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Posted on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

U-M Board of Regents chair on Teresa Sullivan ouster at U-Va: It's their loss

By Kellie Woodhouse


University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan, right, applauds as journalist and author Katie Couric returns to her seat after speaking at the University of Virginia commencement exercises May 20 in Charlottesville, Va.

AP Photo

Although the governing board of University of Virginia was unsatisfied enough to oust college President Teresa Sullivan, University of Michigan leaders remember fondly their time working with the "talented educator" when she was provost here.

"It was very disappointing to read what had transpired," current U-M Board of Regents chair Denise Ilitch said in an interview with Thursday.

"She's a very talented educator and I think it's their loss."


Current University of Michigan Board of Regents Chair Denise Ilitch file photo

Ilitch began on the board in 2008 and worked with Sullivan until she left for U-Va in 2010 to become president of one of the nation's oldest public universities. At Sullivan's inaugural address at U-Va, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman gave the keynote address and a contingent of U-M officials traveled to attend.

Sullivan was ousted by a group from the school's Board of Visitors, led by rector Helen Dragas, about two weeks ago. Since then, there's been an outpouring of criticism directed at Dragas and the board. Top professors have resigned or threatened to leave the university, hundreds of students have protested the removal and donors have expressed frustration with the turmoil.

However, the board has agreed to vote Tuesday, June 26, on whether to reinstate Sullivan.

Sullivan has said she will stay on as president if Dragas is removed from the board, according to media reports.

"The University and its reputation have been damaged these past 13 days," wrote Carl Zeitham, the dean of the undergraduate business school that U-Va board tapped to be interim leader of the school after Sullivan's planned departure.

In a letter addressed to the university community and released Friday morning, Zeitham said he would refrain from considering his interim duties until the board makes its final decision on Sullivan.


Phil Hanlon addresses a crowd of graduates at the 2011 University of Michigan commencement at Michigan Stadium.

Current U-M Provost Phil Hanlon, who succeeded Sullivan and worked with her during her four-year tenure as provost, called Sullivan a "very close friend" and "great mentor."

"I have deep respect for her knowledge of higher education, her intellect and her leadership skills," Hanlon said in a Thursday interview with

He added: "I don’t think I want to comment on the action that the Board of Visitors took except to wish her well in the future."

Dragas on Thursday evening released a statement defending Sullivan's ouster, which she played a key role in orchestrating.

"The bottom line is the days of incremental decision-making in higher education are over, or should be," Dragas said in the statement. "For some time, the Board of Visitors has been concerned about the following difficult challenges facing the University - most of which are not unique to UVA — and we concluded that their structural and long-term nature demanded a deliberate and strategic approach, not an incremental one."

Dragas' remarks referred to a statement Sullivan released earlier this week, in which she called herself an incrementalist.

"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," Sullivan said in the statement. "There has been substantial change on Grounds in the past two years, and this change is laying the groundwork for greater change. But it has all been carefully planned and executed in collaboration with Vice Presidents and Deans and representatives of the faculty."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 4:15 a.m.

Sullivan is showing her true colors by demanding the "revengeful" removal of a board member who believed, and still does, in the best interest of the university. Sufllivan is shameful in her response to what can only be considered extortion of public employees (professors) thretening a work slowdown, which should be illegal. UofM should be ashamed she was employed at their institution. Sullivan is a vengeful person and should not be in a position of power at all.


Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

One important factor might be that, in Virginia, members of the Board of Visitors are appointed by the governor not elected by the public as the Board of Regents is in Michigan.


Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Sullivan was ill-equipped to be a University President. She mistook the safe, "we , the administration, can do no wrong" environment of the U of M, where she was a compliant, "yes-woman" to be the same at the bucolic West Virginia University. There are some University Boards that can't be pushed around like at the U of M, who genuinely want to make sure they are involved in the mission of the University. Ms. Sullivan was not used to that. She may have been a good educator but certainly not fit for being a President of a University. However, as we know from the Rich Rod debacle, upper management can make horrendous mistakes, and I don't know how Ms. Sullivan got the job in the first place. Big mistake on the part of U-Va. Be more careful next time and select a worthy candidate with the experience of being a University President.

Jimmy McNulty

Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

"U-M Board of Regents chair on Teresa Sullivan ouster at U-Va: It's their loss" It's also their business, not yours. Please keep you opinions to yourselves and concentrate on keeping tuition in check.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

Gosh, is "unsatisfied" a word? I think "disatisfied" might be better grammar.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 1:40 a.m.

I would think if "I can't get no satisfaction" means I am lacking in satisfaction, that would be very unsatisfying. On the other hand, if I am the opposite of satisfied, I would definitely be dissatisfied. Know what I mean?

David Frye

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 9:56 p.m.

Let's see what Shakespeare has to say. Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene I. Romeo: O wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied? Juliet: What satisfaction canst thou have tonight? And that's when, in the original version, Dragas stepped in and fired Juliet.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

"Gosh, is "unsatisfied" a word?" -Yes. "I think "disatisfied" might be better grammar." -Not if you spell it like that.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

This was a simple power struggle and Sullivan miscalculated her power. She comes from UM, which has a rubber stamp board and the president can do pretty much whatever she wants. The UVA Board got tired of Sullivan resisting their directions and canned her. Maybe the UM Board of Regents should learn a thing or two from UVA and quit letting Coleman get away with murder. I just hope the whole story eventually comes out about the child porn scandal. The outside investigation that was supposed to last 6 weeks is now announced to last 6 months. Why? I would tell you but the moderator would take down my comment.


Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

" i greatly admire...": gosh, you'd never know it from your interminable, relentless negativity about the place.. Ever hear the one about "catching more flies with honey?? ( and yes ,i admit to a capacity for acerbic-ness myself..but i try to mix it up a bit from time to time.


Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 12:03 a.m.

@bedrog- I guess you think that it was a minor glitch that UM administrators blocked the reporting of child pornography by a pediatrics resident. I hope the FBI doesn't agree with you. I greatly admire the faculty and students at UM. I regret the corruption of the "shared governance" model of administration. Under the last 3 President's, but particularly Coleman, the faculty governance has been neutered and all power has gone to the administration. Why do you think the Pediatrics resident who found the child pornography was afraid to report it? She knew that it was the messenger who would be shot. That is why she left the meeting with the lawyer crying and told her faculty advisor to drop it.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

trespass: It must be exhausting being you...especially as the ( hated-- to you at least)UM goes from strength to strength, with only inevitable minor glitches in such a large and generally excellent institution.

Michigan Man

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

This matter is no longer news and very over rated. I am getting Sullivan fatigue. When Sullivan leaves the U of V presidency she will still have a 6 figure salary, tenured faculty position, academic freedom (freedom of what?) and job security. Sullivan will not become a member of the homeless population, regardless if she stays at U of V or scurries back to the safety of Ann Arbor. Sullivan got into a pissing match with the Board and lost. End of story.

say it plain

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

exactly. but it's mildly amusing to watch the players here pretend like the very integrity of higher education is at stake lol. When we all know this was forfeited a zillion semesters ago...

say it plain

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

How much longer will this quaint little game about being "an incrementalist" versus whatever else, as played in the world of academia, matter? Sure, for now, universities are 'ranked' by the pseudo-press according to criteria like reputation of their (sometimes hardly involved in actual education-type activities!) faculties, so esteem from colleagues matter, presumably even to being president of a U lol... but soon it will be all about market-share, just like any other big business with many players competing for the consumer. People like "the board of Visitors" (how cute a name for the enforcers of the bottom-line! mixing up the ancient-academy and, say, the modern corporation...) will run the show with less and less interference from the for-now empowered-acting players like "the faculty", who, after all, are more or less replaceable (especially if they don't bring in grant monies or quick profits from stuff like on-line MBA courses!).