Decision time: Zeithaml steps back, Cohen suggests reinstatement likely

Following a June 22 press conference called by Carl Zeithaml, the McIntire School of Commerce dean who was tapped by Rector Helen Dragas to be interim president after Teresa Sullivan's ouster, and who stepped down from the position just hours earlier, faculty senate chair George Cohen theorized that Sullivan would be reinstated following the Board of Visitors meeting scheduled for June 26. He said it would be unlikely that they would have called a meeting if they didn't have the votes to reinstate.

"We are optimistic that we will have the eight votes needed, and that the Board will do the right thing on Tuesday and reinstate President Sullivan," said Cohen, a UVA Law professor,.

Cohen would not speculate on what the senate would do should Sullivan not get her job back on Tuesday, but said they would be "strongly" behind the decision if she did return, and would be "ready to deal with the University's challenges."

As for Zeithaml, he said he had made his decision to step down after multiple conversations with friends and colleagues.

"I have a bias for action," said Zeithaml, "but in this case I realized I needed to step back. My role was premature, given the controversy."



Cohen praised Zeithaml, saying he had done a "wonderful job," and that they were in agreement on the majority of issues.

Zeithaml did not say which way he wanted the Board to vote on Tuesday, and said he would be happy to go back to teaching and deaning, or assuming the interim role as president, depending on which way the Board voted.

"There are many, many well-intentioned people here," he said, "and I thought it best to first step back and let the decision be made."

Asked if he thought Dragas and the BOV were well-intentioned when they decided to oust Sullivan with such little discussion, Zeithaml said he thought they were.

"Helen Dragas is not an evil person," he said, later describing a "great" conversation they recently had about making governance at UVA more inclusive. He also had high praise for Sullivan, and would welcome her reinstatement should the BOV vote that way.

As for the laundry list of problems with the University that Dragas outlined in her most recent statement, Zeithaml said he agreed there were serious problems that needed to be addressed quickly, but also pointed out that "UVA is UVA, and it's a great place."

Zeithaml bristled at the suggestion that the story here was about a battle between MBAs and PhDs for the soul of the University.

"We need everyone involved to solve our problems," he said.

Asked if he believed there had been a "mutual agreement" between Sullivan, Dragas, and the BOV for her to quietly step down, as Dragas claimed in her June 10 email announcing the decision, Zeithaml said that was something Dragas would have to address.

"I only wish the Board had consulted with Zeithaml before they did this," said Cohen, pointing out that he was a expert in strategic management. "But he made the right decision today. "

Zeithaml, who mentioned that he was leaving for Europe in several hours, later failed to respond to questions about who the large donors were who may have influenced the BOV, and why he had borrowed language from UVA medical dean Steven T. DeKosky in his communications to the public.


This story is a part of the The ousting of a president special.

16 comments

Why evade the question about PhDs and MBAs fighting? Yes, people with management skills are needed at a large organization, nobody is questioning that. Yet we are not seeing a common understanding between the managers and the academics at UVA, we are seeing MBAs with one set of goals and vision, and academics with another. The MBAs want to run UVA like a business, not a university.

What if I want some action from Bob MConnell or he resign?

Who cares? UVA = a bunch of arrogant snobs, as they have so ably demonstrated the last few days. I hope they choke on their crumpets.

@Woody: With all due respect, it's is time to stand down.

Not fair to say Zeithaml "borrowed" language from another dean. If you look at the original statements from all the deans (I saw them on the UVA Today page last week), they were working from a template. First and last paragraphs were different--the middle section in every email was the same.

I am of firm belief that Dean Zeithaml is a man of integrity--far, far more than I can say of other players in this Shakespearean drama.

On a more lighthearted note, though, see: http://wellitsafunnystory.wordpress.com/

McDonnell stated:

“When arriving at its decision to ask for the resignation of President Sullivan, the Board of Visitors made procedural mistakes…”

Dragas, et. al. made far, far more than “procedural mistakes”; rather, she and certain select members of her cohort made nothing less than gross and repeated errors in judgment. Their lack of strategic foresight was remarkable. (Note intentional use of the term “strategic”.) Are these the individuals whom we are led to believe are best equipped to lead Mr. Jefferson’s University through these troubled waters and into the future?

I think not, Mr. Governor.

For McDonnell to minimize Dragas’ actions is blatant disregard for the facts, and a thinly-veiled attempt at distortion of same.

We do not buy it, Mr. Govenor.

To add insult to injury (please do not insult us, Governor McDonnell), he goes on to say “ To the few faculty members, staff, and alumni who, in their anger over how this process unfolded, now foment division that only adds to the troubles, I ask you to please stop.”

Here again, the Governor would have readers believe that but a handful of scrappy, disgruntled faculty members, a few recalcitrant staff members, and a couple of ill-informed alumni are little more than troublesome rabble-rousers with intent only to create disquiet on an otherwise serene, bucolic campus.

I daresay, Mr. Governor, that the emails and calls with which you and other have been deluged are not from but a few members of the UVA community. Instead, Mr. Governor, I direct your attention to the 13,000 members of the Facebook site supporting President Sullivan’s reintstatement…the 5,5 00 emails delivered to you by concerned constituents (and voters we are...)…the letter of support for President Sullivan’s reinstatement by 10 of 11 deans at the University.

And that’s just a start.

Would these same individuals be the “few faculty members, staff and alumni who…now foment division”?

I think not, Mr. Governor, and am insulted that you might believe for a nanosecond that your attempts to minimize the groundswell of support expressed for President Sullivan might be successful.

While you may believe that your words are deemed credible by readers, they are not. To think otherwise, Mr. Governor, is a fool’s errand.

"We need everyone involved to solve our problems," he said.

They're called dumMBAss for a reason. Keep MBAs out of education.

Governor McDonnell does not get it.
The reasonable solution to the UVA debacle is
Dragas must go and Sullivan needs to be reinstated.
His political aspirations - as they were - are dead in the water as
far as I'm concerned.

Hawes, are you all sure about that last paragraph?

I appreciate CZ for having the integrity to realize he made a mistake and to align himself with faculty.I have a lot of respect for this principled behavior.

I have issue with the following comment though:

Zeithaml bristled at the suggestion that the story here was about a battle between MBAs and PhDs for the soul of the University. "We need everyone involved to solve our problems," he said.

I would say we need everyone involved on an equal playing field. For some reason our culture and our university culture has been drifting into the idolization of money and the priests of money. We have too many MBAS and they have too much cultural cache, esp. after the depression we are now in which our children will pay for.

@B - he did not "evade" the question about MBA vs. PhDs, he "bristled" at it, which to me implies that he believes that it is a stupid question and a stupid premise.

I agree that we need both to work together. The bottom-line is that the university (and Hospital) are businesses and their product is education (or health care). Like every other business over the past few years, revenues (state funding, tuition, etc.) have been going down and costs have been going up. The solution requires tough decisions that will require making the university more efficient, and experienced business minded folks need to work together with their academic counterparts to figure out the optimal solution. And it needs to happen sooner rather than later, hence the urgency in all of these actions. I don't think anyone can say whether Sullivan is the best person to lead the change or not. Clearly the board thought not.

If the governor thinks he can brush aside the outrage of the "few" who were angered by the process by which President Sullivan was forced to resign he is mistaken, and for him tio say that those of us who voice our outrage are fomenting division is an insulting and cynical distortion of the truth of the matter.

Perhaps the governor has not yet heard from enough concerned citizens? Perhaps more of us should call his office and send him a letter to record our objection so that he can more accurately tabulate and understand the will of the people he is paid to serve.

Let us all send him an email right now.

here is a note i just sent to the governor using the email form on his web page found here:

http://www.governor.virginia.gov/CommunityRelations/

Dear Governor McDonnell,

I write to you to express and record my outrage at the treatment of President Sullivan of the University of Virginia by Helen Dragas and other members of the Board of Visitors. I hold two degrees from the university and have lived most of my life in Albemarle County. I find the behavior of Rector Dragas and her associates on the Board of Visitors responsible for the forced resignation of President Sullivan inexcusable, even if there had been some legitimate reason for seeking her resignation. The behavior of Ms. Dragas, both in public and behind closed doors has greatly insulted the university community and diminished the reputation of our institution.

The faculty has made clear its support for the President and its lack of confidence in the Board of Visitors as it is now constituted.

I join the many thousands who are asking for the immediate removal of Ms. Dragas and her close associates on the board responsible for the unfortunate events that have done such damage to our university, as is now being widely reported in the national press, including even in Time magazine.

Furthermore, I ask you to insist on greater transparency in the proceedings of the Board of Visitors meetings where the disposition of public money and resources is discussed and directed.

Finally, I must ask you, as I have already asked Senator Deeds, to review and improve the process by which members of the Board of Visitors are selected so that we do not have a repetition of this unfortunate and painfully embarrassing episode of inappropriate behavior by high public officials.

It seems to me that this most damaging and regrettable chapter in the history of the university could have been avoided if you and Governor Kaine had chosen the members of the Board of Visitors with greater wisdom.

Speaking for myself, I would rather see a Board of Visitors largely composed of distinguished educators rather than regional real estate developers. In any case, in the future there should at all times be a member of the faculty, perhaps the leader of the faculty senate, as a voting member of the Board of Visitors.

In closing, I ask you, again, to act without delay in removing Ms. Dragas from the Board of Visitors along with those other members who forced President Sullivan to resign under duress.

Dr. James Bartholomay Kiracofe

here is a note i just sent to the governor using the email form on his web page found here:

http://www.governor.virginia.gov/CommunityRelations/

Dear Governor McDonnell,

I write to you to express and record my outrage at the treatment of President Sullivan of the University of Virginia by Helen Dragas and other members of the Board of Visitors. I hold two degrees from the university and have lived most of my life in Albemarle County. I find the behavior of Rector Dragas and her associates on the Board of Visitors responsible for the forced resignation of President Sullivan inexcusable, even if there had been some legitimate reason for seeking her resignation. The behavior of Ms. Dragas, both in public and behind closed doors has greatly insulted the university community and diminished the reputation of our institution.

The faculty has made clear its support for the President and its lack of confidence in the Board of Visitors as it is now constituted.

I join the many thousands who are asking for the immediate removal of Ms. Dragas and her close associates on the board responsible for the unfortunate events that have done such damage to our university, as is now being widely reported in the national press, including even in Time magazine.

Furthermore, I ask you to insist on greater transparency in the proceedings of the Board of Visitors meetings where the disposition of public money and resources is discussed and directed.

Finally, I must ask you, as I have already asked Senator Deeds, to review and improve the process by which members of the Board of Visitors are selected so that we do not have a repetition of this unfortunate and painfully embarrassing episode of inappropriate behavior by high public officials.

It seems to me that this most damaging and regrettable chapter in the history of the university could have been avoided if you and Governor Kaine had chosen the members of the Board of Visitors with greater wisdom.

Speaking for myself, I would rather see a Board of Visitors largely composed of distinguished educators rather than regional real estate developers. In any case, in the future there should at all times be a member of the faculty, perhaps the leader of the faculty senate, as a voting member of the Board of Visitors.

In closing, I ask you, again, to act without delay in removing Ms. Dragas from the Board of Visitors along with those other members who forced President Sullivan to resign under duress.

Dr. James Bartholomay Kiracofe