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Posted on Tue, Jun 26, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

Board reinstates former U-M provost Teresa Sullivan as University of Virginia president

By Kellie Woodhouse

Virginia President Re_Wood.jpg

Students and faculty members hold up signs during a Rally for Honor Sunday at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. on Sunday.

AP Photo

Fifteen days after giving her the boot, a University of Virginia governing board has unanimously voted to reinstate Teresa Sullivan as president.

Sullivan, who served as provost of University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus from 2006-2010, was ousted on June 10 by a contingent of Board of Visitors members, led by rector Helen Dragas.


University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan smiles during a Board of Visitors meeting at the rotunda at the school Tuesday, June 27,2012 in Charlottesville, Va.

AP Photo

In numerous statements, Dragas defended her ouster of Sullivan. In one statement, the rector listed ten reasons why U-Va. was falling behind under Sullivan’s leadership. She said the president wasn’t moving quickly enough on funding, staffing and curriculum issues.

But during a 3 p.m. Tuesday meeting Dragas said she was willing to move forward with Sullivan and supported a motion to reinstate her.

"Thank you for renewing your confidence in me," Sullivan said after being reinstated. "I do not ask that we sweep any differences under a rug, but rather that we engage one another in candor and respect."

After reinstating Sullivan, 14 of the board members voted in confidence of Dragas, who abstained from the vote.

Dragas and Sullivan met privately before Tuesday's vote.

“We have both come to the conclusion that it is time to bring the U-Va. family back together,” Dragas said during the public meeting. “We have always respected each other on a personal level and we still do.”

Since Sullivan's forced resignation over two weeks ago 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.

At the time, U-M Board of Regents Chair Denise Ilitch, who worked with Sullivan during her time as U-M provost, said Sullivan's removal "was very disappointing" and a "loss" for U-Va.

Former board of visitors rector and current member Heywood Fralin proposed the resolution to reinstate Sullivan. He called the process used to remove her "flawed," apologized for not intervening sooner and said he was never presented with evidence that convinced him Sullivan was performing poorly.

After her reinstatement, Sullivan urged for an open dialogue with the board moving forward.

"I need to have your support," she said. "I need for you to reach out to your networks within the commonwealth and around the world to help us move forward."

During remarks on the U-Va lawn after the meeting, Sullivan warned peer institutions not to exploit unease caused by recent events and try to woo faculty from Charlottesville.

“Stay here and help us make it even better," she asked faculty.

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


Ryan Munson

Wed, Jun 27, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Glad to hear Dr. Sullivan is back in her rightful position! If you have ever met her, she is an amazingly talented person and deserves to continue leading the University of Virginia!


Tue, Jun 26, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

Good for Dr. Sullivan - but the word has already spread from campus to campus. They're going to find it really hard to recruit faculty with a nut heading up the board.

say it plain

Wed, Jun 27, 2012 : 1:51 a.m.

The 'nuts' in this land of ivory-tower ego-contests surely can be gathered on the grounds of many campuses lol... And recruiting faculty who'd care about the make-up of the boards may be a thing of the past on some campuses too, for some kinds of programs...


Tue, Jun 26, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

@sparty: the board of visitors is appointed by the Govenor. Half the current membership appointed by previous (D), the rest by current (R). Predictably, tagging "big donors" as the evil influence is wrong on your part. Ironically, it was the threats by "big donors" to stop contributing, coupled with upsetting the insulated academia and student minions that led to the reconsideration.


Sun, Jul 1, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Blue, if the "target" Sparty's comment hit was the broadside of a barn packed with social-political agenda and interest in maintaining the status quo, yep - Sparty hit it. I awaited the WP summary article of events concerning U-VA. It is out today. Again from my first posting - good motives, bad implementation. If you are still following this thread, highly recommend the link:


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

sparty actually hit the target. I'm a UVa alum and been following very closely. It really does appear that some significant donors were behind the "coup"--but the awkward implementation caused other donors and the masses to win out in the end. The student who was quoted said what she did after a private conversation with Dragas the day after the resignation. Dragas no doubt made it seem that everyone would support this. Later comments by the student were not so certain as this one.


Wed, Jun 27, 2012 : 10:47 p.m.

Yes Sparty, very well published. Therefore, You neglected to mention: 1. "U-VA donors threaten to withhold funds over ouster of President" Washington Post 6/17. Seems a Hunter Smith, tied as the largest donor to U-Va at a combined $170 million threatened to withhold funds. Tied as largest, how about we call her "biggest". 2. The Vice Rector you cite (Kington) was also a donor, at about one percent of the above total. That is a fair chunk of dinero, seems it came tied with an interesting string: establishment of a professorship for Environmental Change. 3. The "Big Donor" you cite that resigned from the "donor foundation"? Full disclosure: was a member of the Foundation set up for the MBA program only, not the full school. 4. So, the "troika" you cite consisted of the Rector, a "big donor" (realitively speaking) Environmental Change Activist, and a MBA graduate - hardly the picture you wished to portray Sparty. Oh, you can add one more to the troika, I'll quote her: the board's decision to fire Sullivan "will prove in time to have been a wise one" said Hillary Hurd, The Student Representative to the Board of Visitors (non-voting) in the U-VA student newspaper.


Wed, Jun 27, 2012 : 4:27 a.m.

"The big donor", on the Donor Foundation, resigned when his role with the Rector and Vice Rector became known. The Vice Rector has also resigned, leaving only Rector Dragas as the last of the troika that arranged the firing. I am not wrong- check the facts closer, the details are well published.


Tue, Jun 26, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

Good motives, bad implementation. "Highlights" from the linked article: UVA tuition and the administrative share of education and general expenditures have jumped over a third over a six year period. UVA is capped by a state mandate on the number of non-resident cash cow students they can accept. In 2010-2011 UVA had 71 programs at the undergrad and graduate levels that graduated fewer than 10 students. Nationally, student loan debt exceeds credit card debt. In a study of research universities, professors taught 2.9 classes per term in 1988. By 2004, this had fallen to 1.8, simply returning to the older class load levels would allow a school to enroll more students - both residents and cash cows. But ivory tower folks don't want to hear the footsteps coming up the path - in the graveyard they are whistling past...


Tue, Jun 26, 2012 : 9 p.m.

Hopefully the board will be replaced by whatever their process is over time as they are clearly bought and paid for by their big donors as opposed to those with academic expertise. This Rector, Dragas, should have been shown the door instead of getting a vote of confidence for causing the University to become a national joke.


Tue, Jun 26, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

Terrific news! Congrats, Teresa and UVA!