As a recent alumnus of the University of Virginia, I have been ferociously tracking the controversial resignation of Teresa Sullivan as President. If you would like to give the Board of Visitor’s your opinion on the matter, click here to access the Alumni Feedback page. It closes tomorrow.
This was my submission:
Since graduation, I have learned a lot about politicking in the workplace. I saw a little bit of it in the organizations I was involved in on grounds: Student Council, Residence Life, and International Relations Organization. However, it wasn’t until recently when the CEO/President of my company received backwater treatment from our Board of Directors. He was asked to resign effective immediately without any warning. As someone who truly cared for the company and it’s mission, he was confused and hurt as was the staff. Luckily for him, he is already a well-established lawyer and teacher in Washington, so he it didn’t take him long to bounce back. When this happened in early February, I instantly lost faith in the leadership of the company and truly questioned their actions. Our Board didn’t have the slightest understanding of the staff’s daily duties, and I doubt they cared. In my opinion, they dismissed a President who presented them with the challenges (including financial) of our business model. They stuck with the old model and refused to consider the proposals the ex-President suggested. After much thought and no progress or changes, I left the company in May.
When I heard about Mrs. Sullivan’s resignation, I (along with my friends – fellow U.Va. alumni) was shocked and had a de ja vu moment. What has our society come to? I understand that while the University of Virginia is a multi-million dollar non-profit, there are similarities that one can draw from the small educational public policy based non-profit experience.
Boards are created to ensure the company fulfills it’s mission. Since you are familiar with the University’s stated purpose, I know you will make the right decision regarding how to best enhance the environment to support open debates and a lifetime of learning. It’s not only through online education.
The members of the Board of Visitors are supposedly well-established women and men with ample business background. I would have expected them to understand that jumping on the bandwagon isn’t going to solve your financial problems. Currently, I work for a non-profit dedicated to Open Course Ware in order to provide free online college courses (unaccredited). From my short time here, I would never substitue my undergraduate experience for online courses. Even with technological advancements such as realtime conferencing, I do not believe there is anything that can adequately substitute the dialogue (verbal and written) that I had fellow peers and faculty.
Mrs. Sullivan recognized the weaknesses of the University whether you wanted to hear it or not. These issues will not disappear overnight or with a new President. We must, as the Rector stated, deal with them now and reevaluate our business model. If you want to take a risk with online education, then so be it. Personally, I think our society would reap greater benefits if we invested in our faculty instead.
As you leave Georgetown to Rosslyn, you will pass the Francis Scott Key Park.