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UVA reappoints Sullivan; McDonnell congratulates, defends BOV

The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors Tuesday afternoon unanimously voted to reappoint President Teresa Sullivan, three weeks after some members asked for her resignation.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has been under pressure to comment or act on the situation, issued a statement congratulating Sullivan.

“Dr. Sullivan’s leadership has added nearly 1000 new slots for in-state students at the University, while reducing this year’s tuition growth to the lowest increase in a decade,” McDonnell said. “She cares deeply about the University. It is evident she is well-regarded in the University community. She steps back into the President’s office with the best wishes of this Administration and the University community. The Commonwealth of Virginia must have a strong and vibrant University of Virginia that is a global academic leader.”

McDonnell also defended the Board of Visitors members, who have faced a great deal of criticism for the way in which Sullivan’s ouster was handled. Rector Helen Dragas has taken the brunt of such criticism. McDonnell and predecessor Tim Kaine appointed the BOV members; Kaine appointed Dragas, whose term expires July 1. McDonnell must decide whether to reappoint her or not.

McDonnell said it was “very unfortunate and counterproductive” that BOV members — particularly Dragas as UVA’s first female rector — have been criticized.

“It has not been in keeping with traits long associated with the University such as civility in discourse and open dialogue,” McDonnell said. “The Board itself admittedly made mistakes and did not act with the procedural transparency that should be accorded such a significant decision. The Board did lay out, in subsequent days, pressing concerns that led members to believe changes at the University were necessary.”

McDonnell said Sullivan, the board and other state college leaders have worked with him to implement his higher education reforms, and he hopes they’ll continue to do so.

“Today, in settling this disagreement within the family, the University of Virginia has taken another step forward towards reconciliation and the pursuit of excellence. I ask all concerned Virginians, no matter which side they may have taken over the past few weeks, to now take that step forward as well,” McDonnell said.

McDonnell’s full statement is here:

Kaine, who is now a candidate for U.S. Senate, also released a statement on Sullivan’s reinstatement:

“I am heartened by today’s unanimous decision by the Board of Visitors to reinstate President Sullivan. I am confident that the University of Virginia will emerge stronger than ever and continue to move forward as an exemplary educational institution critical to the future of our Commonwealth.”