The changes the University of Virginia must make: Support for Board of Visitors

June 28, 2012 at 2:12 am 2 comments

Interesting op-ed in The Washington Postsupporting the Board of Visitors.  It’s useful to read and get a broader perspective on the debate on President Sullivan’s ouster.  The argument seems to be that Universities must change, and the trustees have the responsibility to force that change.  Forcing a resignation in closed meetings is not a good first step towards these changes.  We need imaginative problem-solving to figure a path from where we’re at today in US Universities.

Now, the Board of Visitors has now reversed itself and reinstated Sullivan.  Reportedly, Rector Dragas and President Sullivan met to resolve their differences.  I’d like to hear what decisions they arrived at (or, the decision was simply forced by higher authorities).  The tension between their perspectives is one felt throughout higher education, and it would be useful to others to hear a plan for moving forward.

Given the university’s failure to address urgent issues such as greater faculty teaching loads, new technologies, using buildings more effectively and eliminating unproductive or outdated courses, it’s no wonder that a board concerned with spiraling costs could not continue working with a president who approached business as usual, hoping for change later.

If institutions want to remain strong, their trustees must demand innovative and imaginative changes and be aware of the urgency of their task. If a university president is not moving in the same direction, then difficult decisions must be made and trustees are going to have to bear the inevitable pushback. This is not the first time that trustees have come under fire for trying to do their job: Last fall, trustees at the University of Texas and Texas A&M found themselves under attack when they started to examine faculty teaching loads and the balance of research and teaching.

via The changes the University of Virginia must make – The Washington Post.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jane prey  |  June 28, 2012 at 2:37 am

    i believe one of the positive outcomes of this mess is that the crisis in higher education has now been front page news.

    what saddens me is the finger pointing at the university administration/faculty/staff that they are not making smart moves while there is NO acceptance of the responsiblity by the state of the huge cuts in funding support. University administrators and faculty only have to be smarter with what they currently have, they also have to worry about having even less money every year. When does the state make the statement that they believe in higher education/their flagship institution and the state funding will no longer keep decreasing?

    the solution to the crisis needs real support from both sides. the sacrifices/pain must be equally felt on both sides.

    Reply
  • 2. nickfalkner  |  June 28, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Outside of the blogosphere, I am yet to see any media reporting on this very complex issue without the presence a strong bias to one side or another – the two basic approaches to this story are that either the President of UVa has been unfairly ousted by the board, or the board has removed an uncompromising obstacle to make visionary change a reality at UVa.

    Of course, this is because if an issue is to make front page news, it has to appeal to both demographies of the front page when, as always, the truth probably falls in the middle but is nowhere near controversial enough to be good news lead.

    The board have seriously weakened their decision by reinstating the President but, as Mark says, forced resignation behind closed doors was not a good first step anyway. It was never going to convey any form of moral authority and now that the Rector and the President have met to discuss their differences – and that a decision has been made – both sides end up looking bad.

    This is a very important set of decisions, arising from a confused and easy process, so I’ll be watching this story with interest – but not from the mainstream media.

    Reply

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