Critics of the effort by UVA’s Board of Visitors to push out President Teresa Sullivan again rallied University faculty, alumni, students, staff on the Lawn Sunday afternoon in another show of support for a key demand: the reinstatement of the ousted president.
About 1,500 people—only slightly smaller than the crowd that showed up Monday afternoon when the Board last convened—turned out to hear UVA professors speak on the Rotunda steps about the recent turmoil on Grounds. A rally organizer said via e-mail that 6,500 more tuned into a live streaming broadcast of the event online.
The speakers, who included professors from 15 schools and departments as well as students and elected officials, reiterated criticisms leveled at the Board over the last two weeks, blasting both the secretive process by which Sullivan’s ouster was orchestrated and the application of what many believe has become a corporate, top-down approach to University governance.
Both the sign-toting crowd and the speakers on the steps expressed pride in the way the school community has come together both to support Sullivan and reject an approach to running the University they see as undemocratic.
“This is the happiest moment of my career at the University of Virginia,” said Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor Peter Onuf, a history instructor who is, a colleague pointed out, the one person on Grounds designated to speak for the frequently invoked founder. “If I were Thomas Jefferson, I’d be looking at you today and saying, ‘This is what I envisioned.’”
If the mood was more optimistic than at the other recent Rotunda rallies, there’s good reason. Sullivan supporters on the Board successfully scheduled an emergency meeting for Tuesday, at which its members are expected to vote on whether to reinstate the president. An anonymous source on the Board told a Washington Post reporter that those in favor of returning her to her office have the eight votes they need to succeed.
The rally came at the end of a weekend that started with Virginia’s governor wading into the controversy. Robert McDonnell issued a statement demanding the Board take decisive action Tuesday—regardless of its ultimate decision. If they didn’t, he said, he’d ask them all to resign.
"The time is now for finality and closure," McDonnell said. "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."