UVA alumni frustrated

Published 8:47 pm Saturday, June 23, 2012

Some local alumni of the University of Virginia are disappointed with the process that has transpired in the recent ouster of the university’s president and subsequent fallout.

President Teresa Sullivan announced her resignation on June 10 after an ouster by the Board of Visitors, reportedly organized by Rector Helen Dragas. After two weeks of protests and calls for clarity, the board plans to meet on Tuesday to discuss a possible reinstatement of Sullivan.

Suffolk real estate agent Billy Chorey Sr. said he feels the situation was handled inappropriately.

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“I don’t know whether the right decision was implemented or not, but the way that it was handled without transparency was wrong,” Chorey said. “It’s a shame the way it was handled.”

Chorey said the controversy has been “the biggest thing since the fire of 1895 destroyed the Rotunda.”

“I hate it for the University of Virginia,” he said. “It’s a turmoil right now. Everyone wants to get through this part of it.”

Another Suffolk resident with multiple connections to “The University,” Skip Irby, said he, too, feels the ouster was handled wrongly. Irby, the former longtime pastor at West End Baptist Church who retired last year, is a graduate of UVA, as are his wife and their five children.

“I’ve been very disappointed with the process that the Board of Visitors used,” Irby said. “At the university, there’s a lot about honor and truth, and I feel like the process was deeply flawed by doing what appears to be backroom decisions.”

Irby said he thinks anyone who was involved in orchestrating the ouster, especially Dragas, should resign.

He said he has sent a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell urging him not to re-appoint Dragas.

He also sent messages to his state legislators asking the House Education Committee to have a sit-down with Dragas and other members of the Board of Visitors.

“It seems like people who are making this kind of major decision in such a blunder-filled way need to be accountable to somebody for what they have done with the process,” he said.

For her part, Dragas has agreed that the situation was handled badly but defended the decision to force Sullivan’s resignation.

“I agree with critics who say that we should have handled the situation better,” she wrote in a letter dated Friday and sent to university stakeholders. “In my view, we did the right thing, the wrong way.”

She then detailed a list of 10 items, ranging from funding challenges to the changing role of technology in higher education, where she apparently felt Sullivan was not providing appropriately speedy or ambitious leadership.

In a three-page letter sent to the Board of Visitors on Friday, McDonnell threatened to replace the entire board on Wednesday if a decision on Sullivan’s status is not made Tuesday. He would not dictate how the vote should fall, but rather said he expects “a clear, detailed and unified statement on the future leadership of the University.”