UVA students react to Sullivan’s ouster, criticize Board’s process

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You can imagine the aftermath of President Teresa Sullivan’s resignation if she announced it while the dorms and lecture halls were full. But even with most of the student body away from Grounds for the summer, UVA students are out in full force, and their voices have been heard.

Julie Truelove, who just wrapped up her first year as a nursing student, was one of at least 2,000 Wahoos to stand on the Lawn yesterday in protest of Sullivan’s resignation. She was also one of a few dozen students who stuck it out until the Board of Visitors finally emerged from their foxhole around 2:30am, waiting for some sort of answer.

Truelove and her comrades were unaffected by the late hour—“I’m in the Jefferson Society; we usually stay up until 3am anyway”—and unimpressed by the Board’s resolution.

“I hope they don’t think that the matter is settled,” Truelove said as she watched the car containing Rector Helen Dragas pull away. “I hope they don’t think that appointing an interim president was their only reason for coming here.”

With two semesters and a monumental student protest under her belt, Truelove said she is starting to feel like she’s a part of something bigger, and felt overwhelmingly connected to the University during the rally.

“Knowing that the things I was feeling were something that other people agreed with was great,” she said.

While everyone’s experiences are different, UVA has a way of shaping its students—and now, she said, students have the opportunity to shape the University.

Yatzek Krzepicki, a rising senior, joined the rally and then returned to the Rotunda around 10:30pm to wait out the Board. For him, the main issue is transparency.

“It’s a public university,” he said. “Things should have been out in the sunlight. The implication of the secrecy is that something shady is going on here.”

And students and young alumni feel very close to the issue, said Krzepicki.

“This is really kind of a battle for the heart and soul of academia,” he said.

Stevie Chancellor agreed. She graduated with the class of 2012 and joined Krzepicki on the Lawn Monday. "It epitomizes what higher education has been going through," she said: stiff budget cuts and, some fear, a feeling that institutions can be kept afloat by slashing instructional programming. "It’s all coming to a head," she said.

Brittany Saunders, another recent graduate who stayed until the wee hours of the morning Tuesday and joined a small crowd who followed Rector Helen Dragas to her car to demand answers, said there’s a silver lining to the mess.

"I think there’s something to be proud of," she said. "The fact that faculty, alumni, and students have been coming together is really impressive."

Suzie McCarthy, a PhD student in the Politics department, has dedicated countless hours in the past ten days to moderating the “Students, family & friends united to reinstate President Sullivan” Facebook group. She has been overwhelmed with the thousands of supporters, and feels that everyone’s dedication is beginning to pay off.

“We see Kington’s resignation as a result of our work,” she said. As a student of politics, McCarthy said she wasn’t surprised by Vice Rector Mark Kington’s lack of accountability and apology in his letter to Governor McDonnell, but it still “really gave us a shot in the arm to move forward.”

Even from Northern Virginia, where she had to return yesterday evening following the rally, McCarthy said she could sense an overwhelming depression among students and alumni on Tuesday morning, and Kington’s resignation served as a reminder that this isn’t over yet.

Kington may have been the Board’s sacrificial lamb, she said, “but I still think when it comes to Dragas, her leadership days are numbered." 

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