I think that went well

Teresa Sullivan reinstated unanimously by the University of Virginia governing board.

Looks like her political capital is pretty high!  This is something that always leaves me filled with mirth:  the incompetence of the evil when they try to oust the decent and the responsible.  They do it poorly, at a truly amazing rate.  They’re so stupid they can’t even find stupid with two hands and a looking glass.  I’d say the governing board has pie on its faces, but that seems to underestimate the amount of damage they’ve done to themselves, unless it is a pile filled with horse crap-covered M-80s and frosted with napalm.



22 thoughts on “I think that went well

  1. Comrade’s second comment is precisely correct: in another venue, Dragas apologized “for the way this [situation] was presented.”

    In other words, it was a communication problem. Sure. And monkeys might fly out of my butt.


  2. Very good news. I’m assuming Dragas will be out (not-reappointed) soon enough, without Sullivan needing to do anything (her term as Rector is almost up anyway). I was sort of hoping the Board would remove her as Rector today (I think they could have done that), but that would have been out of keeping with the conciliatory tone of the day.

    Next question: will the governor begin appointing a more diverse board? Additional gender and racial/ethnic diversity would be nice, but right now I’m thinking more of somebody who isn’t a lawyer and/or businessperson. If nothing else, this episode showed that boards need people with a variety of experience and expertise (e.g. someone who can explain the difference between a MOOC and a tuition-charging/credit-earning online class, the differing reasons a university would create courses in each format, and why one can’t easily be transformed into the other).


  3. Reading this news filled me with glee. CPP and Notorious were right on the money: Dragas is not penitent for her poor judgment and general incompetence, but merely frustrated that her poor judgement and general incompetence (as well as Kington’s) ended up ruining their stupid-a$$ power play.

    I’m especially fond of the tidbit that even the interim president that Dragas and Kington appointed openly criticized Sullivan’s ouster and refused to act on the appointment until everything was sorted out.

    Side note: why are we all writing the rated-R words with $$ and so forth?


  4. You don’t have to, Koshary. CPP has a pottymouth (or pottyfingers? Eeeww.) I just don’t do it here because 1) I’m not really pseudonymous, and 2) I don’t want my blog blocked for content reasons. That’s why, in general, I don’t work blue, at least not on-blog.

    In person, I swear like a longshoreman.


  5. It a good reversal and rewarding to the UV people who fought hard for it. Sadly, what evil lacks in smarts it compensates with meanness, money and political power. Next time evil may succeed. It’s one university, in one place, with special conditions. Don’t bet against the next coup yet.


  6. It’s not even that “*next* time evil may succeed.” Now having saved the president–who I hear said today we really really do have to change–the “process” may kick back in, with most of the transformations envisioned by the BOG forthcoming quietly. This time, then, evil may have succeeded “incrementally,” with of course, “buy in,” a business-speak perversion of “shared governance” (itself an idiotic term) if there ever was one.


  7. Wonder whether anything can be done about public unis that receive next to zero cash from the state yet get bossed around by politicians and the hacks who fund them. Can Sullivan take the place private? or does all the Mister Jefferson rhetoric there convince Virginians that this university has to be part of the government?


  8. At last, one in the eye for the advocates of the rich-people-know-what’s-good-for-you-so-shut-up-bend-over-and-take-it project that has done so much damage, and will no doubt do more. Happy thoughts.


  9. I am, surprisingly, with koshembos on this one. While I am pleased to see the board put in its place (temporarily, I bet), my impression is that Sullivan is more with them than she is with me. It’s just a matter of how quickly you want them to push in the knife.

    I hope that this challenge and moment of collective action radicalizes the faculty in some useful way but I’ll not hold my breath. Tenured faculties are, I think, more conservative than we flatter ourselves to be.


  10. I think truffula and koshem bos are right to be somewhat cynical: after all, getting your old University president back is hardly a revolutionary manifesto. However, I think it’s a good thing when competence and due process win out over incompetence and skullduggery fueled by half-baked commentaries by David Brooks and Thomas Friedman.

    I’m with LadyProf about the so-called “public” unis (like mine) that aren’t actually supported with public monies any longer. I would love it if our university leadership would demand liberty from the state ledge since they’re not paying our bills–our students are.


  11. Next time evil may succeed. It’s one university, in one place, with special conditions. Don’t bet against the next coup yet.

    Mitch Daniels has been appointed next president of Purdue University by a governing board whose members he appointed when he was governer of Indiana. Daniels does not have a PhD.


  12. Sounds like an appointment worthy of my state! I love it how these guys spend their careers attacking public education and taxation, and then when they’ve gone as far as they’ll go politically, they end up “leading” research universities.

    Do you ever get the impression that universities themselves suffer from Stockholm Syndrome after thirty years of trying to run a so-called “public” “taxpayer supported” institution in our neoliberal reality? Boy, I sure do.

    I will say this: Bruce Benson is corrupt in his insistence on doling out the goodies disproportionately to high-level administrators, but I think he actually gets it now that universities do important work, and that that work requires money.


  13. so-called “public” unis (like mine) that aren’t actually supported with public monies any longer

    Be careful about this. The next argument down the road is that with the state putting in so few resources, it should have similarly little to say about policies and procedures, meaning that governance should shift from a state-level board to a campus-level board. In my observation, moves away from relatively collective models toward relatively corporate models never go well for the little guy . I may not be that excited about political hacks but I am even less excited about corporate hacks.


  14. CPP, I’m a Purdue alum. Don’t make me cry any more than I already have over that horrific appointment. (And, no, they’re not get a single cent of my money in alumni donations now.)

    I wish Sullivan good luck with her renewed mandate but I doubt the BoV has learned any lesson. It will be interesting to see how this comes out with the next round of appointments from the governor, don’t you think?


  15. LadyProf and Historiann-

    I’m a bit shocked that so many people think privatizing public universities (a road UVA has been on for a while and will continue to be) is a process to be welcomed, wished for, or accepted. It means higher tuition, less access, and more surrender of space to corporate management and measuring everything by the logic of the market, and it does not make the university more financially secure (witness the UC system, which is undergoing what Michigan and UVA did over decades in the span of a few years- does it look any better?) If Sullivan is the President everyone seems to think of her as, she’ll use this opportunity to make a public case for the university as a public institution. The question isn’t whether the BOV has learned a lesson, but whether we have.


  16. @cem, I wouldn’t say that Historiann was arguing that privatization is a good thing, only that in an absence of public funds, public universities should declare themselves independent. It’s ludicrous for the state to refuse to fund the universities and then try to control how the universities are run. It makes no sense. Either public universities are part of the public trust and should be protect (AND funded) or they’re not. It can’t be both ways. I’m not sure public universities will have any choice about whether or not to privatize, if the states won’t support them. It’s not like they break away out of an adolescent desire to be freeeeeeee. They’re starved into privatization, which is exactly the way conservatives roll (they’re trying to do the same thing to K-12 – destroying the public education system is the goal, not an accident.

    I’m not sure any lessons are to be learned from the UVa situation, in the big sense. In some ways it was always a procedural issues as much as a philosophical one (that is, if the proper order had been followed, I doubt the revolt against the BOV would have been as broadly-supported as it was). I was just hanging out with someone with close ties up high in the McDonnell administration and ze had almost exactly the same perspective on the BOV as the rest of us, which surprised me. The situation in Charlottesville wasn’t political in the usual sense (conservatives vs liberals or whatever). It would be nice if the media attention to the controversy made people think more carefully about public universities, the service they provide, and that they need to be protected, but I doubt it. Mostly it was just a wonderful, if fleeting, moment of victory for the Good over the Corrupt. We need some good news in higher ed, even if at the end of the day it doesn’t amount to much.


  17. “I would love it if our university leadership would demand liberty from the state ledge since they’re not paying our bills–our students are.”

    Don’t wish for this! My former-college-now-uni president is doing just this and I’m very scared he’s going to get his way which would mean he could wield his evil power on an even bigger scale. He has some “charter university” scheme he keeps going on about. And the state legislature (same state as you, Historiann) may very well cave in to his evil ways since we’re on the oh-they’re-on-the-other-side-of-the-burning-mountains part of the state.


  18. Thanks for your thoughts on this, ProfSweddy. I’m sure you’re right that it all depends on the quality and intentions of your master at your particular uni. I’m just entirely fed up that Dem control (entirely or partially) of the upper and lower chambers for the past 7-1/2 years, PLUS Dem governors, has continued to mean less and less support. I can only conclude that Dems are happy to let our universities wither away. They’re not attacking the professoriate politically, but that hardly matters to me any more.

    I’d take the state funding levels we had back in 2000, under Bill Owens and John Andrews, any day, even if it meant putting up with their visits from David Horowitz.


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