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Greg: Ok. My name is Greg Lewis and I am a student in the Documenting UVA’s Future class this semester and I’m sitting here with Professor George Cohen. And we are in the Cavalier Daily conference room in Newcomb Hall at the University of Virginia It is 1:36 pm on November the 14 and it’s Wednesday, in 2012. Thanks for joining us George – I really appreciate it. Um, could you state your name and spell it out, just so we have that on record?
George: Sure. Absolutely. George Cohen. C-O-H-E-N.
George: Is that all you need for now?
Greg: Yes that’s all I need (laughter). So if you could for me, could you describe your role at the University, just to give a sense of what you do here and your involvements and stuff like that?
George: Sure. I’m a professor at the Law School – the Brokaw Professor of Corporate Law – I’ve been at the UVA Law School since 1992 when I came as a visitor and I am currently the chair of the Faculty Senate and I’ve been involved in the Faculty Senate for a number of years. I was involved shortly after I came here, uh, for several years and then there was a hiatus and then I was elected again to the Faculty Senate and wound up becoming elected as the Chair-elect and then the Chair. So we have – it’s essentially a three-year chair position where you’re elected to be chair elect and you serve in that position for a year and then you’re chair for a year and then you’re immediate past chair for a year. And there are different responsibilities for those positions but we try to act as a um, or at least the last couple of years, we’ve tried to act as a threesome to coordinate and share institutional memory and things like that.
Greg: And how is the Faculty Senate Chair chosen again?
George: It’s chosen by election of the senators so there are about 80 faculty senators representing all of the different schools at the University, uh essentially proportional to the size of the schools – there’s some complicated formula that I don’t understand where they designate how many senators from each school each year and so there’s an election in the spring by the senators for essentially a slate of officers and traditionally we haven’t had competitive elections for those positions but that could change in the future. So it’s more often been the case that people have to be persuaded to take these leadership roles on so we don’t have a huge number of people chomping at the bit to be the Chair of the Faculty Senate. Anyway, I was elected in a slate and we also elect people to our Executive Council, which is made up of I think 16 people now - we have all the chairs of the major committees as well as several at large members elected from the Senate as a whole and so essentially that’s how I wound up being asked to be the Chair – I was on the Executive Council and I was the chair of one of the committees there and apparently they were happy with what I’d done and asked me if id be willing to be the chair and so I signed on as I said to be Chair-elect the year before last year and I became Chair on June 1.
Greg: Ah, okay. And um, how long have you been affiliated with UVA and kind of what brought you here?
George: Well, like I said, I came in the fall of 1992 as a visiting professor. I was teaching at the University of Pittsburgh – that was my first teaching job – and I was there for three years, three or four years UI think, and then I was offered a position to visit here. I actually had a connection with one of the law professors here at the time who’s no longer here – a guy named Saul Levmore, who I know from college. He was actually a teacher of mine – my freshman economics teacher at Yale when I was an undergraduate there and so I had re-met him after I went into teaching and was teaching at the University of Pittsburgh. I met him at a conference and, you know, it was one of those things where you get into a conversation and he said, ‘well you should send me an article you’re working on or something,’ and I did and the next thing I knew I got a call from the dean asking if I would like to come visit here and um, so that’s how I got here. I had never been to Charlottesville before or UVA and I just came in in the fall of 1992 and loved it and have been here since.
Greg: So moving on to the events of the summer, could you tell me the moment you first learned President Sullivan was resigning, um, kind of, where were you, and how did you hear the news, and what was your first initial reaction?
George: Well I remember that very well because I was on vacation with my family in San Diego. I had just become the chair on June 1 and this was June 10 and it was a Sunday and I was supposed to – we were there for a family wedding, which was going to be Sunday evening. This was my wife’s nephew and so all of the family was there staying at this resort in San Diego. So this was Sunday, it was around lunch and I walked in and I believe it was my wife who said to me ‘you’re not going to believe what just happened – I just saw this on my email’ or she was reading the news or something like that. And I said ‘what’ and she said, you know, ‘terry Sullivan’s resigned’ and my first reaction was one of complete shock and you know, I couldn’t believe that that was the news and so from that moment on you know my life has kind of been a non-stop whirlwind of activity.
Greg: So you didn’t hear before that? No one notified you - ?
Greg: Oh okay.
George: No I was not notified, in fact I had no, uh, you know, as far as I was concerned, I wasn’t going to be doing any work that week. You know, I wasn’t planning on doing anything for the Faculty Senate. In fact, I hadn’t even brought my laptop with me because it was going to be a real vacation. The only thing I brought was this little gizmo here, this iPad, which I had just bought with some leftover money from my faculty stipend and I thought, ‘okay, I’ll bring this and I’ll learn how to use it.’ And so I learned how to use it. So that was – I was writing all my speeches and emails and things like that from this little um this little iPad.
So no I was not given any official notification of this whatsoever, um, either beforehand or even at the time, and so as I said I heard about it just because my wife happened to see it on the – I forget whether it was an email or the news – and then I started getting contacted from other people. And you know I think I got, the first email was from one of the senators on the Executive council that I got where she basically said, you know, ‘we have to do something about this, this is terrible news. Just when we were getting somewhere with the new administration and we have to start some kind of response’ and she wrote in parentheses, I think, ‘uprising.’ And I was kind of laughing it off because I thought ‘well ok, you know, basically that’s a nice pipe dream, you know, if this has happened, it’s a done deal and there’s not much we’re going to be able to do about it,’ but, um, I had no idea.
So I think my reaction repeatedly over this series of events has been one of surprise. You know, I was surprised at the resignation, I was surprised at the reinstatement, I was surprised at so many things that happened, that it was just a non-stop series of, you know, interesting revelations and, um, things. So it was a very interesting time and so, as I said, that’s where it all started for me. You know, I was on vacation and so, you know, that first week I was in San Diego, that first week of the events and so, you know, it started on Sunday and I wasn’t coming back until the next Saturday night and so a lot of the things I was doing were from my hotel room on the iPad.
Greg: Wow. So you didn’t have any indication that this was going to happen at all, like there were no signs before that maybe Teresa Sullivan was in a position where she was vulnerable to the Board of Visitors?
George: No. And in fact I had been at the Board of Visitors meeting which was right after graduation in May and there was no inkling whatsoever that the president was in any kind of trouble. There were some statements, I believe, from the Rector and the Vice Rector having to do with, you know, we need to do a better job with sort of developing priorities and, you know, sort of raising some of the issues that got raised later in the summer about, you know, financial challenges and other kinds of things. No mention of online or anything like that, but there were, I do remember some statements about, you know, we need to have some kind of better sense of priorities, but I didn’t interpret that in any way as meaning the president’s job was in danger or on the line. They were just expressing concern and none of the Board members said anything to me or, I can’t remember who else was there – Bob Kemp was not there – he was still the chair at the time and he wasn’t able to be at that meeting so he asked me to give the remarks. So the Faculty Senate chair has, for the last couple of years, has been asked to give ten minutes worth of remarks about faculty activities or some issues important to the faculty to the Board of Visitors at their meeting. So I had actually given a speech to the Board of Visitors at that meeting and, you know, talked to a few of them informally, but there was no hint that there was any kind of problem and no, not even a discussion of ‘oh what do you think about how Terry Sullivan’s doing’ or anything like that. Nothing like that.
Greg: How did you gather information as time progressed and more information came out? Or faux information came out, I guess. Did you talk to colleagues and alumni, or did you kind of get the news directly from the Board of Visitors or the news…?
George: (laughter) Very little from the Board of Visitors, at least initially. And you know, in fact, one of the first things we tried to do was communicate with the Board of Visitors – that was our first thought. We wanted to get a better explanation about what happened. And so the first thing we set about doing was to see if we could set up some kind of meeting with the Board of Visitors, whether by phone or some kind of in-person meeting, and so originally we thought we’d be able to do that, that the Board was interested in meeting with us, and, you know, what happened was – I don’t know whether – you know the Board was obviously very busy as well, perhaps busier than they thought – but somehow the meeting wasn’t happening. What happened was we issued a statement on the Monday after the resignation, which was the first official thing that the faculty senate did and after that statement there was a response, a written response from the Board that came a couple of days later. It wasn’t just to the Faculty Senate, it was to maybe some of the deans also – I forget who it was addressed to, I could take a look – from the Rector, it was her first sort of written explanation and so I wasn’t sure initially whether that was meant to be the response from the Board or whether they were still going to meet with us. And we heard that they still wanted to meet with us but we weren’t hearing back a definitive date or anything, so we were very worried because during this first week what we were hearing was that the Board was going to be meeting on the following Monday, which is when they did wind up meeting to have the, you know, that was the 3am meeting where they eventually appointed Carl Zeithaml as the interim president.
And so we were concerned that if the Faculty Senate was going to take some action - and the action of course we wound up taking was a no-confidence vote in the Board – if we were going to do that, and try to get it ratified by the full Senate, we needed to act relatively quickly because the Board was going to be meeting on the following Monday. And so there was a time constraint there and so what happened was we wound up meeting, you know, I was participating by phone but there was a meeting of the Executive Council on the Thursday of that week where we decided to vote for the no-confidence vote and then we were going to bring it before the full faculty senate. But it was only after that vote by the Executive Council on that Thursday – that was when I heard from Mark Kington, who was the Vice Rector at that time. So I got a call that afternoon, after the no-confidence vote, saying that he and the Rector would like to talk and so I said ‘that would be fine, could we set it up for later on in the evening’ and he said yes and so we wound up having a conversation with the Rector and Vice Rector and then I was on the call as well as Chris Holstege, who is the chair-elect as well as Gweneth West, who was the past chair two chairs ahead of me. Bob Kemp was the immediate past chair but he wasn’t available at the time, so Gweneth became very involved. Gweneth, Chris, and I were kind of the threesome that worked through a lot of these things. So we had this conversation with the Rector and Vice-Rector that Thursday night, you know, after a little bit of discussion we decided that it would be better to have that meeting with the full executive council and we agreed to do that the Monday morning of the Monday meeting. So that was basically our conversations with the Board.
In terms of getting information from other sources, um, I was getting tons of emails – I got, you know, several thousand emails over the course of this whole thing – I think it’s over 2,000 emails that I got. I think there were Board members that got more than I did but there were emails from, you know, - a lot of them from faculty senators – but other faculty members, alums, you know, students that I had had, you know, other people. So everyone had their own opinion about all sorts of things and we were getting a lot of information from that, but I would say that my main source of information was, you know, Gweneth West was really kind of – because I wasn’t here – she was sort of my intelligence officer on the ground, talking to a lot of people and finding out, you know, a lot of things that were going on. So she was helping keep me informed about what things were happening until I was able to get back to Grounds, which I did the following Saturday night. So it’s kind of a long winded answer to your question, but…
Greg: Did you hear from President Sullivan at all?
George: No – and that was deliberate on her part. President Sullivan decided to take a position that she was just not going to say anything publicly or even privately to anyone about this. And the reason, as I understand it, was she wanted to make sure that no one could get the impression that she was trying to influence anything in terms of the response and the like and so she decided to take a very detached position and so I was not really in communication with her throughout this whole process. So I didn’t really talk to her, you know, at length until really she was reinstated. You know, I might have said, you know, hello or something at one of the meetings but did not really have any conversation with her throughout any of this.
Greg: Could you kind of take me through the process of how the Faculty Senate’s maybe opinion changed over time. So like the initial reaction of the Faculty Senate and then you kind talked a little bit about that, but then how it progressed as more information came out – the FOIAed emails – and the actions you decided to take you know after some of the statements by the Board of Visitors and the actions that they took as well.
George: Sure – well I mean, I wouldn’t say the attitude of the faculty changed very much at all after the termination. And that is, I think people were pretty outraged and continue to be pretty outraged by what had happened because, you know, 1) people didn’t think there was a satisfactory explanation given for it and 2) people weren’t happy with the process – the way it was done. So I think on both of those grounds, faculty were not happy from the beginning and anything that happened after that just sort of reaffirmed or cemented people’s beliefs that they already had, so I think from the beginning people were very interested in having the faculty and the faculty senate, you know, do something – and so, as I said, we first came out with this statement on the first Monday, then, you know, people started suggesting that we might want to do this no-confidence vote and, you know, I was actually very worried about that because I had never heard of a faculty senate taking a no-confidence vote in a board of visitors or something like that. So it was kind of a novel thing but, you know, when we decided to have this meeting of the Executive Council on that Thursday, there was pretty much no disagreement about whether to do this.
The only disagreement was what kind of statement we would make along with it, and it was my judgment that we ought to have as short a statement as possible in terms of the no-confidence vote because, you know, the longer the statement with reasons and everything, the more chance there is for disagreement and we didn’t have a lot of time. So I just wanted it to be as short as possible with the understanding and the expectation that other groups would then be able to elaborate more, including the Faculty Senate, at a later time. But, you know, we were very much – you know, one of the other factors at play here was there were a lot of these time constraints. So the first time constraint we had to deal with was we had a meeting of the Board coming up on Monday and we needed to do something about that. And I was also worried because, you know, the Faculty Senate Executive Council is only the Executive Council, so it’s not the full Senate. So I wanted to make sure that we had not only a vote of the Executive Council, but we had time to get the senate to ratify the Executive Council’s proposal. Because even though I had been hearing from a number of faculty members and it seemed to be that there was a lot of support, you know, I’m just basing it on what I’ve heard – there’s no poll or anything of faculty members. So I really wanted to have this meeting to see whether the feeling the Executive Council had was really widespread, at least among the senators. And that turned out to be the case.
But anyway, so that was where we were at that time. And what we did was we wound up calling a meeting of the full senate for that Sunday. So it was a week after the forced resignation. We had this meeting at the Darden School in their auditorium. And that was party symbolic because, you know, during that week one of the things that came out was of course the Peter Kiernan emails and his involvement and so that was something that was a big concern to a lot of the Darden people - that they were sort of getting a black eye in this whole thing. So we thought it would be a good, a nice gesture to have this meeting at the Darden School. Originally we were going to have it at the Engineering School but, I mean, there were other advantages to having it at Darden – also, there was parking there, they have a terrific support staff who really helped with things like recording and setting up the sound system and helping to deal with the media and all these things that we had no clue about. And so it was really very fortunate that we were able to be there and so the main thing with that meeting was, you know, I said we had no idea what was going to happen at that meeting and, you know, it’s – Faculty Senate meetings have to be open to the public so we had no idea how many of the public were going to come, I mean, it was Father’s Day, we didn’t know how many senators were even going to make it, we were worried about things like proxies – we needed to have a quorum to show a vote, so we needed to line up proxies. I was all worried about, you know, having a parliamentarian there, or someone who knew Robert’s Rules pretty well, or things like that, because we thought people were going to be wanting to introduce all kinds of other motions and proposals and things like that. And it turned out none of that happened. We were worried about the crowd; it turned out the crowd was fine. We filled the auditorium, we had a very good turnout of senators and other people, other faculty, other people from the community who came. It was a very respectful meeting and, you know, what we had done was – this was something that was suggested by Lily Powell, who was a professor at Darden who we met with that Sunday, and she’s an expert in business strategy and things like that and we were trying to brainstorm how we were going to run the meeting – and one of the things she said was, you know, because we were worried about who can talk and when and all these kinds of things. So we decided to kind of split it up into two – we had a formal meeting, where only the senators could talk and the other order of business was to ratify the resolution. And then we were going to have this more informal caucusing part, where the senators could talk to people in the public and get suggestions about where we could go from there. And it turned out that that worked very well.
The formal part of the meeting went very quickly – there wasn’t a lot of discussion about the vote, people just wanted to vote – a big part of that was also the provost’s speech. The provost came and spoke to that meeting very eloquently and, you know, this was a big deal because earlier in the week the provost and Michael Strine, then the COO, had issued this joint communiqué or statement or something like that, which had basically said ‘the Board decision is absolute’ or resolute or whatever language they used, which scared the heck out of people, so the provost was making a point of distancing himself from that and basically aligning himself with the faculty and President Sullivan. And it was a really powerful statement and in the view of some people it was a major turning point in the events.
Greg: Um, so moving on to the rallies – you were a participant in the rallies, right?
George: Yes – there were several of them.
Greg: There were. Did you have any experience or history with community-organized events like that?
George: No, no, no.
Greg: Oh really? So what was your role in those rallies – did you help organize them? I know you spoke at a couple of them, right?
George: Yes. So the first one was the Monday of the 3 a.m. Board meeting – the marathon meeting, you know the 12-hour meeting. And, you know, the idea there was just to have a kind of vigil where people would be essentially protesting what the Board had done. And so there wasn’t a lot of organization that went into it because there wasn’t a lot of time. So it was just a matter of gathering people and, you know, whoever could show up, showed up. And so, you know, I wasn’t even planning to say anything at that rally. I wound up saying a little bit because the radio station had set up a microphone there and, you know, asked me to say something. And so I just made up something. You know, I read some statement that the Rector had made inside the Board meeting and I said, ‘I don’t think this is a very satisfactory answer.’ And that apparently was enough – people were cheering and those things. So there wasn’t any real organization, I think, behind that but I think people were very respectful and there were people who stayed until three in the morning when the Board finally made its decision. There was a dwindling number but there were some die-heard people who stayed until the very end and I was actually inside the Rotunda with Gweneth and Chris and it was the three of us and bunch of reporters just hanging out inside the Rotunda. And people were falling asleep and there was no food, you know – it was a very bizarre experience, because originally we were led to believe that the Board was going to be out in 15 minutes or something and then 12 hours later they finally come out, so it was a very weird experience. So anyway, that was the first rally.
The second was, again, a very hastily called rally. This, I think, was the following Wednesday. So what happened was we had been hearing, after the Board had voted to name Dean Zeithaml, we had been hearing that the Board was not as united as it appeared to be. There was actually a division in the Board and there is some chance that we could get this revisited, that there could be another meeting and that kind of thing. And so what we were hearing was, you know, ‘you need to do things to keep pressure up on the Board.’ So we didn’t know what to do. And the following Wednesday one of the things we had done was we held what I called ‘office hours’ in this place called OpenGrounds, which is this place that opened up last year for interdisciplinary work and things like that and so we had been hearing so many people with ideas and things and there was all sorts of concerns about whether we should meet with Dean Zeithaml and if we did, what should we say to him and so we just decided that we would hold these office hours at the OpenGrounds place and people could come with whatever ideas they had – if they had ideas they wanted to ask Dean Zeithaml, we had someone taking notes about that – and OpenGrounds has these wonderful sort of white boards as walls and so you can write things all over the place. And that’s when we had the idea of these task forces, where you had people signing up for different activities. Because, you know, there was a lot of energy and we wanted to channel it in some useful way. So we were there in OpenGrounds and all of a sudden people were saying, ‘you need to do more, you need the keep the pressure on.’ So I said, ‘okay we’ll have another rally.’
So it was that day we decided to have this other rally at the Rotunda that afternoon and, you know, I think it was 5 o’clock or something and whoever could come. And again we didn’t expect that many people – and it wasn’t as many as before, but a fair number of people showed up. And again it was a kind of silent vigil kind of thing where there weren’t any speeches. So that’s really how that happened.
And, you know, the next rally was the one the Faculty Senate wasn’t officially involved in. That one was organized by Suzie McCarthy and Joan Fenton and others and the faculty – I was actually in New York that weekend, that was the following Sunday. I had taken my daughter, who’s an undergraduate here, I had taken her to New York because she was starting an internship and so I wasn’t able to be there but one of the other members of the Executive Council, Peter Norton from the Engineering School, spoke at that rally. And so that rally was really – we took a back seat with respect to that rally. And that was in part deliberate because, you know, one of the things we thought was, ‘this shouldn’t just be a faculty thing, or a faculty senate thing, I think the Board needs to see that there are a lot of groups of people who are really upset about this.’ So I think it was a good thing that there was another group that was organizing this particular rally. One of the amazing things that Suzie was able to do was she, even though she’s a graduate student in the Politics Department and she was the one who organized the Facebook page and all this kind of thing. But she was, from the beginning, on board with the philosophy that the Faculty Senate had taken, which was, you know, we need to do this in a very respectful way and we want to try to keep this as reasonable and rational as possible. Because there was a lot of concern that, and we were hearing things – there were people, whether Board members or others, who had this vision of well, we can’t have the inmates running the asylum, you know, and that kind of metaphor go used over and over. And so, you know, we just wanted to make sure that people could not pin that on us, that we were, you know, people who, you know, were bright, interested, reasonable people raising legitimate questions about what had happened but this was not going to be, you know, Attica or some kind of, you know, wild demonstration.
And it turned out, interestingly enough, I found out later on that there’s actually a tradition of this at UVA. Paul Gaston is an emeritus professor in the History department. He sent me this pamphlet that he wrote about the Civil Rights movement here, where, you know, when UVA was starting to integrate and you had the same kind of phenomenon. You know, these same kind of respectful - very different from what you had at Columbia, Berkeley and Cornell, and places like that – these very respectful rallies and vigils and things like that, with quoting Jefferson and all the usual, you know, UVA stuff. And we had no idea about that, so it’s kind of interesting that it’s almost in the DNA of this place that people just feel that this is the way you have to do it in order to get something done here. So anyway that was the third rally. And the final rally was just the day of the vote of the reinstatement and, you know, that was the only one that I actually prepared a formal speech to make and I did make a speech on the steps of the Rotunda before going into the meeting. But the others were – like I said, I wasn’t at the third one and the first two were more silent vigil kinds of things. So those were the rallies.
Greg: So moving on to kind of, you know, like the ouster itself and then the reinstatement. What do you think was behind the ouster and then why you think the Board chose to reinstate Teresa Sullivan?
George: Oh, well this could be the shortest answer because I still don’t really have a clue. I think what we know is what they said and, you know, the various statements they made. You know, they were concerned about a variety of challenges facing the University including financial and perhaps this online question and the like. And somehow the Board members got convinced that Terry Sullivan was not a bold enough leader and was not moving fast enough to address these issues and that they needed to find someone else. So you know, I, for a number of reasons, many of which I’ve stated before, I don’t find that a very satisfactory explanation and of course a lot of people shared that view. And as a result of that I think people were speculating and continue to speculate about all sorts of other things that may or may not have been going on behind the scenes, whether political motivations or other kinds of motivations.
And, you know, the problem is of course that most of the Board members are not talking about this and I don’t have any link to anyone who’s a Deep Throat kind of person who’s spilling the beans so the truth is I just don’t know about these other reasons. I’m open to the possibility there are other reasons besides the ones they have stated and I think it’s quite plausible. I just don’t have any, you know, I don’t have hard enough evidence that supports one theory or another. With respect to reinstatement, you know I think, again I don’t really know. It seems that the Board, what we heard was that they were more divided than they appeared, part of which may have been a function of this vote was taken with the Rector calling up the Board members one at a time as opposed to having a meeting, so it’s not clear what exactly she told the different people in terms of what the level of support was for this move but, you know, it’s quite possible that people got this impression that there was more of an overwhelming feeling than really existed that there needed to be a change. And so there was no one Board member who was sort of bold enough to say ‘wait a minute, what’s really happening here – is there really such strong feeling?’ And so they all just sort of went along and, you know, after the realized what the reaction was and the mistake, in the view of many people, that they had made, there were a number of people who just said ‘oh, well this was a mistake and we ought to correct it’ and that’s where you got this division – there were people who basically either still agreed with the position that Sullivan was not the right person for the job, then there were some people who probably said, well you know, maybe Sullivan is okay and we made a mistake but it would be a terrible thing for the Board to change its mind because we’d look terrible and we’d look like we were caving in to all these people. And then there were the other Board members who said, well we just ought to cut our losses that we’d made a mistake and change that. And how that all balanced out, I don’t know.
All I really know is that, you know, people were telling us, and there were people working behind the scenes, not all of whom I can sort of name because they wanted to be anonymous for a variety of reasons, but you know, we were getting information that what we were doing could have an impact on the Board and, you know, we needed to keep things respectful and all this kind of stuff and so we tried to do that in the hope that there was kind of some chance that this could be reversed but not being optimistic that it would really happen. I just thought, you know - until the very end I wasn’t really sure that it was going to happen. Even the day of the reinstatement meeting, I did not know that the Board was going to vote for reinstatement. You know, we were hearing that it was very close among the Board and it was not entirely clear what was going to happen at that meeting.
Greg: There’s been a lot of questions that have been brought up by members of the press and people who are concerned about the issue, about the governance of the University, especially considering the SACS investigation into the accreditation – what do you think about the make-up of the Board of Visitors and do you think that that make-up of the Board of Visitors influenced the events this summer or catalyzed the events this summer? And going forward, do you see some way to improve that?
George: Yeah, you know, it’s hard to know how much a of causal connection between the make-up of the Board and what happened but I think that certainly one of the things people started talking about because of the events of the summer, in part because of concerns about political issues and how much that may have played into the decision, is to look at the Board and say ‘how are these people appointed in the first place?’ And of course they’re all appointed by the Governor. But, you know, the bigger concern I think was that the Board has been viewed as kind of a political patronage job – it’s become sort of a plum that the Governor gets to award to his or her – well, it’s been his so far in Virginia, his supporters. And it’s kind of the plum thing you get to be if you’re a big supporter of the Governor. And so that means that you can wind up with some really good people and some not-so-good people because the criteria isn’t are these people knowledgeable about the University or, you know, do they have relevant experience that can help the University move forward - it’s a different set of criteria. And so sometimes you may sort of luck out with good people and sometimes you may not. And it happens with both parties and the like.
And so I think people started thinking about well, one of the responses to what happened is we ought to rethink how the Board is chosen, how they’re made up and the like. And, you know, especially when you heard things – you know, there was a lot of talk about should the University be run more like business and this whole idea of strategic dynamism and, you know, academia is sort of behind the times compared to other industries and so we need to sort of restructure things, you know, more along a business model and, you know, statements like that got people concerned that well, we’re worried that maybe some of the people serving on the Board don’t really understand how universities work, how they’re different from businesses. Which doesn’t mean you can’t take some of the insights and lessons from business and apply them, but some don’t transfer well in the university atmosphere. And so I think that was part of the discussion as well.
And so one of the things that we did as the faculty senate was we had a task force that was formed to address this whole question of Board composition and come up with a report and bunch of recommendations – more of an academic kind of exercise – to try to explore how we might improve the kind of composition of the Board at least going forward. And so that report has now been written and we’re in the process of – some of the recommendations involve legislative action and, you know, one of the recommendations involves the Board taking some action – but we’re in the middle of that process now. The Board has already taken some, enacted some reforms and my understanding is they don’t view those as the end, but just the beginning of the process and so it’s an ongoing issue how that’s going to be changed, if at all. And of course the legislature doesn’t meet until January, so we don’t know what’s going to happen then. But we at least have a set of proposals we’ve endorsed. The Faculty Senate had a meeting last week that was postponed because of the hurricane but we had this meeting and we endorsed this set of proposals from our Board composition task force.
Greg: It’s an interesting time I guess with this whole SACS investigation…
Greg: …especially involving, kind of like the Board’s decision-making already. Do you think the Board’s attempts to reform some of its processes a result of SACS or a result of maybe trying on its own, organic nature to try to reform what it does?
George: Yeah, well again I don’t really know the answer to that. I’m sure that the SACS investigation has had some impact. One of the new board members, Linwood Rose, used to be the head of SACS and I’m sure he’s impressed upon his fellow Board members the importance of accreditation and, you know, the real risks the University faces as a result of this ongoing investigation. And so I’m sure it had some impact on the Board’s decision to take action. You know, I was originally most disappointed that the Board didn’t start talking about these things sooner, particularly at the retreat they had over the summer which I attended and was hoping to hear some discussion of, you know, the SACS investigation – what kinds of things the Board might be doing in the future – and there really wasn’t any of that kind of discussion, at least in the public sessions of the meeting. And so I found that very disappointing and, you know, I think the Board has started to move toward, you know, some kinds of reforms, which I think is good. I just think it’s taken some time for them to get there whether because of, you know, coordination issues or whether because they – I think part of it is they still have this fear of operating in the public and saying things in the public and so, you know, I think that slows things down also because there are things they don’t want to say in public meetings but they’d be more willing to say to each other, you know, in these one-on-one meetings that they’re allowed to have without violating the FOIA statute.
So in any case, you know, I think that’s – it probably did have some impact. And as you may know, in the paper today there was a, you know the Board has now – there have been several volleys or rounds of response and counter-response here. So first there were the SACS allegations, the Board then sent a response, you know – it went out under the provost’s name but my understanding is it’s really the Board’s document. The Board sent a response and then the SACS people sent a response back to the Board and now the Board has responded again to SACS – the deadline, I think, was on Monday. And SACS will be meeting again in December. And the response that the Board had this time was largely, you know, ‘we’re making changes, we’re making some progress, you know, we’ve done some things, we’ve adopted some new rules concerning, you know, you have to have a meeting to oust the president with a two-thirds vote.’ They adopted some criteria for evaluating the president, they voted to have non-voting faculty consulting members on all of the standing committees of the Board.
So, you know, all of these things show we’re making progress and making improvements. And, you know, one of the key things, I think, about the SACS report that maybe some people don’t understand is that the previous SACS letter to the Board where they said, you know, the Board’s response was not really adequate to answer their concerns, SACS basically expressed the view that the concerns are ongoing concerns, that these are not things that are just past, that are over and done with. So there were three issues that SACS was concerned with. One is their principle of integrity, one, the Board governance – the idea that you’re not supposed to have a Board that is dominated by a small faction or by outside influences and third, faculty governance and the role of faculty in helping to evaluate the president and the like. And so, you know, on all of those things the SACS people basically said they are ongoing issues and there are ongoing concerns because we don’t see that you really have, even now, a good procedure in place for dealing with the president, for including the faculty and the like, you know, so partly what the Board is doing is responding to those ongoing kinds of concerns and saying ‘look, we’ve adopted these kind of reforms, these ought to be good enough.’
Greg: So a lot of observers have said that if there was a voting faculty member on the Board that maybe the crisis wouldn’t have happened. Do you think that having a voting faculty member is a reform that would make the Board more receptive to the faculty?
George: Yeah, I think it would be helpful, but you know, I think the main thing that I’m interested in is improving the governance process of the Board as a whole and so I think how to do that is to have much more meaningful committees and committee meetings. And this is, I think, one of the good things about the Board focusing on faculty on committees is that, you know if committees are done right – and the problem is that committees on the Board have not really functioned as real committees. The Board has essentially structured itself so that they have these meetings of the full Board and then the committee meetings are part of the full Board meetings. And so there’s never really a chance for the committees to sort of get into the meat of their various issues because it’s basically every meeting is a meeting of the whole Board. And I think they’re trying to change that and if they change that and if the committees are actually formed in a way in which they have meaningful committee meetings and discussions and things like that, I think that having a voice at those committees could be a very effective thing. Now that doesn’t mean that having a faculty member, whether it’s voting or non-voting, is also not a good thing. And one of the things, you know, one of the recommendations of our task force report is to have a non-voting member on the Board. The reason we did that was because that change is already allowed by the Virginia statutes. It wouldn’t require a legislative change, it would just require a change in the Board manual and so it’s kind of an incremental change. You know, there are some people, including President Sullivan, who’ve expressed concern about conflict of interest – you know, if you have a voting member on the Board, you know, and you’re voting on salaries and things like that, there’s a conflict of interest problem. Of course, you could always have people recuse themselves when there are conflicts of that sort, but in any case, the non-voting, I think, removes that kind of concern as well. And I think the main thing is really just to improve the communication and the input.
So it’s not really – I don’t see it as, you know, one vote from a faculty member is really going to shift the balance of power in any meaningful way on the Board. So I think the real crucial thing is communication and being able to provide meaningful input so that the Board can make more informed decisions on a variety of things. So that’s, I think, the main thing from my perspective. So, you know I think a voting member would be nice, but I don’t see it, you know, as the crucial thing we need to have in order for the Board to function effectively.
Greg: Looking at a broader picture of higher education, how would you characterize the relationship between what happened here at UVA over the summer and what’s happening at other public universities across the country?
George: Well yeah, I mean, a lot of people have – one of the reasons why the UVA crisis became such national news is that we’re not alone in this – that this crisis is really representative of a crisis in higher education and, in particular, public higher education across the country. And, you know, we had Hunter Rawlings, the head of the American Association of Universities (AAU), here earlier this semester speaking about exactly this problem, including a very high turnover rate of presidents generally in higher education, you know, everyone knows about the severe cutbacks in funding at all state institutions. There’s just a very different attitude toward things like state funding than there used to be and the question is given the decline in state funding, given the decline in federal funding, you know, for basic research and the like, given the recent recession and, you know, the decline in some donations and the like, you know, how are we going to survive and how are we going to – you know, you have the challenges of tuition going up and up and how can people afford it. So how do you deal with all these problems? And those are a set of problems all of higher education is facing and all public universities are facing. So in that sense, UVA is very representative.
And, you know, there are other places – places like Texas, where there are some really, in my view, radical proposals being thrown around to restructure that university and, you know, with potentially very severe consequences for the quality of education that they’re able to provide. That’s a wonderful school and, you know, you can do education on the cheap, but you get what you pay for, you know, and if you want to have the University of Texas be the University of Texas, you have to find some way to pay for it. And I think that that’s something, that’s a reality we have to face as well as the fact that, you know, as many people have said, you do have to set priorities – maybe universities can’t do everything, at least on their own. We have to be more creative in the way we think about how we provide the education. But I think partly it’s forcing everyone to rethink what does it mean, what does a liberal arts education mean in the 21st century, what do we really value about it? What are the things that are really the core things that we want to make sure we keep, what are the things that are more expendable or things we can partner with other universities to do, and the like.
And those are things we are trying to sort out, along with the, you know, the large number of faculty retirements that are looming in the next, you know, seven to ten years, as the provost and the president keep telling us. You know, we’re going to have a very high turnover of faculty and we’re going to have to be able to recruit and retain, you know, the best possible faculty that we can get. And so how do you do that? And so one of the things, of course, that the president has proposed to try to, you know, is a proposal trying to raise a significant amount of money to try to reduce the gap in faculty salaries between us and some of our peer institutions, to try to make sure we’re competitive in getting the best people to come and stay here.
Greg: Um, so you talked about how our situation is representative of the trends of public higher education across the country, do you think that this situation in particular really impacts the future of higher education and the decisions that future boards make, the decision that future presidents make and how the university communities across the country kind of perceive those, I guess, changing roles in higher education?
George: Right. Well, you know, you can’t know for sure how much of an impact you have but I can tell you from what I’ve heard that there were a lot of schools paying strict attention to what was happening here and I think it has already had an impact on the way they’re approaching these problems and what they think is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. You know, I think no one wants to be another UVA. And I think there’s a very strong consciousness of that. And, you know, I’ve been talking to various groups – I went and talked to the American Association of University Professors up in Washington, they had an annual meeting – and, you know, for them I mean this is a real success story, you know, the faculty sort of taking a stand and having some sort of success in turning back a board decision that we find unsatisfactory. But what I tried to tell them was how much this can really be replicated in other places is not entirely clear. There are a lot of factors that went into this event having the ending that it did and many of which had nothing to do with the faculty, you know, there were a lot of different things that were going on, you know, in some sense the planets just happened to align in all the right way for this to happen.
So it’s not clear how much this can be replicated in other places, but on the other hand a success is a success and it kind of makes people think, ‘well this is actually possible’ in a way that they didn’t think that before. And so, you know, as I said, people are paying attention and, you know, for example, I was just invited by two of these people I met at the AAUP conference who are involved in faculty governance at the community college system in Arizona. And they want me to come out and talk to them about, you know, what happened here over the summer. So that’s how much they really think it does matter, what we were able to accomplish here and, you know, whether they can do the same thing in Arizona that we did here or another place, you know, City University of New York was another group of people who were interested, you know, very different kinds of schools than what we have here, but nevertheless they find some value and inspiration in the fact that we were able to accomplish this result. So, you know, I’m very gratified by that and think it’s a great thing, but you know, putting on my realist hat, I think it’s, you know – you have to be a little bit cautious of how much can really be transferred to other places and other circumstances, but we’ll see.
Greg: What would you say to other schools that are facing a crisis like this? So maybe, what would you say to the leaders, what would you say to the communities that are being affected if there was another crisis that emerged kind of like what we experienced here?
George: What would I say to them?
Greg: Advice you would give them, or…?
George: Yeah, well you know, I think every situation is different, but you know, 1) there’s always hope, right. You know, and that there is value in sort of building as broad a coalition as possible. You know, one of the reasons we were successful is it was not only faculty – it was not a faculty uprising in that sense. It was faculty, it was students, it was staff people, it was community people, it was administrators. You know, so there was a really broad group of people that were able to get together and agree, not only on the result that we wanted, but also the approach we wanted to take to try to deal with the problem. And I think that that was all really helpful, at least in this situation in being able to achieve that result.
But I think the main lesson, I think, is Terry Sullivan’s own lesson, and one of the reasons I think she was so popular here was that she had this really strong belief that, you know, if you were going to make changes, you have to build from the bottom up, you have to get people to accept, you know, the process – feel like they have a voice and ability to contribute and then, you know, make them understand: look there are going to be some tough choices that have to be made, but as long as the process is fair and you’ve had reasonable input, hopefully you’ll be able to live with the results. And, you know, and it’s an ongoing kind of process and as long as it’s open, transparent, reasonable, fair – all those kinds of things – that’s the way we ought to do it. And I think that, as much as anything else, that’s a very important principle that people were fighting for here. That if we’re going to have change – and, you know, I don’t think we’re opposed to change – but if we’re going to have change, it should be done in that way. And so I think that’s a lesson also that can be carried to other places.
Greg: Um, so when you addressed the Board of Visitors, I think like towards the beginning of the semester, after you spoke some members of the body said that we just need to move on and that by raising these concerns about governance and higher education and stuff like that, that we’re just prolonging this and that we just need to move on and focus on other areas and focus on improving. What was going through your mind when they kind of rebutted you and do you still maintain that we need to learn from this crisis or just kind of move on and try to focus on something else?
George: Yeah well, I mean it was disappointing, I would say. And, you know, the way I was approaching it is, you know, any time you have an organization that’s had some kind of crisis, whether it’s a government organization or a corporate organization or a school, I mean you would think that the first thing you do is say, ‘okay, let’s do an evaluation. What went wrong? What needs to be fixed so this doesn’t happen again?’ And so it’s not rehashing the past, it’s saying, ‘okay, here’s a crisis,’ let’s say it’s the Exxon Valdez or the oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico or, you know, the 9/11 or whatever catastrophe it is, you know, the Challenger exploding or something – there’s always some kind of investigation into what happened, you know, what did we do, how do we fix it, and so, you know, my sort of natural belief was, ‘oh, well that’s what the Board is going to do’ because that’s what you do when you have a crisis. You try to figure out what happened, what went wrong, how do we fix it and, you know, so the speech I gave to the Board in September was an attempt – because what I’d been hearing, you know, from some people was exactly what you were saying, that the Board just wants to not deal with it and move on. And, you know, that’s just not good governance from my point of view. That you need to understand what happened so you can make the proper adjustments and then move forward.
And so, you know, what I tried to do in my speech, you know again, tried to lay it out in as rational way as possible is to explain to them what the connection is between the past and the future. Right, so here’s the connection, some of the reasons you gave for turning President Sullivan is you don’t think she had a strategic plan. Okay. Well now there’s a strategic plan that’s in place. But, you know, the Board has already apparently taken this view that we want a certain kind of strategic plan – one that’s bold and that’s going to do all these things. You know, well what happens if we have a strategic plan that doesn’t have that in it, right? And we have a strategic plan that follows more the Sullivan model that she had laid out, for example, in her document in May, you now, is that going to be unacceptable to the Board? Right, so to me, that was sort of saying, ‘well here’s a connection between what happened in the past and what happened in the future.’ You know, we have a present situation now where we’re in the middle of a strategic plan. What are you going to do, you know, with this strategic plan? So, you know, now the Board was saying and the two guys who are heading up the strategic planning effort, Linwood Rose and Frank Atkinson, who are both new Board members so they weren’t involved with all of this. And what they were saying, was the kind of thing I would have expected, is the strategic planning effort is really primarily housed with the faculty and the administration and the Board is more of an oversight role, you know, and that’s fine.
That’s one model, but what you were saying with respect to President Sullivan over the summer would be a different model. And so we need to have more of an assurance that the Atkinson-Rose model is the one that you’re really going to follow. So that was the first point. The second point had more to do with process of evaluating the present. And so, you know, my view there was, ‘okay, well you just had this episode with the president, where you terminated her in this really inadequate process way,’ the president’s going to be up for renewal in a couple of years – what’s the process now? What are you going to be doing to evaluate the president going forward? Right, so again there’s a connection between what happened in the past and what happened in the future, or what’s going to happen in the future. And so to me, it’s just the natural thing to sort of say, ‘okay well here’s the connection that you need to make between, you know, the past and the future.’ But the reaction from Mr. Goodwin was, you know, you just want to rehash the past. So as I said it was kind of disappointing that that was the way he thought about it – you know, he also made this analogy to his marriage, which a lot of people had strong feelings about one way or the other. And even if you took him at his word that, you know, this is a relationship that has been frayed, but this is a really serious event and a serious breach of trust within the relationship and, you know that’s not something like, you know, I didn’t take out the garbage one night and, you know, you ought to forget about it. It’s much more serious than that and so if you really want to do serious relationship repair you really need to work on it and, you know, it’s not something that you can just say, ‘ah, forget about it, it’s all in the past.’ I don’t think that would work in a marriage either. And so even if you took his analogy, I think it leads to the same result.
So, you know, it was disappointing but these things are complicated and there’s a lot of, you know, strong personalities and egos and feelings and all this kind of stuff. And you’re trying to work through all these different things and taking into account lots of different concerns and just trying to do what you think is in the best interest of the University at a given time and that’s really all we can do.
Greg: So last question – how do you think the crisis over the summer has impacted the school’s reputation and what do you think is needed to bring the events to a successful conclusion?
George: Well I think that the crisis has, you know, raised questions about the reputation of the University in terms of governance. I don’t think it’s affected the University in terms of the quality of the University and the quality of the faculty, the quality of the students. You know, I think there was some concern at the beginning that faculty members would leave if President Sullivan wasn’t reinstated and a couple of them, of course, did leave. But I don’t think there’s really any concern about that. I think the concern is a governance concern, right. And so if you’re a faculty member or a prospective faculty member who’s thinking about where to come to school or a student, you know, do you want to come to a place where, you know, there seems to be such a disconnect with the way the Board sees things and the way the faculty sees things? And a Board that sort of runs the University without concerning the faculty on an issue – is this the kind of place I want to be?
So I think it’s more of those kinds of concerns and, you know, how much that factors into people’s decisions it’s hard to know. But I think the main thing we should be focusing on and I think the Board is starting to focus on this, which is good, is we also have an opportunity here. Given that we’ve been through this crisis and all these problems, we have an opportunity to really be an example of how to do it right. You know, if we can fix things in a way that improves the governance, improves the process, improves the relations between the faculty and the Board, then you can flip it around and it enhances our reputation rather than detracts from it. And so I think that’s what everyone hopes that will come out of this. And I think the problem is it’s going to take some time to get there because I think there’s still some, you know, some level of distrust and any time you have a rupture in trust or a relationship, it’s takes some time to sort of rebuild that and you need to take little steps at a time, you know, and hopefully with the right people and the right concerns and attitudes, things will work out. So I’m optimistic about that, but we’ll see. I think if we do that then the reputation will take care of itself.
Greg: Awesome. So I think – Joan Fenton also joined us – she’s in the room with us, she’s also in the class and she served as kind of like the observer and she has another question.
Joan: I have a few questions.
George: A few questions? Okay, some follow-up questions, yeah.
Joan: So one of the things that when I was watching this, it seemed like there were faculty at first that were reluctant to speak out and then there was a groundswell of people willing to speak out. And there has been a, and again this is my opinion, but there has been a sort of reduction in the amount of tenure that’s offered to professors and that’s part of this whole discussion of education. So I’m wondering what you think the role of having tenure has in the willingness of people to speak out in an issue like this.
George: Yeah, well that’s a good question. And it’s something which I was very conscious of during this whole event – and other people were conscious of. So there were a number of people who said to us at various points during the whole crisis, ‘you people have to speak up because you have tenure.’ You know, and so people who didn’t have tenure, whether they were administrators or staff people or general faculty people or whoever, you know, basically said, ‘this is what tenure is for. And so if you’re going to have it, use it or lose it.’ Right, this is something where tenure is largely justified in terms of academic freedom; it applies to this kind of situation as well, situation of governance. And we took that very seriously. We basically saw it as an obligation – that if you’re going to have this protection of tenure, you have an obligation to speak up on controversial things when other people may not be able to. And so as hard as it was and, you know, I’ve had to do several hard things for me, even with tenure, starting with the vote of no-confidence in the Board to talking with the Rector and telling her she ought to resign to, you know, talking to the Board and saying, ‘well we’re not rescinding our no-confidence vote’ – these were all very difficult things. And even with tenure they were hard to do for a number of reasons. But tenure at least made it possible to do it. And like I said, I felt like I was obligated. And many of us who have tenure have felt that we have an obligation to use that to speak up about issues, controversial issues, even if they’re at-home issues involving our own governance and our own institution. So yes, and I think to those who sort of question the value of tenure: I think this is an answer to that. You know, here’s a situation where tenure actually, I think, made a difference, or at least that was the perception.
Now, you know, in terms of your other question, or other part of your question about reduction in the use of tenure and non-tenured people, you know that’s another problem that’s not a UVA problem alone. It’s a higher education issue that, you know, one of the responses, one of the cost-cutting measures that many universities have take is to reduce the number of tenure-track professors and use other kinds of part-time or non-tenure-track people to sort of fill the gaps and help reduce the budget. So it is a strategy that many schools use – I don’t think we’ve used it as much as other schools have, but we’ve certainly used it. And it’s an issue and, you know, I think it’s something that we just have to be really careful about because, you know, I think there is a value to tenure – it does come at a cost – and I think everyone is well aware of some of those costs and so we have to think about how we’re going to try to justify it and what the values of it are and how those balance out against the costs.
Joan: Another question was as the events were unfolding and there were about to be rallies, were you conscious of previously this year when students were tear-gassed at the University of California system and that type of atmosphere when there was a protest?
George: No, interestingly I wasn’t concerned about that and, you know, this might be another Virginia thing – that we just didn’t think that kind of thing would happen here. I mean there was a little bit of a worry, either that the rally itself might get out of hand or the response to the rally might get out of hand but we had this view, whether it was naïve or what, that if we behaved well and we sort of lead by example, that it wouldn’t be a problem and we were very conscious about getting other people to sort of sign on to the general approach, as I said. But we weren’t really worried about that. And I remember, I think there was one quote from the UVA police officers, you know, who basically said something like, I think this was the day of the reinstatement and when someone asked, you know, ‘how come there aren’t more police officers here?’ and everything and he said ‘it’s not going to be necessary, you know, basically this is Virginia and it’s not going to happen this way the way it happens in California or some of these other places. And it turned out, of course, that he was right. But I think we felt the same way. It just wasn’t going to be that kind of event. We had a little bit of concern about it but I think our more dominant concern was it’s not going to happen like that here.
Joan: Just a couple other things: had you had interaction with Sullivan prior to this and how did your impressions of her change from prior to the resignation, during the events, and afterwards?
George: Yeah, well I had had some interaction with her, mostly through the faculty senate. Right, so one of the things that President Sullivan did that was different from John Casteen, her predecessor, as that she basically made it known from the beginning that she wanted to be including, not only in Faculty Senate meetings, but on the Executive Council meetings. So she wanted to be able to come and talk to us, you know, about what she was thinking, about some of the issues were she was facing, even to say things like, ‘do you think the Senate would be interested if I talked about this issue or that issue.’ So already, from the beginning, that created a very different kind of atmosphere. She saw herself as one of us, one of us in the sense of she’s a faculty member. I think everyone remembers the first meeting she came to the Faculty Senate where she started talking about her last academic paper that she was just editing the night before, right, and the whole point of that was just to say, ‘look, I know what it’s like to be a faculty, I’ve been a faculty member, I understand your concerns, even though I’m from a different place and a different school, I can relate to what your concerns are and what you’re thinking about.’
So, you know, I got to know her from those kinds of meetings and I wouldn’t say I’m a close friend of hers, but I think that she definitely created a sense among the faculty of a more open and inviting kind of atmosphere and, you know, sort of non-threatening form of change – that people saw her as kind of a breath of fresh air. And it was probably much more among many of my colleagues in the College of Arts & Sciences than some of the other places where, and I think the Medical School too, where they really felt that her approach and her attitude could really make a difference and that people were already feeling a difference in just the atmosphere and the attitudes that people were very optimistic.
And you know, now again, you could say part of this was that she was still new. It was kind of a honeymoon period and, you know, what I’ve been telling people about this in terms of the Board’s poor timing in a ways. They didn’t really give her a chance to do anything super controversial. If this had happened a year later, let’s say, and you know because we’re in the middle of implementing this new financial model and things like – which is probably going to have a big effect and it means a lot of people are going to be unhappy with the way things work out. So a year later if they had done this, when one group of faculty would be really unhappy with what she had done, maybe there would have been a different result. So part of it may have just been that, you know, for many of the faculty they had seen the good side and they hadn’t had to live with the consequence of controversial decisions yet. But I think the bigger point is that people were very happy with her approach and her general inclusionary, transparent, open management style, which they saw as very different from the previous administration’s style and that people - there was a lot of gut reaction to that, you know that in getting rid of her was rejecting that approach, whether that was the Board’s intention or not, that’s what people in the gut, I think, really felt. She was changing things for the better and you just pulled a rug out from under us.
Joan: You know I’ve been recording all the Board of Visitors meetings and things. And the thing that I’ve found is no one has come up to me with a negative thing to say about Teresa Sullivan. Everybody has been encouraging, everybody has been supportive of her. And I wonder what you’re hearing from people, in terms of the actions you’ve taken and what the Faculty Senate has done in taking a leadership role in getting her reinstated. I think that’s my last question – sort of what kind of things do people come up to you and say.
George: You mean Board members?
Joan: No, no I’m talking about the general public. You know, I just meet you and I just found out that you’re the Faculty Senate guy.
George: Yeah, well I’ll tell you the overwhelming thing is that so many people just come up to me and say, ‘thank you – you’ve done a tremendous thing for the University and we just want to thank you for everything you’ve done.’ And I think people kind of just want to, you know, some symbol to latch onto to express their gratitude for what happened. As I said, I think we had a role in what happened and, you know, I can’t say whether it was the dominant role or not. But it really is just amazing how many people just come up to me in all kinds of settings now – because I guess I’ve been on TV and all these things so people know who I am – and, you know, they’ll just come up to me and talk about the University and just how wonderful it was that we were able to do this and thank you. I have never had anyone come up to me, thankfully, and say, ‘you guys are a bunch of hoodlums’ or, you know, ‘what did you think you were doing?’ or, you know, ‘Sullivan is not so great,’ or, you know, whatever. There were, of course, some rumblings in various places about some of those things, but personally I have not experienced any of that. It’s all been people are just really grateful and thankful and just amazed, I think, about what happened here and continue to be amazed.
Joan: Yeah. That’s the sense I get. It’s like people are just pleased it’s happening…
George: Yeah, yeah.
Joan: …with what happened and what’s still happening.
George: Yes. And so we’ll do what we can.
Greg: Well thanks, I appreciate you talking to us.
George: Sure. My pleasure.