Interim President, Carl Zeithaml, met concerns about his new appointment this afternoon at a press conference held in Rouss Hall. Dean Groves, Dean Woo, Provost John Simon and other prominent University figures were in attendance for his first test of leadership. Many of the questions asked reflected uncertainty about the Dean Zeithaml’s legitimacy and intentions for his new job. When asked why he accepted, Zeithaml commented that he took the job out of “commitment and love for this University” and said that he wants to use it as a way to rebuild the trust that had been lost since the Board’s decision to remove Teresa Sullivan. When asked what he thought about the Board’s actions, Zeithaml said the process was “deeply flawed” and that he did not support the decision to oust Sullivan.
In his opening remarks, Zeithaml focused on his goal to work with University leadership, faculty and staff, student groups, and alumni to rebuild the community of trust, calling for all parts of the University to join together to move the it forward. Despite the questionable events of the past ten days, he stressed that “we are all in this together” and that the effort to rebuild trust would involve all levels of the University.
Zeithaml also answered many questions that have been a source of worry amongst many in the University community since his appointment. He said he did not worry about the bulk of the donors turning their backs on UVa, claiming that many donors do not believe “this is the time to walk away.” He commented that he understands alumni frustrations, however, he does not support cutting off funding since it “only hurts the students.” He also answered questions about the hot topic of online education, something that has been on everyone’s minds since leaked e-mails revealed shared links and discussions between the rector and vice rector that focused on this aspect of University progression. Zeithaml urged a quick and “serious exploration” into the topic and hoped that it would involve faculty and university leadership to make a decision about what to do.
Zeithaml also claimed that his interim Presidency relied on the continued support and instatement of Provost John Simon. At one point, Simon was called on to answer questions about his involvement in the ousting. Many believed his resignation was only a matter of time. He rebuffed these statements, saying that he would only resign if the person appointed did not wish for him to continue or if he felt he could not work with them, Zeithaml denied either of these conditions existed.
Zeithaml does not expect to remain in the position for longer than a year. He also does not have any intention of being a candidate for the permanent job. His appointment will begin to be challenged when he meets with the Faculty Senate, Council of Chairs in the College, Dean Woo and other parts of the University, meetings which he has already scheduled. George Cohen, Faculty Senate Chief, said today that he hopes tomorrow’s meeting will be a “full and frank discussion” about future issues for the University and that he thinks it will be a good opportunity for Zeithaml “to make his case.” He acknowledged his engagement with parts of the University outside of the Commerce School would be integral to his success and said he is “already trying to reach out to parts of the University he is not familiar with.”
Video compiled by Sun Park.