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01 Aug 2017
28 min 16 sec
Audio Overview

A: Ok. Alright so, it is about 5:30 on November 2, 2012. I'm Annie Gladchuk [spells name] interviewing Michael McGarry.

 

[Michael spells name]

 

A: And we also have Rachel Boag

 

[Rachel spells name]

 

A: Alright. So, Michael, please just tell us a little bit about your involvement at UVa.

 

M: I guess mostly, other than studying, I do some things with Hoo Crew, of course I'm more involved in sports I do intramurals. I also do work with a church group, do volunteer work with them. And I also do groups with the Comm School, such as the Student Entrepreneurs for Economic Development. And things like that. So, that pretty much covers it, so...

 

A: Ok, and you're a fourth year?

 

M: A fourth year.

 

A: You're a fourth year. Awesome. Why did you decide to come to UVa in the first place?

 

M: I just, I've grown up loving it, my mom went here, my dad went here as well. My older brother went here, so I've always, you know, been around UVa, enjoying it, so yeah, I've just, I've always wanted to go here, so..

 

A: Awesome. Ok, and I chose you for this interview as someone who obviously really loves UVa, with the whole Dancing Jeffersons thing. Our class is totally interested in that, so could you just tell us a little bit about that, and you started it? Is that right?

 

M: Right, yeah, it just started out with me and a friend of mine that was the year above me, and he's always wanted to go to UVa as well. And we always wanted to, you know, show how much of a fan we are of the school, so we always wanted to do something different and unique, so after my first year I decided to maybe see if he'd want to dress up as Thomas Jefferson for football games and he was all for it, so after my second year we just started doing it so...

 

A: The rest is history.

 

M: Exactly.

 

A: And great pictures on the websites. Ok, so let's move on to the resignation and reinstatement. How did you first hear about it?

 

M: Well, at the time I was taking a course at UVa so, I was pretty much...

 

A: Like a summer course?

 

M: Yeah.

 

A: Ok.

 

M: So, it was all, I mean, it was certainly, you know, present during the course. So, yeah I remember getting the email, I think it was on Sunday, about her resignation, so yeah I was just surrounded by it the whole time, and yeah.

 

A: Ok. So, what kind of class were you taking?

 

M: It was a course in the Comm School, it was, like, a program.

 

A: And everyone was just kind of talking about it? 

 

M: Pretty much, yeah. 

 

A: Ok, so what were your, like, initial feelings? Did you have any opinions on Teresa Sullivan before you got the email?

 

M: I mean, before that, not necessarily. I mean I wasn't opposed to her at all. I thought she was a great president. But, yeah, initially hearing about it, I was shocked, and I haven't heard of anything, beforehand, of anything wrong or any sort of disputes going on. So, naturally I was just, you know, sort of taken aback. And then, you know, as well, I was curious, I just wanted to know why, and, you know, in the beginning there wasn't a lot of information being told. So, naturally I was, I just wanted to know what was going on. 

 

A: Ok, so did your curiosity kind of call you to action to do any of the rallies or any of the stuff that was going on around grounds?

 

M: Initially, yeah, you wanted to be active in it because of, you know, the apparent lack of information being told. So, you wanted to be a part of it, and even, you know, from the start, you know, there were always the rumors, and there was always the talk, especially around Charlottesville, around other students that were there, you know, people are always talking about it, so, it was, you were always sort of engaged, you know, actively in it, whether or not you wanted to while you were here, so. But, yeah, me personally, you wanted to understand, and you wanted to be, you know, to let, to know that you know what's going on, so yeah. It's, it was easy to be active about it.

 

A: Being in Charlottesville at the time.

 

M: Right. 

 

A: So, how did you get most of your information about it from there?

 

M: You know, again, just, you know, friends, I think I remember, you know newspapers were talking about it, and, you know, again, emails would keep coming through, and even my parents sent me things because they were interested in it as well. So, it was just, you know, again, you know being here, you were just, you know, bombarded by, you know, all of the information that was available. And everyone was always talking about it, so, it was always just available, and you were always, you know, were around it, so...

 

A: Ok, so... Right. Did you know anyone who was, like, majorly involved? I know that you were here, we've been talking about all, like, the, you know, figureheads in this whole situation. Were you involved with any, you know, major events? Or do you know anyone that was involved in any major events?

 

M: The major players, not really. I know, particularly for the class I was taking, not a lot of the students were as interested in it, but, again, we were close enough, so we saw it. And I was still, you know, being involved in what was going on, and all the events on the lawn, you know, I was still trying to be a part of that as well. So, I did sort of play a small role, but, you know, I was still there, and still a part of it.

 

A: Alright. So, can you elaborate just a little more about, like, how the other students were reacting? You said that they weren't too interested in it, which, you know, isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's still telling, so, they were kind of more focused on their studies you think?

 

M: I guess so. It seemed like a lot of them didn't have a strong of an opinion on it, they really didn't care. And even, some of them had graduated that Spring, so, you know, it didn't affect them as much. But, a lot of the professors in the program, you know, wanted to talk about it, you know, kept it going. And there'd be, you know, people certainly had their opinions about it, had their ideas on what was going on. But, in terms of participation, you know, they really weren't, you know, driven to try to be a part of it or try to change anything. So...

 

A: Ok, so, for me, what hit home was when I came here, I was really into, like, the prestige and everything of UVa, and having everyone say, "ah, wow, you go to UVa," you know, and it hit home for me when I heard someone say that they were sorry I went to UVa because of the whole debacle that was going on. I was like, "wow," and that's when I started paying attention to it. So, was there any kind of moments like that for you? Were you as concerned with the reputation, or with, you know, the governance or anything?

 

M: I think one of the, you know, bigger issues was, again, the reputation. That, you know, people were saying, you know, even, you know, across the country people had, you know, heard about it. So it wasn't beneficial; it was pretty, you know, it was a bad situation for the university as a whole. So, yeah, that was certainly an issue, and then one of the big rumors that I remember talking about was the movement to online courses, and I know a lot of that, you know, a lot, especially around, you know, with my friends, a lot of the issues were that they didn't like that. You know, they thought it was sort of, you know, degrading the university, or taking away the, you know, the prestige of the university in, you know, itself. So that was certainly the big one, as well, was just, you know, the perceived intentions of the, you know, the Board to change how, you know, the university has been going on for so long. And that did certainly, you know, personally effect me, because I, you know, I felt, you know, the same way, that it was sort of, it might be sort of taking away what I grew to love about the university. So it sort of, like, in a way, took away the tradition, I guess, of the university itself, and how it's so steeped in, you know, continuing what they've been doing for so long. It felt like it was a way of sort of robbing, you know, me and future students of, you know, experiencing what I've grown to love so far. So, but yeah those were, like, the two major issues that I saw in place, so...

 

A: Ok. That segues pretty well into our next, kind of, issue. So, the, what you find important about the university and our public, Jeffersonian, you know, university is the tradition? And that's what you are concerned about as a student? 

 

M: Yeah, definitely. Again, growing up with a, it's just, hearing the stories, and, you know, seeing the passion and love that, you know, my parents and their friends have for the university, and just, their fond memories of it; I've just grown to appreciate what it's been and, like, what's made it to what it is now. And again, you know, the Jeffersonian aspect, it just, it's kind of a sense of pride to, you know, be a part of what he's worked on. So, yeah, I think most of all it's just being a part of a tradition that's, you know, bigger than me or bigger than any student. It's just, you know, being around it and saying that I was a part of it. And again, with this whole issue, it felt like it was being taken away. 

 

A: Ok. So, how much did you know about, like, our structure of governance before this whole event? And how much do you know now? 

 

M: Honestly I didn't know that much. I mean, I knew there was a president, I knew there was the Board, but I didn't know too much about how they went about things or too much about how, you know, the structure was. So, yeah this time was certainly a way of learning about, you know, what really takes place and, you know, how everything's structured. Unfortunately again, even afterwards, I don't know if I know completely what goes on but, I mean, seeing the struggle and seeing sort of, like, the battle between the Board and the president, it sort of showed, you know, what was at stake, you know, what was being played. And yeah, it sort of helped me learn a little bit about it, but not fully, so...

 

A: Ok, so, being so interested in our traditional aspects, and then seeing kind of, like, this uprising of the Board of Visitors, do you feel that that speaks to, like, public higher education in general at all? Or, like, our university in general, kind of, progressing?

 

M: I could see that. I feel like, you know, what happened certainly showed that, you know, students and the community itself, you know, really could do something about it, really can make a difference about it, which I think is, I feel would probably be different than what it was, you know, in the past. So, I think, yeah, it was pretty indicative of what happening currently. And in a way it was sort of, you know, a clash between, you know, tradition and the present time. So, yeah, it was interesting to see, you know, how, you know different ideas and different views, you know, sort of, you know, came together, and how they sort of interacted with, you know, what the university's been, and then what, you know, certain people see the future of the university itself. And there was sort of the battle of progressing into a certain direction, and sort of keeping with what's, you know, with what's been happening so far. So, it was interesting to see that, and I think that that was, you know, it sort of exemplified what will probably happen in the future, you know, as higher education continues, how the university's going to have to deal with it, and how they're going to have to deal with, you know, tradition and upholding the standard that they've made so far. 

 

A: So, what are your opinions on that? In the future do you think that we should maintain a more traditional...? Or, what do you think about it?

 

M:That's a tough one..

 

A: I know you're leaving, but...

 

M: You're right, but I don't know. It's, I feel like there's a fine like, again, between, like I want to keep tradition, I certainly want to keep, you know, what I've grown to love about this university. But at the same time, I don't want to fall back, you know, I don't want them to, you know, lose some of the prestige that they've had. You know, I want them to continue to excel as a university. But, again, I don't want to lose the university itself. So, it's certainly, it's definitely a fine line that I don't know, I couldn't give you an answer of how to do it. But, yeah, it's just, I feel like that's definitely the path that's going to happen. And I feel like tradition might kind of fall back, it might sort of, you know, lose a little bit as the higher education scene changes, so, but I don't want it to. I want to keep tradition.

 

A: So, you think, other than the tradition, what do you feel are the most important aspects of our university?

 

M: I think by far just that level of education. It's just that, you know, any school can have a tradition, any school can be, you know, have a loyalty level to it. But, you know, this university's unique in that it has, you know, tradition, but it has such a high standard of education. And that certainly, I think, is probably the biggest aspect to, you know, maintain. And if that means changing some things that have been going on for so long, then that might have to happen. But, I think overall, you know, the university's about, you know, teaching students and making them grow. And I think that in the end, that has to be maintained, and we have to keep such a high standard that we've had so far.

 

A: Ok. So, going based off of that idea, we've been talking in our class kind of about how they have been talking about, like, budget cuts to different departments. For example, we talked about them cutting Latin and German majors because they didn't feel like they were as important or, like, lucrative in the end. What are your opinions on that, keeping in mind that we are, like a liberal arts college? 

 

M: Right. I mean, any cut-back is, I think, is a bad business, a negative aspect to any of it. But, I think it's also, you know, unfortunately reality, you know, how cuts go about is, I feel it's wrong. I don't think it should necessarily be about just what's lucrative and what's most, you know, effective or efficient. But, you know, I think what's most, I think they should focus on what's more important in terms of courses, I think cuts at this point are inevitable. You know, it's gonna happen, but, I don't, I still feel that, you know, looking at it at such a financial aspect is wrong. I think, you know, but I think it'd be difficult to find a way to determine what to be cut other than, you know, finances. So, yeah, so ultimately it's a negative, you know, aspect of it, but it's, at this point, it's a necessary aspect of it as well, so...

 

A: Alright. So, seeing as how most of the decisions are, or many of them, I should say, are made by the Board of Visitors, which is appointed by the governor, who do you feel, if you could, like, make it up, should be on that board? Or like, what types of, you know...

 

M: Yeah. I don't - I guess, for me, someone who appreciates the university for what it is. You know, someone who sees it not as just a school, but as, you know, the University of Virginia. You know, someone who understands and appreciates all of the aspects, all of the cultural aspects, and academic, you know, proponents, all of that, and just, you know, someone who wants to combine all that as best as they can. So, I guess a lot of alumni would certainly be good choices for that.  But, again, I'd want someone that's, I guess, level-headed.  I don't want just, you know, a die-hard alumni that, you know, doesn't think clearly about what's going on. 

 

A: Just dresses up like Thomas Jefferson?

 

M: I know right, crazy people like that. 

 

[laughter]

 

M: But, yeah, it's just, I think they'd have to be a mix of, you know, an idealist perspective on the university, and then, sort of, more of, like a real-world progressive ideas. Sort of, like a balance, essentially.

 

A: Nice. Ok, so, kind of getting back to the whole Sullivan issue, do you think that it's over now that she's reinstated? Or, do you think that this is, a lot of people have been talking about that this is, you know, a minor glitch in the system compared to what's in the future to come, so, do you feel like the turmoil between our, you know, governance is going to continue?

 

M: I personally think it will. I just think, you know, that what's happened with President Sullivan has just been an opportunity for the public to see what's going on. You know, I always feel that there will be, you know, struggles, you know, at the top about, you know, what, what needs to be done. So, I think this was just an opportunity for everybody to see, you know, what sort of issues are at play. So, I don't think it's over, I think that was just, you know, just a very public outbreak of it, and now it's just more, you know, back into the board rooms, you know, back into the background of the university itself. So, I think the same issues will still be at play, it just won't be as, you know, out in the open. 

 

A: And then, what's your opinion on that? So, now that it was out in the open, did you, how do you view this for the university, that it was such a huge, kind of, outburst?

 

M: Right, I think it was good. I think it was good for the public to, sort of, get a glimpse of, you know, what was actually going on. It was a bit disheartening to see what sort of issues, you know, people were talking about that were, you know, the reasons behind it all. So, I guess it's sort of eye-opening to see the, you know, the stark reality of, you know, the higher education system, and just all of the politics and business behind it. And I think, you know, yeah, it was just, it was an interesting experience to let people see what's going on. 

 

A: Alright. Let me review these and see if I forgot anything. [looking through notes and questions] I mean, I think I got what I needed. Do you have any more questions? [to Rachel]

 

R: Yeah, I can ask a couple, if you don't mind. 

 

M: Oh, sure. 

 

R: So, this happened at some other universities, some other presidents have been forced to resign. But, I don't think anywhere else a reinstatement like this has ever happened. What, in your mind, do you think set UVa apart? Why was this able to happen at UVa?

 

M: I think one of the unique parts of the university is how involved people are with it. You know, how invested a lot of the students and a lot of the community are in this university. And, I think seeing that sort of, you know, that sort of discrepancies and the struggles between, you know, the upper levels of management of the university, it sort of, you know, sort of made a lot of the community surrounding the university sort of stand up to what they, you know, it was sort of an affront to what they loved about the university, and it was sort of, almost like an infringement on their right to enjoy the university itself, it seemed like, because it was so sudden, I guess, it wasn't apparent that it was, you know, that it was going to happen to begin with. And people, I think especially at this university, feel like they have the right to be involved in the university and they have, you know, a right to be happy with what's going on. And of course I feel like that can happen at other universities, but I think especially here, people, you know, want to be a part of it. And they want to know that they get to enjoy it as much as they can, and sometimes that means, you know, protesting and being a part actively in what's going on. 

 

R: So, do you think that might, that went into making the magnitude of the response, the massive student response and community response, alumni response, you know, the rallies on the lawn, that sort of thing? 

 

M: Oh, certainly. I feel like that's definitely played a part, and I feel like a lot of, you know, the university here, it's very community-based, a lot of people feel, you know, that they can be a part of a community, a larger community. And I feel like once certain people, once a small number of people got, you know, actively involved in all of this, that, you know, that just continued to grow, and it just sort of, you know, snowballed into everyone else feeling that they are allowed to do it as well, and that they want to do it, too. I think that's a big, is that people wanted to participate. People felt that they were, that they needed to do it, and that, you know, they were driven to do it, which I think is very unique. 

 

A: Just because they love this place?

 

M: Exactly, and they love, you know, being a part of this university community and what it, you know, all that it's all about. So, I feel like it was certainly, you know, everybody's belief in the university, and then, seeing everybody else being a part of it, you know, it, everybody was brought up to what, what they loved about the university, as well. So, they felt the need to, you know, let their, you know, their appreciation for the university show, and be a part of it, as well. So, it was just a whole culmination of everybody, you know, wanting to be a part. So, it sort of grew on that. 

 

A: So, I never asked you, sorry for another opinion question, but who, you were here, and I'm sure that there was, in the rallies, a lot of support for Sullivan, and what I got from the media is that it was kind of a battle between her and Helen Dragas. So, who do you think was to blame, if not one of them?

 

M: Ooh. Yeah, again, naturally its, you know, I'm inclined to say Dragas, because I feel like a lot of the student body was against, you know, the Board and were very much in favor, obviously, in favor of, you know, President Sullivan. So, I feel like it's, it was, you know, the blame, it was, you know, the Board, you could blame the Board for the lack of information, and just not being open.

 

A: To the public?

 

M: To the public, and not letting them take part in, you know, what's going on. And, you know, it's, honestly, it's tough to sort of see how President Sullivan could be, you know, to blame. I don't know what aspects of, you know, her role in all of this, how it all played out, and how she could be at fault. But, so, yeah, again, it's just, I guess I side mostly with what's happened, and just saw the Board as being, you know, mostly to blame with what's going on.

 

A: Alright. I'm good. Are you good? [To Rachel]

 

R: I think that's about it. 

 

A: Is there anything else you need to get off your chest? [To Michael]

 

M: No, I think that's it.

 

R: Oh, wait, one more. So, you talked about that feeling of engagement, the student engagement, and that sort of desire to come together and stand for something. With the reinstatement, is that over? Is that something that's going to keep going, or is it finished?

 

M: I don't know if it's going to continue with the particular issue. I think since it's been reinstated, since President Sullivan was reinstated, that need to rally behind her is not as present or prevalent now. But, I always think that that sort of mentality to band together for a cause is certainly strong at the university, and there's always, you know, causes or blood drives, there's always, you know, community involvement, you know, at the university. But I feel that it's still potential to, you know, band back together for that cause, if there are other issues at play again. If there are some more, you know, struggles between the president and the Board, I feel like it will certainly be open for people to band back together and sort of join, you know, sort of rally behind the president, or the Board, depending on the situation. But I don't feel that the size or the magnitude of it will be as big. I feel like this was such a unique situation, and it was so abrupt, and it was so unexpected, and it was so, I guess, original, you know, no one knew about any struggles, so it was very, I feel a lot of it was, you know, fueled by the fact that it was the first time this has sort of happened, especially with this president. So I feel like it won't ever be as big as it was this summer, but I feel that it will still be people who would band together and do, you know, a similar thing. 

 

A: Fantastic. 

 

R: Thank you so much.

 

[closing out, turning off recorder]