New U.Va. head delays transition until Sullivan's fate settled

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Photo - Members of the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Executive Council stand on the steps of the Rotunda, where hundreds gathered for a silent vigil in support of the reinstatement of ousted university President Teresa Sullivan Wednesday, June 20, 2012, in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Sabrina Schaeffer)
Members of the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Executive Council stand on the steps of the Rotunda, where hundreds gathered for a silent vigil in support of the reinstatement of ousted university President Teresa Sullivan Wednesday, June 20, 2012, in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Sabrina Schaeffer)
Local,Steve Contorno

With the University of Virginia's governing board set to reconsider its ouster of President Teresa Sullivan, the dean appointed to temporarily replace her said Friday that he's suspending work on that transition until Sullivan's situation is resolved.

The university's Board of Visitors will meet Tuesday to consider reinstating Sullivan as president. Interim president Carl Zeithaml, who didn't support Sullivan's ouster, said he would put off any negotiations about taking over until after that meeting.

"There is an enormous groundswell of support for Terry Sullivan's reinstatement as our president, and I understand that the board will meet next week to consider this possibility," Zeithaml said in a statement released Friday. "As a result, I am suspending any further negotiations with the board regarding my status as interim president, as well as any activities associated with this role."

Zeithaml, dean of the university's business school, was named interim president after the board of visitors squashed a previous attempt to reinstate Sullivan. The board's abrupt dismissal of Sullivan sparked protests from faculty, students and staff at the state's flagship university and led to the resignation of the school's vice rector, Mark Kington.

Zeithaml admonished the board earlier for the secretive manner in which it planned Sullivan's ouster. Still, many on campus saw Zeithaml as all too eager to take over, despite his assertion that he had no intention of replacing Sullivan permanently.

Sullivan defended Zeithaml in a statement Thursday, asking her backers not to drag him into what has become a messy, public dispute that has threatened to tarnish U.Va.'s reputation.

"Carl Zeithaml has been an exemplary member of the university community, and he and his family in no way deserve abusive language," Sullivan said in her only public comments.

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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