Remarks by Heywood Fralin to the Board of Visitors
June 26, 2012
I would like to offer amotion for consideration today and ask for a roll call vote. I will state a Preamble to the motion but would like to make it absolutely clear that the statements in the Preamble are my thoughts and opinions and are not part of the motion. Any member of this Board of Visitors who so wishes is invited to take issue with any statement in the Preamble or with the motion itself.
First, speaking for myself but probably with the agreement of every member of this Board of Visitors, I would like to thank the many students, faculty, staff, and alumni and friends who have demonstrated their strong opinions and concerns for the University of Virginia during this tumultuous time. You clearly deeply love this University and want it to remain one of the world’s top universities. On this we can all agree.
We should all thank the Governor for making higher education a top focus of his administration, for budgeting significant additional dollars for the Commonwealth’s colleges and universities and for recognizing that this University is a special place among the country’s universities. He has correctly recognized that the accepted resignation of President Sullivan by this Board has created uncertainty that must be resolved immediately. We expect to do so today.
We should all thank Carl Zeithaml for stepping forward and expressing a willingness to serve as interim president during an extraordinarily difficult time in the life of our University. He didn’t ask for the position, and the willingness to do anything to restore trust and lead the University community further demonstrates his outstanding leadership at the Commerce School and throughout the University.
There have been numerous comments about the process the Board of Visitors used in asking for and approving the resignation of President Sullivan. It is my opinion that everyone agrees that the process was flawed. It can never be repeated when important decisions are being made by this Board. While we all know University Board members cannot and should not be able to bind future members of this Board, I would ask that the next Board to be shortly installed look at the governance structure of the Board of Visitors and make the changes necessary to prohibit the utilization of this process when dealing with matters of such major importance. To the University community I offer my apology and believe that all board members would support such an apology for this process and for the damage it has caused this great University.
It is important to address the merits of the decision itself. Clearly there are those who believe there were grounds for the decision. As I have previously stated, I do not agree and have never been presented with facts that in my opinion justify asking for the resignation of President Sullivan. However, we should not question the integrity of those who supported that decision. Every member of this Board has integrity and votes for what each believes is in the best interest of the University. Our founder encouraged debate and debate is exactly what this Board should have. We don’t have to agree, but we should respect the integrity of each member and of their vote.
As a member of this Board, I am of the opinion that we have all made mistakes in this process. It is clear that every member knew that the Rector and the Vice-Rector intended to meet with President Sullivan to ask for her resignation. I was not clever enough at the time to confer with other members to determine if three would be willing to call a special meeting of the Board of Visitors to discuss such action. I am confident there would have been three willing members and that if such a meeting had been called, a vigorous discussion would have ensued, and no one knows what the vote would have been. I apologize to the University community including all Board members that I didn’t think of this solution sooner. It would have avoided this crisis.
No one should overlook the fact that the issues raised in the Rector’s letter and the Dean’s letter regarding the changes coming to higher education, the speed of the change, the financial restraints facing all universities, faculty compensation, rising tuition, utilization of technology in education, the setting of University priorities, and many more that each of you can articulate are legitimate issues that must be addressed by the President and the Board of Visitors with the counsel of faculty and staff. Again, without trying to impose conditions on the next Board of Visitors, I encourage the members to consider establishing a strategic planning committee consisting of Board of Visitor members, staff members, and faculty members with advice from outstanding consultants with higher education backgrounds to develop a strategic vision and direction for this great University.
To the students I offer this comment. You are the only reason for the existence of the University of Virginia. The University is here to provide you an outstanding education so that you will be able to provide the future leadership in many fields not only in the Commonwealth of Virginia but throughout our great nation. You are among our nation’s most qualified students and we promise you an outstanding faculty and a University unified in purpose.
To the faculty I say to you, you have served nobly with few salary adjustments for a long time. You are distinguished, and are the only ones that can educate the students who will become future leaders. Your advice is important and we thank you.
To the staff I can only repeat thank you. You have been loyal, competent, and dedicated beyond description. You are the glue that holds this University together.
To the alumni and friends, I say your support and dedication to this University is unparalleled. Each of you would fight with your last ounce of strength for what you believe to be in the best interest of this University. Your advice and financial support has been extraordinary. I only offer this additional comment. This is not the time to back away from financial support of the University of Virginia. We now all know the many serious issues facing the University. It will take significant financial support to address them. In these fast changing times, we all must step forward with increased financial support to address these issues.
And finally to the members of the Board of Visitors, I say I respect each of you more than you will ever know. Your integrity is impeccable. You vote for what you believe is in the best interest of the University of Virginia. You stand tall in the face of criticism. You understand that the Board of Visitors is no different today than it was when it was first organized under the leadership of Rector Thomas Jefferson. It is the governing authority of the University of Virginia. He intended it to so be and I’m confident his opinion wouldn’t change if he were here today. I’m proud to have you as colleagues.
In concluding, I’m reminded that even in the General Assembly there is a provision for reconsidering a vote if there is a belief that maybe the wrong decision was reached. I believe our founder endorsed this principle.
And now I offer the resolution:
The Board of Visitors rescinds the Second Amendment to the President's Employment Agreement, subject to the approval and acceptance of the President, thereby reinstating the President's initial Employment Agreement of January 11, 2010, as amended by the First Amendment to the Employment Agreement; and further
The Board of Visitors rescinds the naming of Carl P. Zeithaml as Interim President of the University, and rescinds the authority previously granted to the Executive Committee to negotiate and execute a contract or employment agreement with the Interim President."