The big local issue in Virginia the last couple of weeks has been the ousting of UVA's popular president Teresa Sullivan in a less than transparent fashion. The Board of Visitors is meeting tomorrow to cast its final vote on the issue tomorrow, with some saying that Sullivan will ultimately be reinstated after a virtual rebellion among students, faculty, and the public. In advance of that meeting, Governor McDonnell issued a strongly worded statement that is full of sound and fury, but ultimately signifies nothing.
His statement begins with signifying his disappointment that the typical process for removing an administrator was not followed, but immediately pivots to the idea that people questioning the decision are as big of a problem. From his statement:
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.
The way McDonnell tells the story, trouble-making faculty, politicians, and students who are drawing attention to the abuse of power by UVA's Board of Visitors need to keep this in the family and to not draw attention to the problems. While sunlight may be the best disinfectant, it also may illuminate that there are real problems in higher education right now and the attempt to run universities as if they were multi-billion dollar corporations aimed at producing the most widgets at the lowest price is harming institutions that have been around for hundreds of years. But all of that is irrelevant, those who are standing up and protesting need to immediately quiet down and keep this within the family. All of this protest and dissent is uncomfortable and is getting in the way of Gov. McDonnell trying to further a national political career.
In a separate letter, which has been widely quoted by the press, Gov. McDonnell says:
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.
Basically he is able to sound strong here. He is acting decisively, quickly, and without ambiguity. If board members don't make all of this uncomfortable talk of public, transparent decision-making go away by Tuesday he will fire them. He doesn't care which way they vote, he just wants the yelling to stop. Then he can fully focus on conservative statewide issues like international trade (at the cost of $164,000 to the taxpayers) and making more video resumes in his attempts to get out of Virginia and become the next vice-president. Some people think a vibrant discussion and active disagreement is a crucial part of democracy. But Governor McDonnell's statement seems to say otherwise. He hopes no one will notice that he was out of the country while all of this was going down, that no one will notice the problems at UVA, and that no one will notice the lack of integrity held by the BOV in pushing out President Sullivan.