Friday, August 22, 2014

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Rector Dragas' Remarks to VPs and Deans

Remarks of Rector Helen Dragas
Meeting with Vice Presidents and Deans
June 10, 2012

 
Thank you all for assembling here today in person and by phone.  I apologize for disrupting your weekend and appreciate your willingness to engage with us today.
 
The Vice Rector and I have called this meeting because we wanted you, as leaders of the University, to be the first to hear some very important news.  Yesterday the Board and President Sullivan agreed that she shall step down as President of the University on August 15th.  We intend to name an interim president expeditiously, and to install him or her before the students arrive back on Grounds. 
 
We know this news is a great shock to the institution. We deeply appreciate all that Terry has given to the University over the last two years. We like and respect Terry, and she has done many things well. Her broad engagement with all parts of the University community was refreshing to students, faculty, and staff, parents, and alumni.  Her increased presence in Washington and abroad was commendable.  Her administration's work with you on the initiation of the internal budget model has been a significant step towards creating an important tool for change.
 
Nevertheless, the Board feels strongly and overwhelmingly that we need bold and proactive leadership on tackling the difficult issues that we face. The pace of change in higher education and in health care has accelerated greatly in the last two years.  We have calls internally for resolution of tough financial issues that require hard decisions on resource allocation. The compensation of our valued faculty and staff has continued to decline in real terms, and we acknowledge the tremendous task ahead of making star hires to fill the many spots that will be vacated over the next few years as our eminent faculty members retire in great numbers. These challenges are truly an existential threat to the greatness of UVA.
 
We see no bright lights on the financial horizon as we face limits on tuition increases, an environment of declining federal support, state support that will be flat at best, and pressures on health care payors.  This means that as an institution, we have to be able to prioritize and reallocate the resources we do have, and that our best avenue for increasing resources will be through passionate articulation of a vision and effective development efforts to support it. We also believe that higher education is on the brink of a transformation now that online delivery has been legitimized by some of the elite institutions.
 
We want UVA to remain in that top echelon of universities well into the 21st century and beyond. We want this to be a place that lives up to Mr. Jefferson’s founding vision of excellence. We want it to be a place that attracts the best and the brightest in scholarship, teaching, patient care, and community service.
 
To achieve these aspirations, the Board feels the need for a bold leader who can help develop, articulate, and implement a concrete and achievable strategic plan to re-elevate the University to its highest potential.  We need a leader with a great willingness to adapt the way we deliver our teaching, research, and patient care to the realities of the external environment.  We need a leader who is able to passionately convey a vision to our community, and effectively obtain gifts and buy-in towards our collective goals.
 
The Board believes this environment calls for a much faster pace of change in administrative structure, in governance, in financial resource development and in resource prioritization and allocation. We do not believe we can even maintain our current standard under a model of incremental, marginal change.  The world is simply moving too fast. 
   
We all have tremendous personal respect and affection for Terry, and appreciate the effort you have all put into making her presidency a success. We wanted it to work as well. That certainly would have been easier on all of us.
We will provide more details on the process and timing of the search for a new president in the coming weeks as those plans are further developed. In the meantime, we thank you for your continued loyalty to our UVA goals and values, which have endured for 193 years and which transcend any one individual.
 
The appropriate day of judgment on this decision will come at the time that a new president has been installed and given an opportunity to prove himself or herself as the leader the institution needs and deserves.
 
We deeply appreciate your intentional and united efforts to move us forward. 

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