CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The University of Virginia reinstated its popular president Tuesday less than three weeks after ousting her in a secretive move that infuriated students and faculty, had the governor threatening to fire the entire governing board and sparked a debate about the best way to operate public universities in an era of tight finances.
The 15-member Board of Visitors voted unanimously to give Teresa Sullivan her job back during a brief meeting at the university's historic Rotunda. Shortly after the vote, Sullivan thanked the board for its renewed confidence in her leadership of the prestigious public university founded by Thomas Jefferson.
The board's swift reinstatement highlighted a dispute over how one of the finest universities in the United States - public or private - should move forward to address multiple challenges, including sharply diminished financial resources and pressure to increase its presence online.
Sullivan, 62, had signaled to the board prior to her ouster that she advocated "incremental" change - not the bold, swift steps advocated by others such as Rector Helen Dragas, the driving force behind efforts to replace her. "I want to partner with you in bringing about what's best for the university," she said as cheers erupted from supporters who had gathered outside the Rotunda.
The newly reinstated president then headed outside where hundreds of faculty, students and other supporters regaled her with applause and the university's anthem, The Good Old Song. "You have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not alone," said Sullivan, who became the eighth president and first female leader when she was named in August 2010. "I believe that together we'll do great things for the university."