actual, reason for Sullivan's ouster in that text.

Does Dragas really think this is going to help?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Statement from Rector Helen Dragas...

Jeez dude don't link to pages full of Markov-generated spam text! Flagged as...

...

oh. Oh my god. I don't even
posted by fuq at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's something very disturbing about the "craving" of Dragas / the Board's collective id in that statement
posted by junco at 1:31 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would love to be privy to the horror of the BoV and Dragas when they realized this wasn't going to be the easy corporate raid they though it would. And I look forward eagerly to the amended statement when they say that yes they were thinking about eliminating departments but that isn't the point and won't people just shut up already about this and let them sign these deals with Goldman Sachs.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:45 PM on June 18, 2012


W&M's adoration of the liberal arts was incongruent with its mission

Apologies for the derail, but I am terribly curious as to what you mean by this.
As for UVA's reputation...I visited some classes there during the year that I dated a Wahoo, and they seemed less rigorous than W&M's, but that could be a rankings-related chip on my shoulder talking. A ton of my friends are UVA grads, and I always loved when my work took me to Charlottesville (one of my favorite towns anywhere), and as a Virginian I do care a lot about all of our public universities. Also, man, am I ever with you in seeing shades of the Gene Nichol situation in this whole thing. Ugh.
posted by naoko at 1:50 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


the "craving" of Dragas

Education Management Corporation: it's got what trustees crave! Not tenure-track faculty in liberal-arts disciplines, like out the toilet.
posted by RogerB at 1:50 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


We don't believe the theory that they are going to open up a for profit diploma mill with GS do we? Kiernan sent his kids there. Paul Tudor Jones went there and his father went there. Do these guy want to dilute their own brands by tainting UVA? We can all agree that maybe they are greedy, but I don't think they are stupid.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:59 PM on June 18, 2012


Ad hominem, never forget the power of "Fuck you, I got mine."
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, don't forget that they could follow the example of their own B-school and set up a 'separate and unequal' distance/online school -- it would be a "UVA-branded" education, but not a UVA education. I can easily imagine them failing to understand how deeply that would undermine their brand (or in more human terms, how quickly it would destroy the school's reputation).
posted by lodurr at 2:05 PM on June 18, 2012


(By following the example, I don't mean that Darden has done that -- I mean, the example of B-schools thinking of themselves as superior institutions to their parent. Typing faster than I really think.)
posted by lodurr at 2:06 PM on June 18, 2012


Selling the brand to a for-profit distance learning firm is epically and transparently stupid. That's like Luxury Marketing 001.

Not if you just give it a good tagline, like, "A Columbian cartel that won't kidnap and kill you."

italicize "won't" to make it seem like the other cartels will etc, etc.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:12 PM on June 18, 2012


We can all agree that maybe they are greedy, but I don't think they are stupid.

What you should be including on this list is "ideologically committed to a privatized model of education in line with wider Republican inclinations to drowned in a bathtub every bit of the government funded public sphere."
posted by fatbird at 2:15 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


With respect to the Goldman Sachs/EDMC distance-learning conspiracy theory, I left it out of the post because it's worth noting that the evidence for that as the basis of the decision is tenuous at best and probably includes a bit too much jumping to conclusions.

Meanwhile, other developments of today includeposted by Partial Law at 2:18 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


You guys may be right, I'm not so sure. These guys live and die on their rep. I don't think they would want to be seen as having gone to even a good part of a shit school.Paul Tudor Jones already has billions, Kiernan's own kids have pieces of paper that say UVA on them, I'm not sure how either of them could make money on the deal so I don't think pulling the ladder up behind them makes sense in this case.

What you should be including on this list is "ideologically committed to a privatized model of education in line with wider Republican inclinations to drowned in a bathtub every bit of the government funded public sphere."

Ok, that makes sense. But I've noticed people never have problems with government funding that helps them or their family. Seems like many republican businessmen have the attitude "If the government is giving out money I would be a fool not to take it"


I can see them being more annoyed by the "we secretly suck" memo. I'm interested to see how this plays out.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:19 PM on June 18, 2012


Dragas has just hired a PR firm specializing in crisis management.

Did a PR firm allow her to send out that statement?
posted by grouse at 2:25 PM on June 18, 2012


They probably penned it.
posted by notyou at 2:28 PM on June 18, 2012


I'm guessing that the origin of whatever plan is Kiernan/Darden, and it involves using "Strategic Dynamism" to reorganize the school in a way that makes Darden, Kiernan, and all the GS alums look brilliant and make them tons of money along the way. In other words, this is a half-baked b-school plot that's backfiring horribly. It's not that anyone hated Sullivan, it's that she was standing in the way of what a certain group of (very business-right-wing) alums felt was the just and proper course for UVa.
posted by fatbird at 2:29 PM on June 18, 2012


Sullivan has issued a statement. Some key highlights:
"I have been described as an incrementalist. It is true. 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."

"Corporate-style, top-down leadership does not work in a great university. Sustained change with buy-in does work. UVA is one of the world's greatest universities."

"A dramatic top-down reallocation in our general fund, simply to show that we are "changing," or that we are not "incremental," seems to me fiscally imprudent, highly alarming to faculty, and unfair to students who expect to get a broadly inclusive education here. I have chosen a lower-risk and more conservative strategy, because I am accountable to the taxpayers and the tuition payers. "
So basically, it sounds like the Board wanted her to make dramatic, sweeping, top-down changes, (i.e. be "strategically dynamic"), and she instead wanted to implement a more incremental plan that would (and in fact, did) get buy-in from all constituencies), and so they fired her.

Morons.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:33 PM on June 18, 2012 [35 favorites]


I guess Sullivan's opponents want to mimic SUNY Albany.
posted by dhens at 2:42 PM on June 18, 2012


Ad hominem, never forget the power of "Fuck you, I got mine."

This is the perfect text for a bedazzled crying eagle t-shirt.
posted by elizardbits at 2:55 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sullivan has issued a statement.

Holy crap. Had she spent the last 10 days locked in a closet with a PR dragon doing nothing but drafting that statement, I would say it was 10 days well spent. That is a strategic masterpiece.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:06 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I envision "education on demand", or as I call it EaaS (Education as a service) in which classes or entire departments can be created and destroyed at will. Have 12 people who want to learn german? Spin up an instance of a distance learning platform and provision instructors out of your instructor pool in Mumbai. Nobody want to learn germam this semester? Simply transfer your resources to instructing something else. Lease all existing space as incubator space and space for "learning pods", students who want to work in the same geographical location can lease them. Run early stage startups out of the remaining space.

UVA, If you would like to hear more about my ideas for disrupting the stagnating education industry, MeMail me. I am available to head your institution for low 7 figures base with stock and performance incentives TBD.


I just wanted to add that there is nothing facetious about this little elevator pitch. Show up in at any university board room with this pitch and a little financial backing and you're practically good to go. The trick is to carve profits out of the management fees for the program, IT overhead and such, so that the board can sell the investment in the program as cost effective.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "I can only assume that means they also wanted to axe Philosophy."

They damn well better not. I was raised by the UVA Philosophy Department.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:31 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


... nothing facetious about this little elevator pitch.

Well, I think there was something facetious about it here. Though now that I think of it, "cynical" is probably the more appropriate adjective....

You're right, though. Sounds like a lot of people on this thread already know how this works, you obviously do, but for the rest of folks it's probably worth repeating that "great universities" already function on a sort of hyper-inefficient version of this model, powered by adjuncts and grad students. Administrators are constantly under pressure to get more revenue, and though it's rarely put as plainly or with such buzzwordy wondrousness as ad hominem did, plans of this sort are discussed on a frequent basis. My wife is teaching 4 online courses this summer, for example (she's not an adjunct anymore, but she gets extra pay for this), that are being offered because the department gets to keep all the $$ from summer online classes. Most of the students for those classes don't attend her college or live in the area -- it's mostly professional development or adult part time students. This is a cash cow (albeit a humble one) for the school.

So, yeah. Ad Hom is pretty much on the money here, AFAICS.
posted by lodurr at 4:57 PM on June 18, 2012


... also, it's worth remembering that the magic word here is revenue, not profit. They don't have to make a profit in the usual sense. They do have to bring in money.
posted by lodurr at 4:58 PM on June 18, 2012


Administrators are constantly under pressure to get more revenue,

I so don't get this. The gazillion-percentage tuition hike every year isn't enough?
posted by Melismata at 5:56 PM on June 18, 2012


I so don't get this. The gazillion-percentage tuition hike every year isn't enough?

State funding is dropping.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:57 PM on June 18, 2012


Costs are going up, too. Most notably health care costs have gone up quite a bit over the years, which is a big deal for any enterprise that spends almost all of its operating budget on personnel costs.
posted by grouse at 6:09 PM on June 18, 2012


I so don't get this. The gazillion-percentage tuition hike every year isn't enough?

The president of the university where I teach sent out an email a few days ago noting that the Board of Regents will be voting on a tuition increase of 8.2% for this year; I believe last year's increase was maybe 11%, and I think possibly 4% the year before.

At the same time, state funding for this upcoming year is being reduced by another $1.8 million, added to the $41.7 million the state has cut over the previous four years. All told we are looking at a 35% reduction in state finding levels from what they were in 2008.

So rather than asking the citizens of the state to pay more in taxes to fund the public good that is higher education, they simply make them pay for it in tuition hikes.

Oh, also, we're now going to be funded primarily on how many students we retain & graduate, not how many we enroll, so the message is clearly "pump out those degree holders, no matter what!"
posted by DiscourseMarker at 6:15 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a Hokie, I read these developments with nothing less than unbridled glee.
posted by joecacti at 10:40 AM on June 18 [3 favorites +] [!]


Holy crap. Is everything a football game to you people?
posted by 4ster at 6:37 PM on June 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


What about the effect on endowments and donations from Alumni? What's going to happen to those when people are invited back to 20 year reunions with some of them still having their student loans over their head?
posted by Talez at 6:37 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nothing to add, but thanks for the post and the people who've been adding useful links as we go.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:53 PM on June 18, 2012


Larry Sabato, UVA prof (and alum) and well-known political commentator, is tweeting up a storm.

Apparently the Board of Visitors is now in an unauthorized private session, after midnight there.

Some recent tweets:

"So now, as NBC29 noted, we're 90 minutes into a 15-min warning on a closed meeting. Combination of Northern charm & Southern efficiency."

"Turns out BOV didn't use the manual for Strategic Dynamism. By mistake, they grabbed the one for Dynamic Strategery."

"At UVA our day that will live in infamy goes on & on. BOV still not out of closed session. Handful on Rotunda steps awaiting smoke."
posted by gingerbeer at 9:16 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


The #UVA tag on twitter is excellent.
posted by rtha at 9:26 PM on June 18, 2012


Dropped out of a PhD in English from UVA about ten years ago. Happily got my masters at least.

"UVa tends to be a big fan of itself. "

ding-ding-ding! It's a great school, but for a place so famous and dripping with cash it has a terrible "short man" syndrome and everyone there is always reminding you it's a "public Ivy." It's downright unseemly.

IMO, Mrs. Sullivan (you don't call your professors "professor" at UVA, natch) was actually going to try and do the unthinkable -- break through the inertia of the old-boy network that actually runs the place via Richmond and make a good-not-great institution into an actual, honest-to-god, rival to Yale-Harvard-Stanford-Michigan with long-term planning and a resistance to the current MBA crap-fest that is distance learning for-profit education.

A kindly, elderly, brilliant English prof once described the place as "a museum with a school attached." And that's pretty accurate -- the main library is right across from Edgar Allen Poe's old apartment. The culture there is highly bipolar -- many brilliant professors, no doubt, but the humanities departments always knew that the bread was being buttered by the law and business schools, and that the deans were well aware that the big grants came in by way of the hard sciences more often than not.

So you've got this pretty amazing academic culture, but you drive home at night past fraternity houses filled with dumb, racist, over-privileged white boys who -- not exaggerating here -- think it's funny to hang over-sized Confederate flags on their homes, or have -- not exaggerating here -- blackface parties.

What a strange little place Cville is. Lots of nice things about it no doubt. But the summers are insufferable as are many of the people and their inflated sense of self-importance.

Miller's is nice though.
posted by bardic at 10:52 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still laugh my ass off over the fact that Larry Sabato only assigns his own books for his classes.
posted by bardic at 10:53 PM on June 18, 2012


And Richard Rorty gave me an A- on a paper once, so obviously the place can't be all that bad.
posted by bardic at 10:56 PM on June 18, 2012


The Board of Visitors is now into their 11th hour of closed-session meeting, and there are still students and faculty on the Lawn, waiting for the public announcement.
posted by rtha at 11:09 PM on June 18, 2012


From Jason Linkins/dceiver on Twitter: "The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Workflow Strategies and Firm Handshakes opens in Fall 2012. Classes available online"
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:11 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


And, she's gone.

Have fun never being favorably compared to Harvard, Stanford, Yale, or even Michigan Wahoos.
posted by bardic at 11:38 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


bardic: "So you've got this pretty amazing academic culture, but you drive home at night past fraternity houses filled with dumb, racist, over-privileged white boys who -- not exaggerating here -- think it's funny to hang over-sized Confederate flags on their homes, or have -- not exaggerating here -- blackface parties."

When I was studying German in Austria there were some UVA students in my dorm. They were pretty rich kids who didn't seem to consider being abroad to be a huge opportunity to get out and learn things (they went to Florida for Christmas break, ffs), wouldn't speak German, and instead hung out with each other in the dorm getting drunk and never ventured out the front door in a group of less than three.

On one occasion I was locking my bike up outside the dorm and had glass bottles rain down on the pavement around me- after yelling something in German about breaking someone's knees, I ran up the stairs to the top floor to find the UVA kids hiding in a closet, with no good explanation for why they had just chucked a caseload of empties off the roof. On another occasion they left the floor kitchen covered in piss and vomit.

I know they weren't typical of UVA students (the rich kids are the ones who usually get to go abroad and all) but fuck. there was obviously a certain culture that those kids were coming from.

(shudders)
posted by dunkadunc at 11:43 PM on June 18, 2012


BOV selects Dollar Tree director as interim president, perhaps breathing new life into (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ meme.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:47 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, you get the entitled nth-generation legacy frat-boys and you've obviously got a lot of bright kids who've come for a solid public university education. When I was there there was a ton of denial on the part of the administration and a lot of profs that they weren't basically giving gentleman C's to a bunch of douche-bag bros who would go on to make tons of cash working on Wall Street, while at the same time providing a quality liberal arts education to the kids from northern Virginia/DC who really wanted to learn something.

Like I said, bipolar.

For example, Fred Smith's son (CEO of FedEx) beat the shit out of a fellow student. UVA basically bent over and took it due to a potential defamation lawsuit from team Smith, and despite the vaunted Honor System (LOL) no justice was done.

My feelings about UVA in general -- they are highly mixed. But screwing over Sullivan is definitely a huge step backwards. For a bunch of folks who desperately want to be mentioned in the same breath as Havard/Yale/Stanford it sure is funny that they're turning into NOVA.

No disrespect to NOVA grads, but the whole point of UVA is to be a flagship institution, not University of Phoenix at Charlottesville.
posted by bardic at 11:57 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


So the new interim president they've appointed, Zeithaml, in addition to directing Dollar Tree Inc, is a business prof and dean of "free enterprise" who...
...specializes in the field of strategic management, with an emphasis on global and competitive strategy. He conducts research on international expansion strategies, knowledge-based sources of competitive advantage, corporate political activity, strategic decision making, the strategic role of the board of directors, the implementation of acquisition and diversification strategies, and organizational transformation. He focuses much of his research agenda on global firms, high-technology industries, the energy industry, and the health care industry.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:16 AM on June 19, 2012


Wow. The board really does have a hate on for the humanities, doesn't it? They're going to lose pretty much every senior prof at UVa who can jump to another position. And then some.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:50 AM on June 19, 2012


lesbiassparrow, the type of people who think appointing a specialist in "strategic decision making"* to this position is the correct response to the situation or the best thing for the school, probably don't don't care if a few hippies leave. Lower overhead and higher revenue potential without even having to pay severance? Where can they sign up?

* seriously, unless it's referring to advanced game theory that is a super bullshit thing to have on your resume
posted by Riki tiki at 5:16 AM on June 19, 2012


Man, is there going to be an awesome bidding war for the next university to get Dr. Sullivan. (Right?)
posted by argonauta at 5:22 AM on June 19, 2012


Well, maybe UNC-CH can raid some faculty off of them.
posted by thelonius at 6:10 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow. They really did NOT want to solve the core problem.
posted by lodurr at 6:11 AM on June 19, 2012


awesome bidding war for the next university to get Dr. Sullivan.

Not sure if you're being sarcastic, but yes, probably. Schools live or die by their fundraising, which is partly a function of how many people with money will pay attention to you. She'll have a whiff of notoriety to go along with an excellent record of results. So, especially if the controversy continues, she'll likely get courted by some midrange schools who need skilled help.
posted by lodurr at 6:15 AM on June 19, 2012


Definitely not being sarcastic, sorry. It seems it would be a huge coup for any university to get her now... at least those not yet too profoundly under the influence of the forces that ousted her from UVA.

She's as if not more qualified as she was when UVA hired her, and not only is it no mean feat to become so beloved by such a large part of a college community in less than two years, but she seems to have equipped herself in such a remarkably principled and admirable way. I'd think there are many administrations (and especially alumni groups) that would actively embrace an "incrementalist" like Sullivan to lead them.
posted by argonauta at 6:42 AM on June 19, 2012


oh, yeah, whoever does will be lucky to get her, it would seem. for someone like that it's not usually the pay as much as whether it's an interesting challenge. for my money, UVA is one of the very few major schools with a truly noble (for lack of a better term) heritage, and helping them get over themselves enough to get truly better would have been a great accomplishment. now we'll (maybe) never know whether that was possible.
posted by lodurr at 6:50 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re. distance learning: I don't have anything against distance learning. I think it's a really important thing, can be extremely valuable socially, and doesn't necessarily even diminish the experience. But when it's pursued with the end of profit, it usually doesn't go so well.
posted by lodurr at 6:51 AM on June 19, 2012


Not that I expect the VA gov to do anything (so long as he keeps wanting to be a Romney veep, but I think that's incredibly unlikely), who can/does have the power to remove a BOV member, and for what reasons ?
posted by k5.user at 6:56 AM on June 19, 2012


My first tenure track faculty position was at a liberal arts college in Virginia. At that time (mid 1990's) the most popular major on campus was "Recreation and Leisure Studies". One of my colleagues, at a meeting, strongly urged the President to hire new faculty in Classics, to bolster the liberal arts offerings of the college. The President replied (and when you read this, use your best southern drawl): "Who do y'all think pays the bills around here".

And there it is. And that was 1995! For a very long time Boards of Trustees were invisible. They were happy to be members of the board for status points and were just as happy to be figure heads who signed off on whatever needed to be signed but didn't actually do anything to alter the institution. In recent years, there has been a "call to arms" so to speak for Trustees to take control of their institutions. And since these Trustees are mostly rich corporate types, this is the result. What is happening at U of VA is not really unique. These same battles for the heart and soul of our once great universities are happening all over the country at tier 1, 2, and 3 schools. The future is bleak I fear.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:00 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dragas' statement translated into english.
posted by lodurr at 7:06 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dragas' statement translated into english.

Oh, I miss the C-Ville weekly.

not exaggerating here -- think it's funny to hang over-sized Confederate flags on their homes, or have

I can back up that bardic is not exaggerating here. My route home out of the architecture school was a service road that went behind a couple frats, and quite a few of the brother's bedrooms had giant stars 'n' bars mounted on the ceiling.
posted by LionIndex at 7:22 AM on June 19, 2012


my dad recently moved to VA from PA. He's an Okie & lived in Texas for years at one point, but never lived in the old south. He's continually shaking my head about these folks who haven't figure out that they lost the war. Loves to show us the old cemetaries where the confederate dead are buried in a well-groomed plot within a wall of honor, and the union dead are under crumbling stones in areas not even marked as part of the cemetary. (And the slave dead, my wife would hasten to add, are listed by their masters' names.*)

--
*One curious exception: in the main cemetary in Lynchburg, there's one oddball grave of a black union soldier, identified by rank, unit, and his own name, buried inside the wall with the confederates.
posted by lodurr at 7:38 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I miss the C-Ville weekly.

That's not C-Ville Weekly, that's my blog. Though don't let that stop you from missing C-Ville Weekly. :)
posted by waldo at 8:18 AM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Then well done, sir.

Funny, I would swear that page looked very different when I posted it this a.m. Do you change the theme based on referrer or something?
posted by lodurr at 8:21 AM on June 19, 2012


Funny, I would swear that page looked very different when I posted it this a.m. Do you change the theme based on referrer or something?
Nah, that's just a bug. :) I've got really aggressive caching turned on to deal with the huge onslaught of traffic in the past ten days, and the caching plugin has a tough time dealing with the fact that I have different CSS files for mobile and desktop browsers. It keeps caching the mobile version and showing that to desktop browsers. I can't complain, though, because my WordPress-powered site has worked without a single hiccup the entire time.
posted by waldo at 8:23 AM on June 19, 2012


What a strange little place Cville is. Lots of nice things about it no doubt. But the summers are insufferable as are many of the people and their inflated sense of self-importance.

Summers are wonderful in C'ville, all the students are gone. ;)


my dad recently moved to VA from PA. He's an Okie & lived in Texas for years at one point, but never lived in the old south. He's continually shaking my head about these folks who haven't figure out that they lost the war.


It can't be that much surprising living in a state that hasn't quite figured it out yet that they're not still a sovereign republic!

The fraternities are definitely a very dark underbelly to the university. Though, in addition to seeing the University as a monstrous entity slowly gobbling up Charlottesville and Albemarle County, being raised in its shadow instilled in me a great respect for its academics. It would sadden me greatly to watch any type of decline in its academic prestige and I would think it would elicit a similar response from most locals, if not a fair percentage of Virginians. It is one of the greatest products of one of the greatest Virginians, any diminishment is a stain upon the Commonwealth, as well the institution.
posted by Atreides at 8:30 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


We are quite aware we lost the war, thanks. I'm not proud to be a former Slave Republic southerner, but I'll be a proud Virginian until I die (and I like my MA from UVA too).
posted by TheTingTangTong at 8:34 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: "the university Thomas Jefferson founded

Thank god rich people are stepping in to manage higher education.

As far as the composition of the BOV: it was ever thus


It was ever thus indeed! What, you think old TJ wasn't some rich white bastard who didn't his poop smelled?
"

Yes, I do. He was rather passionate about the rights of the common man, and the dangers of elitism. In his personal life, he refused to sit at the head of his own dining table, so that guests wouldn't offer him (the host) undue prestige.

Blanket judgments about someone based solely on their income is bigotry.

Read some of his writings. They're not obscure.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:44 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


michaelh: "It's nice to see people defending classics. Hopefully a lot of you are inspired to crack open your books tonight."

One needn't study medicine to see the benefit in medical school. (Said as someone who can read the classics in any of 4 dead languages.)
posted by IAmBroom at 8:46 AM on June 19, 2012


"...it's not a charm school."
posted by kostia at 9:07 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


From Challahtronix: "Helen E. Dragas.... has been the moving force in the dramatic and secretive effort to remove university President Teresa Sullivan....

In business, she defines herself as an “ultraconservative” in handling finances and even uses personal credit scores as a criterion for hiring a worker. “We have a very conservative way of managing our balance sheet,” she has said in interviews. “Emotional intelligence” is another trait she looks for in her employees....

Her successful operation has generated political campaign contributions mostly to Democratic candidates
"

OK, that last sentence was unexpected. It's not like I imagine all Democrats are good, or even decent, but everything else sounded like planks from the GOP.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:08 AM on June 19, 2012


It surprised me a little too, but this is Virginia, where the state Democratic party chair's day job includes lobbying for the for-profit education industry - nothing makes sense! The PACs and candidates she is giving to are pretty corporate-friendly, for what it's worth - Mark Warner (One Virginia) in particular.
posted by naoko at 9:15 AM on June 19, 2012


OK, this might be a tell, from Sullivan's statement (emphasis added):
The historic practice at UVA was that any necessary budget cuts in the academic areas were directed by the central administration, often by a non-academic officer. And because that officer often, almost inevitably, lacks sufficient information to make detailed choices, these cuts were usually applied across-the-board, the most non-strategic approach to cutting. I undertook to change this approach.

In the last two years, we have been working to implement a new internal financial model.


And that new model sidestepped " the central administration, often ...a non-academic officer." Was it Dragas, personally, who lost power? Or her cadre of crones?
posted by IAmBroom at 9:17 AM on June 19, 2012


Blanket judgments about someone based solely on their income is bigotry.

This is true. Luckily in TJ's case we have all sorts of other faults to point at. I'm sure his passion for the rights of the common man and the dangers of elitism simply boiled over every time he had sex with his wife's 14 year-old half sister who he legally owned.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:34 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shocking development.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:55 AM on June 19, 2012


I'm sure his passion for the rights of the common man and the dangers of elitism simply boiled over every time he had sex with his wife's 14 year-old half sister who he legally owned.

I'm shocked -- shocked, I say! -- to learn that [insert honored historical figure] exhibited any behaviors contradictory to his stated principles!
posted by lodurr at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2012


BOV selects Dollar Tree director as interim president, perhaps breathing new life into (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ meme.

It's a little disingenuous to describe him as "Dollar Tree director". He's the Dean of the School of Commerce (the undergrad/MS business programs, as far as I can tell). This seems like an appropriate appointment for interim president, particularly when the provost has already expressed a lack of interest.

It's not unusual for a business prof. to sit on various corporate boards. Board membership should be an arms-length oversight position, which is one reason why the BOV's actions are so problematic.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:22 AM on June 19, 2012


So, will UVA take advantage of this terrific branding opportunity and rename itself Dollar Tree University?
posted by Fnarf at 10:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Said as someone who can read the classics in any of 4 dead languages.)

"...yet oddly enough, I've never learned to read them in my own, which is fine since over the years I have forgotten how to speak my own language."
posted by Riki tiki at 10:59 AM on June 19, 2012


Administrators are constantly under pressure to get more revenue,

I so don't get this. The gazillion-percentage tuition hike every year isn't enough?


The hikes do not offset the loss of funding from the state. You can argue whether enough restructuring and cutting happens, but at least at our institution we have not come near replacing the loss of total funding with tuition hikes. Less than 50%, as I recall.
posted by phearlez at 11:09 AM on June 19, 2012


I'm shocked -- shocked, I say! -- to learn that [insert honored historical figure] exhibited any behaviors contradictory to his stated principles!

Yeah, but doesn't molesting the little girl that is forced to live under your stairs and dress your daughter while proclaiming the inalienable rights of man churn a little more than having a consensual relationship with an adult woman while your wife dies of cancer while proclaiming you stand for family values?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:30 AM on June 19, 2012


Guess I don't get your point. Is it that anyone who ever betrays their stated conviction should be ignored? Is it that we should retroactively apply our moral standards to the past? Something else?
posted by lodurr at 11:38 AM on June 19, 2012


... just for clarification, my point would be that scoring points by tearing down historical figures for not living up to the moral standards of our time is a cheap shot, and an easy way of getting out of dealing with human moral complexity.
posted by lodurr at 11:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I not sure TJ was even living up to moral standards of his own time, but that's a different debate.

My original point was more along the lines of what LionIndex said, "it was ever thus". The school was founded by an aristocrat. IAmBroom argued that, no, no, TJ railed against elitism and supported the common man! To which I countered with a not-very-witty quasi-retort about his girlfriend. So, derail summarized, we can hopefully move on.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:02 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Professor William Wulf resigns. Excerpt:
By this email I am submitting my resignation, effective immediately. I do not wish to be associated with an institution being as badly run as the current UVa. A BOV that so poorly understands UVa, and academic culture more generally, is going to make a lot more dumb decisions, so the University is headed for disaster, and I don’t want to be any part of that. And, frankly, I think you should be ashamed to be party to this debacle!

Needless to say, I will not be teaching the course that I was scheduled to teach this Fall.
posted by lalex at 12:08 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Professor William Wulf resigns.

They're down one National Academy member. That's a concrete, quantitative hit to a rankings metric.

I bet those business school people know about rankings metrics...
posted by mr_roboto at 12:13 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


(If his wife goes with him, they're down two.)
posted by mr_roboto at 12:16 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The poor Cav Daily has fallen and can't get up!
posted by rtha at 12:18 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's another link to the full letter. The engineering school had ten NAE members so now they're down 10 percent. Within a year you can expect more to leave.
posted by grouse at 12:19 PM on June 19, 2012


Statement from only Board member not to vote for Zeithaml as interim president.

The good: "My vote was an indication of my dissatisfaction with the process and the decision that lead to the resignation of Terry Sullivan. I have not been presented with evidence that I believe merits asking for her resignation, nor have I ever indicated that I would be willing to support such an effort."

The disappointing: "Now that Carl has been selected as the Interim President I believe that we should all join behind his selection and work together to unify the university community in support of this institution that we love. It damages the university for us to be divided."

What was it Faulkner said about the past never being dead?
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:26 PM on June 19, 2012


While we are talking about must-read letters, this letter from the Rector's sister to the local daily newspaper is extraordinarily ill-concieved, ill-stated, and ill-advised.
posted by julen at 12:38 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the letter at julen's link, Jennifer Dragas Stedfast says both "[Dragas] and the board are privy to information that we in the public are not," and "I ask that you take the time to understand where and why Terry Sullivan fell short and then make your judgment."

We can't make our judgment if there is essential information we are not allowed to see.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:44 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the Stedfast letter:
Also, there is no excuse for their acceptance of mediocrity.

The University of Virginia will benefit from the board’s removal of a less than stellar president and will reap the benefits of having someone who can take our beloved university to the next level of higher education.
How, exactly, is Sullivan "mediocre" or "less than stellar?"
posted by grouse at 12:55 PM on June 19, 2012


What was it Faulkner said about the past never being dead?

You know, Faulkner was a writer in residence at UVa. He loved the fox hunting!
posted by Atreides at 1:02 PM on June 19, 2012


William A. Wulf, Professor of Computer Science, first recipient of a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UVa in 1968, Fellow and President Emeritus of the National Academy of Engineering, Fellow of ACM, Fellow of the IEEE, member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and one of roughly 13 members of the faculty to hold the highest title, "University Professor," submits his resignation.
posted by Partial Law at 1:04 PM on June 19, 2012


How, exactly, is Sullivan "mediocre" or "less than stellar?"

Ill-timed and ill-advised was putting it mildly, but I think this is a good example of the gentry-ethos at work. Of course they know what's best and of course they are privy to the inside dope, so we should just shut up and do what they say (to borrow waldo's phrase, 'if we want your opinion we'll give it to you').

Another way to see it (not mutually exclusive) is that this is a marker of the point where the fight gets nasty. Fortunately based on what I've seen so far, these guys will be playing "nasty" by rules that went out with Flannery O'Connor. In the Twitter era, they're liable to get creamed. Unfortunately, the cream will be getting all over a pretty good university as well.
posted by lodurr at 1:16 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Vice Rector Mark Kington has resigned. PDF of his resignation letter.
posted by Partial Law at 1:38 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I got my MS in engineering from UVa. I'm embarrassed for UVa but I realize that the whole university thinks too highly of themselves and could use a good solid embarrasing debacle.

On a lighter note, anyone got an update on the corner Bodo's?
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 2:29 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a world class University which provides an education to anyone who qualifies academically for a fraction of the price of any other school on its level (with the possible exception of one UofC school). This is not the debacle you want.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 2:31 PM on June 19, 2012


On a lighter note, anyone got an update on the corner Bodo's?


It's open!
posted by Atreides at 2:32 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a world class University which provides an education to anyone who qualifies academically for a fraction of the price of any other school on its level

Naw. In state, it charges the about the same as (or substantially more than) Carolina, Michigan, Cal... Out of state, it's now almost as expensive as Duke, Rice, or Haverford, but almost certainly with far less generous financial aid.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:49 PM on June 19, 2012


UVa was always pretty expensive out-of-state. When I was considering going there c. 1981, I was thinking of moving in with my brother to establish VA residency; it would have still been a lot more expensive than my other first choice (then-"SUNY Binghamton", now "Binghamton University"). Basically it's got a more gentrified rep than other major state schools. There are some really excellent large state schools out there. Or used to be, at least.
posted by lodurr at 2:54 PM on June 19, 2012


The Cavalier Daily has obtained emails from Dragas and Kington and has been tweeting excerpts at @cavalierdaily.
posted by audi alteram partem at 4:35 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was just coming in to recommend the Cav Daily twitter feed. They got the emails legally (via FOIA), so they didn't get them all, but what they did get is fascinating and eye-opening.
posted by julen at 4:52 PM on June 19, 2012


That Kington tweet that says "what happened to the newspaper and magazine business is about to happen to higher education" is very telling. This smells very strongly of marketing boobs chasing trends.
posted by Fnarf at 4:58 PM on June 19, 2012


Out of state, it's now almost as expensive as Duke, Rice, or Haverford, but almost certainly with far less generous financial aid.

Though Rice lost this same battle a few years ago.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:54 PM on June 19, 2012


I'm starting to think that Kington resigned because the Cav. Daily got these e-mails. It's looking bad at this point.
posted by waldo at 5:55 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, at this point, it kind of seems like the other shoe needs to drop, which is the specific proposal that the Dragas put to Sullivan, that Sullivan shot down.

Given the outcome of the BOV's emergency meeting, I'm kind of wondering why Sullivan hasn't specified it yet. It seems pretty implausible at this point that it was a generic difference in the speed of implementing change.
posted by fatbird at 6:15 PM on June 19, 2012


Gah...Twitter is just such an awful format for this kind of thing. Thanks for the link, though, audi alteram partem; really interesting.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:20 PM on June 19, 2012


Irony here: German is one of the few modern languages that is actually a really good stepping stone to getting an excellent job. German companies are hiring, especially if you combine German language with reasonable web skills or some other undergraduate professional minor.

This is, of course, aside from the general point that Classics and languages are useful. My theory is that employers in the United States that have decided that they would rather have someone who is not well rounded who they can manipulate more easily. When you have read about the political machinations of the Roman Empire and earlier political systems, it is a lot more easy to see the writing on the wall and really grasp the mass lunacy of which humans are capable within a supposedly austere institution.

Outside of Mandarin or another one of the Chinese languages (which some people call dialects), German is tops.

(Majored in International Political Economy - did NOT go to work for an investment bank)
posted by Dr. Peter Venkman at 6:29 PM on June 19, 2012


Dragas couldn't look more like a Bond villain in this picture.

Also, when you hire a PR firm to get you out of trouble, you have failed.
posted by gjc at 6:44 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of wondering why Sullivan hasn't specified it yet.

I am guessing it has something to do with her severance package.
posted by shothotbot at 6:56 PM on June 19, 2012


Time to brush up my German....
posted by lodurr at 7:45 PM on June 19, 2012


Stating the obvious here, but one thing that America is good at -- is actually quite famous for -- is its general system of higher education.

Between this and the UC system collapsing, it's as if our Galtian Overlords are tripping over themselves to make sure that China takes us over sooner rather than later.

I mean, fucking up is one thing. Actively working to destroy what's left of our late-Roman empire is kind of amazing, really.

/golf-clap
posted by bardic at 8:34 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am guessing it has something to do with her severance package.

Also, she could still be president of a university that wants to enact just the type of plan she specified for Virginia, which would be less likely if she really got into a bust-up with her governing board.
posted by grouse at 8:36 PM on June 19, 2012


As it turns out, the severance agreement has a section called "nondisparagement" which begins:
Ms. Sullivan agrees she will not engage in any conduct or communication that impugns the reputation or integrity of the University, the Rector or the Board of Visitors or any of its members.
The Cavalier Daily has placed online the agreement and the e-mails they got via the Freedom of Information Act.
posted by grouse at 9:57 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inside Higher Ed has information on the emails and push to move to online education. (The site for The Cavalier Daily, which sourced them originally, is only marginally accessible for me right now.)
posted by exogenous at 6:56 AM on June 20, 2012


Apparently the Board of Visitors members who ousted Sullivan were inspired, in part, by a David Brooks column.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 8:59 AM on June 20, 2012


I'm confident that somewhere in the bowels of UVa's storage facilities are rooms full of videotaped lectures from the last round of "This means a single brilliant professor can teach a zillion students at once!" that some previous BOV insisted on pursuing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:19 AM on June 20, 2012


If I ran a university, or any other enterprise for that matter, waving around a copy of a David Brooks column on any subject whatever, saying "look at this!" would be grounds for instant termination.
posted by Fnarf at 9:29 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


If all there is to it is 'one brilliant professor lecturing', then it's doomed to fail, yes.

I was involved in the development of online training at Ziff-Davis c. 1998-2001 & my wife's been teaching online for years, and I can tell you that anyone who does this according to accepted best-practices is not doing it that way. Online when done properly has a lot of instructor contact time, it just happens to be through chat, email and forums.

The upshot is that it doesn't save as much money as one might expect. It still saves a lot of money, and it still makes educational opportunities available to people to whom they wouldn't otherwise be available. That's why states like Nebraska & Montana [which as I understand it actually do this pretty well] are investing so heavily in it.

For some reason, though, administrators and other people responsible for driving strategy don't seem to understand that it's not a panacea. This is possibly because they are idiots, or not (but possibly).

Anyway, lecturing as a mode of knowledge xfer is highly over-rated, regardless of the supposed brilliance of the lecturer. Any educational model that doesn't force its students to do their own learning is starting down a whole race of the ladder.

Which, again, is in no way meant to imply that people hoping to prostitute the UVa brand for commercial distance learning are not idiots.
posted by lodurr at 9:32 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


allnamesaretaken's link helps to illustrate why the UVa debacle is important: It seems to have been driven by a conviction on the part of their Board of Visitors that UVa needed desperately and immediately to cook up their own "Massively Online Open Course" ['MOOC'] strategy or be 'left behind' (whatever that means).

The thing I see as important to note, here, is that much of the hype around MOOC is driven by some deeply obsolete thinking about how people learn. The idea that distance lectures from Stanford or Harvard are inherently better than distance lectures from, say, Michigan State or the University at Buffalo, is deeply flawed at best. Yet this is why there's money pouring into the MOOC movement.

Don't get me wrong: I think MOOC is overall where introductory learning is going whether we like it or not, and that overall it's largely a good thing as it brings educational opportunities to people who wouldn't otherwise have them. But this is basically DotCom thinking -- these guys are looking for some kind of magical knowledge transformation. That's just not how this is going to work.
posted by lodurr at 9:44 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Declaration of Independence: The More or Less Unanimous Declaration of the Board of Visitors
posted by homunculus at 9:48 AM on June 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh, that Declaration of Independence is awesome.
posted by notyou at 9:55 AM on June 20, 2012


Damn straight. Grinning a lot here right now. Cutting and pasting does not do it justice, it's a progressive experience.
posted by lodurr at 9:59 AM on June 20, 2012


Local TV is reporting 2 more faculty resignations: Ruth Hill (Spanish/Portuguese) and Kodi Ravichandran, Chairman of Microbiology/Immunology/Cancer Biology department.
posted by julen at 9:59 AM on June 20, 2012


Whoops, other local TV conglomerate says Hill resigned before the firing and it is not related -- so it's just Ravichandran who is resigning as a direct response to the Sullivan ousting.
posted by julen at 10:03 AM on June 20, 2012


And this is why I wish we could delete our posts. Channel 29 also says Ravichandran isn't resigning either, he's just writing strongly worded letters.

I should have known better to trust local tv news. I think I'll shut up now.
posted by julen at 10:05 AM on June 20, 2012


Inside Higher Ed has information on the emails and push to move to online education.

I knew it, I just knew it. When I first read the announcement of Sullivan's "resignation," there was a line buried in there about online learning, and I said to my husband, "I bet they wanted her to make a big push into online degrees, and she resisted."

lodurr's comment is pretty spot on. Online learning, done correctly, is a LOT of work, as I can attest first hand. And I have seen some students who were very successful at it. Others, not so much. Also, what we're seeing at my university, which made a HUGE push for online degree programs (done in a similarly top-down manner, with little advance planning) two years ago, is that it actually doesn't seem to be decreasing the demand for face-to-face instruction. In fact, as of a recent report I saw, it looks like our face-to-face contact hours have remained pretty steady, with the online sections just increasing the total number of contact hours. So rather than reducing costs, we have to pay more people to teach (although this seems so far to be mostly adjuncts and non-TT faculty, at pretty much slave wages).

There has also been push back by students here, who have apparently complained loudly enough that departments are going to be told that we can't offer online sections at the expense of face-to-face ones; i.e. if you normally offered X face-to-face sections of a class, you cannot offer X-1 face-to-face sections in order to add an online section. Although really what they care about is seats, so you could just up the cap on the face-to-face class, so that those students could be accommodated. But good luck getting faculty buy-in on that one. So just in my anecdotal experience, online classes reach a different audience than the one currently being served by the bricks and mortar university, and thus while it may indeed bring in additional revenue (especially if, as in my state, you charge *extra* for online classes), it does not seem to cut the demand for traditional education.

So yeah, if any of these BoV people had ever actually talked to people who were dealing, in real life, with faculty actually teaching online classes, rather than reading a stupid David Brooks column (I mean, really, seriously, *he's* your expert??), maybe, just maybe they would have seen that this is not, as lodurr says, a panacea.

But then again, probably not, because the evidence seems to suggest that they are just idiots.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:25 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Online learning, done correctly, is a LOT of work

I think it's safe to say that the probability that Dragas and her cronies wanted to do it correctly and would have paid to have it done correctly is, to get all fancy on you, somewhere between itsy and bitsy.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:34 AM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


The Declaration is brilliant.
posted by rtha at 10:49 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, since UVA is adopting the University of Phoenix's business model wholesale, I assume I'll start seeing oceans of spam from them soon? UoP was for a long time the biggest spammer in the universe.

Also, considering that UoP's business model is about robbing the Federal treasury to pay for their guaranteed but worthless student loans, which model is about to collapse in a bubble that makes the housing bubble look like a kid with a bag of Big League Chew, it only remains to be seen whether they can get all their bets in before the collapse, and completely go out of business before their upcoming 200th anniversary or not.
posted by Fnarf at 11:09 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


And now, this:
The dean appointed as interim president of the University of Virginia said today he does not support the board of visitors' decision to remove President Teresa Sullivan.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:09 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Weird.

That Times-Dispatch news story behind that link does not include an actual quote from the interim President about Sullivan's forced resignation. There's a quote from him about the faculty's lack of trust in him: ""I realize some of you do not trust me." The rest of it is filtered through the reporter's "Zenthaml saids".

But there's no quote of the real sexy bit. Odd.
posted by notyou at 1:38 PM on June 20, 2012


Op-ed by Rector Dragas's sister - be sure to read the comments; they are delightful.
posted by naoko at 2:16 PM on June 20, 2012


I have always found e-learning to be an excuse for a school to charge the same amount of money for a grossly inferior course that's much easier for students to cheat in.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:17 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So in hindsight, let's state this as simply as possible:

A slumlord from Virginia Beach is now the de facto ruler of the University of Virginia, and she makes critical, long-term decisions based on David Brooks columns and pieces from U.S News and World Report.

And looking over at my degree it has a striking resemblance to toilet paper.

/scene
posted by bardic at 7:18 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, why are the degrees so BIG? Anyone know the answer to that?
posted by TheTingTangTong at 7:52 PM on June 20, 2012


Yeah, kind of goes along with UVa's short-man syndrome in general.

"Harvard? Yale? There degrees are tiny compared to ours WAHOOWAH!"

The colors are nice though.
posted by bardic at 7:55 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


their, even
posted by bardic at 7:55 PM on June 20, 2012


Lol ^, English, class of 2013.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 8:00 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


dunkadunc, that's true if the school does not adhere to accpeted best practices for e-learning. If they do, cheating is harder in some ways (though easier in others), and the average amount of instructor contact time actually increases.

I don't actually know how U Phoenix does it; I do know how state colleges and universities here in NY do it. But as noted, if you do it that way, it's much less of a cash cow.

And let's not conflate online classes and distance learning with MOOC [Massively Online Open Courseware], which is what the BoV is on about. That's a whole different thing again.
posted by lodurr at 6:14 AM on June 21, 2012


The MOOC frenzy is kind of fascinating. MOOC takes some basic and paradoxical assumptions and mashes them together:
  1. "Great" schools will have better courses [e.g., courses from MIT or Stanford are inherently superior to courses from Hudson Valley Community College]
  2. Nobody ever really teaches anybody anything [this is what I call the "John Schumacher thesis", after an old philosophy prof (most likely a different 'john/jon schumacher' than you think) -- the idea is that real learning comes from students doing work, not from people pouring knowledge into students' heads]
  3. Where students get their learning doesn't matter much [but see 1]
  4. Massively online lectures are a great way for students to get learning [but see 2]
This looks like a mess. It's actually not all that bad, since as far as I can see [2] and [3] are correct, and [4] at least has elements of truth. But when approached with a bottom-line mindset, I just don't have any hope for MOOC producing breakthrough results in the developed world. I personally find it very handy for me; but I don't see how it can be a replacement. Some people and some subjects and various combinations thereof will always need directly interactive learning (a.k.a. "teaching"), or at least approaches less routinized & mechanized than MOOC.
posted by lodurr at 6:23 AM on June 21, 2012


the idea is that real learning comes from students doing work

Indeed. But how do you get students to actually *do* the work? Another part of this MOOC frenzy, and maybe it's an unspoken part of the 4th assumption you list, is that just having these courses available automagically means students will put in the effort (do the work), and then they will learn. But I find that a lot of the work I do in the classroom is not so much "pouring knowledge into students' heads" as it is persuading them that yes, this is work worth doing, and if you read the texts and do the assignments, then you will learn something, and that learning will be of value to you. And I do get students to admit, at the end, that they learned something, but that doesn't stop them complaining all along the way about how much work I'm asking them to do.

Maybe this is different at elite institutions, I don't know, but I think, from various conversations I've had over the years with people teaching at non-elite schools, that this is pretty par for the course.

Which is why, as I said upthread, I think so much of successful online learning is about reaching people who are not in traditional classrooms, and therefore expanding the reach of the university, rather than replacing bricks & mortar education.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:40 AM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


If we're going to reduce learning to an acronym, I'd like to know who I have to bribe/threaten/sleep with to get the term changed to Massively Open Distributed Online Course.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:51 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Excellent question, and I completely agree with your closing thought.
posted by lodurr at 7:51 AM on June 21, 2012


Machine Organism Designed Only for Cop-... sheez, my mind is dirty these days....
posted by lodurr at 7:52 AM on June 21, 2012


MODOK was Kirby, right? Did he do a lot of drugs at some point?
posted by lodurr at 7:54 AM on June 21, 2012


Relevant.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:00 AM on June 21, 2012


UVa psych professor gives BoV an "F" on their project.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:49 AM on June 21, 2012


Matriculation Organism Designed Only for Courseware
posted by RogerB at 9:11 AM on June 21, 2012


Monetization Organization Defaulting to Other Course
posted by lodurr at 9:53 AM on June 21, 2012


The real tragedy is that now UVa won't be implementing a distance-learning program based entirely on Portal 2.
posted by lodurr at 10:02 AM on June 21, 2012


Huffington Post yesterday. Good summary, opinion.
posted by Melismata at 1:14 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Latest Cavalier tweet: Spokeswoman says no state funds will pay for Hill+Knowlton services; instead from "other sources...including the endowment". So they're PAYING DOWN THEIR ENDOWMENT for this? And that's better than using state funds how, exactly?
posted by Fnarf at 1:43 PM on June 21, 2012


Letter asking for reconsideration of decision to remove Sullivan signed by all deans of the university (not including the one chosen as interim president, who was not asked)

From @cavalierdaily: BREAKING: ‪#UVA‬ BOV will meet Tues. to discuss possible changes in President Sullivan's employment contract
posted by grouse at 2:17 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just out of curiosity, is it absolutely required to refer to Dollar Tree University as "Mr. Jefferson's University" in all communiques? Has this always been the case?
posted by Fnarf at 4:16 PM on June 21, 2012


Dragas has issued a new statement. She still doesn't get it.
In my view, we did the right thing, the wrong way.
No, you did the wrong thing, the wrong way. But you're clearly never going to admit that, so let's just hope the Governor of VA is not quite as obtuse as you are, and doesn't renew your appointment on July 1.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 4:20 PM on June 21, 2012


The recurrent rumor I've been hearing is that there is no way the Governor is going to reappoint her. He is not appreciating the attention he's getting, especially once people have started looking into his "I don't interfere with boards" claims and finding other boards he's trying to influence / replace folks on / direct their participation this month. McDonnell still has dreams of being Vice President (and President, eventually), and this is a bump in his road right when Team Romney is evaluating their VP options. Dragas wasn't his pick (she was appointed by Tim Kaine), but the Vice Rector who resigned was his appointee.
posted by julen at 5:36 PM on June 21, 2012


Dragas has issued a new statement. She still doesn't get it.

Commenting on the substance of her argument is too frustrating (even calling it an "argument" required a considerable reserve of my good will and generosity as a reader), so I'll just note the odd (and occasionally mixed) metaphors in the statement:
Simply put, the UVA family must be clear-eyed about the shoals and dangers that exist below the surface, and the hard work and strategic planning it will take for this community to navigate them together.

these challenges represent an extremely steep climb, even if the University were lean and on top of its game.

the Board did insist, and still insists, that the University leadership move in a timely, thoughtful, and organized fashion to address these and similar issues. Failing this, the University of Virginia will continue to drift in yesterday.

as much as our action to effect a change in leadership has created a wave of controversy, it was motivated by an understanding of the very stiff headwinds we face as a University, and our resolve to push through them to forge a future that is even brighter than imaginable today.
The frequency of maritime imagery must mean something. I'm not sure what. My mind's too befuddled by the clashing metaphors in that last sentence.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:06 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The frequency of maritime imagery must mean something

It means that with her $200,000 salary, and her developer millions in Virginia Beach, she's thinking about buying a boat.
posted by Fnarf at 6:20 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


While the UVA student experience remains premiere, though our faculty creates dynamic newknowledge every day, and despite the enduring magic of Mr. Jefferson’s University, the bottom line is the days of incremental decision-making in higher education are over, or should be ...

I don't understand this. Days of incremental decision-making are over? What does that mean? Isn't all decision-making in a university thoughtful/deliberate/careful/methodical? Isn't such decision making sort of by definition incremental? The opposite of incremental would seem to be unsuited to the university, where your most important members (students and faculty) could become seriously alienated if your top-down, sudden, revolutionary changes don't go as planned. And when the people demanding these changes are people like Dragas, a nitwit without a doctorate whose real world experience is being a condo developer and slumlord, and whose ideas are gathered from the likes of David Brooks and US News & World Report, it would seem the chances of your non-incremental changes going seriously awry are very very high.

What astonishes me about this debacle is the fact that UVA's board is apparently stocked with mediocrities unworthy of helming a great institution. I expected the UVA board to be peopled with the likes of, I dunno, statesmen and stateswomen, august personages like Colin Powell, Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Simmons, etc. People with strong, steady judgment, resistance to fads, and broad, challenging resumes. Not people like this lame-brain condo developer and the megalomaniacal hedge fund managers it seems to be stocked with.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 6:57 PM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


The way you get on the Board of Visitors is that you give a lot of money to the dude who is elected governor. It is not awarded based on knowledge or experience or skill or demonstrated mastery of a particular useful field; it is a thank you for forking over big bucks, preferably over a long period of time.
posted by julen at 7:16 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


By all apparent accounts of the Board, it seems that the University was on the verge of complete and total collapse before the powerful advances of the likes of the University of Phoenix and what have you. Indeed, one of the most prestigious public universities in the country was obviously imperiled to such a degree that "incremental" decision making jeopardized its very existence. It needed a captain who could quickly steer around all those shoals and reefs.

...

With the change of universities into pseudo corporate like structures, money making the paramount goal instead of education and scholarship, it's absolutely unsurprising that such individuals now populate the boards that run them. They are unable to view their world by any other prism, and one might as well curse the wind for blowing than expect them to understand the fallacies they bring to the table of leadership.
posted by Atreides at 7:20 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The purpose of the board is to get some potential big donors (i.e. the board members) together in the same room and shake them down for cash. No board should be involved in the kind of decision making that this one imagines it should be involved in.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:05 PM on June 21, 2012


There are a couple of interesting comments on this WSJ profile of Helen Dragas that talk about Hill & Knowlton and John Ullyot, apparently the (high level) strategist there who is handling her problem. Since there seems no way to link to individual comments (which is a bother, since the second one is rather long), I'll have to quote:
carlosrodrigueztoo wrote:

Do this:

1. Click on WaPo's "Dragas: 'We did the right thing, the wrong way' link
2. That pops a PDF document, supposedly Dragas' statement
3. Save that PDF file to your local disk
4. Open that file from your local disk with Adobe Reader
5. Click on File / Properties
6. See that the Author is a John Ullyot
7. Google "John Ullyot"
8. That search yields some results.
9. One of which is this: http://blogarchive.hillandknowlton.com/blogs/amper...
10. Another yield: http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/3559-dc-sha...
11. Have fun drawing your own conclusion.
and the other:
Alex70 wrote:

Someone did some fine work. And I just confirmed that Dragas’s release was authored by John Ullyot, presumably the J. U. who is “Senior Vice President, Media Relations and Issues Management, based in Hill & Knowlton’s Washington office.” Apparently “he also directs the office’s public affairs and crisis communications practices.”

See: http://blogarchive.hillandknowlton.com/blogs/amper...

Hill & Knowlton is especially memorable to me because it reprehensibly constructed a lie that was used to justify our first invasion of Iraq. Think back. Do you recall the name Nayirah?

“The most emotionally moving testimony…came from a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only by her first name of Nayirah…. Sobbing, she described what she had seen with her own eyes in a hospital in Kuwait City. Her written testimony was passed out in a media kit prepared by Citizens for a Free Kuwait. "I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital," Nayirah said. "While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where . . . babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die.

At the Human Rights Caucus, however, Hill & Knowlton…failed to reveal that Nayirah was a member of the Kuwaiti Royal Family. Her father, in fact, was Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait's Ambassador to the US….The Caucus also failed to reveal that H&K…coached Nayirah in what…investigators later confirmed was false testimony.

If Nayirah's outrageous lie had been exposed…, it might have at least caused… Congress and the news media to soberly reevaluate the extent to which they were being skillfully manipulated. As late as December 1990, a New York Times/CBS News poll indicated that 48 percent of the American people wanted Bush to wait before taking any action if Iraq failed to withdraw from Kuwait by Bush's January 15 deadline. On January 12, the US Senate voted by a narrow, five-vote margin to support the Bush administration in a declaration of war. Given the narrowness of the vote, the babies-thrown-from-incubators story may have turned the tide in Bush's favor.

Following the war, human rights investigators attempted to confirm Nayirah's story and could find no witnesses or other evidence to support it. Amnesty International, which had fallen for the story, was forced to issue an embarrassing retraction. Nayirah herself was unavailable for comment. "This is the first allegation I've had that she was the ambassador's daughter," said Human Rights Caucus co-chair John Porter. "Yes, I think people . . . were entitled to know the source of her testimony."

See: http://www.prwatch.org/books/tsigfy10.html

Mr. Ullyot and Ms Dragas, we are not going to be fooled by LIARS FOR HIRE like the REPREHENSIBLE firm of HILL & KNOWLTON. Have you no decency? Readers, please relay this news on other forums. Subject cynical Hill & Knowlton to public humiliation.
Here's the pdf referred to in the first comment.
posted by taz at 4:57 AM on June 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am greatly amused that the supposed top gun of "let's get you out of trouble" communications firms doesn't know how to clean up the doc props on their pdfs.
posted by rtha at 6:09 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


taz, that first bit is priceless. thanks for sharing.

It looks very much like the BoV literally doesn't understand how much damage they're doing to that oh-so-valuable brand through this stay-the-course / tar-the-enemy strategy.

To deploy a little more nautical imagery: These people are essentially burning the superstructure of a sinking ship in order to lighten it. When you hire a mercenary to bail you out, I suppose you have to accept a little collateral damage. ("The rescue was a success, but the ship sank.")
posted by lodurr at 6:18 AM on June 22, 2012


As it turns out, the severance agreement has a section called "nondisparagement" which begins...

I expected as much, but it occurs to me... should it even be legal for public institutions to have nondisparagement clauses in their employment or severance contracts?

As uncomfortable as they make me, I can somewhat understand them in the private sector. A company's goal is to make money, and I can easily see that a disgruntled ex-employee can cause material financial harm by airing out dirty laundry. It's at least arguable that the company has a right to not pay you severance if you're going to do that.

But public institutions aren't supposed to be centered around profitability, republican propaganda notwithstanding. A public institution is supposed to be centered around service and quality, and I fail to see how their ability to achieve either of those goals would be materially harmed by an ex-employee blowing some whistles. In fact, it would theoretically improve the situation because they would be under public pressure to address their problems.

I know this is all just ideals, that a lot of people stupidly believe that "government should be run like a business" and that there would be very little public willpower behind reforming something as inside-baseball as nondisparagement clauses. I bring it up because it seems like one of those insidious flaws that might slowly and invisibly rot away our government from the inside.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:22 AM on June 22, 2012


And this just in:
UVA interim president Carl Zeithaml is stepping aside, he announced in statement emailed to press this morning, saying "trust cannot be restored in our community until the President Sullivan's status is clarified and ultimately resolved."
posted by DiscourseMarker at 6:25 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


The clauses may not be enforceable, strictly speaking, but that doesn't mean they won't threaten a 'violator' with a lawyer. Plus (and IANAL, but...) even if the clause isn't fully enforceable (e.g., if the "disparagement" is "true", you can't prevent someone from saying it), it may make it easier to prosecute for libel.
posted by lodurr at 6:25 AM on June 22, 2012


DiscourseMarker: Wow.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 7:01 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well the amount of egg on the Board's collective face just got a bit larger.
posted by Atreides at 7:27 AM on June 22, 2012


It's times like these that I really wish I could peek inside the heads of people like Dragas, because I desperately want to know if she's just so ideologically committed and so deep in denial that she still actually believes what she did was right, or if she knows the score but is one of those people who just cannot ever admit publicly that they made a mistake.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:33 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am greatly amused that the supposed top gun of "let's get you out of trouble" communications firms doesn't know how to clean up the doc props on their pdfs.

I am comforted by it.
posted by notyou at 7:56 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The severance payments are not generally lump sum payments (plus there are ongoing medical benefits and whatever else), which gives the institution some additional leverage should the resignee start making disparaging remarks.

Also disparagement clauses usually go both ways -- neither party may disparage the other. Dragas' Right Thing Wrong Way missive skirts pretty close to the line, there.
posted by notyou at 8:02 AM on June 22, 2012


I'm not just talking about whether the agreements should be enforceable, I'm also asking whether public institutions should be able to put them in a contract in the first place. Lawyerly-types, help me out with some jargon, because I'm going to mess it up. Wouldn't this be a form of prior restraint, such that the government would have to meet very strict criteria in order for it to be permissible under the first amendment?

I found Garcetti v. Ceballos as a possibly-relevant case of them being able to restrict this sort of thing, but it was decided quite recently, with a 5-4 opinion (which they probably only got because Sandra Day O'Connor had just retired and been replaced with Alito). It also refers to public employees speaking in their official capacity, which wouldn't seem to apply to an ex-employee.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:27 AM on June 22, 2012


As a generally state funded institution, there's a degree where disparagement clauses really don't matter. People can request records presumably through Virginia's version of sunshine laws, everything from agendas to e-mail communications. It does depend on what Virginia has established must be an open record, but in an instance like this, it's possible that at least enough hints of what happened are visible to force officials to confess to what happened. In Missouri, records for meetings concerning employment status/review are closed, but I would presume that the employee in question has a right to those records and the power to waive any confidentiality.
posted by Atreides at 8:43 AM on June 22, 2012


Washington Post on Dragas's explanatory letter - fact-checking!
Dragas’s overarching critique, mentioned in most of the 10 points, is that Sullivan lacked an “articulated, long-range plan” to solve the university’s most vexing problems.

But Sullivan had delivered a 12-page strategic plan to the board. In it, she wrote that she had been “explicitly instructed not to do a strategic plan” because faculty were fatigued by a lack of follow-through from previous strategic plans, but that she was preparing one anyway.

Dragas said she and her supporters on the board were concerned that Sullivan lacked a long-range plan to find new revenue to supplant lost state subsidies.

The university is, however, one of the nation’s most successful public institutions in fundraising, with a current campaign approaching $3 billion, and its $5 billion endowment has recently outperformed those at Harvard and Yale.

Dragas said U-Va.’s student-faculty ratio is “deteriorating.” Institutional data show that ratio is the same as a decade ago, 16 to 1.

Dragas also indicated that U-Va.’s faculty compensation is not rising as fast as compensation at comparable schools. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this year that full-professor pay at U-Va. has risen $40,400 since 2000, to $141,600 a year. By comparison, the Chronicle reported, the average salary for full professors at doctoral institutions has risen $36,400 over the past decade.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:06 AM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Article also describes new meting called by board for next week, and speculation that since Vice Rector resigned, board now has enough votes to reinstate Sullivan.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:09 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not clear that Sullivan will return if Dragas remains; that article comments the she conditioned it with Dragas' resignation. Perhaps there's a compromise position if the governor doesn't reappoint Dragas when her term expires at the end of July.
posted by phearlez at 1:55 PM on June 22, 2012


And the governor has written a letter to the board, telling them he wants final action on Tuesday (but he refuses to tell them what that action should be).
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:37 PM on June 22, 2012


The Governor of Virginia has delivered a letter (PDF) the Board of Visitors saying essentially, get to a final decision on Sullivan's status on Tuesday, document it, explain it fully, and put this to rest .... or he's going to ask for everyone's resignation on Wednesday.

He also wants people to think of it as a family disagreement, not a war, and everyone should relax, let the BOV do its thing, and come together. This is the best move he could have made in his quest to become Romney's running mate. (Virginia governors are one term governors; can't run for the same office consecutively.) Local reaction is .... mixed.
posted by julen at 2:38 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Governor of Virginia has delivered a letter (PDF) the Board of Visitors saying essentially, get to a final decision on Sullivan's status on Tuesday, document it, explain it fully, and put this to rest .... or he's going to ask for everyone's resignation on Wednesday.

Since I believe he doesn't actually have authority to fire the board, this seems like impotent saber-rattling. (Although it's true that he could not reappoint several of the board members.)
posted by grouse at 2:44 PM on June 22, 2012


Since I believe he doesn't actually have authority to fire the board, this seems like impotent saber-rattling.

I may be wrong, but my understanding is that state law allows for him to fire the BOV en masse for cause.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:47 PM on June 22, 2012


He also wants people to think of it as a family disagreement, not a war, and everyone should relax, let the BOV do its thing, and come together.

Yeah, the tone of the letter suggested to me that he really wished he hadn't been bothered by any of this, and he seems pretty dismissive of the face that pretty much the *entire* university community is upset. The line about it being the sole responsibility of the board to manage the university would be pretty frightening to me if I were at UVa. I mean really - the board has no responsibility to listen to anybody else?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:49 PM on June 22, 2012


"We all look forward to moving foward".
posted by junco at 2:56 PM on June 22, 2012


He's hoping they resolve it after his show of exasperated Daddy-knows-best strength. He doesn't care how (although if Sullivan is not reinstated, the reaction to it might make him care), he just doesn't want this getting in his way of impressing the Romney camp.

If they don't .... Even if he can't fire them, he dumps the whole mess on their shoulders by asking them to resign if they can't come to a resolution. IF they choose not to resign, there will be social and business ramifications for them personally, plus amped up media attention and finger pointing at the Board.

Meanwhile, McDonnell distances himself even more from the mess, gets to claim he tried to treat them as adults, then gave them some tough love and guidance, and their failure to follow through is not his fault. Then the Republican party spokesmen and twitterers and facebookers remind us yet again the Rector was appointed by Tim Kaine and this is just like how Obama can't solve anything and if we followed the GOP way, this would be fixed already. Then the Democratic spokesmen and twitterers and facebookers remind us the Vice Rector was McDonnels choice and he appointed Dragas to another board and this is another example of Republicans putting themselves first and working together to fix things second, and oh hey, remember when Kaine's opponent called that guy a Macaca? O God, I'm going to live in a bunker for the next six months.
posted by julen at 2:58 PM on June 22, 2012


O God, I'm going to live in a bunker for the next six months

That's probably a good idea regardless of how the UVa situation turns out.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:01 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


From today's Washington Post:

The board has called a special meeting for Tuesday to discuss whether to reinstate Sullivan at the school founded by Thomas Jefferson. But McDonnell said if the 15 voting board members cannot make a decision at that meeting, he will ask all of them to resign. If they refuse, he will remove them for cause, a power granted to him by state law but rarely used.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:03 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I don't have a clear understanding of what I want, but I technically have some authority over you. I demand you appease me with some bold decision-making or I'll overextend my authority and require your resignation!"

I'd wonder if McDonnell sees the irony, but his party seems to have some sort of chromosomal deficiency in that regard.
posted by Riki tiki at 3:18 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could not care less if this guy is Romney's running mate, because I'm firmly convinced Mitt is in no danger of winning even if Jesus is his running mate.

Therefore, I read this letter with my heart free of partisan loathing, and thought it was very strategic and quite good.

Sorry about that.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:37 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I could not care less if this guy is Romney's running mate, because I'm firmly convinced Mitt is in no danger of winning even if Jesus is his running mate.

To be fair, if Jesus WAS Romney's running mate, I probably would vote for him if I knew he'd listen to his Veep. Course, if Romney did, he'd immediately lose the Republican base.

I guess barring any more developments, this thing is on ice until next week?
posted by Atreides at 6:14 PM on June 22, 2012


Oh my.
I appreciate the Governor’s leadership in affirming the importance of Board governance, and that we alone are appointed to make these decisions on behalf of the University, free of influence from outside political, personal or media pressure.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 6:56 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It seems odd the Dragas would try to arrange a succession this way without having a successor in mind. Have the emails shown nothing about who was supposed to take over as president? Or is this a Dick Cheney-esque "the search team turned up, as the ideal candidate... me!"
posted by fatbird at 8:40 PM on June 22, 2012


Be still my heart:
Other than Sullivan not doing enough to eviscerate the humanities, it’s pretty easy to see why this Board of Hacks wouldn’t like Teresa Sullivan. Before she became president of UVA, what was Sullivan best known for? Possibly for co-authoring this book with one Elizabeth Warren. [The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt]
The blurb:
Since 1997, the number of American families filing for federal bankruptcy annually has exceeded one million. By most measures, those who file are members of the middle class—a group that has long provided stability and vitality for the American economic system. This raises the troubling question: why, during the most remarkable period of prosperity in our history, are unprecedented numbers of Americans encountering such serious financial trouble?

The authors of this important book analyze court records and demographic data on thousands of bankruptcy cases, as well as debtors’ own poignant accounts of the reasons for their bankruptcies. For many middle-class Americans, the findings show, financial stability is fragile—almost any setback can be disastrous. The erosion of job stability, divorce and family instability, the visible and invisible costs of medical care, the burden of home ownership, and the staggering weight of consumer debt financed with plastic combine to threaten the financial security of growing numbers of middle-class families. The authors view the bankruptcy process in the light of changing cultural and economic factors and consider what this may signify for the future of a large, secure, and dynamic middle class.
posted by notyou at 8:45 AM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


It seems odd the Dragas would try to arrange a succession this way without having a successor in mind. Have the emails shown nothing about who was supposed to take over as president?

They might have had someone in mind who no longer wants to have anything to do with the fiasco. And if there were e-mails in question, they might be exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act since they regard personnel issues.
posted by grouse at 11:43 AM on June 23, 2012


All indications are that Dragas expected to be reappointed to the board/keep her position, and therefore control or shape a year long search. She has plenty of time to find a business-friendly management type with Virginia ties and a strong business-forged management style with fundraising skills and a knowledge of running complex public organizations (like a state) or if stronger academic ties are needed, a business-centric academic entity. (my speculation on who she might have been thinking of; I have no evidence to back this up!)

Heck, there was a rumor/leak from the Governor's office last night that he still plans to reappoint her. Whether that is testing the water, a barium meal to find leakers, or his actual intention is unclear. It could also be a false flag, an attention-diverter,the Gov hedging his bets, or a Team Dragas rumor she got started. People are floating "what if she is on the Board, but not Rector? and "they could offer Sullivan the job; Dragas could refuse to resign, and Sullivan could refuse to return. Dragas would win, then."

In short, we don't know what is going on behind the scenes among Board Members, the Governor, top executives at the U, and powerful people associated with UVA who still have the connections and support to influence things (donors for and against, recent but ex-Board Members, recently retired execs, etc). I am sure there has been lots of commitments and promises and deals made and dissolved in the past few days. Virginia Politicians are also throwing in their increasingly shiny 2 cents (talking about legislation dealing with the role and appointments of the BOV, demanding Sullivan's reinstatement, largely, but not demanding Dragas' removal at the same time.).
posted by julen at 11:48 AM on June 23, 2012


While I agree that McDonnell's statement is probably strategically sound -- very possibly the only really sound decision he could make on this -- I'm failing to see where there's even the tiniest bit of vision, courage or wisdom in it. (And before anybody says it, yes, I think that's the main reason it's strategically sound. And maybe I'm not disagreeing with anybody on either of these things. Not exactly sure.)

Because all he's asking them to do is make a decision.

How hard can that be? I mean, short of a procedural rule that requires 3/4 majorities on all matters, how bloody hard can it be for a voting body to not make a decision based on a vote?

As someone pointed out, the real test of his political mettle is in what happens when that decision is to let the firing stand. And given the board's makeup and past decisions, that does seem the likely outcome.
posted by lodurr at 5:55 AM on June 25, 2012


As a reminder, the Board is meeting today at 3 pm EDT. You can theoretically watch it live here.
posted by Atreides at 8:57 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Listening now. Dragas really has absolutely no conception that she could be wrong about any of this. Any criticism is "fertilizer".
posted by lodurr at 12:23 PM on June 26, 2012


... that said, they are approving reinstatement.
posted by lodurr at 12:25 PM on June 26, 2012


Holy cow! They are voting to reinstate. Woot!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:26 PM on June 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's all gonna come back again. Dragas isn't giving up the fight. She just has no understanding at all of why any rational person would disagree with her about what she wants. People like that never really give up, they just readjust their weapons and come back in for another pass.
posted by lodurr at 12:39 PM on June 26, 2012


I can't watch the stream where I am, so am following your comments/updates/impressions with interest -- thank you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:41 PM on June 26, 2012


It's all gonna come back again. Dragas isn't giving up the fight. She just has no understanding at all of why any rational person would disagree with her about what she wants. People like that never really give up, they just readjust their weapons and come back in for another pass.

Sandy you are probably right. However there is some hope that maybe others on the board got a bit more clueful and perhaps will be less likely to let Dragas steamroll her way around again, but only time will tell. Of course, it would still be nice of the governor did not reappoint her, but who knows. His statement last week didn't really suggest that he had lost confidence in her.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:51 PM on June 26, 2012


The Cav Daily's tweeting Sullivan's remarks. I understand she wants to be optimistic, and I don't expect Sullivan in her position to say anything critical at this juncture. But, I worry that the expressed desire to move forward (on the part of both Sullivan and Dragas and the rest of the BOV) will only postpone the fundamental conflicts seething under the surface. It'll be interesting to see which Board members get reappointed.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:52 PM on June 26, 2012


*sadly, not sandy. Oy.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:52 PM on June 26, 2012


Inside Higher Ed: The University of Virginia Board of Visitors voted unanimously Tuesday to reinstate President Teresa Sullivan
posted by exogenous at 12:53 PM on June 26, 2012


A bit of a liveblog, closely paraphrased from Larry Sabato's twitter feed:
Dragas opens BOV with "apology"--but only because she didn't give context to firing. Blames overwhelmed UVA communications dept. Calls on Heywood Fralin to introduce resolution.

Fralin supports Sullivan, asks for roll call vote. His preamble: 'Process was flawed' & should never happen again. NO KIDDING. Fralin: "We've all made mistakes..." Fralin wasn't one of them, not in this case. Fralin addresses each UVA constituency, apologizes, thanks them, & asks for their help going forward.

Fralin offers reconsideration resolution: "Reinstate Sullivan." "Recinds interim president appointment." Seconded.

Dragas speaks first. Reads prepared statement: "Unfortunate that we had to have a near-death experience" to make progress. Dragas & Sullivan met just before the meeting. "Time to bring UVA family back together." (Sounds like this is going to be resolved amicably. THANK GOD.) Dragas: "This Board has found [a] middle path." YES, it's PRESIDENT SULLIVAN AGAIN.

Dragas supports reinstatement of President Sullivan. IT'S OVER! REASON WON!
Roll call vote now. ALL voting yes. UNANIMOUS!!!!

Dragas: "Let's begin the healing process." It's well underway thanks to the unanimous vote.

Pres Sullivan speaks to what really matters: "What is best for our University? I need your support. Grateful...for renewed opportunity." Sullivan coming out to Lawn for a statement.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:53 PM on June 26, 2012


From the Washington Post's liveblog: "The board then gives a vote of confidence to Rector Helen Dragas. (She abstains from the vote, making everyone laugh.)"

Interesting. I thought that Dragas's resignation was one of the (likely) conditions of Sullivan's return?
posted by argonauta at 12:53 PM on June 26, 2012


I wonder if that's what was meant by a "middle path", since otherwise reinstating Sullivan is just one side winning?
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:55 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the blog:

Dragas said the UVa communications office became overwhelmed, and that her 10-point outline of reasons for seeking Sullivan's dismissal came too late.

What does that even mean?
posted by Melismata at 12:58 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if that's what was meant by a "middle path", since otherwise reinstating Sullivan is just one side winning?

I bet you're right. I wonder if Dragas *not* resigning was the condition for her supporting Sullivan's reinstatement.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:00 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What does that even mean?

It means that in between reading David Brooks columns and whatnot Dragas couldn't be bothered to read it.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:02 PM on June 26, 2012


Oh wait, never mind my last comment, I misread the sentence. I think Dragas means that "she totes had this list of reasons all typed up a looong time ago, but the communications office just never sent it out."

(But on the other hand, her list of reasons totally ignored the strategic memo that Sullivan had *already* circulated, so yeah, couldn't be bothered).
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:04 PM on June 26, 2012


Nice of her to throw the Communications Office under the bus.

Glad to see Sullivan back in charge...but I feel as if it's the end of a movie where the bad guy gets away and you know eventually, they'll turn up again.
posted by Atreides at 1:07 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Photo of crowd listening to Sullivan's speech from the steps of the Rotunda after being reinstated
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:10 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


UVA reports that 13K people viewed the BOV meeting stream.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:10 PM on June 26, 2012


Atreides: "Nice of her to throw the Communications Office under the bus."

Yeech. That can't have been a good career decision.

And, now I'm wishing we'd all protested a bit harder over the Gene Nichol thing, now that we know that this sort of outcome is possible. This was a good choice, but higher education in VA is still fucked. Dragas is a symptom of a much larger problem.
posted by schmod at 1:13 PM on June 26, 2012


It's going to be a rough year at UVa.
posted by lodurr at 3:53 PM on June 26, 2012


I'm so used to the bad guys winning at every turn anymore, I'm just gonna smile and enjoy this for now. One in the "w" column for the good guys - this round, at least.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:02 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


But, I worry that the expressed desire to move forward (on the part of both Sullivan and Dragas and the rest of the BOV) will only postpone the fundamental conflicts seething under the surface. It'll be interesting to see which Board members get reappointed.

Depends how clever and ruthless Sullivan is, now. Dargas lost, publicly and humiliatingly (though she may be too thick skulled to see it). If Sullivan can quickly and clearly strike out on her own path while she still has her army at her back, then Dargas will be successfully marginalised. If she demurs or dithers while the controversy fades from public consciousness, then out will come the knives again. "her own path" doesn't necessarily mean big radical change, either; the action could be smaller and more symbolic. What it should do is be a crowd pleaser that snubs the board. Maybe hold a school-wide concordium on the future of the university with students, faculty and administrators before the fall term.

Sullivan has played this cannily, even if there was a non-disparagement clause in the contract --- sure that might have pinned her own tongue, but there are ways and there are ways, you know? "close friends of" "someone familiar with Sullivan's thoughts" --- even the commencement speech she gave -- there were a lot of opportunities to overplay her hand, and she avoided them neatly. So I'd say she's got a fair chance.
posted by Diablevert at 8:07 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I suspect you're right. The BoV thinks there's a problem and that won't change.
posted by lodurr at 2:03 PM on June 27, 2012


By the way, a little something about strategic dynamism and executive narcissism: It’s All About Me: Narcissistic CEOs and Their Effects on Company Strategy and Performance. "Drawing on psychological research indicating that narcissism is a personality dimension, rather than just a pathological disorder, we argue that narcissism in CEOs is positively related to strategic dynamism and grandiosity, and it engenders extreme and volatile organizational performance." (PDF)

I looked this study up after reading this short blog post by a philosopher/legal scholar that refers to it: Peter Kiernan, the Narcissistic "Hedge Fund" Manager Behind the UVA Fiasco?

The study focused on CEOs in the computer and software industries, which I might have guessed would be more prone to benefit from the sort of rapid reorganization and moving goals that strategic dynamism seems to entail, but apparently it doesn't make much difference:
One might reasonably ask whether CEO narcissism is related to the level of company performance generated. That is, do narcissistic CEOs perform better or worse than nonnarcissists? There is no theoretical rationale for hypothesizing one or the other, but we explored this question in a supplementary analysis. We re-ran Models 9-12 (which dealt with performance extremeness), but changed the dependent variables to simply ROA and TSR. The results were null. There was no indication that CEO narcissism was related to the level of company performance generated. Thus, although narcissists tend to generate more extreme and volatile performance than non-narcissists, they do not generate systematically better or worse performance. Of course, a different result might have been observed in a different industry. In this vein, it is interesting to consider Maccoby’s (2003) assertion that narcissism is a valuable executive trait in a highly dynamic industry. Since narcissism had no discernible effect on level of performance in the highly dynamic industries we studied, we might reasonably expect that it would have a negative effect in more stable settings.
So, according to the study, "narcissistic CEOs, who tend to pursue dynamic and grandiose strategies, also tend to generate more extreme performance – more big wins and big losses – than their less narcissistic counterparts (as measured both by accounting and shareholder returns)" but didn't generate any overall advantage over more conservative leadership styles.

But software and computer companies that have significant successes are much more likely to bounce back from significant failures without necessarily taking a fatal blow to their reputation since the currents in tech are constantly changing... which is not something that can be said for universities. So while for the computer industry a narcissistic CEO employing "strategic dynamism" may ultimately be no better or worse for the overall profitability of the company, imagine what a few "big losses" might do for a complex institution that lives and dies by its reputation.
posted by taz at 2:40 PM on June 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


So, put another way, it seems that the authors are saying that narcissism will be rewarded in volatile industries, even though its average performance is average. Which is another way of saying that CEOs aren't really being rewarded for success or failure according to the ostensible metrics -- they're being rewarded for how much of a gas the ride is.
posted by lodurr at 6:10 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a really fascinating study taz, thanks. It makes a lot of sense, too.

In a similar vein, here's a wrap-up from @sivavaid. Some of my favorite bits:
These [innovations, such as the web browser & Google] did not just happen because someone saw a market opportunity and investors and inventors rushed off to meet it. That’s what happens in business-school textbooks. In the real world, we roll along, healthy and strong, in the richest nation in the world because some very wise people decided decades ago to invest in institutions that serve no obvious short-term purpose. The results of the work we do can take decades to matter—if at all. Most of what we do fails. Some succeeds. The system is terribly inefficient. And it’s supposed to be that way.
We hear every day from higher-education pundits who can’t seem to express themselves in anything other than jargon and buzzwords that American higher education is “unsustainable.” No. It’s just not adequately sustained. There is a big difference. We could choose to invest in people. We could choose to invest in culture. We could choose to invest in science and technology. We choose instead to imagine that there are quick technological fixes or commercial interventions that can “transform” universities into digital diploma mills. Pundits blame professors for fighting “change.” But they ignore the fact that universities are the chief site of innovation and experimentation in digital teaching and research and that professors might actually know what works and what does not.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:26 AM on June 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


McDonnel reappoints Dragas.

For fuck's sake.
posted by rtha at 11:30 PM on June 29, 2012


From rtha's link:
“I am . . . concerned that the first female rector seemed to become the sole target of recent criticism,’’ the governor said in a statement. “While there is no doubt that the board made several mistakes in its actions, which it has publicly admitted, this is not a time for recrimination. It’s a time for reconciliation.”
I'm concerned that the governor prefers to tar critics as sexists instead of engaging the substance of their criticisms.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:34 AM on June 30, 2012


I might have actually yelled "are you fucking kidding me!!!" when I got to the paragraph, audi.
posted by rtha at 7:47 AM on June 30, 2012


What rtha said.


BUT MORE LOUDLY.
posted by Atreides at 10:58 AM on June 30, 2012


Alternet: What Terry Sullivan's Reinstatement at U. Va Really Tells Us about the Future of Higher Ed Does the reappointment of University of Virginia's president mark a triumph over corporate interests? Or is it more proof that public universities are headed for demise?
It’s a depressing measure of how far the public university in the US has fallen, in fact, that fully privatizing them might actually be one way to re-focus them on their public mission of education and research. Private universities are not actually “private” in the sense of being run for profit, after all; unlike explicitly for-profit institutions like the University of Phoenix, “private” universities are 501c(3) non-profits, and they tend to act like it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:51 PM on July 12, 2012


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