Statement from Teresa A. Sullivan Addressing Those on the Lawn
June 26, 2012
Today the Board of Visitors has voted to reinstate me as the President of the University. I have asked Heywood Fralin, former Rector and senior member of the Board of Visitors, who introduced the resolution, to introduce me this afternoon.
I am grateful to the Visitors for this renewed opportunity, but more than that, I am grateful to them for the example they have given us in reconsidering and reversing their previous action. This is not a sign of weakness on their part, but a sign of strength and deliberation, and a good example to each of us.
As we know, Mr. Jefferson provides a perspective for every occasion, and I am reminded of his letter to James Warren after the election of 1800, in which he says, ―It is pleasant for those who have just escaped threatened shipwreck, to hail one another when landed in unexpected safety.*1
*1 Letter to James Warren, Washington, March 21, 1801. From The Quotable Jefferson (John P. Kaminski, collector and editor), Princeton University Press, 2006: 296.
Let me begin by acknowledging that everyone involved in recent events, from the Rector to entering first-year students, has been motivated by the goal of achieving what is best for the University of Virginia. When we differ as to means, we can openly discuss those differences, pool our knowledge and wisdom, and make better decisions — together. There is no time for residual hostility towards anyone perceived to have been on the other side of recent disagreements. We can go forward with what is best for the University only if we go forward together.
We have problems at UVA – all of higher education does. We are not in crisis, but change appropriate to our mission is necessary. This change is not the duty of the President alone, but will require all of us – the Board, our donors, the leaders of the Commonwealth, those of us who work here and study here now, as well as those who have studied here in the past and now constitute our global network of alumni. I am heartened by the fact that the events of the past week have created in us a spirit of unity that can help us make the needed improvements more quickly. The great strength we have discovered is how deep our commitment to this University runs, and how unified we can be when we pursue its best interests.
I thank the members of the University leadership team whose hard work for UVA I so much admire. Especially, I want to thank Dean Carl Zeithaml who was willing to step forward in a time of need to serve the best interests of UVA. Carl is a great citizen of the University.
To our students, especially the newly admitted class of 2016, the events of recent weeks should not make you second-guess your decision to come here. Rather, these events should reinforce your decision to come to UVA, because in recent weeks you have seen how this community of teachers and students can engage one another in serious but civil debate. Whether you are going to study physics or poetry, UVA's intellectual climate of academic rigor and collaboration will inspire and challenge you for a lifetime.
To the parents of our students, we welcome partnership with you. We are committed to providing a great education with Mr. Jefferson's Academical Village as a model. We are mindful of the costs of higher education and the need to contain them, but I believe that your students will find a value in their education here that goes far beyond dollars and cents. I have been especially proud these past three weeks to hear the careful crafting of reasoned arguments from alumni and students. These arguments have shown that the University is still providing to the world the educated citizenry that Mr. Jefferson wanted to safeguard the new Republic. And beyond their academic learning, students here will learn human values—honor, ethics, leadership, service—and they will carry these values their whole lives.
To our faculty and staff, your dedication and hard work have built up and fortified this great institution. Your teaching and research, the care you give to our patients, and your public service keep this institution strong. Stay here and help us make it even better. To faculty who have announced your departure, or to those who are considering an outside offer, please reconsider. Talk with Provost John Simon. You have an opportunity now to join with us in a moment of great unity and shared purpose in our intellectual community, and to be part of something that is truly distinctive in higher education. To our prospective faculty who are now considering an offer from UVA, come and join us; be part of this special place at this special time in its history. And a word of warning to those at other institutions who are planning to raid our faculty next year: you will have to come through John Simon and me to do it.
To our alumni, thank you for your strong statements of concern. Please stand with us now. This is your University, and it always will be, and today your University needs your voice of encouragement and your steadfast support. To our donors, please stay with us; by investing in this University you create a legacy that we hand on to the next generation, just as we have kept faith with the legacy handed to us through the generations since Thomas Jefferson. Whatever differences might separate us, the larger goal is paramount, and we must work together to achieve it.
To our friends and colleagues in UVA's College at Wise, we know that you are facing challenges of your own as you carry out the search to find the College's next chancellor. We renew our commitment to standing with you now as you continue your great work in Southwest Virginia.
To the friends of the University, whether living in Charlottesville, in Albemarle County or elsewhere in the Commonwealth, or around the world: thank you for caring about the University.
To the leaders of the Commonwealth, we will continue to serve you as a great flagship should: by providing a superb education; by delivering the finest health care; and by offering expertise that will help this Commonwealth in its economic development, K-12 education, public health, transportation, and other needs.
To the Board of Visitors, upon my election in 2010 I pledged that I would work with you and that I would give you my best efforts in leading this institution. I renew this pledge, and ask that you – and the Visitors yet to be named – work with me in a spirit of cooperation and common purpose to address the strategic issues that face us now and those that will arise.
Finally, to all of you here – my family and I could not have imagined the events of recent weeks when we moved here 22 months ago, but it would have been even harder to imagine the outpouring of affection and concern that we have received from you in recent days. I cannot tell you how humbled I have been by your prayers, by thousands of messages, and by your efforts on behalf of the University we all love. I am not good enough, or wise enough, or strong enough to do everything that needs doing at UVA on my own, but you have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not alone. I believe that, together, we can do great things for our University.
God bless you all.
And God bless the University of Virginia.