University of Virginia
MDST 3559, Fall 2012
Interviewee: Mitchell Green
Interviewer: Kseniya Belik
KB: First, could you please state your name and spell it out for me please?
MG: My name is Mitchell Green. M-I-T-C-H-E-L-L G-R-E-E-N.
KB: Thank you. My name is Kseniya Belik and this interview will be conducted at the University of Virginia on October 16, 2012. The topic of the interview is the resignation and reinstatement of Teresa Sullivan, and the events surrounding it this past summer. Before we jump into that topic, could you please tell me how you first came to the University of Virginia and what your role has been at the University of Virginia since then?
MG: I was hired in 1993 by the University of Virginia. I was just finishing my doctorate at the University of Pittsburg and I was hired here as an assistant professor. My main role when hired and, that's continued since that time for the last 19 and a half years, has been to teach areas in which I do my research as well as conduct that research, and I’m involved in various aspects of administration as well. So, I generally teach two courses each semester, I publish articles and books, and I sit on various committees -- these days at both the level of the College of Arts and Sciences and the level of the Provost. As of recently I've become a member of the Faculty Senate. As of June 2012 I have started to sit on the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee and I'm chair of the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee now. As a result of chairing the Grievance Committee I've also served on the Executive Council of the Faculty Senate, so I'm involved there. I'm also on the steering committee of the College of Arts and Sciences. I'm also the current temporary chair of a committee that's involved in hiring new faculty as part of the Institute of Humanities and Global Cultures -- a new initiative sponsored by a grant that we received in the college from the Mellow (sp?) Foundation. I also have direct -- I also created and directed a project that I call Project High Phi, which aims to support philosophical inquiry in America's high schools -- trying to support philosophy in high schools. I'm also, as of just a couple months ago, one of the three faculty in the college and I think a total of five faculty in the entire University -- I believe there are two in the Darden school -- a total of five faculty in the University working with a company known as CourseEra to offer one of these MOOCS -- Massive Open Online Courses, and I've been working hard for the past couple of months trying to get a MOOC up and running for publication (I guess is the word?) in the spring.
KB: Sounds like there is quite a bit that you're involved with. Generally speaking, what led you to become part of the University community? What did you think of when you decided on UVA as your choice of where to be?
MG: Quite simply, back in 1993, UVA was the best tenure track job that was offered to me at the time and it seemed to be a very good place, and so I felt fortuned to take the job. Many academics have to start their careers in short term visiting positions -- one year here, two years there -- etc etc. I was fortunate in that I was able to land here and put down roots fairly quickly, so I've been lucky in that respect. So I've enjoyed the time that I have spent here very much.
KB: And, along the lines of things that you've enjoyed at UVA, could you specify maybe one or two things that are really dear to you about UVA or something that you find important maybe?
MG: I think most of the important things revolve around the notion of community. It seems to me that there's a fairly cohesive community among the students. Students seem to work together and there are lots of distinctive groups and so forth, and each one of those groups has cohesiveness. Students care, they're involved, they take their role in the University very seriously, and for the most part they take the role of students very seriously, which makes them fun to teach. In general I don't find teaching a chore. I find it exciting. I find it enjoyable. It's not always fun to sit down with a stack of 50 papers and grade them, but, still, that's an exception to the rule -- the rule being interacting with my students and having an experience in which I'm learning from them, and they're not just learning from me -- is just, it's been a constant source of pleasure for the twenty years that I've been here. And more broadly, faculty and graduate students form a community that -- there's a sense of place here at the University. There's a sense of our being distinct from all the other schools in the country and world. We think of ourselves as different -- not necessarily better or worse, but having our own identity that we care about, and I enjoy being part of that -- both on the level of interacting with graduate students, faculty, and undergraduates.
KB: And of course that community experienced a pretty big event this summer which you've been intricately involved with in various aspects, so if you would like we'll go on to that now. I'd like to start with asking you how you first learned of the event itself -- the resignation of Teresa Sullivan.
MG: I first learned of it coming out of my gym after having worked out in the morning. I think it was the morning of June 10th, Sunday. And I saw a message on my smart-phone to the effect that President Sullivan had offered her resignation. It was a typical Sunday morning and I was doing the normal things that I would do on a Sunday morning.
KB: Could you guide me through your reactions to the event when you learned about it, and then the next few days and few weeks?
MG: My first reaction was Gosh, the president must have done something extremely, extremely bad to have had this kind of thing happen without any apparent news to us beforehand, so I was -- my initial thought was Gosh, there is going to be a scandal in some form and perhaps something that the president did or something she allowed to happen or something of the sort -- that that will cause her to get into a great deal of trouble. But then when we found out, by means of just reading the newspaper, the sort of -- the sketchy and sometimes cryptic newspaper articles that came out, the online interview with the Rector and so forth that became available to us on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning -- whenever it was -- and then when I had meetings on grounds that coming week. I remember the distinctive gesture that I would make to my faculty friends when I would see them from 50 feet away. I can't really explain these on recording, but we would put our arms up in astonishment, sort of "What? What the heck?" So, my friend [inaudible], who works in the school of Public Policy, saw each other and did exactly that from mutual understanding. "What in the world is going on?" was the expression of disbelief that both of us felt without even having to exchange any words. And so as people began to talk about things and put things together, we began to put some pieces together in this very large and complex puzzle, but I had to leave the country that Thursday or Friday to go to a conference in the Netherlands. So after trying to listen to as much as I could about what was going on, I had to leave the country and was going to be out of the loop for the following  for the conference I was going to be at. So I was immediately sort of taken away from the epicenter, but still I tried to follow. I remember sitting at the airport in Dulles and trying to get as much news as I could about what was going on that coming Friday but it was not very successful.
KB: And then you came back at what point in this process?
MG: I came back the night of the big meeting in the business school -- that is, what was that, the following Sunday, maybe? The 16th or the 17th of June? at which John Simon spoke, for example. And I wasn't able to attend that -- I got back to town too late. But I was eagerly trying to read news reports and so forth on my smart-phone and so forth to try to get a sense of what happened there, but that's when I came back to town.
KB: So, could you elaborate on some of the meetings you had with your fellow faculty members and how you guys worked through it in the week and a half or two weeks after it happened and we tried to find out more things?
MG: Notice that at that time I was not a member of the executive council, and so I think of myself as not quite having had a ringside seat to all the events, but being three or four rows back or something of the sort, but I was involved in the Faculty Senate's deliberations. Mostly our communication was online -- was by means of emails sent out to the entire Faculty Senate. If I'm recalling correctly, we did not have any official meetings within the first week or two after that event ... I'm trying to remember. But a lot of our communication, the vast majority of our communication was just via email. And so we had lots of conversations about -- first of all, what exactly were the events that led up to the Rector and one of the other Board of Visitors members appearing at Teresa Sullivan's office on Friday, June 8th I think it was, and telling her that there was a majority of votes for her being asked to resign, and what was the justification for that, what were the reasons given for that, and what was her response, why did she respond the way that she did. We were just mostly trying to get the facts, trying to figure out what was happening and that was very difficult because the BOV and many others were just not being very forthcoming about that, so that was a problem. It was also puzzling that at least at first, the communication that came out from the Provost and the then CIO, Michael Strine, seemed to characterize the event as a done deal. That is, this is just going to happen, nothing's going to change, deal with it and carry on. And the communication from some of the deans suggested as much -- that they were just going to go forward and make the best of the situation. It was only a few days afterwards - I'm not sure about the exact dates, but I'm thinking something like June 20th, 21st, 22nd that people began to take seriously the possibility of Teresa Sullivan's being at least considered for reinstatement. (10:03) And so it took a lot of time just to try to figure out what the actual facts were, and in general there was more ignorance than knowledge about these matters, and more speculation than anything else. So, for the most part, we were -- I don't know if for the most part -- but we were getting information in part by virtue of reading articles that were reporting on the events, in for the example The Chronicle of Higher Education, or The Washington Post. So, now that I remember, there were a number of mornings where I seemed like a spent a good half of the morning or more just following the latest; you know my inbox would keep on having new things added to it and, yes, a series of links that somebody sent to the latest Washington Post article on the Virginia region part of the Washington post or the Higher Education part that talked about what it was able to put together about events down here. And likewise for the Chronicle and likewise for Insider Higher Education. A lot of the time that I spent those early weeks really was just trying to connect via email and follow up the conversation that was going on among us in the Faculty Senate, as well as trying to read as many of the articles that we could and the reporting that was happening, and some of the reporting was not quite accurate. A lot of it was highly speculative, but often--. So we learned, I think, pretty quickly, not to take anything at face value but try to read three or four things talking about the same question before we could come to it an answer ourselves.
KB: So, as you got interested in what happened and got more involved and followed the facts that were known, would you say there is one or two factors that played a big role in your interest and motivation to get involved?
MG: Yes. I'd say the answer is yes. And the most important factor was our feeling -- my feeling -- and I think the feeling that is shared by faculty and the students that I've talked to and the staff -- that it just began to look like there was something underhanded in what had happened in that first week of June. And it looked like something was amiss. That, if the Board of Visitors has problems with the president then they should make those problems known -- put them on the table. Have us discuss them. Have it be consultative. This is the heart and soul of academic life -- the give-and-take of reasons. I'm going to give my views at an academic conference, I'm going to get shut down, I'm going to learn from what people have to say, but that's just part of the process. And likewise if the BOV is not happy with somebody in the administration, they should tell that person and tell others what the source of their frustration is and try to give reasons for those frustrations and hear peoples' replies. (12:31) So, it began to seem to us that none of that ever actually happened, and that the method by which the president was kind of pressured to resign seemed to us to have been questionable at best, maybe worse than that (though we don't know for sure; we still don't know the actual facts). It looked to us like if there were issues that should be addressed, they should be addressed out in the open, in public, with lots of consultation and conversation. And so what got me provoked, I guess, was that feeling. But then what spurred a continued interest on my part and lots of other faculty, I think, was the feeling that it seemed to us as if the strategy for the announcement of the resignation at this particular time of the academic or annual cycle was something like, Well, early June, the faculty have gone off to their archives or archeological excavations or wherever they go, students are gone, and sleepy Charlottesville with nothing much going on in early June will just kind of roll over or not bother with and in the fall we'll have a new president and carry on. That seemed to many of us to be among of the things a little bit offensive. And then I was pleasantly surprised by the breadth and depth of outcry that I heard from faculty, students, staff, community members, and so on. And so, a lot of us felt like, Hey, there is the momentum. If it was only one of us complaining or feeling uncomfortable with this, or just a few of us, then that would be one thing. But it was clear that there was the strength of feeling on the part of the community -- broadly construed to include the academic community -- (14:04) to actually try to speak out and object, and that's what we found ourselves having the power to do. That was a very exciting time. It doesn't happen very often, and it was very inspiring to see so many of my colleagues, peers, people that I have known for many reasons, coming out from their normal routines and standing on the lawn protesting and so forth. I had friends coming down from other universities, friends who came down from Georgetown, friends I was in contact with at the University of North Carolina, at the University of Kansas, who were working with their own Faculty Senates to make statements of support of what we were doing. So, it seemed to us -- I'm not a revolutionary kind of guy, I'm not the sort of person who thinks much is going to happen by virtue of just standing in the streets and protesting and so forth. I don't generally get involved in things like that. Change for me tends to -- in my view to be something that happens in a much more incremental and painstaking way, but this struck me as an example in which getting people out in the street could make a serious difference, and so I was very glad, excited to see that there were many people who felt the same way. So it's a matter of strength in numbers, and that's what we were able to do. But it wasn't just lots of people stamping their feet. It was lots of people giving good, articulate, intelligent, balanced, cogent reasons for why something really was amiss.
KB: And you were one of those people -- in at least some of the official communication and you spoke at a rally as well.
KB: Could you elaborate on your specific actions that you took that were public and that were intended to affect the situation at hand?
MG: Right. Well, I wanted to -- I was trying to perhaps lighten up, lower the pressure level a little bit by trying to inject a bit of humor into my short (all two and a half minutes or something like that) speech on this issue of philosophical differences. So I thought I would have a little bit of a good time and try to get people to perhaps take it down a peg by helping us laugh at ourselves a little bit. But I also wanted to say this idea that there are philosophical differences -- that that sometimes means something, but in this particular case it wasn't clear that it did mean anything, or at least insofar as the issue of transparency on the part of the BOV came to the table. There was never any point in which anybody said in a sustained and articulated way, “Here's what's wrong with the way the president is doing things, and here is why we're not happy with it.” It was much more, you know, it sounded much more to us like the BOV was caught up in this, on this bandwagon of this idea of strategic dynamism, for example. It wasn't ever clear exactly what that meant but that was supposed to be big deal and there wasn't enough of that around here so we need somebody who's into strategic dynamism, which struck just as a kind of smoke-screen, or -- I'm a philosopher of language so I spend a lot of time thinking about the ways that words can bewitch our minds and the idea of strategic dynamism strikes me as a perfect example, a potentially bewitching kind of phrase. And so, I was provoked to kind of respond to that and to say, when it comes to things like online education, which allegedly the president had not been sufficiently proactive in trying to pursue, our answer was (to our surprise, our pleasant surprise): actually, UVA does a whole lot of that and is very involved in that and continues to be involved in that, and in fact, the impetus to move to work with COURSERA is something that happened before and independently of any objections that were ever raised by the BOV towards President Sullivan. So, I wanted just to address some of those issues and in general try to suggest to the Board and people involved with them that there are a lot of expert people on the faculty, and many of us in various aspects of things in the economy and technology and so forth, and so many of us were just astonished at how little anyone on or connected to the Board asked anybody on the faculty what they thought about anything. There are incredible experts on the faculty in education, technology, technology transfer and so on. No one asked us any questions about that, and so a lot of us felt like something is really amiss when the stewardship of the entire university, the governorship of the entire university is not listening to people who are appropriately experts. And if somebody has an objection to talking to university faculty because of possible conflict of interest, then talk to people at Tech or at William & Mary, or VCU, or James Madison. None of that seems to us to have happened either. (18:15) That's why we were so upset about how things had gone, because it was just -- it seemed to us to be a decision (or several decisions) that were made in the purely kind of corporate board-room kind of culture, and I think that corporate board-room culture is one that should have a place at the table that makes decisions for the running of the university. You need to hear about how a corporate person thinks. But that's one place and there should be other voices and positions that are made manifest in those sorts of discussions. So, I felt like I wanted to do what little bit that I could to try to push the conversation more in the direction of: if you've got problems, say what the problems are, share them with the rest of us, and we'll get other people in the conversation and see if we can come up with a consensus. That's not what happened, and I was trying to suggest that we should do more.
KB: So, ultimately, after you took those actions along with many other community members, do you feel that there were effects that you could cite as a result other than the reinstatement (which we will get to later)? Did you notice any difference or change afterwards?
MG: Not that I can see. I have no idea what causal impetus I had in my own work -- probably extremely little. But, the main thing that we cared about as a first step was the reinstatement of the president. What I don't see yet -- haven't seen since my talk, or any of the other events that have happened, is any serious sustained ... Let me qualify that a little bit. I see only a modest effort to engage in a more sustained and informed way on the part of the community, the university, et cetera, experts on the questions of the proper running of the university. So, the way in which there are now more consultants -- people like Leonard Sandridge that are consultants to the BOV -- that's a good thing, I think that's fine. I think that's a perfectly reasonable thing, but I think we need a lot more of that, and I would like it if the Board members were more willing come and -- I mean, I've never once spoken to a faculty member who told me about how they met a Board member or had a Board member say, "Hey, could I sit in on your class someday, I just would enjoy it. Would you mind it?" or, "Could I come with you and some students to have lunch or something of the sort?" That is to say, a lot of these people seem -- I mean, the governor, Governor McDonnell put this, typified the attitude perfectly when, in a letter that he wrote to the community, said something like this: The BOV has the best knowledge of the university because they see it from very high up -- they have a kind of eagles’-eye-view of it all. And my thought about that was something like this: I wanted to ask him, if he had been in the room, I would've wanted to ask him, "Is it kind of like the way you can see the Earth from the Moon?" That is, that shows you some things you might not otherwise see; it's good to have a birds-eye-view, but you're going to miss a lot on some details. And the details of the daily running of the university, what our workload is like, what we do, the kind of things we give to our students, and so forth, is something that, in so far as I can tell, many or most of the members of the BOV are just ignorant of. (21:16) And culpably ignorant, I would say, because, so far as I can tell, no one has ever bothered to try to find out. And so, that's something that I have not seen change yet, and maybe some day it will, but I haven't seen any evidence that there's any difference in attitude there. That is to say, the- so far as I can tell, within the BOV, it seems to me, there's a lot of ossification. They've just kind of circled the wagons, and said, "We're going to do things the way we've done it before," and no one is allowed to criticize -- for example when George Cohen went and spoke in front of the Board a couple weeks ago -- maybe a month, a month and a half ago -- said something like "We think, we shouldn't believe that we can push a reset button and go back to make things as if the problems never happened, and just carry on as if there hadn't been any problems in the past. He was smacked down on the part of the response of the BOV members. And I thought the response to that -- that was made to George -- showed just an astonishing unwillingness to learn from mistakes.
KB: Was that on the part of other faculty members?
MG: No, the BOV. So we had a presentation to the BOV saying we shouldn't just ignore the past, we should try to understand it and to move beyond it by means of some kind of further discussion on what happened, what went wrong. And it seemed to me when I read the transcript of the BOV proceedings from that day, the response was something like "No, we shouldn't. We should just move forward." And, we shouldn't dwell on the past. And for those of us faculty -- I'm not a historian, but I care about history -- the faculty members who -- those of us on the faculty were just kind of astonished by that attitude -- as if, if you forget about the past, it'll just go away, right? As if no one has ever said that those who ignore that past are doomed to repeat the mistakes that were made, therein and so forth. So there's a kind of willful historical ignorance.
KB: And why do you think that might be the case?
MG: Hmm. I don't know. I think it might be at least in part that opening up the past would require some admission of some painful things. I don't know what those are, but it could be that there may be some truth that would be very painful to admit about how things happened in the weeks -- the very beginning of June, for example -- that people would rather not have to have to own up to. I don't know. I don't claim that I know that to be the case. I'm not asserting it, but I'm speculating it as a possibility.
KB: That's something the BOV has themselves mention that they would rather that the President, the University community, UVA in general not try to go back and revisit what happened and talk about it, and delve into. Would you disagree or agree with that statement that the BOV has implicitly and explicitly made?
MG: I would disagree with that statement and urge that we should go back to those events to try to understand how and why they happened. Simply because, in general, I think historical events that have been troublesome and have caused problems, that have involved various kind of strife and suffering, dislocation and so forth, need to be re-examined. Even in interpersonal relationships, if something has gone wrong, if I have offended someone, for example, it's not just enough to say "Well, let's just move on, shall we?" At least an apology is appropriate, and beyond that, if there's reason to think that trying to understand why I did the things that I did that were offensive -- that we could benefit in our relationship from that, I would try to, even if it would be painful. And so, I think there is a level of courage that's required there that we might be missing here.
KB: Yeah. If you don't mind, I would like to backtrack a little to something you said earlier about when you found out that President Sullivan would be resigning. You expressed something along the lines of you thought she might have done something really bad. And you've actually been here under the previous President, President Casteen. So, could you speak about any differences you might have noted between your experience while Casteen was president, and your experience here while Sullivan was president?
MG: My sense when I came here in the early-mid-90s -- 1993 -- and for the following, I'd say, decade after that, is that President Casteen seemed to be a pretty dynamic, pretty powerful, pretty effective figure in things like high-level fundraising, in putting into place -- I don't know the exact dates of these but things like AccessUVA and so forth, and did a lot of stuff in that decade, it seems to me. And my sense maybe starting in 2003, 2004, something like that, is that it began to kind of lose steam. I kind of felt like for the last five or six years of his tenure as president, not a whole lot happened aside from his, for example, defending the University's refusal to do anything about the Living Wage, for example. So I didn't feel like there was a whole lot of energy, enthusiasm, originality coming out of the President's office in that second half of this -- at least in my time -- second half of his term. So, I respected him, thought that he was a good leader in many respects, but I also felt that it wasn't a bad idea to try to let somebody else with energy and some new ideas -- to try take over. But also, a lot of us felt that Madison Hall operated in ways that were more of less opaque to the rest of the University. So it kind of felt to a lot of us as if, you know, tuition dollars would come in from the college and we were in the main sort of source of tuition dollars as far as we knew and then it would go to Madison Hall and then we might get some back, or not, depending upon what was decided, and we often felt like there was a kind of glass ceiling above the College of Arts & Sciences, relative to the professional schools, for example; that there's always going to be a limit to how much support we could get to grow because the priorities were in many respects in the schools -- for the schools of Law and Business and so forth. So, there was that kind of feeling under President Casteen and with President Sullivan with her move toward the RCM (responsibility centered management) model in which individual schools would have more responsibility for their own finances, for instance, there was going to be a chance in which we would be able to break through that glass ceiling a little bit and make some changes there. Now that all got disrupted last summer, and I haven't -- I was on one of the Provost's task forces to try to help implement this new model, and then that got disrupted by the events of the summer and we haven't gone back to work. I don't know why. I'm not sure why that is, but I'm hoping that that with the new president we'll begin to see more individual units of responsibility -- that would be a good thing. The other thing that we've learned in the last couple of months is that the previous president seemed to be very masterful at working with the Board, and was able to pretty much get them to do the things he saw fit in the governing of the university, and it looks in retrospect like President Sullivan has been learning how to do that, but wasn't in complete mastery of how to work with the Board and I suppose I would say, if I were in her position, I'd want to make sure that in the future I'll never go into a meeting with the BOV without knowing beforehand what's going to happen there, or the members that are out. So, I think she's learned, and it might've been, in retrospect, the case that she could've spent more time talking to President Casteen about how he did things at the day-to-day level, working with the Board of Visitors. But, hindsight is 20/20, so one can never know. It's not clear how much that means. But the main point is, it seemed to us in the first year and a half of President Sullivan's tenure that she was doing good things and making some changes that we sorely needed over the last decade at least. And I think that some of those are going to continue to move forward, but there was a lot of disruption last summer and no one benefitted from it.
KB: And, in terms of, like you mentioned, relationship between the BOV and President Sullivan, and how they apparently don't communicate as much as perhaps Casteen did or maybe not as well-
MG: up until recently
KB: Yes. Stemming from that, what was your reaction when you found out that the BOV did choose to reinstate President Sullivan?
MG: I was relieved and delighted and two weeks before that or a week and a half before that I would not have believed that was possible, so that was surprising and exciting result. We were very gratified by that. We think they did the right thing. I think a lot of that was just due to pressure. Seems to us that that decision was not based -- that decision was not an acknowledgement of a mistake anymore than it was they're realizing that they were going to look even more ridiculous had they decided to hold on to their position of having dismissed her -- or accepted her resignation. So, it's not so clear to me that they had much choice if they wanted to actually remain as members of the BOV. It didn't strike me as an extremely virtuous decision. Nonetheless it was a decision that we were happy with.
KB: So, you think that the community reaction leading up to that point was the main, key important aspect that led to the reinstatement of Sullivan?
MG: Community, but also, there is a national reaction. It wasn't just a community reaction. There were people from all over the country writing fairly high-profile articles in the Chronicle, in the New York Times, the Washington Post an so forth, saying how much of a disaster this was, and explaining why. And they were giving good reasons for it. They were making it very clear that the University of Virginia was looking ridiculous by mid-June. And they were right. I think they made their cases very well. And so it seemed to me that the BOV was under duress. They had to do something and there were two options: not reinstate her, reinstate her. Not reinstating her would have made them look even more absurd, given the amount of outcry that there was -- not just locally, but nationally. So I think their hand was pretty much forced.
KB: Do you think there's anything particular about UVA culture or our community that framed or shaped that reaction? Perhaps, if it happened at another place, do you think it would have been different? Is there a part of UVA that's important that shaped the reaction?
MG: I think there probably is. First of all, UVA has much more of a sense of its history than do other universities in this country. And I think it's also a matter of the geography of the place. That is to say, most people who work at UVA or are students here, live here too, at least for some period of time. If it were a commuter school, for example, as many universities are, there probably would be less commitment to it. But, this is -- when students come here, UVA becomes their life -- as opposed to something they drive to, park at, go to, and then go home afterwards. And likewise it's not -- I don't know many faculty, though I'm sure there are some that live in the DC area and who commute down here to go to work -- there's some -- but I think the majority of the people don't do that. And so this our backyard, it's our home, it's not just a place where we work, and so, I think that makes people more passionate in their commitment to loving the University than they otherwise would be.
KB: And one of the other things that has been mentioned in relation to the reaction was the role of the Honor Code, or the community Honor system. Do you think that that played a part in it, or do you think that that had a role?
MG: It may have been, and I don't really know the answer to that question. It's certainly possible, but insofar as we take ourselves to be in a community in which integrity, respect are important values -- whether it comes in the form of the explicit honor code or not, I don't know -- but insofar as those values are taken seriously here, that presumably is part of the cultural background that many people stand up and want to object to the way things have been done. So I think that's part of it, but I can't -- I would not myself say with any confidence that the honor code per se made a big difference as opposed to there just being a general sort of in-the-air, in-the-water, in-the-atmosphere feeling around here that respect, integrity and so forth are important virtues.
KB: And do you think the University can move past those blips on our radar in terms of our virtues? You mentioned the respect the community feels. It seems that that was somehow affected this summer. What do you think we can do to move forward in a positive direction?
MG: Yeah, I think that we can move forward. I think we can move beyond the past. But I think by far the best way to do so is by openness, reconciliation, perhaps hard, painful discussions with certain people, and getting people to just be forthcoming about the process of what happened and why. So I think there's still a certain amount of cloudiness about what happened and what was going on and who voted for what and when and who told what over the phone in the first week of June and so forth. I would like to hear more of the actual facts there. I don't know that that's ever been settled. People have told me that we'll never know. My answer is: whether we know or not depends on whether certain people are willing to come forth and be honest. So that's what I'm waiting for. And I think that we need to have that honesty, we need to have that transparency and sometimes -- and in some case it might be admission of things that are difficult to admit. Before we can move forward in a way that involves -- that would involve us saying: "We have now cleared the air. The air has now been cleared," as far as I'm concerned. We can move forward in the sense that time moves forward, but that's not any better than in which, you know, a couple might fight and then just move forward and not talk about it. And over time they might forget about it, but the resentment can remain. And I think the resentment on some level can and will remain here until some of those issues have been directly addressed. So I think that's what we need to do. Whether it will happen depends on the choices made by a relatively small amount of people.
KB: So what values do you think the events of the summer brought to the forefront for the community, maybe even personally, but also for the UVA community?
MG: Values... I guess there are a couple things. One is, as I've said before, integrity. And that means being willing to act on and speak up for the things that you care about. Honesty. Transparency. Respect for others. That's certainly a part of it. I think, also, the value of having a community of inquiry. Lots of people around, all of whom are willing to give reasons for or again different positions. The importance of consultation as opposed to fiat. So, it seems to me it's easy for a bureaucrat, easy for an administrator to make a decision without consultation, but by fiat instead. And, of course there are times when someone in a position of power has to make a decision after having heard what everybody's got to say. They often have to make a decision that's not going to make everyone happy. That's unavoidable. That's what happens in just about any large institution. But the virtue of trying to listen to as many points of view before you get to that point, before you have to sign the memo to whoever it is, is something that was very much brought to my attention in a way that I had always sort of known about and would've said "yes" to on a ballot or something of the sort, but hadn't perhaps brought home in as vivid a way as it did this last summer, so that was very important.
KB: So, in terms of points of view and consultation (like you've mentioned), how much of a voice do you personally feel you have in the way that the UVA is run?
MG: I think I've got a voice that is appropriate for the kind of role that I play. That is, I am not an administrator; I am essentially a faculty member. I sit on a number of committees, wear a number of hats, but I'm essentially, culturally, in my self-conception and so forth, a professor. And I think in light of that, or maybe in spite of that, it seems to me, these days at least, that role is one that gives me modest voice. I guess... It has been made clear by both President Sullivan and the Provost John Simon, and many other administrators sometimes below them that, at least these days, the administration really cares about what faculty have to say. That doesn't mean that they can make all faculty happy about everything, but they do care what they've got to say. I've been answering a lot of surveys lately -- usually anonymously. But, it seems people are asking for what I've got to say, but I don't know if I stand out in that respect relative to other faculty members. I just have a sense that the University administration is going out of its way now more than it has in the past to hear what faculty members have to say. I hope that's the case for staff. I hope that's the case for students. But it seems to me that there's a perhaps new level of willingness to listen to what faculty have to say, take that into account, and that's I think driven by awareness that you can't have a great university without faculty that are themselves happy, productive, doing well, and happy to be here. Otherwise, they're just employees who feel like, you know, their autonomy is at risk and who don't feel like they're heard. So, there are ways in which faculty are not going to be happy about certain things, but, you know, for example there's been a lot of complaints about salary issues of the last four or five years, not just for the faculty. But that's not so much how the place is run as it is, you know, the something more like, I don't know, maybe details -- but that strikes me as not as deep an issue as some of the other issues about faculty governance. And one thing that I feel is that the Faculty Senate has become very -- has been very successful at is, over the last six months (fewer than that I guess, since June), bringing the issue of faculty shared governance onto the table and making it an important issue. Three or four years ago I would've thought it was kind of boring and not very important to think about faculty shared governance. I would've just wanted to focus on my research and teaching. Now I'm, to my surprise, inclined to be fairly activist about that sort of stuff and hope that other faculty will want to get on board and do the same thing. That is to say, one of the constant dangers for universities is that they can be taken over by kind of corporatization, and it seems to me that the most powerful method of resisting that is by having faculty and staff of various kinds and also students, if at all possible, speaking not necessarily with a unified voice but with articulate voices that can say things about what they think and about how things should be done. And if they don't, then administrators will fill in the gap and do what they want to do. And that would be a shame. So, it's easy to fall into a way of living that just involves taking care of your own needs and interests, and sometimes it's unavoidable. But insofar as we faculty care about the institution, and even just are self-interested about our own careers, we do well (all of us, I think) to do only a little bit by way of stepping outside our own little niches or silos and participating in the University-wide conversation. That's something I might have paid lip service to one or two or three years ago, and now I feel has been driven home in much more vivid a way. So is that a silver living inside of a cloud? Perhaps, I don't know. But I feel like that's an aspect of how I want to live as a professor that I wouldn't have foreseen a year ago -- if you had interviewed me a year ago -- whereas now I feel that very vividly.
KB: So would you say that the events of this past summer shaped that opinion and view to a larger extent?
MG: Yes. Which is not to say "Thank you." [chuckle]
KB: On that note, also, what do you make of the general governance structure of UVA currently, and maybe you can elaborate on things that you'd like to see versus what you see as currently being the case?
MG: Yeah. The general governance structure is complicated enough that I don't feel like I've got a complete enough understanding of it. But I would say that, it seems to me, there's something amiss in the way that the Board of Visitors is appointed and how they vote the way they do. So, as a first approximation, it seems to me that the Board of Visitors appointments are made roughly to people who've made significant campaign contributions to the sitting governor. And that strikes me as at best a partial approximation to the sort of expertise and commitment that one should have for BOV membership. So, many people on the faculty have said we should have a voting faculty member or two on the BOV. That's one model. There is the objection of possible conflicts of interest as Terry Sullivan has pointed out, to which one might reply: maybe we should have faculty members from other institutions that sit on our BOV. That wouldn't be a bad idea. I already know, for example, someone from the Education school who's on Lynchburg College's relevant analog of the BOV -- I don't know if it's called the same thing -- and she enjoys that very much and probably makes a great contribution. But another approach that I've discussed with other members of the executive council is that of having lots of consulting, non-voting faculty representation on the BOV, and that might be just as good if not better. That is to say, so long as we're able to have a place at the table and the conversation, then if we can think -- if there's reason to think that our contribution to the conversation is something that the people listening will actually hear and understand and take into account before they make their deciding votes -- that might be good, maybe even better. So, and I would just add, there is a huge amount -- certainly not me -- but certainly a huge amount of expertise on the faculty for things that are very relevant to the running of a university. Architecture, and urban planning, and educational technology, and twenty-seven other things that we've got a huge set of resources here for, and it's just a shame not to draw upon them. So I'd like to see -- Governor McDonnell I think made the right step in appointing Leonard Sandridge and I guess the former president of JMU as consulting members, and I would say I think that we can take more steps along those directions -- in that direction -- and I think that would improve the governance structure of the university in significant ways.
KB: Like you mentioned, the BOV does seem to be made up of, in a large part, of people that might've contributed to the governor's campaign or been close to the governor in some capacity. Do you think that this -- not uniform, but similar -- make-up of the BOV across the board played a significant role in how the events of the summer unfolded and were handled?
MG: Could well be. I guess I don't know enough about the actual personalities of the members of the BOV to be able to say with any confidence. Could be that if, you know, the Board had been appointed in very different ways, it could similarly have ended up with the same result. I just don't know. It's just -- it seems to me to be too many counterfactuals to make me feel confident of answering that question in one way or another. It's just hard to say. So, it seems to me, on any given Tuesday, somebody might be caught up in the phrase "strategic dynamism," or caught up, overwhelmed by somebody's article in the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal about the coming tsunami that they describe in online education and so forth. And I don't think anybody is immune to being -- I don't know if “bamboozled” is the right word, but perhaps misled or over-reacting to information like that. So I don't think there's any guarantee. I don't think there's any way of populating the BOV in any way that is going to guarantee against behavior that might be regrettable. But I would say that the more we have Board members or consultants to the Board who come from different perspectives, who are serious about the virtue of open conversation and conversation that involves debate that goes into the small hours of the morning, if that's what necessary to settle an issue, then do it. Don't just stop because it's 5 o'clock, or something of that sort. Those sorts of virtues are absolutely crucial for working through hard decisions, and I would just like to see more of that. I'm not sure that there is enough at this point.
KB: And what do you also make of -- you mentioned this earlier, the discrepancy, I guess, in the power that the state -- the governor -- exerts over the Board of Visitors by appointing them, and then on the other hand, the funding that we receive from the state? What do you make of that discrepancy yourself?
MG: It's regrettable, I suppose. It seems to me that, as David B. (?) once put it, University of Virginia used to be state-supported, then it became state-assisted, now it's pretty much state-located. The funding has dwindled and that has hurt the College of Arts and Sciences more than it has the other schools because we depend upon tuition, and therefore state funding, much more heavily than the other University units. So, we've been -- the College has just been suffering in that respect. That's what I refer to when I talk about the glass ceiling. It's frustrating. It's not going to change though. I've heard people talk about how, you know, maybe the University of Virginia should privatize or something. I think that's pretty much impossible because I think the state would just never let that happen. The state considers UVA too important of a resource for it to be able to call part of its own. I think that for that to happen -- at least anytime soon -- some very significant changes would have to happen first. So, in lieu of that, we need to find other ways of trying to support our finances and, you know, capital campaigns have been relatively successful. I think we need to keep on doing those, looking for other sources of resources. But I also feel very strongly that even if the University as a whole is managing to do fairly well even in tough financial times, the College of Arts and Sciences is the one that continually gets pinched the hardest, and that's the thing I feel most urgent about trying to rectify. (48:14)
KB: In terms of the University and its role in Virginia and nationally, could you speak to what you think might be, generally, the role of public universities?
MG: Well, I wouldn't describe myself as thinking that there's such a thing as the role of a public university. I think a public university has many roles. I don't think I'd even want to put a finite number on that -- maybe there's a sort of indefinite number of roles. But, it seems to me, one that goes as far back as Jefferson's own conception of it is just taking the non-aristocratic part of the population and trying to make education available to them. And that's very important to me and one of the reasons why I care about being in a public university. Our ethos is that of trying to take people who, regardless of whether they can afford coming here, have the intellectual capacity to get an education here and I very much want to support that. That's important. Outreach, community partnership are very important things. Transferring of technology into the corporate sector, making medical things happen, and technological advances possible are, I think, very important. So I think these days if there's anything to be said about the role of the University, it's that there are a whole lot of them. There's a proliferation of roles. It's not necessarily a bad thing as long as we keep in mind that there's certain things that we're primarily about and other things that we're not primarily about. So it's possible to slide from partnership with corporations for research purposes to becoming a little too cozy with corporations, where research stops, and supporting what corporations want to do starts. I don't know exactly where to draw that line, but we should be vigilant about that kind of thing. Likewise, we should be vigilant about the value of a classical liberal arts education in response to the pressure that we're constantly feeling from the public about the question, "Well, exactly how much does a philosophy major or a history major pay off for people?" I think it pays off hugely but not in a way that is in the short-term an easily quantifiable matter. It pays off in the long run, but not in terms of your income when you're 24 or 25, but in the terms of your quality of life throughout your entire adult years. So, trying to emphasize how it is that while there are lots of new things the university does that it hasn't done before -- to emphasize that there are other things that we've been doing for a long time and that we're still good at and it's still a very big part of our value, if you will. And I don't want to be apologetic for the importance of -- apologetic about the importance of a classical, liberal arts education that might keep you moderately or unemployed for the first couple years out of college but that's okay, I'm not scared about that, because those people that've got the good educations from ages 18 to 22 end up in the long run to be much more likely to have productive, satisfying careers further out -- as opposed to the people who get straightforward professional, technical skills early on and who are often locked into a certain career path thereafter. So I think we provide keys that open doors for students that are not as tangible -- not as easy to specify or define -- but I think very important. And it's easy to get caught up in people's complaints about the rising costs, rising tuition of education, the difficulty that students have coming out of college getting jobs. This is a topic that's very much a conversation in places like Florida and Texas now, I understand. And it's of course in the air here and I think that part of what we need to do as a University is to talk back to that sort of rhetoric and say, "That's not what we're doing here. We're not primarily just a professional, technical, skill-granting kind of institution. We do those things too, but at our core, at our heart, is the idea of cultivating minds."
KB: So, along those lines, would you say that the roles, or maybe we can call them the goals of a university and maybe universities at large -- have changed from the time they've been founded to the present time, and are they, in your opinion, changing for any particular direction -- in the positive/negative direction?
MG: Well, I think some universities are changing in a way to be much more, kind of, professionally oriented. But it seems to me the leading universities, at least in this country, haven't done that yet -- at least primarily. So there's more energy being put in those directions by some other universities and other institutions but it seems to me the most salient, the most visible institutions of higher education in this country are pretty much keeping their eyes on the prize as far as I can tell. It's not so much that, but rather, I think we need to say more publicly, by way of outreach and PR and so forth, about why it is that doing what we've always done is still worth doing, that there's still something that matters. But that's compatible with having a sector of a great public of private university be very much involved with something like technology transfer, for example. There's nothing wrong with that, but that shouldn't be seen as replacing the core values of higher education. Have things changed? I think things have changed with lots of new universities overall, but I think those changes tend to be superficial. I think some of the common virtues are pretty persistent over time, and I think that's probably a good thing. But, we're always in a delicate position. There's always a lot of fragility in the status of higher education. If the economy takes a terrible downturn, or some other cataclysmic event affects this country, there's always the danger that people will come after the universities and say "Aha, this is the next bubble," or something of this kind, and “we need to change it radically.” So my point is, I don't think things have changed hugely in the last say, century, regarding what higher education is about -- at least at the most salient, prominent universities. But, that itself is no predictor of the future. That could -- that's very fragile, and I think part of what we need to do to preserve that continuity is being willing to be more outspoken about what we do and why it matters.
KB: Okay, thank you. Speaking of changes, one of the things that you've mentioned and I know you will be teaching a course on -- through online education. So, I was wondering what your opinion on the role of online education or the increase of technology in the classroom is.
MG: And I don't have an opinion yet. I'm still trying to find it out. I got involved with COURSERA in order -- in part to find out what it's all about, what it's possibilities are, and those of us who are involved in it, for example Lou Bloomfield in Physics, and Phil Zelikow in History, are interested in part because we want to know whether it can be used in order to support and enhance what we're doing in the classroom already. So, I am hoping to use some of my COURSERA work to, so to speak, flip what I do in my on-grounds course called "Know Thyself." We'll see if that works. It might fail. We'll see. It's all a grand experiment as James (?) likes to say. And it'll be fun, it'll be interesting to find out how it works, but it might all flop. So, I'm not sure what we're going to learn from it, but I do think it's an interesting prospect and it may well be -- this is just one scenario -- but it may well be that there will be a kind of, say, iTunes-ification of higher education. That is, if we can get these courses to start having accreditation in the future -- don't know how to do that now, because we don't know how to grade them effectively, but if that can change, we can start assigning grades in a way that matters, that's meaningful, that's significant. Then you can imagine the student who's at a traditional university taking classes, but who might want to have on her transcript this course from Wisconsin, and that course from Vanderbilt, and this course from Virginia, in order to round out her education, because the courses that she had available to her are perhaps not her first choices. That would be interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But it might put a lot of pressure on some of those smaller institutions -- some of the lower profile institutions but it also creates opportunities for may of us, so I think there are possible scenarios going out five or ten years that could have us thinking about what course offerings are like from the point of view of universities, and what going to college is like from the point of view of students, looking significantly different in the way in which, having an iTunes kind of technology available makes the whole game of listening to and appreciating music very different from the way it was ten, fifteen years ago. It's hardly recognizable now compared to the way it was a decade, a decade and a half ago. And the online education -- if it can be made transcript-friendly could affect a change perhaps as significant if not more-so. Don't know. I'm not saying it will, but that there's an opportunity -- the possibility -- and I'd like to have enough of a connection when it's happening in order to -- if that does happen, I'd like to be part of the people who are ready for it, and help others accompany that change if in fact that comes.
KB: And that's, I think, one of the specific points that we actually saw mentioned this summer in the communication that we did have from the BOV and the Rector. But we also -- there was communication from the Rector outlining certain points, or certain aspects of the university that the BOV and the Rector felt need to change or change more quickly, and what do you personally make of those statements that the BOV and the Rector have made about them?
MG: Yeah, they struck me as unfounded and not particularly well formed about what's happening on grounds. So, I don't see that there are any departments of programs that needed to be closed because they're not gaining enough tuition dollars, for example. I don't see that -- I don't think that we have been too tepid in our approach to various opportunities. For example, technology and technological deliverance of education. So I don't think those objections are at all well founded. So it seems to me those are kind of beside the point. I would not worry about those so much, though I do think it would be good if the BOV could articulate those objections, those reasons, those doubts, and say more about them. But I would say, in general, we're just continuing on, and lots of faculty and staff and others are very curious and very much on the cutting edge of, for example, digital humanities. We're very big in Virginia on digital humanities. There's a lot of stuff going on there, and it's very exciting, and we'll continue to carry on regardless of whether someone is criticizing us for not doing enough, because we're doing a lot, and I think we can shrug it off -- the objection that somehow we're not on the cutting edge, because in fact we know that we are.
KB: Okay. And that also brings me to some of my last questions, and the topic of the future of UVA, and how it interacts with the events of this past summer. So, maybe, generally speaking, how do you think the June events might impact the future of our community and our University?
MG: Gosh. That is very hard to say, and I think that because of the strength of response, protest, and so forth that occurred last summer to most people's surprise, I suppose, that, perhaps, helped cement or fortify a level of community that might have been in the air but perhaps not as solid, not as tangible as was the case before, so that's one thing. But I also would say that, you know, whatever the future brings depends in part on what the group or individual members view or decide to do. I think the ball is, in many respects, still in their court about whether or not they want to come forward to the public, or have conversation with faculty members throughout the university constituents, and say more about where they're coming from, and why they did what they did, and what actually happened and so forth. So in many respects, it's like that couple that had that argument and doesn't talk about it afterwards, right? Well, what happens depends upon whether somebody has the courage to try to address those issues, and that hasn't happened yet, and so the question is whether those wounds will fester or whether we'll try to address them and try to heal them.
KB: And on that point, you mentioned earlier that saying about those who don't know history are bound it repeat it. I guess along those lines, if you were looking back on a history of this time at UVA, what's something that you would want to be remembered for the future generations?
MG: What I'd like to be remembered is that there is -- it's very difficult to fight a large and, more importantly, articulate crowd. It's not so hard to fight a large crowd, but if it's an articulate crowd that can give their reasons and express their opinions and do so in an eloquent way, that's a very difficult thing to fight. Especially at a big institution -- a public institution like ours. And, so, the importance of not shutting up, the importance of standing up tall and saying "Here's what we think," and so forth, I think is a lesson that I think will, hopefully, be something we can take far into the future and, you know, tell our children, and their children, and so forth. That's very important.
KB: Is there anything else before we close out the interview that you would like to share with me, or might want on the record?
MG: Nothing that I can think of, but thanks very much. I certainly appreciate your taking the time to hear my point of view.
KB: I appreciate your agreeing to the interview, and for giving your time for this.