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Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell on the University of Virginia Presidency

Commonwealth of Virginia, Office of Governor Bob McDonnell

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2012

Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell on the University of Virginia Presidency
~Governor McDonnell Sends Letter to Board of Visitors~

RICHMOND— Governor Bob McDonnell today issued the following statement on the
University of Virginia presidency.  He also sent a letter to the Board of
Visitors this afternoon.  The letter is available here:
http://www.governor.virginia.gov/utility/docs/LetterToUVA-Board.pdf

In the letter, Governor McDonnell writes: “But let me be absolutely
clear: I want final action by the Board on Tuesday.  If you fail to do so, I
will ask for the resignation of the entire Board on Wednesday. Regardless of
your decision, I expect you to make a clear, detailed and unified statement
on the future leadership of the University.”

Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell:

“For nearly 200 years, UVA has trained America’s leaders.  The standards of
excellence and conduct there have been a model for the nation since Thomas
Jefferson defined them in 1819. 

The last twelve days have been tumultuous for the University.  Well-meaning
people who love and are connected to the University have expressed strong
and divergent opinions concerning the action to remove the President. 
Reasonable people may disagree.  However, the manner in which those
disagreements are expressed can reflect well or poorly on the institution as
a whole. 

When arriving at its decision to ask for the resignation of President
Sullivan, the Board of Visitors made procedural mistakes which its leaders
have acknowledged, including a lack of transparency and a failure in
communication. A vote to remove the President requiring two-thirds approval
of the Board was not taken, and the multiple board meetings and the ensuing
predictable press frenzy have created great uncertainty imperiling the
University’s ability to move forward.

I have communicated these concerns to the Board in a separate letter that is
attached.

At the same time, I am concerned about certain actions and statements from
some members of the public and the University community.  This should be
viewed as a disagreement within the family, not a war.  Mr. Jefferson would
have expected a higher level of discourse where people forcefully and
civilly express their concerns.  He noted in his first inaugural address
that ‘every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.’ All
agree with the principle that UVA is a world-class university where
continual growth and progress is needed to keep America competitive, and to
advance the acquisition of knowledge that will improve the human condition.

The lack of an open and clear process of asking for the resignation of the
first female President of UVA, as well as the vitriolic comments directed at
the first female rector of UVA , are equally deplorable.  I have learned of
the defacement of property on Grounds, threats by some faculty or staff to
not acknowledge the legitimacy of an interim President elected by a 12-1
vote of the Board, and a few faculty and staff urging others to quit.  While
emotions are expectedly high in such matters, these actions reflect poorly
on the University and must end immediately.

The University has its own well-known honor system that ‘exists to foster a
cohesive bond of trust among all members of the University community and to
instill in all students a mutual reverence for the ideal of honorable
behavior.’ The standard must be met.

To the political leaders who have waded in with limited facts for political
reasons, I ask you to please stop.  To the few faculty members, staff, and
alumni who, in their anger over how this process unfolded, now foment
division that only adds to the troubles, I ask you to please stop.  To
students and members of the public who are concerned about UVA, I urge you
to be patient, while I understand entirely how difficult that can be in such
a situation.

University Boards make key personnel and policy decisions that must be
followed.  For anyone to conclude that the future of the University is tied
to any one president, one faculty member, one staff member, one board
member, or any one Governor, or any one individual is to vastly
underestimate the greatness of this university. UVA is one of America’s
preeminent institutions of higher learning, due to a host of interconnected
people and systems, and it will continue to be so long after the events of
the past two weeks have been consigned to history.  The stature and success
of UVA has been developed over nearly 200 years because of the vision of its
founder, the dedication and hard work of its world class faculty and staff,
the intelligence and perseverance of its students, and its culture of
excellence and honor. 

That culture of excellence must continue to grow. The General Assembly and
I, over the last 18 months, with great input and cooperation from President
Sullivan and the Board, and Presidents and Boards from around the
Commonwealth, have crafted a broad vision for the future of higher education
which passed unanimously last year. This legislation calls for more
positions for undergraduate students in Virginia schools, more focus on
STEM-H subjects, higher degree completion ratios, more innovation and
research, lower tuition increases to reduce crushing student debt, and more
financial aid. Additionally, at my request, $350 million in new money is
being invested in higher education over three years, the most money in over
a decade.  I will continue to expect Board members, presidents and faculty
to embrace reform, innovation, and fiscal responsibility as we move forward
together.

The goals are greater access at reasonable cost, training people well for
the great jobs of tomorrow in an increasingly competitive global economy,
and the advancement of knowledge to aid the human condition.  It is my
fervent hope that the discussions at UVA will promptly return to implement
these policy goals and how to further advance the pursuit of inquiry and
reason. 

The only legitimate question now facing the board is: What leadership is
required at UVA to continue to pursue increased excellence in the 21st
century?

The time is now for finality and closure. The Board has called a meeting for
this Tuesday. Following that meeting, I call upon all in the UVA community,
from the Board members, to administration, to faculty, staff, students and
donors to address the presidential decision and its aftermath with a
respectful and measured approach, rather than with the frenzy that has
accompanied much of the last twelve days. The University must move forward.

We must remember that the purpose of higher education is to advance ideas,
principles, knowledge and inquiry.  Jefferson noted in 1817, ‘If the
condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope and
believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it.’

Together we will navigate these troubled waters and this great University
will be an even stronger and brighter beacon of higher education excellence
in the world.”

Contact: Jeff Caldwell
Phone: (804) 225-4260
Email: Jeff.Caldwell@Governor.Virginia.Gov

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