UVA interim President Carl Zeithaml
Things are getting rather, well, awkward for newly appointed interim UVA President Carl Zeithaml.
Now that the UVA's Board of Visitors says they'll reconsider whether to reinstate popular President Teresa Sullivan -- whom they fired unexpectedly on June 10 after a closed-door meeting -- Zeithaml's tough position just got more difficult.
Zeithaml, who was tapped earlier this week from his role as the dean of the commerce school, has been inundated with "input" from members of the university community in the time since taking the gig. Going by the hundreds that gathered to support Sullivan earlier this week, we imagine the comments have been lively, to say the least.
And in light of the Faculty Senate's vocal opposition to Sullivan's ouster, Zeithaml has had to walk quite a tightrope. Earlier this week, Zeithaml said he disagreed with the Board's decision, but chose to accept the appointment in order to move the university forward.
No longer, however! In a letter posted by the Cavalier Daily, Zeithaml makes it clear the Board needs to figure this out on its own:
Dear University colleagues:
I am grateful for the trust that members of the University’s Board of Visitors expressed in asking me to serve as interim president during this extraordinarily difficult time in the life of our University. I made the decision to accept this transition role because of my love for U.Va., as well as my desire to help in a time of crisis.
In the three days since I accepted this position, I have talked to many in our community about what transpired on Grounds while I was out of the country on University business, and I received a great deal of input from numerous colleagues, including members of the faculty. I deeply appreciate and respect this input.
Clearly, we agree that the University and its reputation have been damaged these past 13 days, but that together we can mend the harm done and move our great University forward. Trust, one of our core institutional values, has been compromised.
There is an enormous groundswell of support for Terry Sullivan’s reinstatement as our president, and I understand that the Board will meet next week to consider this possibility. As a result, I am suspending any further negotiations with the Board regarding my status as interim president, as well as any activities associated with this role. In the meantime, I will return my focus to the McIntire School.
Trust cannot be restored in our community until the President Sullivan’s status is clarified and ultimately resolved.
With kind regards,
Dean of the McIntire School of Commerce
Of course, this raises many more questions: Will the Board reinstate Sullivan? If they do, will she even accept? (She could probably parlay this experience into a book or speaking tour. Which, again...awkward.) If she doesn't, will Zeithaml, uh, unsuspend his role? And if they don't reinstate her, would any current faculty dare step into the position?
And how much of a headache does Gov. Bob McDonnell have right now?