Resignations begin: Esteemed computer science prof pulls plug
Professor William Wulf began his career at UVA in the early 1960s as the first Ph.D. student in the school's then nascent computer science department. On Tuesday, June 19, he ended his UVA career as the first– but, he hopes, not last– faculty member to resign in the wake of what he calls " the worst example of corporate governance I have ever seen."
In his resignation letter, emailed to soon-to-be-installed interim president Carl Zeithaml, currently the dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, and copied to the entire faculty, Wulf, who served as CEO of a tech start-up and has served on boards of several for-profit and non-profit corporations and was president of the National Academy of Engineering for 11 years, minces no words in condemning the conduct of UVA's board of visitors, helmed by Rector Helen Dragas.
"A BOV that so poorly understands UVA, and academic culture more generally, is going to make a lot more dumb decisions, so the University is headed for disaster," writes Wulf, who holds the highest ranking title UVA offers, University Professor, and who urges fellow faculty to follow his lead.
"The BOV," he writes, "needs to understand that there are real and immediate consequences to their actions."
There are real and immediate consequences to Wulf's action as well. Although he had cut back to half-time several years ago, he says he has continued to earn a six-figure salary from UVA– something he's willingly giving up in protest of the harm he believes has been done by the Board's secretive and poorly explained dismissal of Teresa Sullivan.
In his office at his Free Union-area home, the phone is ringing off the hook with well-wishers, reporters, and family members. Between taking calls, Wulf explains that his decision was made after thoughtful consideration.
"I considered two alternatives," he says. "One was resigning; one was going on strike." While the latter would have preserved his paycheck, Wulf says, the answer became clear.
"Going on strike," he says, "is not enough of a statement."
It's not that he wanted to leave the University either.
"I'd planned to do this 'til I dropped," he says with a smile.
Wulf says he has no plans to teach elsewhere, and says he will miss teaching the class this fall that he designed, a cross-disciplinary course on the intersection between technology and public policy.
There is, he says, one way he'd reconsider staying on.
"Every member of the Board of Visitors would have to resign, and they'd have to change the way visitors are appointed," he says, hours before Vice Rector Mark Kington announced his resignation, describing his feelings as "a mixture of sadness and anger."
"They're so out of touch with UVA," he says of the board, "and their actions show it."This story is a part of the The ousting of a president special.