CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — All eyes are on the University of Virginia following the turmoil this summer over her attempted ouster, President Teresa Sullivan said Tuesday.
The added scrutiny will give the university founded by Thomas Jefferson the chance to shine, Sullivan told reporters at Carrs Hill, her home on the university grounds, in her first press conference since the campus was thrown into chaos for two weeks in June over the attempted coup.
"A lot of people are paying attention to U.Va. now because of what happened here this past summer," Sullivan said. "This means that we have the opportunity to model for the rest of the country, not just how a university survives, but how it can even thrive facing the challenges that I just mentioned. Our progress over the next few years will be a bellwether for all of public higher education in America, and it's a mistake not to think that everyone's watching."
U.Va. officials announced June 10 that Sullivan would step down in August, surprising the university community and triggering an outcry over the lack of explanation about her forced resignation. The announcement led to two weeks of protests, resignations and reneged donations until officials reinstated Sullivan on June 26.
Sullivan recounted a conversation she had with Gov. Bob McDonnell days before she was reinstated. She said the governor told her he found out about the move two days before she was asked to resign.
"He also stated his policy, which was that he appointed members of the board and then personnel decisions were up to them and he also asked me not to make any public pronouncements that would infringe on his prerogative to appoint members of the board," Sullivan said, according to The Daily Progress (bit.ly/O2jGuQ).
That same day, McDonnell sent a sternly-worded three-page letter to the university's governing board threatening to replace each member if the board failed to resolve the furor. McDonnell had stayed away from the controversy publically until that point.
The Board of Visitors' vice rector resigned in the midst of the commotion. Earlier this month, the school's chief operating officer and executive vice president, Michael Strine, resigned. Sullivan said in a statement at the time that his departure would allow her to conduct some internal restructuring.
On Tuesday, Sullivan said while those under her are officers of the board, "it's been quite clear as a contractual matter that the person reports to the president, and that will continue to be clear.
"I'll make it even more clear if it needs to be," she warned.
Sullivan said coming back was an easy sell because she felt she still had work to do and because of all the support she received from faculty, staff, students and alumni.
Asked whether that support made her feel bullet-proof, she replied "Nobody should ever feel bullet-proof, because no one is."
Information from: The Daily Progress, http://www.dailyprogress.com