"I could not have imagined the events of recent weeks when we moved here 22 months ago."
After two tumultuous weeks, UVA President Teresa Sullivan has been reinstated by unanimous vote of the Board of Visitors.
"Good things that have come out of all this," said embattled UVA Rector Helen Dragas. "Values of honor, integrity and trust have been truly tested."
Following motions to reinstate Sullivan by Board member Heywood Fralin and by Dragas, all 15 members of the Board voted in the affirmative.
With about 2,000 people gathered outside on the historic Lawn and following the proceedings on a live feed, the crowd burst into a tumultuous roar, a joyful sound that could be heard inside the dignified oval chamber.
Speaking briefly to the Board, Sullivan expressed her hopes, and then she incited another roar as she came outdoors to address the gathered crowd.
"All of us seek only one thing: what is best for our university. We know now that we are joined by thousands of others who care passionately. I need to have your support, need you to reach out to your networks in the Commonwealth and around the world."
In his remarks prefacing his reinstatement resolution, Fralin conceded that all Board members possessed advance knowledge of the desire to remove the president. He says he regrets that he wasn't "clever enough" to know that he and just two other board members could have called a meeting to demand a full roll-call vote.
"I wish I'd been a little more clever," Fralin reiterates after the meeting, and he asserts that he had "no idea" whether Dragas really had the 12 votes that Board rules require to remove a president.
In response to another question, he did little to dispel the notion that there was frantic vote-jockeying, one-on-one conversations between Board members.
"I'm sure there were," says Fralin, but he adds that he went into the meeting knowing how only one vote would be cast: his own.
He said he had no idea whether Dragas would be reappointed, and he expressed a belief that the governor was not involved in "this process."
So how will Sullivan work with a board whose members would let something like this happen?
"We'll find a way," she tells a gaggle of media.
Moments earlier, she was standing on the marble steps of the Rotunda with the University Singers singing the Good Ol' Song.
Out on the Lawn watching it all play out was Jim Severt. A 1987 graduate of UVA Law, he gave up a few days from legal practice in Washington to watch the controversy– which had monied players from as far north as Greenwich, Connecticut– play out in Charlottesville.
"To paraphrase Paul Tudor Jones," said Severt, "now we really should be elated."
It just goes to show you how fantastic our community is," said Fourth Year student Ariel Majidi. "So strong."
Zainab Al-Sayegh, who plans to graduate from UVA in the fall, said the controversy had her worrying that the value of her degree was eroding.
"I am so relieved and so encouraged," said Al-Sayegh. "It actually now means more than I ever thought it would.
Also cheering the decision was a Second Year student named Kevin Zeithaml, whose father, the dean of the undergraduate commerce school, first accepted and then rejected an offer to step in as interim president.
"First off, I’m glad it's over," says Zeithaml. "It's been a long week—a long two weeks for everyone involved."
Zeithaml expressed pride in his father for offering to lead in such a charged atmosphere.
"I have never been more proud to be a student at the University," said Zeithaml. "Everyone involved, at the end of the day, did their jobs and did them well.
"And I think with the vote today, we’ve restored confidence in the University to some extent—or begun to, and I think the next few weeks, next few months, even the next few years are going to be building years for the University. I think it’s going to be a really interesting time to be a student here, to be a faculty member here. It’s going to be a really, really special time."
–with additional reporting by Hawes Spencer and Valerie Clemens
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