UVA interim president explains decision to step aside

In a press conference on Grounds today, Carl Zeithaml further explained his announcement that he’ll be stepping out of his role as interim president of UVA until the Board of Visitors reaches a decision on whether to reinstate Teresa Sullivan.

Zeithaml said that after talking to members of the UVA community following the board’s early-morning vote to appoint him Tuesday, he came to the realization that any efforts on his part to try to restore trust in University leadership would be "premature"—at least until the Board meets again Tuesday for what is expected to be a vote on reinstatement. He said he told Rector Helen Dragas as much in phone conversations Thursday night.

"I don’t want to do this job unless I’m bringing my colleagues across the University with me," Zeithaml said. "I think if I’m going to do this job, I’ve got to have legitimacy with all constituent groups."

He said he took Dragas at her word that she felt her much-criticized behind-the-scenes ouster of Sullivan was the best thing for the University.

"I understand right nw that everyone is trying to do the right thing," he said. "I really believe that."

He said he’ll reassess his role after the Tuesday vote. 

"If President Sullivan is reinstated, I will be extraordinarily happy to work with her," Zeithaml said, "and I will be very happy to return to the McIntire School in what I know will probably be a very, very interesting fall semester."

He declined to say whether he wanted to see the Board reinstate Sullivan, but did say he hoped its members would take into account the passionate response the situation inspired among the University’s faculty, alumni, staff, and students.

"I’d like to see the Board take that input and consider what’s best for the University of Virginia," he said.


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