AAUP Launches Investigation of the University of Virginia

The AAUP has authorized a governance investigation into the situation at the University of Virginia, where the board of visitors demanded the resignation of president Teresa Sullivan. (The AAUP currently has six colleges on its “sanction” list for violations of shared governance.) At its June 16 meeting, the AAUP members passed a resolution criticizing the University of Virginia board of visitors:

The Ninety-Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors expresses its deep concern over the action of the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors in seeking and obtaining the resignation of Dr. Teresa Sullivan from the presidency of the university, reportedly without previous or subsequent explanation to her, to the other chief administrative officers, and to the university’s faculty and student body, of the specific grounds for its displeasure with her performance. By all accounts, President Sullivan’s performance during her two years in office was strongly supported by the university’s academic community. Responding to the governing board’s action, the Faculty Senate Executive Council issued a statement declaring that it was “shocked and dismayed by this news. We were blindsided by this decision.” Thirty-three department chairs and program directors of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have endorsed the senate’s statement of protest, as have numerous other groups and individual members of the UVA faculty.

The AAUP’s position, calling for a significant faculty role in contributing to judgments and decisions regarding the evaluation and retention of a president, is set forth in its statement on Faculty Participation in the Selection, Evaluation, and Retention of Administrators. That document provides that

All decisions on retention and nonretention of administrators should be based on institutionalized and jointly determined procedures which include significant faculty involvement. With respect to the chief administrative officer, the Statement on Government [of Colleges and Universities] specifies that the leadership role of the president is supported by delegated authority from the board and faculty. No decision on retention or nonretention should be made without an assessment of the level of confidence in which he or she is held by the faculty. . . . In no case should a judgment on retention or nonretention be made without consultation with all major constituencies, with the faculty involved to a degree at least co-extensive with its role in the original selection process.

The president and other academic administrators should in any event be protected from arbitrary removal by procedures through which both their rights and the interests of various constituencies are adequately safeguarded.

We join in the Senate Executive Council’s dismay that due process for President Sullivan and the legitimate interests of the UVA faculty have been ignored in the precipitate action taken by the Board of Visitors. We join in calling upon the board to reconsider its decision.

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