Strine resigns: COO out as Sullivan begins restructuring
Michael Strine, one of the two top deputies to University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan and the one widely viewed as less loyal to her than the other one, John Simon, has resigned his post as the University's chief operating officer.
"Michael recently determined that it would be in the best interest of the University that he step down and allow me to do some necessary internal restructuring," President Sullivan said in a prepared statement.
Strine appears to be leaving a base salary of $450,000 a year, according to the UVA News Office, which revealed the resignation shortly before 1pm on Tuesday, August 7. A former treasurer of Johns Hopkins University who succeeded Leonard Sandridge at UVA, Strine served for just over 13 months, according to UVA.
Emails released in the past month as news organizations probed the inner workings of the relationships among top officials showed that Strine was a frequent correspondent with Rector Helen Dragas, who, along with then Vice-Rector Mark Kington, engineered the temporary ouster of the president.
While Kington resigned in June amid the ensuing two-weeks-plus governance crisis, Dragas– despite repeated calls from faculty and alumni for her resignation– holds the reins of power as the chief of the University's governing board. In the weeks since her own leadership crisis began, Dragas won reappointment to the board and placed her own comments into official releases including UVA's July 17 announcement that it would partner with online class provider Coursera.
Strine's behavior first came under fire when he and Simon quickly issued a joint statement calling the Board's decision to oust the president "resolute and authoritative." Within days– and most notably at a packed meeting of the Faculty Senate– Simon began publicly questioning the Board, while Strine went silent.
It turns out Strine had been in close contact with the Rector, as emails recently released at the request of the Washington Post indicate.
"Happy New Year," Strine writes Dragas in January after she suggests they meet. "Hope you and the family had a great, warm and restful time in the islands." He then tells Dragas that he enjoyed "NYC (three shows, the de Kooning exhibit, Soho shopping and some good food) before the whirlwind back to Charlottesville and Atlanta roundtrip."
Later, he crafts a "white paper" that would rewrite the governance of the university to elevate the power of the provost, who would become an officer of the Board, while the Board takes charge of "succession." Strine sends a copy to Dragas for critique.
"Doubtful I’ll criticize," gushes Dragas. "Rarely any room for that in your work product. I thought your insights today were as impressive and valuable as ever."
The emails indicate that Strine would later plan a trip to Baltimore with Dragas and Kington to meet with Johns Hopkins Medicine Dean and UVA board member Edward D. Miller. Miller, who would step down from his Hopkins post on June 30, served a widely-hailed 15-year tenure and remains on the UVA Board.
"Please let me know when you have talked to Ed Miller," Dragas implores Strine on January 24. "I know you agree that you need to have that conversation before we arrive in Baltimore so that we know the appropriate boundaries of the conversation."
UVA spokesperson Carol Wood said she had no information on such a trip or discussion beyond the text of the emails.
The emails also show that Strine's wife, Sharon Rayner Strine, who was employed for $85,000 annually as UVA's "senior director for strategic marketing and research communications liaison," was put in charge of developing a "university branding initiative" and giving direct reports to Dragas.
"We received support along with some thoughtful insight that will assist us in helping the outliers see their fit and the benefit," Mrs. Strine tells Dragas as the two discuss an upcoming meeting.
"Where would you like to meet?" asks Dragas. "We can use the BOV office in the Rotunda or I can come to yours."
Spokesperson Wood says that Mrs. Strine resigned the same day as her husband. Wood says the couple will receive $847,308 in severance, an amount that includes $42,500 for Mrs. Strine.
–developing story; rewritten at 2:35pm and 3:46pm–
–original headline: "Strine resigns: Statement from Teresa Sullivan"
–story originally contained only Sullivan's statement (linked above)This story is a part of the President Sullivan retakes the reins special.