Zeithaml addresses Sullivan’s ouster

“I think everybody recognizes that the process was deeply flawed, and I don’t condone it,” newly appointed interim President Carl Zeithaml said of his predecessor’s ouster at yesterday’s press conference on Grounds.

Today, the buzz is that several members of the Board of Visitors still want to see Sullivan reinstated—and that Sullivan herself told the Washington Post that she’d return to the University if Dragas resigned.

It’s not clear who on the Board is behind Sullivan at this point—the Post story names no names—but Faculty Senate leaders say they’re committed to keeping pressure on the Board.

Zeithaml met with faculty and media to answer questions regarding his new temporary position in the University’s latest push to calm the angry uproar over the sudden resignation of President Teresa Sullivan.

He said taking on presidential duties at the University is one of the most daunting things he’ll ever do, but he appreciates the “tremendous support” he has received from students, faculty, friends, and family, despite a handful of critical messages.

“I realize that some of you don’t trust me,” he said bluntly, “and there probably are divisions among the faculty and staff as far as what is the best way to proceed.”

Building that trust back, he said, is one of his top priorities as President. He called the loss of trust on Grounds “devastating,” and said he wants the university community to unite themselves in a common purpose in order to move forward.

He openly admitted he does not agree with the way in which the Board handled Sullivan’s departure, and he believes that Vice Rector Mark Kington’s resignation earlier this week was the right decision. He declined comment when a reporter asked if Rector Helen Dragas should also step down.

“I think that’s up to the rector to decide,” he said. “I’m happy I’m not in her shoes.”

When asked how he would repair relationship with donors, Zeithaml did not seem concerned.

“The majority are saying it’s not a time to walk away,” he said. One donor spoke of the issues that clearly need to be dealt with, he said, but overall he feels that donors can, and will, express their unhappiness in ways other than withholding donations.

After Zeithaml fielded questions, reporters directed attention to the back of the room where Provost John Simon was sitting.

“I didn’t vow to resign,” Simon said in response to a question regarding his speech at the Faculty Senate meeting last Sunday. “I plan to work with Carl in moving forward while he is in this role.”

Laura Ingles 

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