"Anatomy of a Campus Coup" in today's NY Times

<p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/magazine/teresa-sullivan-uva-ouster.html?ref=magazine%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/magazine/teresa-sullivan-uva-ouster.html?ref=magazine&lt;/a> </p>

<p>It's the cover story in the magazine's education issue.</p>

<p>And pretty interesting, too, although it leaves me with the impression that there was almost nothing to the story that didn't become public during the week after it broke. Really, I learned only a few interesting details, but they were more like grace notes: (1) Helen Dragas' father had done pretty much the same thing when he was Chancellor of VCU. He engineered firing a recently-hired President and substituting someone who held the job for a long time and was very successful at it. (2) Faculty dissatisfaction with President Sullivan was a bit more acute than most of them were willing to admit when the Board of Visitors tried to do something about it. The Visitors and their hedge-fund buddies weren't the only people who wondered whether Sullivan had a vision of the future. (3) One of the reasons why Dragas discussed the move with each of the Visitors one-on-one is that any meeting of three or more Visitors is subject to state public-access laws.</p>

<p>Key line: "Few of Sullivan's supporters are willing to believe that Dragas was both principled and incompetent."* That's really the author's conclusion -- Dragas was acting in good faith (with, perhaps, a modicum of mean-girl revulsion at Sullivan's body type and dress style, something Dragas adamantly and unconvincingly denies), and had no idea that people would push back and no plan for what to do when they did. There was no grand conspiracy afoot, although there was something of a feedback loop that kept Dragas and others from understanding that they could have strong opposition.</p>

<p>*Quoted from memory, so maybe not completely accurate.</p>

<p>I wouldn't accept this article as the final definitive history of that debacle. There still are many many unanswered questions, and the Board continues to refuse to answer any of them. Also, I believe the article shows some biases of the few people who apparently directly fed the author their viewpoints.</p>

<p>Here's a few other interesting pieces that surfaced this past week: </p>

<p>E-mails</a> show Dragas saw little warning of crisis in U-Va. president’s ouster - The Washington Post</p>

<p>The</a> UVa Rector's Peculiar Approach to Free Expression - The Conversation - The Chronicle of Higher Education</p>

<p>Wow......The Chronicle piece is really disturbing. Thanks for sharing (I think!).</p>

<p>The NYT article confirmed two things (both of which stem from UVA being a state school) that I assumed had let the whole situation get so messed up.</p>

<p>First, UVA's board had almost no industry (i.e. higher ed) expertise. Any private institution board is going to have meaningful representation from folks experienced in that institution's industry. Since most UVA board members have to be Virginians, UVA alumni and/or VA gubernatorial campaign contributors, the UVA board didn't have (as most private college boards do) distinguished lifer faculty and administrators from other universities. So while the folks on the BOV correctly identified the looming existential threats in higher ed, they didn't have much experience in how other universities were dealing with such threats.</p>

<p>Second, the open meeting law requirements stifled normal collaborative board deliberation. You can't publicly debate whether to fire your president. So you get stuck instead with A talks to B, A talks to C, and A talks to D. That's not the same thing as A, B, C and D all talking together. That's how A, B, C and D could all individually support taking the action one day, and then collectively be opposed to the same action the next day.</p>

<p>If the Board was concerned that UVa was "falling behind" in online education, why didn't they ask experts at their own graduate Curry School of Education about what should be done? They didn't bother. Instead, they were deciding the future of our beloved university based upon a couple OF newspaper articles. And what is most absurd is that the online model they looked at is NOT DESIGNED TO RAISE ANY REVENUES. </p>

<p>After the debacle, the faculty created a list of all of the online educational efforts that are underway at UVa or were under development. Meanwhile, we have 27,000 students a year who want UVa's classroom education.</p>