June 22, 2012
Governor Bob McDonnell Friday issued the following statement on the University of Virginia presidency.
Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell:
"For nearly 200 years, UVA has trained America's leaders. The standards of excellence and conduct there have been a model for the nation since Thomas Jefferson defined them in 1819.
The last twelve days have been tumultuous for the University. Well-meaning people who love and are connected to the University have expressed strong and divergent opinions concerning the action to remove the President. Reasonable people may disagree. However, the manner in which those disagreements are expressed can reflect well or poorly on the institution as a whole.
When arriving at its decision to ask for the resignation of President Sullivan, the Board of Visitors made procedural mistakes which its leaders have acknowledged, including a lack of transparency and a failure in communication. A vote to remove the President requiring two-thirds approval of the Board was not taken, and the multiple board meetings and the ensuing predictable press frenzy have created great uncertainty imperiling the University's ability to move forward.
I have communicated these concerns to the Board in a separate letter that is attached.
At the same time, I am concerned about certain actions and statements from some members of the public and the University community. This should be viewed as a disagreement within the family, not a war. Mr. Jefferson would have expected a higher level of discourse where people forcefully and civilly express their concerns. He noted in his first inaugural address that 'every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.' All agree with the principle that UVA is a world-class university where continual growth and progress is needed to keep America competitive, and to advance the acquisition of knowledge that will improve the human condition.
The lack of an open and clear process of asking for the resignation of the first female President of UVA, as well as the vitriolic comments directed at the first female rector of UVA , are equally deplorable. I have learned of the defacement of property on Grounds, threats by some faculty or staff to not acknowledge the legitimacy of an interim President elected by a 12-1 vote of the Board, and a few faculty and staff urging others to quit. While emotions are expectedly high in such matters, these actions reflect poorly on the University and must end immediately.
The University has its own well-known honor system that 'exists to foster a cohesive bond of trust among all members of the University community and to instill in all students a mutual reverence for the ideal of honorable behavior.' The standard must be met.
To the political leaders who have waded in with limited facts for political reasons, I ask you to please stop. To the few faculty members, staff, and alumni who, in their anger over how this process unfolded, now foment division that only adds to the troubles, I ask you to please stop. To students and members of the public who are concerned about UVA, I urge you to be patient, while I understand entirely how difficult that can be in such a situation.
University Boards make key personnel and policy decisions that must be followed. For anyone to conclude that the future of the University is tied to any one president, one faculty member, one staff member, one board member, or any one Governor, or any one individual is to vastly underestimate the greatness of this university. UVA is one of America's preeminent institutions of higher learning, due to a host of interconnected people and systems, and it will continue to be so long after the events of the past two weeks have been consigned to history. The stature and success of UVA has been developed over nearly 200 years because of the vision of its founder, the dedication and hard work of its world class faculty and staff, the intelligence and perseverance of its students, and its culture of excellence and honor.
That culture of excellence must continue to grow. The General Assembly and I, over the last 18 months, with great input and cooperation from President Sullivan and the Board, and Presidents and Boards from around the Commonwealth, have crafted a broad vision for the future of higher education which passed unanimously last year. This legislation calls for more positions for undergraduate students in Virginia schools, more focus on STEM-H subjects, higher degree completion ratios, more innovation and research, lower tuition increases to reduce crushing student debt, and more financial aid. Additionally, at my request, $350 million in new money is being invested in higher education over three years, the most money in over a decade. I will continue to expect Board members, presidents and faculty to embrace reform, innovation, and fiscal responsibility as we move forward together.
The goals are greater access at reasonable cost, training people well for the great jobs of tomorrow in an increasingly competitive global economy, and the advancement of knowledge to aid the human condition. It is my fervent hope that the discussions at UVA will promptly return to implement these policy goals and how to further advance the pursuit of inquiry and reason.
The only legitimate question now facing the board is: What leadership is required at UVA to continue to pursue increased excellence in the 21st century?
The time is now for finality and closure. The Board has called a meeting for this Tuesday. Following that meeting, I call upon all in the UVA community, from the Board members, to administration, to faculty, staff, students and donors to address the presidential decision and its aftermath with a respectful and measured approach, rather than with the frenzy that has accompanied much of the last twelve days. The University must move forward.
We must remember that the purpose of higher education is to advance ideas, principles, knowledge and inquiry. Jefferson noted in 1817, 'If the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope and believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it.'
Together we will navigate these troubled waters and this great University will be an even stronger and brighter beacon of higher education excellence in the world."
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