Just before noon on Sunday, June 10th, Helen Dragas, the University of Virginia's Rector and head of its Board of Visitors, send an email to the university community to say that the president, Teresa Sullivan, had agreed to step down. In fact, the Board had fired her, and it was a colossal mistake.
The news came out of the blue. There had been no discussion and debate, no rumors or gossip that would have lead anyone outside of the Board to suspect anything was wrong. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the university were stunned.
And then they were angry -- angry about the secretive process that lead to Sullivan's dismissal and angry about the weak and misleading statements that justified it. The result was a rebellion that united the university community as never before and lead to Sullivan's reinstatement on June 26th.
I kept a visual diary of these events, using the sketchpad of our time -- the iPhone. There's nothing comprehensive or objective about this diary. It's simply the way that the last two weeks looked to me.
June 17th, Faculty Senate Meeting:
The university's Faculty Senate held an open meeting to confirm its vote of "no confidence" in the Board of Visitors and its call for President Sullivan's reinstatement.
[All photos copyright John Edwin Mason. Click on any image to see a larger version.]
Hundreds of faculty members attended to show their support for the senate's actions.
June 18th and 19th, Rally and Vigil at the Rotunda:
3,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends (along with members of the local and national media) attended a rally and vigil at the Rotunda that coincided with a special meeting of the Board of Visitors. They were they to demand President Sullivan's reinstatment. The Board's meeting lasted until nearly 3:00 am. Scores of Sullivan supporters maintained the vigil until the end.
Former University of Virginia President John Casteen attended the rally, having earlier criticized the Board's actions.
Opposition to the Board's actions united the university community as never before. Frat boys and hippies, student Democrats and student Republicans, town and gown all joined hands.
Julia and James spent part of their honeymoon protesting the Board's decision. Yes, they'd been married all of one day.
The Board's meeting dragged on, while the media waited.
Sullivan supports watched and waited.
As you can see, I stayed to the bitter end. At about 3:00, after the Board members had slipped away into the night without speaking to the Sullivan supporters, I was interviewed by a Daily Progress reporter. I can hardly remember what I had so say, but I do know that I wasn't a happy camper. You can read the article (and my quotes) here.
June 20th, Dean Carl Zeithaml, First Press Conference:
During its meeting on the 18th and 19th, the Board decided to appoint an interim president -- the dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, Carl Zeithaml. (His term would begin when Sullivan officially left office.) At a press conference on the 20th, Zeithaml called the process that led to Sullivan's ouster "flawed," but said that he felt obliged to serve the university in its time of need.
June 20th, Witness on the Lawn:
On the same day as Zeithaml's press conference, Sullivan supporters briefly gathered on the Lawn.
June 22th, Dean Carl Zeithaml, Second Press Conference:
At a second press conference, Dean Zeithaml announced that he was "stepping back" from all activities associated with being interim president-designate. He had come to realize that he would have no legitimacy as interim as long as there were serious doubts about the dishonorable way that the Board had acted in removing Sullivan.
June 24th, Rally for Honor:
University students organized a Rally for Honor. Speakers representing faculty, students, staff, alumni, and elected officials condemned the Board's decision and called for Sullivan's reinstatement. Perhaps sensing that the momentum had shifted away from the Board and toward Sullivan's supporters, the rally had an almost festive atmosphere.
Kenneth Elzinga, the Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics, calls for Sullivan's reinstatement.
Students and alumni who couldn't attend were represented by their photos.
My colleague, Peter Onuf, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History, calls for Sullivan's reinstatement.
The names of people and organizations that supported Sullivan's return.
People at the rally were invited to add their names to the banner.
This sign refers to the probability the the PR firm that Rector Helen Dragas hired wrote a lengthy statement, justifying the Board's decision to fire Sullivan, that was issued under her name.
Student organizer Suzie McCarthy closed the rally.
June 26th, President Teresa Sullivan Reinstated:
Having come under tremendous pressure from students, faculty, alumni, staff, donors, and elected officials, the Board met to reconsider its ouster of President Sullivan. While the Board met, a large crowd of Sullivan supporters waited to hear its decision. In the end, it voted unanimously to reinstate her.
Rector Dragas' PR firm takes some heat.
President Sullivan on the Rotunda's portico, waiting to address the crowd, after her reinstatement.
President Teresa Sullivan addresses a joyful crowd..
President Sullivan joins members of UVA's University Singers, administrators, faculty members, and staff to sing "The Good Old Song," the university's de facto alma mater.
You can find a timeline of the events related to President Sullivan's ouster and reinstatement, here.
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