UVA Still Simmering

The University of Virgnia’s PR office has introduced the man chosen to serve as its interim president, but the faculty seems determined to save Teresa Sullivan, and the Washington Post quotes sources who say Sullivan would stick around if Rector Helen Dragas resigns.

UVA’s Faculty Senate sent an e-mail yesterday, urging professors to attend a silent vigil at the Rotunda, and concluding: “It’s not over.”  After the vigil, the group’s president told us why.

“We are still seeking the reinstatement of President Sullivan, the resignation of Rector Dragas, and I think this really gives us a chance to re-examine the whole structure of the board of visitors, the method of selecting board members.  I think everything should be on the table now for examination and debate.”

But Geroge Cohen, a mild mannered professor of law, was not prepared for confrontation.

“We are trying to be as respectful and rational as possible.  We want to convey through our words and our actions our concern about the university.”

Sullivan herself sent an e-mail scolding those who had used abusive language or graffiti during an emotional week on campus.  “Civility is an important hallmark of our university,” she wrote.  Joe Szakos agrees but says the professors will have to step up their game if they want to win.  He has spent 33 years fighting for underdogs, from the slums of Chicago to the coalfields of Kentucky, and is now executive director of Virginia Organizing.  He’s not speaking for the group – just offering a little friendly advice to the faculty.

“It’s obvious from the news accounts that this was as premeditated … talk about this nicely.”

Szakos says the faculty must be strategic and direct – working every possible channel to persuade the people empowered to reinstate Sullivan — the governor and the board of visitors.

“You really have to think, do we know anyone who knows them … what’s going to make them move?  You have a tremendous advantage, because there are UVA donors, UVA graduates, UVA students everywhere in the state.  There’s no way this is going to change unless it becomes personal.”
He’d even to talk with the governor’s kids, who are students at UVA, and in every conversation, he’d  lay it on the line.

“You can do that in many ways … and tell them you don’t like it.  I mean, it’s almost … just not right.  Now there are a lot of cases … really easy.  They did some really nasty things in the last couple of weeks, and you have to bring that to light.”

And there’s one other thing Szakos says the faculty must be prepared to do.  This could go on for some time, so they’ll have to be persistent.

— Sandy Hausman

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