As the Board continues to resist professional and public pressure for more information, new theories are surfacing regarding what could be behind Sullivan’s ousting. Tuesday evening, 33 members of the University faculty members urged for “the Board of Visitors to reopen discussion with President Sullivan and the faculty” in a letter addressed to Rector Dragas and members of the Board of Visitors. The faculty explains, “The entire university community would benefit from a full airing of the specific ‘philosophical differences’ mention by you and President Sullivan in order to form a clear vision for the months and years ahead. We believe that this abrupt and, from our point of view, opaque decision will deeply threaten the way UVA is perceived by prospective as well as current faculty, students, and donors.”
Despite the widespread petition, Dragas refused to give anymore information, citing “sound employment practices” as the need to “keep confidential matters of disagreement and those relating to evaluation of progress against mutually agreed upon goals.”
With Dragas keeping quiet, many are digging for clues for what was really behind the Board’s decision. CLAS ’01 alumna Anne Marie Angelo believes the root of President Sullivan’s upheaval is the global investment banking company, Goldman Sachs. “The theory I have is that Goldman Sachs’s Education Management Corporation, a for-profit education provider, wanted to make or made a bid to offer online education through UVA. From this endeavor, EMC would invest profits back into the University, helping to heal some of the University’s fiscal woes. When Sullivan was reluctant or refused to agree to the venture, key members of the Board threatened litigation related to her performance as fundraiser for the University.”
Cutbacks in funding from the Commonwealth and a decrease in University donations over the past year has created serious financial difficulties for the university. Since UVA consistently lands in the top two of The Princeton Review’s Top Public College and Best Value College rankings, the school is under constant public scrutiny. In a March interview with Virginia Business, Rector Helen Dragas previously acknowledged the importance of public funding in achieving these top national honors, “We have to work harder to demonstrate our value and to improve in areas where our value may have slipped.” Sullivan’s refusal of instigating a potentially lucrative option of online classes may be one link in the chain of events that led to her termination as president.
Angelo is not the only one questioning a connection to Goldman Sachs. In an article in The Hook, Media Studies professor Siva Vaidhayanathan comments that Sullivan, “understands that universities are built for the long haul… It’s not supposed to work like Goldman Sachs. Unfortunately, the guys at Goldman call the shots at UVA.”
With anger rising and public pressure building, the scrutiny over Sullivan’s departure is sure to linger until more questions are answered. What do you think led to Sullivan’s oust? Comment below and let us know what you think!