I haven’t been following the mess at the University of Virginia, which defenestrated its president, Teresa Sullivan, in a very dodgy process. Lots happened yesterday on the campus, which is in great turmoil.
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.
I strongly suspect that this is one of those cases where clarity and directness of prose are indicative of incisive thinking and honesty. Contrast Sullivan’s statement to the cliché-laden, evasive, and intellectually and factually empty press release by the university’s rector, Helen Dragas. Read the two documents and, just as a little thought experiment, ask yourself: Which of these women would I want to lead a university I worked for?
I did read the Dragas statement. Jacobs is dead right. I don’t know enough about this episode to form an opinion, but I encourage you to read his whole comment. I’d like to hear in the comboxes from readers who have been following the UVA situation, and care to offer insight.
By the way, I don’t feel too sorry for Sullivan. From the WaPo:
In a proposed settlement, Sullivan would receive her presidential compensation package, $680,000, for another year of sabbatical, research and consulting after her Aug. 15 departure, according to a person briefed on the document. She could then return to teaching sociology at a salary of $170,000, plus about $360,000 in deferred compensation.
Uh, wow. Doesn’t make what happened to her and the way it happened right, but still … wow.
UPDATE: UVA today named — wait for it — the dean of the undergraduate business school to the presidency.