Maybe this kind of fluff flies in parts of the business world, but she certainly seems to be heading for disaster with an academic community where people actually care about reasoned analysis and explanation.
UPDATE: The first comment on the student newspaper site about this fluff is very apt:
I don’t know if this breathless, cloying statement will impress people in Virginia, but please rest assured everyone outside Virginia can see this for the shallow PR tripe it is. All the classic corporate cliches are here: references to the lawn, the family, “we’ve heard you,” etc. I suppose the consultants the university hired (at no small penny) helped dream this up. Transparency at UVA might begin by accounting for that. Meanwhile, however, this stinks of paternalism at best (“we have y
our best interest at heart, bunnies!”) and cover up at worst. The more the Visitors try to talk their way around the issue, and avoid coming clean on what their real agenda is (Goldman Sachs Online, anyone?) the more this will damage UVA’s reputation.
ANOTHER: Larry Sabato, a prominent political science professor at UVA, is really slamming the Board and the Governor on his Twitter account.
PRESIDENT SULLIVAN SPEAKS: Here is the text of her remarks to the Board of Visitors; it's a rather aggressive statement, appropriately so, and unlike Rector Dragas's fluff, it has real content; a few excerpts:
I have been described as an incrementalist. It is true. Sweeping action may be gratifying and may create the aura of strong leadership, but its unintended consequences may lead to costs that are too high to bear. There has been substantial change on Grounds in the past two years, and this change is laying the groundwork for greater change. But it has all been carefully planned and executed in collaboration with Vice Presidents and Deans and representatives of the faculty. This is the best, most constructive, most long lasting, and beneficial way to change a university. Until the last ten days,
the change at UVA has not been disruptive change, and it has not been high-risk change.
Corporate-style, top-down leadership does not work in a great university. Sustained change with buy-in does work. UVA is one of the world's greatest universities....
The faculty must also believe that they can do their best work here. They must believe in the future here. At any great university, the equilibrium – the pull between the desire to stay and the inducements to leave – is delicate. Rapid change rapidly upsets this delicate equilibrium.
Already in the last ten days we have lost faculty to other universities. Fortunately, we are well past the usual hiring season in most disciplines. But deans and provosts at every peer institution are setting aside funds now to raid the University of Virginia next year given the current turmoil on our
The academic mission is central and must be protected. Strategic cutting and large-scale cost savings have therefore been concentrated in non-academic areas, and these areas have become notably leaner and more efficient....
We have taken similar initiative with respect to faculty compensation. We found funds for a 2% faculty pay raise last year — not enough, but the first raise of any kind in four years. Equally important, we instructed deans not to give a 2% raise across the board, but to allocate all raise money on the basis of merit. This rewards our most valuable faculty and improves the incentive structure for all faculty.
A dramatic top-down reallocation in our general fund, simply to show that we are “changing,” or that we are not “incremental,” seems to me fiscally imprudent, highly alarming to faculty, and unfair to students who expect to get a broadly inclusive education here. I have chosen a lower-risk and more conservative strategy, because I am accountable to the taxpayers and the tuition payers.
If we were to embark on a course of deep top-down cuts, there would also be difficult questions regarding what to cut. A university that does not teach the full range of arts and sciences will no longer be a university. Certainly it will no longer be respected as such by its former peers.
Faculty collaborate both within disciplines and across disciplines. In the nature of things, many of these collaborations are not even known to the central administration. If we cut from the top down, without consulting the affected faculty, a cut in one department may have wholly unintended consequences in another department that we are trying to build up.
Nor can we always predict which kind of knowledge will be of greatest import in the future. Before September 11, few of us understood just how important Arabic and other Middle Eastern and Central Asian languages would become — to our students, to the nation, and to national security. Suppose we had eliminated some of those languages because of low enrollment or other fiscal considerations before 2001. We would be scrambling to recreate them now....
There is room for carefully implemented online learning in selected fields, but online instruction is no panacea. It is surprisingly expensive, has limited revenue potential, and unless carefully managed, can undermine the quality of instruction....
Fundraising takes time. A new President first has to meet donors and establish trust and rapport. Instability is as alarming to donors as it is to faculty and in the last few days you are already seeing the impact....
I want to turn to the issue of trust. The community of trust is not merely a term to describe a Code that applies to our students. We equally need a community of trust between faculty and administration and among our leadership teams. Trust does not mean an absence of disagreement. But it requires that disagreements be frankly discussed. No matter how accomplished he or she may be, a president cannot read minds. When you choose a new president, tell him or her what you are thinking.Terms and Conditions
This is a strong statement, which will be read, I expect, by Boards of Trustees nationwide with some interest. Hopefully they will learn from it. It's also a statement that makes clear that no rapprochement between President Sullivan and this Board will be possible. She makes quite clear that Dragas et al. are incompetent fools and meddlers, so unless they go, Sullivan's tenure is probably truly at its end. Will the Governor or some other political actors step up to the plate and can the miscreants?