The University of Virginia effectively fired it's recently-hired president, Teresa Sullivan, last weekend. Here is the latest article: http://www2.dailyprogress.com/news/2012 ... r-1993067/
Why does this matter?
UVa is a very good public school -- it is typically considered one of the three or four best public schools in the country. It also runs a stellar hospital and medical school. The firing is especially shocking because it was a decision made by the Board of Visitors: typically alums who are highly successful business people. In fact, BoV membership is one of the most coveted appointments in the whole state.
The story gets deeper.
The BoV called an emergency session last weekend at the behest of Rector Helen Dragas. Apparently, only four of sixteen members could attend; critically, the meeting was called when two key members were definitely unable to attend. The action had apparently been in the works for weeks, but three members later claimed to know nothing of the action. A vote of 15-0-1 was recorded for asking for her resignation.
Sullivan was only the 8th president in the history of the University that Thomas Jefferson himself founded. She started in August 2010. The actions leading up to her removal were started by graduates of UVa's Darden Business School. Indeed, the whole thing sounds a whole lot like a Darden coup.
Nevertheless, how does this impact other schools nationwide?
Unsubstantiated but entirely plausible rumors have it that a Darden alum, who now works for Goldman Sachs, approached UVa to attempt to use UVa branding for some for-profit online universities that Goldman Sachs runs. UVa, in turn, would receive a very substantial kickback. The story goes that Sullivan refused this lucrative offer, despite UVa not reaching its fundraising goal set in 2004.
This all is a bit more shocking when you take it all together:
An exceptionally small group of wealthy businessmen, who were not elected to their position, unilaterally removed the president of an extremely reputable public university, with no need for approval from the state government, because the president refused to license the public, non-profit university's brand to a for-profit organization run by one of the largest banks in the world.
Again: a successful, well-liked president of one of the most highly regarded universities in the United States just got shit-canned because she allegedly stood up to Goldman Sachs. Holy. Fuck.
If this is happening at a public
school like UVa, what's to prevent this from happening at a private school? Or a public school with more financial woes that UVa?
For better or for worse, universities have used their non-profit status as a shield against the invisible hand of the market. This action has fired a warning shot, or maybe this will be the shot heard round the world. College education is changing, as it must, but this is a bold action that doesn't leave a lot of room for debate.