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When the news of UVA President Teresa Sullivan's ouster hit (I learned of it via a June 10 e-mail from Helen Dragas, UVA Rector - my son is a 2012 graduate so I am a member of the UVA community, I suppose) I did not think it was much more than an internal UVA matter certainly not worthy of a diary here. However, as I have learned more about Helen Dragas I do think the ouster of Teresa Sullivan should be of interest here, a community concerned with electing more (and better democrats).

A commenter asked, in response to this article by UVA professor Siva Vaidhyanathan,

(http://www.slate.com/...)  why, if Sullivan had done nothing wrong or saw herself as the right leader for the university, did she tender her resignation without a fight?  I thought, well, because that is the University of Virginia way.  When the head of the Board of Visitors tells you that she has enough votes to force you to resign, you assume she is acting and has acted with honor and integrity.  You respond with honor and integrity by tendering your resignation.  They take honor and integrity very seriously at Mr Jefferson's university.
Now, enough has been written in the press to tell us that Helen Dragas acted with anything but honor and integrity in engineering the coup that ousted Sullivan.

So, who is Helen Dragas?  I am a good Virginia Democrat but elections come, elections go, I help, I vote but I am not too much about the "inside baseball" stuff.  Basically, until I went to my son's graduation in May the name "Helen Dragas" would not have meant much to me.  Now I know much more about her.

She was appointed to the Board of Visitors by Tim Kaine in 2008.  Ms Dragas is a wealthy, condo developer from Virginia Beach.  She describes herself as fiscally conservative.  Her resume, her associations, even her campaign donations scream "Blue Dog!!!"  Yet, she is viewed as an up and comer in politics - possibly Virginia's first female governor, according to former Virginia Democratic Chairman Paul Goldman writing in Blue Virginia on June 17. Goldman saw her as a possible Lt Governor candidate next year - the first step to the Governor's office. This article speculated on what damage Dragas had done to her political future. Today in a "man have I got a crush on Helen Dragas" piece in Blue Virginia Goldman goes on and on in praise of her political skills, I get the impression he thinks she worked the room and came out ahead - so onward to Richmond!  Unfortunately, he may be right.  

So, fellow Virginians we now know all too well who Helen Dragas is, how she operates (without honor and integrity), whose bidding she does (wealthy hedge fund billionaires like Paul Tudor Jones) - we have been warned.  Say no to putting a blue dog Democrat in the State House.  We can do better, can't we?
 

11:26 AM PT: I will try to summarize some of the details surrounding this whole debacle ( but the bottom line is this:  President Sullivan wanted UVA to be, well, a university; Dragas and her fellow schemers want it to be a business.  (Aside:  if I wanted my son to attend a college that was run like a business, was in fact a business, I'd have told him to enroll at University of Phoenix or some other for-profit "college.")

On June 10th an e-mail was sent from Dragas to the UVA community announcing that "by mutual agreement" Teresa Sullivan was resigning her post as president.  Initial news reports stated that the resignation was the result of unanimous board action.  Turns out this was not true.  Dragas had polled, informally, members of the Board of Visitors, concluded that she could get enough votes to force Sullivan out - no formal vote was ever taken.  There was a meeting of the Executive Committee convened to accept Sullivan's resignation but Dragas engineered it so that 3 of Sullivan's supporters were unable to attend.  The secretive and sneaky nature of the ouster of Sullivan was revealed in a leaked e-mail from hedge fund, former Goldman Sachs guy, Peter Kiernan, Chairman of the Darden School Foundation (Darden is UVA's business school) - he said that yes he was involved and that Dragas had asked that their efforts to oust Sullivan be kept under wraps.  Kiernan has been forced out of his Darden position.  Since this all came out the UVA campus has been in an uproar.  The Faculty Senate has taken a vote stating "no-confidence" in the BOV and called for Dragas' and Vice-Rector Kington's resignation.  The BOV met yesterday and into this morning.  Sullivan spoke and gave an excellent presentation of her vision for the University.  Dragas (who has hired PR firm Hill & Knowlton) gave an unimpressive, lots of words that said nothing.  The BOV has appointed the Dean of the MacIntire School of Commerce as interim President - so guess that they are winning in their quest to turn UVA into another branch of ITT Tech or University of Phoenix!

11:47 AM PT: Funny thing....as I was typing the update above I got a call from Va Victory 2012 and when I was on that call a call from Kaine for VA came through.  From what I gathered chatting with the woman from VA Victory and Kaine HQ they've been getting many calls and, in fact, at Kaine HQ they are apparently meeting now to come up with a statement.  I told them that I was mightily pissed off about this fiasco and hoped that Gov Kaine would do the right thing or he might face a bit of an enthusiasm gap from people whose votes he dearly needs.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks for covering this story (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PinHole, jbob, Noor B, dewley notid

    seems creepy as hell.

    more details would be good.

    funny (not really) to see Tim Kaine involved. What a guy.

    An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

    by mightymouse on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 10:20:59 AM PDT

  •  What a debacle (10+ / 0-)

    I'm a student at William & Mary but I have a lot of friends who go to UVA and I'm worried about the implications of what's happening for the rest of Virginia.

    This whole situation shows just how much is wrong with having the governing board at every public university in the state stocked with wealthy corporate donors and cutting state funding to a point where universities are beholden to donors. From what I've read, the Board is also trying to shift UVA to a much more corporate based model which means eliminating entire "unprofitable" departments in the humanities and more online classes. This corporate mindset is a huge threat to higher education in Virginia and the rest of the country.

  •  I'm shocked, shocked that the 1% control UVA (5+ / 0-)

    Along with Dragas, who made her money bribing, er, contributing to city council members to control land use and zoning, former Goldman Sachs and hedge fund manager Peter Kiernan was behind this as well. By the time they are done, a UVA diploma won't be something you'd use even to wipe your ass.

    Whether its watching Mr. Jefferson's university sold off to the highest bidder, millions in tax give-aways to the Washington Reskins (an entity worth over $1B), or seeing the state's roads sold off to McDonnell's Repub friends so that they can earn a ridiculous 13.5% or more ROI, VA is no longer for lovers, it's for the 1%.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 10:40:04 AM PDT

  •  Heres some inside baseball (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noor B, dewley notid, Susipsych

    This Slate Article was written by a UVA professor:

    Teresa Sullivan fired from UVA: What happens When Universities Are Run By Robber Barons

    And another chock filled with scoop article:

    "Important Alum: Donor Jones had role in Sullivan ouster

    Teaser - is is possible to read ANY article about anything that doesn't somehow end up having Goldman Sachs tentacles?

    Aside from the issues raised in the 2 articles, what seems to be a major issue for many is HOW this was accomplished - no Board meeting was ever held. The Rector, Helen Dragas merely lobbied people for months behind the scenes and then told the President she had the votes to oust her. The Board has just given hodgepodge mishmash explanations for the actions all couched in nothing of substance gobbledygook.

    I really think that Sullivan should have pressed for an actual Board meeting and let them fire her to her face but perhaps other considerations prevented her from doing that. Both she and her husband are UVA professors and perhaps she feared payback unless she just quietly accepted her walking papers - all conjecture on my part.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 11:00:58 AM PDT

  •  Virginia will see to compete with Harvard... (0+ / 0-)

    ...by becoming the University of Phoenix!  I suppose there's some logic to this, if you're an idiot.  

    On the bright or at least ironic side, it's one of the rare authoritarian projects that begins by cutting German.

    Romney '12: Bully for America!

    by Rich in PA on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 11:06:33 AM PDT

  •  Seek, that is. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewley notid

    I'm the product of the UVa education of the (near) future!

    Romney '12: Bully for America!

    by Rich in PA on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 11:06:57 AM PDT

  •  There is a lot to this story (7+ / 0-)

    and it should trouble all of us.

    I am UT-Austin alum.  Teresa Sullivan was the dean of the grad school while I was there.  She is one hell of an administrator, and she deserves far better than she got at U-VA.

    Here's the deal:  Sullivan came in with a reputation for supporting intellectual inquiry and academic rigor.  She was not willing to put traditional liberal arts on the chopping block, as a certain faction wanted.

    This entire story boils down to this:  what is the purpose of education?  Is it to learn vocational skills?  Or is it to train the mind to think carefully, reflect deeply, and question the status quo?  Higher ed in particular has faced this question for a long time:  members of the SDS protested being turned into cogs for the business machine back in the 1960s.  This process has accelerated greatly over the last 20 years, and the last ten in particular.

    From what I have seen over the years of Dr. Sullivan, she is one who believes that the liberal arts education still has relevance in an increasingly technology-driven economy.  I don't think she's one to dismiss the needs of the emerging technologies for people capable of working in those industries, but I also believe she understands that such technical sophistication also requires thoughtful reflection and the wisdom to contemplate the questions raised by our exponentially increasing technological prowess.

    It may be unfair of me to judge from this distance the motivations of the rector and her allies.  That said, what I see troubles me deeply.  I don't wonder what her philosophy of education is -- it is spelled out very clearly in her actions against Dr. Sullivan.  And I for one do not believe the rector and her allies have served the faculty, students and alumni of U-VA well at all.  If I were affiliated with that university, I would be protesting that it is the rector and her cronies who should resign, immediately, and Dr. Sullivan reinstated.

    "Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, v3, n18 (-8.50, -7.23)

    by Noor B on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 11:18:15 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noor B, mightymouse

    I was gonna write one myself. I actually signed up for the site over a week ago when I first got that obnoxious email right after leaving church no less. I was at the rally last night. I think Dragas did some very evil strategic planning as this is just 2 weeks before her renewal is up and also after the undergrads left grounds. Le sigh. I'm gonna write letters to the general assembly after I get done with my experiments for the day.  

  •  Zombie capitalists eye Mr. Jefferson's (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewley notid, Noor B

    university. My son showed me this song just today. It seems very appropriate.

    My husband's a Wahoo. I told him about this diary, but he'd already seen the Slate article. Something similar happened at the small Virginia college I graduated  from. At least that's my impression from afar. We're both shaking our heads over this.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 01:45:54 PM PDT

  •  UVa (0+ / 0-)

    Before everyone condemns Dragas, they should read the email she sent out today describing in detail why the president was let go. Some of her 10 points are valid and, as a UVa alum, I am concerned about the fundamental changes coming to higher education and UVa's ability to address these issues. As someone who works in the publishing industry and has seen massive dislocations there, I agree with Dragas that the University needs a leader willing to act boldly.

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