Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Friday informed the the University of Virginia’s governing board that he will ask for the entire board’s resignation Wednesday if members do not decide whether or not to reinstate ousted President Teresa Sullivan on Tuesday.
In his strongest statement yet on the issue, which has roiled the state’s flagship university since Ms. Sullivan’s forced resignation on June 10, Mr. McDonnell cited the board’s lack of transparency and failure of communication in the process but said he was also concerned with an overzealous — and at times vitriolic — response to Ms. Sullivan’s ouster.
“This should be viewed as a disagreement within the family, not a war,” he said. “Mr. Jefferson would have expected a higher level of discourse where people forcefully and civilly express their concerns.”
“The lack of an open and clear process of asking for the resignation of the first female President of U.Va., as well as the vitriolic comments directed at the first female rector of U.Va. , are equally deplorable,” he said, referring to Ms. Sullivan and Rector Helen Dragas, respectively. “I have learned of the defacement of property on Grounds, threats by some faculty or staff to not acknowledge the legitimacy of an interim President elected by a 12-1 vote of the Board, and a few faculty and staff urging others to quit. While emotions are expectedly high in such matters, these actions reflect poorly on the University and must end immediately.”
He asked for politicians, faculty, and students and members of the public to take a deep breath during what has been an emotional situation.
But he made clear that the Tuesday deadline was ironclad — both for the board and the larger university community.
“The time is now for finality and closure,” he said. “The Board has called a meeting for this Tuesday. Following that meeting, I call upon all in the UVA community, from the Board members, to administration, to faculty, staff, students and donors to address the presidential decision and its aftermath with a respectful and measured approach, rather than with the frenzy that has accompanied much of the last twelve days. The University must move forward.”
Carl P. Zeithami, the interim president appointed Tuesday who is also the dean of the university’s undergraduate business school, said earlier on Friday that he would suspend any actions related to the position of president pending the potential reinstatement of Ms. Sullivan.
Former Vice Rector Mark Kington resigned his position Tuesday, effective immediately. Mr. Kington, as well as Ms. Dragas, are said to be behind the ouster of Ms. Sullivan over differing views of the future of the university.
Ms. Dragas issued a lengthy statement Thursday evening defending the board’s action, saying it “did the right thing the wrong way.”