The Email from Helen Dragas to UVA Faculty The Translation Into Ordinary English
Dear Faculty Members: Dear Faculty Members:
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the events of this week. The Board of Visitors understands the serious concern and anxiety raised by the announcement of President Sullivanís agreement to step down. We comprehend how deeply the entire University family feels a sense of loss and distress at what appeared to be an abrupt turn of events. Thanks for your note about the dismissal of Theresa Sullivan. We take it you're unhappy with our decision.
We have heard your concern that our deliberation on this matter was not inclusive of the faculty or transparent to the University community. The Board publicly and continuously provided support to President Sullivan in order to advance her success in all aspects of her job, and we continued to do so throughout her tenure. We admire President Sullivanís broad popularity and acknowledge with much gratitude the many contributions she made to improve the University of Virginia. We understand that you liked her, and so did we. She did some nice things for the school.
Yet, consistent with sound employment practices, it is the policy of the Board to keep confidential matters of disagreement and those relating to evaluation of progress against mutually agreed upon goals. Nevertheless, the Board can assure you that there was ongoing dialogue with the President over an extended period of time, regarding matters for which we are responsible. These include ensuring the long-term health and well-being of the University through development of a credible statement of strategic direction and a long-term resource plan. Still we did not agree on some matters, and furthermore, we don't think she delivered what we wanted. Trust us on this, we talked a lot, but it didn't work out. No, really we did. It had to be a secret, because her deal is with just us. Not you. Can you live that?
In considering the sustainable excellence of this University, the Board acknowledges the central role of faculty governance in matters of academic programming and curriculum. We are very clear on the scope of our fiduciary duties and the limits of our role. The Visitors should not, and will not, reach past or around a president to direct a specific strategic plan or manage its implementation. Rather, the president is expected to engage the academic enterprise in order to ensure a strategic and comprehensive charting of the organizationís future. Wait wait - this doesn't mean we're going to ignore your concerns when it comes to what you want to teach. You'll never see us trying to sneak around the president to make a deal with you on our own. That's why we have a President, after all; to see that you conform to our idea about what's best.
The Board has been especially insistent on responsiveness in light of the drumbeat of intense pressures facing the University of Virginia. Among the many challenges, we are especially concerned about the recruitment and retention of you, our esteemed faculty. In fact, recent correspondence to us from a large body of the faculty called for urgent and immediate action, a focus on long-term solutions, and a concrete strategy. It called for plans for raising or redirecting revenue. These calls should be answered by a renewed strategic plan for the University, guided by the president and provost, and created alongside the faculty and deans. To be really truthful about this, our first interest is attracting and keeping good teachers here. And you need to be honest about this, too. Think about it: Wasn't it you who clamored urgent action, long term solutions, and a concrete strategy. So, OK, that's what we're trying to do here. See what I mean? WE did this for the school, and for YOU. I'd say that's pretty responsive.
The University has had many longstanding presidents who have advanced its stature. We expect we will find another such successful leader through a thoughtful and deliberate process that will include faculty representation. This Board is not alone among institutions of higher education, public and private, non-profits and corporations that have faced such difficult transitions early in the tenure of a leader. We've had some really great past presidents, right? And we'll have another one, soon; I promise. Theresa was good, but she wasn't the kind of good we really need. We're not the only ones going through tough times -other schools have the same issue. But don't ask me to say who they are. Sometimes, things just don't work out. So the best thing is to nip it in the bud. That's what happened with president Sullivan, She got nipped in the bud. But it was for YOU.
We can, and will, recruit a stellar new president. Of him or her, we will expect strong, inclusive faculty governance. We also expect that our next leader will help secure the resources and set clear priorities to incent and reward excellence through faculty salaries, support, and sustenance of an engaging and rewarding academic environment. So the deal is, we're getting a new president -someone who will be "stellar," and this time, we really mean it. Don't worry; we'll be just as tough on the newbie as we were on Theresa. And this will be someone who's really good at getting money which, of course, we are going to share with you. You understand that, right? Money, you?
Collectively we can advance Mr. Jeffersonís University in a way that fulfills his original vision for it to be the most eminent in the United States. The Board of Visitors believes that the future Ė perhaps the survival Ė of our country is in the hearts and minds of our young ones. We must, without fail, inspire and lead them to their maximum potential. And this isn't all about me, or the BOV, or even the University. No, my friends, this is about the whole country. If we don't do this, the very survival of the United States is at risk. It's about winning hearts and minds, I tell you, and we're all in this together.
 
We ask for your commitment to join us, the forthcoming interim leader, and our next long-standing president in partnership to create that bright future. So get with the program, OK? Support the temp, then support the one we put in permanently. All for a bright future, and a bright future for YOU. Do you smell what I'm stepping in, here?

I knew you would.
Sincerely,

 

Helen E. Dragas, Rector
On Behalf of the Board of Visitors

Sincerely,

Your Good Buddy Helen

Word Count: 626

Word Count: 468

   
I've never been one to hit and run, so in the interest of full disclosure, I am J. Scott Geare, I reside in Crozet, and my phone is 434-823-4809.

I have written this because the instincts of the people who stand to suffer the most from the BOV's faulty and secretive decision making process are very familiar to me when it comes to matters of governance and corporate policy. It is a simple fact of life that the manner in which something has been done strongly suggests the nature of what has been done. Bottom line: you smell a rat because there is a rat.

Is Helen the "rat?" Probably not. But it fell to her to be on the point and take the lead. "Let Helen do it."

The "rat" may be no person at all, nor any conspiracy, for that matter. Rather, it may be a culture and world view which is so corrupt as to ignore the wishes of those whom they govern, and likewise deprive themselves of the ability to govern wisely, owing to the ignorance that comes of isolation and contempt.

So, what we have here is a case of local governance which has, oddly enough, replicated the behaviors of sovereign domains who seek to rule rather than govern, and who do so by fiat, by coup, by fait accompli, by secret meetings, by hidden agendas. And this, coming from an institution founded by one of the creators of the democracy we hold so dear, and one which presumably would be advanced by the very same institution which is being compromised with an iron fist.

Nice work. 

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