June 17, 2012 — The University of Virginia Faculty Senate, meeting in emergency session this afternoon, overwhelmingly ratified a resolution approved by its Executive Council last week, expressing opposition to the removal on June 10 of President Teresa A. Sullivan by the Board of Visitors.
Senators also heard from John Simon, executive vice president and provost, who said he felt, as chief academic officer, that he needed to address the meeting. Simon said he had welcomed the opportunity to join U.Va. at a time "when higher education is needed more than ever to provide the ideas and people to guide our nation and world into the future." He said he is no longer sure what U.Va.'s political leadership values.
"I now find myself at a defining moment, confronting and questioning whether honor, integrity and trust are truly the foundational pillars of life at the University of Virginia," he said. He went on, "I am now wondering whether my own beliefs about the values of higher education are consistent with our board.
"The board actions over the next few days will inform as to whether the University of Virginia remains the type of institution I am willing to dedicate my efforts to help lead," he concluded to a standing ovation.
The 53 senators present, out of a body of 87, voted 50-0 to approve the resolution. In addition, out of 21 proxy votes cast, 18 were in favor of the resolution. The vote was greeted with another standing ovation from the some 500 in attendance in Abbott Auditorium at the Darden School of Business. Another 300 viewed from overflow rooms.
The Executive Council is to meet Monday morning at 9 with representatives of the Board of Visitors in regard to the board's decision to request Sullivan's resignation less than two years into her five-year term. Sullivan and the board cited "philosophical differences."
The board is to meet at 3 p.m. Monday in executive session to consider candidates to serve as interim president. Sullivan had asked to address the board.
Faculty members plan a silent gathering on the Lawn starting at 2:30 p.m. and lasting for the duration of the board's meeting.
Before the ratification vote, senators heard from Chair George Cohen of the Law School; Past-Chair Gweneth West of the College of Arts & Sciences; and Dr. Christopher Holstege of the School of Medicine, incoming chair. West emotionally recalled the request by former Rector John O. Wynne for the Faculty Senate's input in the presidential search that led to Sullivan's appointment and how faculty participated in the search committee.
Cohen characterized the board's actions and subsequent explanations "insufficient and incomplete." Because of tenure, he said, faculty members have a special ability to speak out. Holstege noted that, until the Executive Council approved its resolution, the Faculty Senate had had no direct communication from the BOV.
Alf Weaver, an engineering professor and member of the Executive Council, said, "Teresa Sullivan has been the ultimate friend of faculty members. She has supported transparency and openness and faculty empowerment. The BOV has done the opposite." He characterized the board's action as "egregious." "It must be overturned," he said.