Board won’t back-pedal, though thousands rally at U.Va.

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jun 18, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-18 22:00:11-04

Charlottesville, Va. (WTVR)--Thousands rallied at University of Virginia, to criticize the Board of Visitors decision to oust President Teresa Sullivan.

The crowd—made up of student, faculty and staff-- was so large that an entourage was required to escort Sullivan in and out of the rotunda, where the Board of Visitors met to consider an interim president.

Former U.Va. President John Casteen III, was among the supporters in attendance. Casteen voiced dismay at the speedy and secretive way that the board made its decision.

A meeting of the Faculty Senate on Sunday also drew a big crowd, around 800. The group demanded the resignation of Rector Helen E. Dragas, as well as the vice-rector.

Dragas addressed the board today and expressed regret for the heartache and embarrassment caused to University; however, she said the board stood by its decision to let Sullivan go.

“We owe her a great deal of gratitude; for her service, her enthusiasm in improving U.Va. and for always keeping the best interests of this university foremost in mind,” said Dragas. “I hope that Dr. Sullivan will remain an important contributing member of our U.Va. family in the coming years and we are very fortune to have the benefit of her service.”

Casteen and several others fired back. “Whatever has happened here…has been kept in silence and secret and that’s not how Virginia works, and that’s not how U.Va. works, and so I came to listen,” said Casteen.

“You would expect that everyone would be part of the process,” said a student at the rally. “For Sullivan to just be suddenly taken out like that…I feel like the U.Va. Board of Visitors has a lot to owe to students, and especially to Sullivan,” she said.

President Sullivan did not speak directly to the media today, but she did address the thousands of supporters who showed up in appreciation of her efforts.

Sullivan did release a statement which noted that she had not actively contributed to the campus uproar.

“The current reaction by the faculty, staff, and students on and off Grounds, and among the donors and alumni to my impending departure is not something I have stirred up,” Sullivan said. “I have made no public statement.  I have done my best to keep the lowest possible profile.”

She also said that "We are all aware that the UVA needs to change and for the past two years I have been working to do just that.  Apparently, the area of disagreement appears to be just how that change should occur and at what pace."