The University of Virginia Board of Visitors voted unanimously this afternoon to reinstate its president, Teresa Sullivan, who was forced to resign earlier this month.
The reaction to the forced resignation was strong and swift in Virginia and around the country. Geography professor Kris Olds wrote a detailed blog post with links to dozens of statements and articles about the ouster. Olds’ concludes by asking a question that could be posed in almost any state, including Wisconsin:
Should the Governor (and the State Government more generally) have the authority to shape governance systems so significantly when at the same time they are demonstrating less and less willingness to fund state universities, including the public flagship university?
Judith Burstyn, a PROFS steering committee member, offered a brief commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Burstyn writes that it “is far easier to lose stature as a great university than it is to gain it. Wise university leaders understand this, and they bring change to their institutions through steady and deliberate engagement of faculty, staff, and students.”
Former UW-Madison Chancellor Donna Shalala said in an interview with the New York Times that great research universities require strong shared governance and a commitment to academic freedom: “It was a lot easier to run a cabinet department than the University of Wisconsin. There are a lot of different constituencies at a university, and the president cannot be successful without buy-in from all of them.”
UW System does not currently allow institutional governing boards, but the Special Task Force on UW Restructuring and Operational Flexibilities discussed advisory boards at its April and May meetings. The task force agreed to recommend allowing individual chancellors to create or strengthen institution-level advisory boards, with the Board of Regents retaining governing authority for the UW-System. They also suggested that advisory boards include one or two Regent members, most likely identified by Board leadership.