To Fight for the Truth

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,”

~Rudyard Kipling, If

Truth has been one of the casualties of this awful mess at the University of Virginia. If there is any hope for repair and healing in our community it must begin with finding and telling the truth. The sheer absence of information from the Board of Visitors about their motivations and processes has unleashed a torrent of speculation. In the absence of the facts, people will create their own realities. Since June 10th, my experience as a leader here has been that Kipling got it about right: the only way to advance Truth is to keep one’s head, not lose trust, allow for doubt, hang on, and resist lies and hatred. This is the responsibility not only of leaders, but also of followers and even outside observers such as the media.

Some of the most egregious damage to the Truth could have been avoided by simple fact-checking. The latest outrage appears on today’s editorial page of the Wall Street Journal wherein it is asserted that, “The deans of 10 of the university’s 11 schools have signed a letter for Ms. Sullivan’s reinstatement. Tellingly, the one dean who didn’t sign the letter runs Virginia’s graduate business school.” That’s dead wrong. I’m the Dean of that school and I did sign the letter. In fact, I helped to prepare it—my previous blog posting says so to the world. I agree with the Deans: President Teresa Sullivan should be reinstated. I stand together with the UVA community in protest of the deeply flawed process surrounding her dismissal. This is not what we teach at Darden. We have called continually for open dialogue among parties and transparency about decisions–and will continue to press for them. The University community deserves nothing less.

As the Deans’ statement says, we did not ask the Dean of UVA’s undergraduate business school, Carl Zeithaml, to sign because at the time he was the designated Interim President and “we felt it would put him in an extraordinarily difficult position even to be asked.” The Journal’s editorial implies that a business Dean disagreed with the letter for reinstatement—but as his words and actions clearly show, Zeithaml supports reinstatement.

Following are my responses to some other inaccuracies floating around in recent days:

· Darden—the institution—was a party to the ouster of President Sullivan. That’s dead wrong. I had no foreknowledge or involvement with Terry Sullivan’s ouster. And based on numerous conversations with my colleagues, I can say with high confidence that no one at the Darden School or Darden School Foundation was involved with this—with the exception of Peter Kiernan, the former Chairman of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees who said that he was acting in a private capacity. Mr. Kiernan has resigned from the Board. This whole mess is not about Darden; it is about the University’s Board of Visitors.

· It’s MBAs versus Ph.D.’s. That’s dead wrong. It’s MBA’s and Ph.D.’s. Virtually all of the communications I have received from Darden’s alums have been strongly supportive of Terry Sullivan’s reinstatement—the same for Darden’s faculty and staff. Darden’s Foundation Trustees have issued a letter in support of reinstatement. Even predating this mess, Darden has been an active and positive contributor to the welfare of the University’s programs. Our Partnership for Leaders in Education with the Curry School of Education has been cited by Presidents Casteen and Sullivan as an example of how two “silos” of a big university can work together for social good. We are the allies, not adversaries, of our peer schools at UVA.

· They privatized Darden and now it’s a for-profit operation. That’s dead wrong. Darden is merely a financially self-sufficient unit of the University and continues to be governed by the Board of Visitors. The School takes no support from the University or the Commonwealth and pays a tax to support the University that amounts to about $4 million per year. Darden’s self-sufficiency is a good thing: it increases the resources available to the rest of the University. There is nothing in Darden’s mission, vision, strategy, or culture that orients the School to maximize its profits. As a not-for-profit entity, we are mission-driven. We aim to be servant leaders who deliver outstanding learning experiences. The notion that we are generating anything like a profit is laughable—this year we are intentionally running a deficit to advance our educational impact. Such advancement includes scholarships for women and minorities and investments to improve the quality of our programs and to deepen our talented faculty and staff.

· Paul Tudor Jones is a Darden alumnus and calls the shots. That’s dead wrong. Jones graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences, but not Darden. In my seven years as Dean, I can recall talking with him only once, when I disagreed with him and lived to tell the tale. Darden’s alums are generous and loyal supporters of our academic mission. They have helped to advance the Darden School and UVA. I listen carefully to them because they are an invaluable part of the extended Darden community. But an understanding that I negotiated with the Darden School Foundation Board in 2007 strictly limits the intervention of alums in the academic policies and decisions of the School. I listen to the alums, but formally take orders only from the Provost and President.

These and other canards harm the standing of the entire University. I appeal to decent people everywhere to fight for the Truth. This will require great effort in the current miasma of rumor, conspiracy theories, and slander. In this, everyone must be a leader: you must lead from wherever you are. As Kipling would say, you must keep your head, not lose trust, allow for doubt, hang on, and resist lies and hatred.


If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

~Rudyard Kipling

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110 Responses to To Fight for the Truth

  1. Walt Shill says:

    Excellent – the most direct and clear statement about Darden and the mess at UVA yet. Let’s hope the Board of Visitors and The rest of The University will follow suit with absolute clarity and transparency. Bob, thanks for the straight talk.

  2. Carmen says:

    Could you please share this with the WSJ? Today’s editorial is twisted and perverse. I think the WSJ owes a lot of people an apology.

  3. Keating Willcox says:

    The big elephant in the room is the emergence of the review of President Sullivan’s book from years ago, a long review that contains massive allegations of academic misconduct. Unless the substance of this review is discussed and itself reviewed, President Sullivan and her supporters need to understand that this was the most likely reason for the unexpected firing. The UT coverup of this review is simply eyewash. The actual review can be found here… The download works.

    Please, look at the entire review before crowing about President Sullivan.

  4. Coleman Bigelow says:

    Thank you! You are demonstrating the exact type of transparency and directness that the B.O.V. failed to use. Your comments are very much appreciated and go a long way to alleviate my concerns as both an alum of the College and of Darden. I never wanted to believe there was any conflict between the two and now I can see there is not.
    Thank you and all the Darden faculty for your continued strength of leadership and your partnership with the rest of the University community.

  5. Pam Moran says:

    Dean Bruner,

    Thank you for writing this post to right the wrongness of the Wall Street Journal article’s commentary about UVa.

    In my work with Darden School staff, I have always heard a clear and abiding focus from them that ethical behavior is core to their work in preparing young people to lead, administer, and create in the business sector. Now, the WSJ needs to do the right thing and publish your post as well as retract its erroneous information.

  6. kate anderson says:

    thank you for posting this, and for clarifying the situation.

  7. mary scott birdsall says:

    Know you are super busy but if this statement has not yet gone to WSJ with a demand for public correction on line and in print BEFORE BOV meeting, I hope it can be sent now with a cc to each BOV member. They should know by now, surely, but the tone of editorial is too inflammatory to let pass. I am concerned, if someone on BOV is on the fence, h/she could feel supported in this point of view

  8. Karen Pape says:

    Dear Dean Bruner,
    Thank you for this cogent and inspiring response. I hope you will disabuse the anonymous writer of the WSJ article of his inaccurate and misplaced allegations. This smells like a pr stunt to me.

  9. Ben Flood, Darden '09 says:

    Great post! Thanks Dean Bruner!

  10. UVa Parent says:

    Sorry I am so upset by this situation I misspelled her name – Dragas
    I have great hope that someone at Darden can start the process of repair.

  11. Ed Morrison says:

    Dean Bruner:

    Thank you for your clear-eyed and steady leadership at Darden.

    As a graduate, I have been distressed about the untruths circulating about Darden. In addition, I have been concerned of the potential estrangement of Darden from the rest of the UVA community.

    I am most proud, perhaps, of Darden’s embrace of civic leadership. Having spent my career focused on public policy and the challenges of U.S. competitiveness, I appreciate the clarity with which you have stated Darden’s purpose.

    We need your support and guidance, now more than ever.

  12. Savannah McClure says:

    Thank you. Terrific message…

  13. Chris Binnig says:

    Bravo, Dean Bruner, well put. And noteworthy that you find inspiration in a non-business writer that most students are exposed to through a liberal arts education, something that unfortunately has been denigrated by some parties to the narrative of this regrettable series of events. I find it especially appropriate that Kipling was writing this to his son and trying to define for him the legacy to which he should aspire. I remain hopeful that the Board Of Visitors will aspire to the same legacy tomorrow.

  14. Interesting.... says:

    @ Keating Willcox

    One review a firing doesn’t make. Do you have some proof to support your claim that this one, 20+ yr old review has anything to do with what’s been going on? If not, you seem to be muck racking. How does UT coverup a review, exactly? Reviews are published in public journa

    Offer some evidence.

  15. Ricardo Padron says:

    Thank you, Dean Bruner. An excellent statement!

  16. Lisa Stewart says:

    I am so proud to be a member of the Darden Community, and to have such a strong, caring and honest Dean to lead us forward. Thank you, Bob, for guiding us through this difficult time at the University.

  17. Following Joan Fenton’s encouragement, I posted about a blatant inaccuracy on the WSJ Comments section following the article, which I suggest that we ALL do. Also, I just posted Dean Bruner’s article on the WSJ , which again, I suggest that we ALL do and not wait for WSJ to do it.

  18. Dan Kinney says:

    Interesting how Sullivan’s detractors who cite this one review won’t or can’t say precisely what they find in it that’s supposed to sink her or her scholarship. Smoke-and-mirrors candor!

  19. Betty Mooney says:

    Thank you for correcting this error. I too hope you will contact the WSJ and set them straight. Statements produced by PR/spin machines are only making a bad situation worse .
    It is important that before tomorrow’s meeting of the BOV we show the world that UVA will not be divided but untied to right a wrong and reinstate Prwsident Sullivan.
    If this does not happen the damage already sustained by the entire University will be multiplied many times over .

    We are all losers if President Sullivan is not reinstated.

    Thank you Dean Bruner for your strong leadership in this crisis.

  20. LaDonna Ripberger says:

    Thank you Bob! I know the last few weeks have been extraordinarily hard on you. I believe that everyone in the Darden community stands by you and are so thankful that you represent what UVA is all about; honor, integrity and promise. And you make us proud by exhibiting the simplest, but yet sometimes, the most difficult attribute – that is the overall caring of others.

  21. Ed Cooper MD says:

    Dear Bob,

    I trained at UVa decades ago.
    Your correction to what I read in the WSJ this
    morning makes me proud!
    Hope things work out tomorrow and then

    “All manner of thing shall be well.”
    Julian of Norwich

  22. Not Keating Wilcox says:

    Keating Wilcox seems incapable of distinguishing studies that are technically incorrect due to questionable assumptions or flawed techniques from those that are academically invalid or evidence of misconduct. I suggest he enroll in some classes, possibly those in high school that he evidently slept through, before speaking in public again.

  23. UVa Parent says:

    If anyone at Darden knows Helen Dragus could they please ask her to resign immediately as Mr. Kington and Mr. Kiernan have done . I don’t believe the University can heal until this is done.

  24. CLAS81 says:

    The WSJ is the Fox News of the print world. Making it up as it goes along. An embarrassment.

  25. Amy Halliday says:

    Fabulous blog post! I am going to circulate this on Facebook like crazy and urge others to do the same. I agree with the comment above that the BoV needs to see this pronto.

  26. Mary Beth Aungier says:

    Thank you. This is simply brilliant and I am so proud to live in this community with so many thought leaders that stand up for what is right.

  27. Peter Norton says:

    – I agree with those who say this strong statement needs to get to WSJ ASAP, at least as a letter to the editor from the dean.
    – Regarding the allegations of academic dishonesty raised in a book review (see post by Mr Willcox). On June 18 I met with the rector (I serve on the executive council of the Faculty Senate; she was meeting with us) to discuss the dismissal. She said explicitly that the dismissal had nothing whatsoever to do with this allegation, and that BoV did not even know about the allegation until after June 10. My colleagues on the exec council can corroborate. So we can lay that one to rest.

  28. Scott Williams says:

    Bravo, Bob!

    For decades, you have been a voice of integrity and wisdom.

    Thank you

  29. Dean Bruner,

    Thanks for this eloquent and passionate response to the misinformation, most recently from the WSJ. I am thankful for your words about truthfulness and leading from where you are.

    I wrote the WSJ about this astoundingly inaccurate piece earlier today and copy my email to their editors here, below.

    Thanks again for this appeal to our best natures and for leading by example.

    Rev. Deborah E. Lewis
    Campus Minister & Director, The Wesley Foundation at UVA

    * *

    Dear Editors:

    There is a glaring inaccuracy in your online publication from yesterday, in the article entitled “The Virginia Fracas.”

    The author incorrectly states that Bob Bruner, the dean of the graduate business school (Darden), was the 11th Dean who did not sign the letter asking the Board of Visitors to reinstate President Sullivan. The “missing” dean was Carl Zeithaml, of the McIntire School of Commerce (undergraduate business) and also Interim President of UVA. Because of his position as interim president, Zeithaml was not even asked to sign the letter, so as not to put him in an even more uncomfortable position (

    Both Bruner ( and Zeithaml ( AND have expressed support for President Sullivan. Additionally, you will see in the first link I posted parenthetically after Zeithaml’s name above that he does not employ the same “business logic” your author does, preferring instead to see a mix of private business practice in a university setting, as well as more traditional academic administrative methods. He also supports faculty involvement in the Board of Visitors.

    It’s obvious that the writer wanted to get his point across and wasn’t too concerned with getting the facts straight as he did so. But I expect more from a quality publication like the Wall Street Journal and I will look for your corrections to this mistake.

    Thank you,

    Rev. Deborah E. Lewis

  30. UVa Law 12 says:

    Thanks, Dean Bruner.

  31. Caesonia says:


    Thanks for posting the truth. In all the battles I have been involved in, I have found it crucial to me that the truth is told in everything,even if it’s a truth I happen to find not to my liking. My academic advisor was at Darden, and I can’t imagine that they would have truly advocated such bad behaviour as we have seen.

    Unfortunately though, a number of those involved with this conduct have received their paper from Darden, and the business world is currently full of a lot of dishonest unethical folks with an MBA beside their name. Their conduct can and does raise questions as it should. This country is going through a crisis because of a lot of poor and plain self serving judgment by people in the business community, and out of this I should hope that a big reality check is made in a large number of boardrooms.

    Best Regards.

  32. Gregory Hays says:

    As a faculty member in the College I thank Dean Bruner for this clear and explicit statement.

    I hope that at some point we will see a full accounting of the role that Hill & Knowlton (the Rector’s hired PR firm) and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni have played in this affair.

  33. Ron Michener says:

    I’d certainly urge you to contact the WSJ. Their editorial struck me as the craziest misrepresentation of facts imaginable. Their bottom line was that the University of Virginia was under the thumb of the faculty. Gosh, if we had the University under our thumb, why did we accept a salary freeze of five years and counting!? The only thing carrying the University though the recent difficult years has been accumulated goodwill and a belief in the faculty, students, alumni and deans that UVA’s unique and valuable heritage was worth personal sacrifice to conserve. The actions of the BOV, however well intended, had the unfortunate effect of destroying this priceless institutional asset. Failure to comprehend the worth of a business’s intangible assets is serious shortcoming for any manager.

  34. Williamsburg says:


    I appreciate your effort to elicit transparency and I have no insight into the motives of the BOV. In fact, I don’t even know a member of the Board. I would be interested in your thoughts and insights on the re-emerging “scientific misconduct” allegations against Elizabeth Warren and her co-author Terry Sullivan. In the haste to vet Elizabeth Warren, was Teresa Sullivan drawn into the story? New revelations seem to be coming out every day. While I’m not a ‘fan’ of the sites methods, Breitbart Big Government has a four part story …

  35. Kathi Brown says:

    Thank you, Dean Bruner, for speaking so forthrightly about the gross inaccuracies in the WSJ piece this morning. So many of the comments following the article were depressingly familiar—axes to grind, recycled cliches, and knee-jerk assumptions. It’s critical to keep pushing back with plainspoken facts, delivered in a civil but firm manner. Bullies only succeed if no one stands up to them.

  36. William P Glasheen, '79, '83, '90 says:

    This is a nice clarification. However I still support the right of the BOV to execute personnel matters in private. To do otherwise goes counter to the way business is traditionally done, and can lead to unnecessary character assassination and future litigation. Before the fricas and the demand for openness, we only suspected incompetence. In light of the facts presented in the WSJ editorial – many of which weren’t discounted here – we now understand the depth of Sullivan’s shortcomings. Accountability means firing when expectations aren’t met. That principle should hold in academia as it does in industry.

  37. Jonathan Schnyer says:

    Well done, Mr. Bruner. It just goes to show what amazing quality the University has to offer in all of its programs and how the business school is as ethical as the Religious Studies department, and the Classics department is as rigorous as the Business school.

  38. Betty Mooney says:

    I just heard Coy Barefoot say on WINA that his sources tell him the votes to reinstate President Sullivan are not confirmed, but they are close, with 2 undecided. Please, if you have not yet contacted the BOV to reinstate President Sullivan, please do so.

    If this wrong is not righted, I hate to think of the turmoil that will follow.

  39. Mike Ritter says:

    Dean Bruner:

    You did Thomas Jefferson proud.


    Mike Ritter

  40. Emmett Lyman says:

    Thank you Dean Bruner not only for setting the record straight, but for doing it with dignity. I commend you for maintaining a cool head in this unfortunate situation, and I hope that we’re able to weather the storm and emerge a stronger institution in the end. Please continue leading by example in this difficult time.

    @Peter Norton – Thank you for the helpful clarification.

  41. William Simkins says:

    Dean Bruner, you, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.

  42. Brady Lum says:

    Well stated, Dean. We are learning a lot from each other how to heal!

  43. Peter Ackerson says:


    As always, your integrity, wisdom and honesty shine through. Please know that we’re all proud of how you’re navigating this unfortunate debacle.

  44. Sherry Nashman Danese says:

    Thank you, Dean Bruner, for this clear and honest statement from Darden. I have never been prouder to be an alumnae.

  45. LPHuynh says:

    Thank you, Dean Bruner!

    To all that have been replying in posts– the WSJ has responded. I went to the article and it has been corrected w/ an editorial note @ the bottom. YAY for those who wrote in!!!

  46. Adam Cui says:


    I think the whole thing will be a lot easier if everyone is as open and transparent as you are in this post.



  47. Rhonda Henderson says:

    Dean Bruner,

    Your honesty and clarity is appreciated.

    Thank you!

    Rhonda Henderson
    Darden ’12

  48. Min says:

    Excellent! I support Dean Bruner!

  49. Mark Soberman says:

    The entire process leading President Sullivan’s forced resignation was the antithesis of what I was taught at Darden. Courses like Leading Organizations, Leading Strategic Change, Management Communication and Business Ethics emphasized transparency, thoughtfulness, communication, honesty and concern for all stakeholders. I distinctly recall sitting in Andy Wicks’ ethics class discussing the “3 rules” that formed a framework for ethical decision making. Rule 3 was ” how would your decision look on page one of the NY Times or WSJ? Not so good in this case. Perhaps the alumni on the BOV need to come back for a refresher course with Andy,Alec Horniman, Lynn Isabella or Lily Powell. Thank you for seeking the truth and being an example in this difficult time.
    Mark Soberman MBAEXEC 09

  50. Steven Silbiger says:

    I have read all the emails about this resignation. No place I have read has specifically said the reason why?…

    A budgetary dispute related to faculty? Why the secrecy?

  51. Jim Westphal says:

    Dean Bruner, for whom I have tremendous respect, is right to stand up for greater openness and transparency — or at least better communication — on what was clearly a flawed process. But the bigger issues (i.e., those that don’t revolve around miscommunicating Dean Bruner’s position)raised in the WSJ editorial deserve more consideration than they are given on this blog. For example, assuming it is correct, why did teaching and administrative spending grow at 6.1% and 9.2% CAGRs, respectively, between 2003-2009? Did the number of students or the quality of service grow at close to that rate? What has been the recent trend? What is Ms Sullivan’s position on all this? (That’s not a rehetorical question; I don’t know the answer and I’ve read a fair bit about this whole mess.) I’ve seen Dean Bruner in the classroom and he’s pretty good at getting into the numbers. I’d love to hear his perspective here. Admittedly, I’m starting with a bit of a skeptical viewpoint as the overall record of colleges and universities at controlling costs over the past decade (or two or three decades) has been horrible. And, as the WSJ points out, the resistance to change by entrenched faculties has been considerable (again, not referring specifically to UVA). So in the interest of transparency, what is going on at UVA in this regard? What is the truth?

  52. I’m really baffled by what’s going on. I look forward to a great organization behavior case study on all this (thinly disguised, of course.)

  53. Charles Sullivan, Darden '80 says:

    Thank you, Dean Bruner, for taking a stand and doing the right thing. I salute you.

    I hope Teresa Sullivan is rehired and she engages in constructive collaboration with various constituencies to address all the problems cited on Helen Dragas’s punchlist. The University can emerge stronger and healthier from this mess.

    If Sullivan is replaced, the University will have squandered significant goodwill and fundraising momentum. Donors and friends will leave the University’s orbit. Her permanent replacement, taking the job sometime in 2014, will find the challenges infinitely harder.

  54. Alex Biahun says:


    Thank you for a clear and concise message. WSJ has published an updated version of the article which now includes a correction:

    “Correction: The dean of the University of Virginia’s undergraduate business McIntire School of Commerce, Carl Zeithaml, did not sign a petition asking for Teresa Sullivan’s reinstatement, but in a separate statement he signaled his support for the former U.Va. president. An earlier version of this editorial mentioned incorrectly that the dean of the graduate business school had not signed the letter and speculated incorrectly about the dean’s motives.”


    Alex Biahun
    Darden ’12

  55. doug nelson says:

    The BOV needs to apologize to the university community, Dr. Sullivan, and Darden. And if possible change their system to forego future coup attempts by a minority of members.

    Might be good to let a few other members resign and get some wiser heads in there. What a mess.

  56. Rick Rohrbach says:

    Dean Bruner,

    Obviously, Ms Sullivan’s termination was mishandled by a Board weighted to Darden Alums. To the comments about the process’ opacity, I’d add that Ms Dragas’ 10 point memo sounds like Carl Icahn on a hostile takeover target. As a UVA parent, I found Dragas’ points gratuitous, damaging and strategically dubious. Obviously too, the mishandling by Dragas, Kiernan, Kington, et al, resonates with a lack of ethics that we read of too much in today’s business world. As a Darden alum, I can confirm that you’re teaching good ethics. But I would also assert that there is a parallel culture, working at cross purposes to the ethics you extol in the classroom. I hope the Sullivan debacle challenges you to lift up your school’s ethical culture. You could even start with a case study on Dragas v. Sullivan, which would have to be one of the top ten all time cases!

  57. Bryan Wright says:

    I’ve been following the responses here, and I now notice that the blog only shows one response (the fifty-first). If the administrator of the site is listening, could you please make the other responses reappear? I know that the “” site ran into similar problems, and had to break the comments into multiple pages.
    Thanks for any help.

  58. bahnson stanley says:

    Since we are trained in business, I will present a business analogy. I am a shareholder of UVA. Dean Bruner is a senior vice president, one of 11. The Board of Directors has determined to terminate and replace the CEO. The CEO and her direct reports have decided to protest the termination. The shareholders do not have all the information. The senior vice presidents are not privy to the deliberations of the Board, but do not like the idea that the Board, whom they do not know very well, have the power to terminate the CEO and perhaps change the comfortable situation they enjoy.

    What should shareholders do? In the business world, the shareholders would support the Board, the Board would hire a new CEO, and the new CEO would clean house. Why should UVA be any different? I support the Board and its logic, however poorly presented. The Board has determined that the CEO needed to be replaced, the business model may be broken, the strategy needs to be changed. Perhaps the senior vice presidents need to go, too. I, for one, doubted that the CEO had the right experience to lead UVA, or the right skills to accomplish the primary tasks: strategic leadership and fund raising. On meeting the CEO and having substantive conversations, I remained unconvinced.

    My support for UVA (and Darden) will end if the CEO returns to her position. If she does, the Board will have lost its leadership and oversight role. The inmates will rule the asylum, and the institution will be doomed to mediocrity. That will be a sad day for Mr. Jefferson’s University, the alumni, and the state of Virginia.

    Bahnson Stanley, Darden 1978, UVA Parent 2007

  59. Bryan Wright says:

    In response to those who have commented on the Board’s privilege of dealing with personnel matters in private, I’d like to point out that the Board didn’t, in fact, deal with this matter at all, in public or in private. The Board never voted on the matter. (The dismissal of a president requires a two-thirds majority of the Board’s total number of voting members.) The situation we are in was arranged by two individual members of the Board, Dragas and Kington.

    It’s also important to note that all of the Deans of all of the schools at UVa are unanimous in their praise of Sullivan. If there were problems with her performance in the job, those problems were apparent only to Dragas and Kington. Hence, the universal shock and dismay at UVa right now.

    President Sullivan has been a more dynamic, involved president than most. During less than two years here, she has instituted important, wide-reaching, and long overdue changes in the way we budget our money. These were planned to begin rolling out during the coming fiscal year.

    Don’t be mislead by a single piece of shallow journalism in the Wall Street Journal.

  60. Ashley Elicker, '07 says:

    This is a clear example of the honest, thoughtful, confident, and ethical leadership that Darden teaches, and why I am so proud to be an alum. Thank you, Dean Bruner.

  61. Jed Kincaid says:

    I am all for truth and transparency, and I think that they are critical in the face of a controversial decision. So is a decisive and quick plan of action. If the BOV is guilty of anything it is in failing to understand and be prepared for the controversy and politics of their decision, and the backlash that their decision could cause. By failing to prepare for it, and have a swift plan of action to communicate and implement it, they allowed speculation by those who opposed the decision to rule the day, and they lost control of the situation and message. Even someone on this blog wants an investigation of the hiring of a PR firm to help with this transition. Of course they hired a PR firm. Why shouldn’t they? If anything the BOV needed more assistance in PR.

    The board did something that was very much in their powers and responsibilities to do, and they did not appear to take any steps that were inappropriate (internet and media rumors aside). The rector, as the leader of the board consulted with the board and determined that they had the votes they needed to proceed. As a courtesy to Ms. Sullivan, they met with her indicating as much offering her the chance to resign. There is nothing wrong with this approach. This is the standard approach for any high level position, and a professional courtesy. Indeed, if this approach were wrong, then why did Ms. Sullivan agree to it and submit her resignation? If she believed Ms. Dragas didn’t have the votes, she should have refused. That would have been real leadership. In hindsight, the professional courtesy and private nature of severance agreements in combination with the aforementioned lack of communication leant credibility to the occupy types who wanted to spin some Dr. Evil 1% cloak and dagger operation.

    While re-instating Ms. Sullivan would be the easiest, least painful decision in the short term, it would raise significant concerns for me in the long term. The independence of the BOV is critical for allowing them to make difficult, unpopular decisions in order to serve the best interests of the University, its students an alumni. They need to be able to make these decisions independent of politics and politicians and independent of the preferences of the entrenched and tenured faculty and administrative interests at the University, who have significant incentives to oppose change. If Ms. Sullivan is reinstated, what board would ever feel empowered to exercise their powers and remove her or any other president in the future? She would be president for life, and the power of the BOV would be subjugated to the whims of the faculty.

    Further, Dragas though arguably too late, laid out extensive rationale for their change in approach. And Ms. Sullivan has admitted that she is indeed an incrementalist, which is not consistent with the vision the board has going forward. While it was not clear at first, it seems clear now why the board removed Ms. Sullivan. Indeed much of the uproar seems to be predicated on Ms. Sullivan’s popularity. Being the president of a University is not a populatiry contest. A president has to make difficult decisions. Decisions that are by definition going to make some people unhappy. On some level it seems Ms. Sullivan has admitted she has not made difficult decisions, and perhaps this is why she is so popular.

    I also find it interesting in an institution of higher learing where debate should be vigourous and disagreement frequent, that the chorus is in such unity in support of Ms. Sullivan. Where is the disagreement? Where is the debate? It appears unanimous among the faculty. I find this hard to beleive. It seems to me no one wants to take the uncomfortable or unpopular position of disagreeing with their colleagues. Or perhaps there is a lack of diversity of thought and viewpoint among the faculty of the University? And frankly, the behavior of the faculty has been less than impressive. Demanding the resignation of board members, and refusing to recognize their actions – childish, rash, hot headed, not in the best interestes of the University, and certainly not profressional.

    It is clear to me that the board was poorly prepared to handle what was to be a very difficult decision and public backlash, which created the situation we are now in. Perhaps the decision was not the correct decision. However, poorly communicating a decision is no reason to reverse it, and whether it is the correct decision is in the eyes of the beholder. It is the boards job to make a judgement based the best information as to what the best decision and direction for the University is.

    I appreciate the reasoned and measured approach of the Deans’ statement to the board. And frankly I agree that Ms. Sullivan’s departure will delay decisive action (it seems so would retaining Ms. sullivan). However, the damage done cannot be undone, it can however be made even worse, by taking steps that would effective strip the board of its power to carry out its responsibilities as stewards of the University.

    Count me in the camp of being in favor of truth, transparency, and resolve. Its time for the University to move forward, learn lessons from its recent history, and not try to re-write it.

  62. Jed Kincaid says:

    Bryon Wright. She had the votes. Terry Sullivan resigned rather than force a meeting to count the votes, which was her prerogative. The board subsequently voted 12-1 to name an interrum and mover forward after a ten hour meeting. 12 is a super-majority.

  63. Michael Weber says:

    Stanley and Geibhart (above) make an analogy between a corporation and a university. However, this is a false analogy. Although these organizations have similarities, they are not identical. First of all, the reputation of the University is based on the qualities of the faculty and the students — not the Board of Visitors. Second, the faculty cannot in general be fired without serious cause (due to tenure) whereas the BOV members are all short-timers. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the faculty in general are not “employees” of a corporation. They are selected for their independence, entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and drive. That is why they work 60-80 hour weeks for low pay. They are more akin to an association of independent contractors than they are employees (they certainly are not “inmates”). If their contributions are disrespected they can and will pick up and leave. In fact, many have left over the past ten years, and that slow bleeding couldn’t be stopped in two years, no matter who was the president.
    I agree with the initial premise of the BOV that the world is changing faster than UVA is. However, Dr Sullivan came into an institution with serious problems that developed over at least a decade. No one could resolve them overnight. The BOV has made a difficult situation much, much worse.

  64. Eric H Schmitz, M Engineering 1982, MBA 1983 says:

    Dean Bruner,

    Your blog echoes many of the sentiments I’ve shared publicly and profusely since President Sullivan’s ouster. In that context I find this blog piece personally reassuring.

    Moving forward, one of my hopes is that Darden can take a leadership role in assisting the broader academic community, through active participation in the Faculty Senate, and the BoV, through additional (or remedial) training with respect to good management practices. Another is that under your leadership, the Darden team continue to be at the forefront of technology and innovation in learning.

    I recall, almost wistfully, working alongside a few rising second year students (calling ourselves “Sponsorsoft”) to assist Mr. Freeland, Mr. Frey, and Mr. Allen in an ambitious “project” of introducing a radical shift in delivering graduate and executive business education using new technology — some Apple II+ and an IBM-PC we lovingly called “the boat anchor”. I’ve just dated myself severely. Then, as now, anticipating and planning for necessary change required paying attention, and considerable grace under pressure. Executives at that time, after all, had no interest in using a keyboard, and spreadsheets were an extraordinary tool. Imagine how far things have come. You would know, of course, being one of the bright young faculty that inspired us.

    My son Dan (MBA 2010) benefited most, in my opinion, by those things that change least — shared values of trust and integrity and sound ethics — in addition to, not replaced by, new means of thinking. Fads come and go. Fundamentals always last.

    Having participated in writing a few business cases, and studying many, I concur that recent events would make a rich case study someday. In the meantime, I hope it is a learning moment, and an opportunity to turn some pain into gain, bad into good, destruction into growth.

    Best Regards to all my Darden friends (especially Kitty Smiley), and thank you and the Darden Faculty for the commitment to management excellence you all hold fast.

  65. Rod Carlson says:

    The entire Sullivan business is very troubling. More troubling than the way Ms. Sullivan was fired is the pressure that is being exerted to reinstate her. The only body that has standing in the matter is the Board of Visitors. The University of Virginia is not a democracy. Its president neither reports to its 11 school presidents nor is the president chosen by them. Neither they nor the alumni nor the person on the street are in the chain of command. Public clamor needs to be recognized for what it is and ignored by those who are authorized to lead. While Mr. Jefferson strongly advocated freedom and self determination, his biggest fear for “the Great Experiment” was the brutality and chaos of mob rule he witnessed in the French Revolution. This convinced him that the United States should become a nation not of cities but of farmers and mechanics spread out across the continent. What’s going on at his university today would surely displease him as it does me. Sincerely, Rod Carlson

  66. Michael Weber says:

    Stanley and Geibhart (above) make an analogy between a corporation and a university. However, this is a false analogy. Although these organizations have similarities in apparent organizational structure, there are deep differences. Importantly, the faculty are stake-holders in the University, having invested years of their lives in developing its reputation. Moreover, they function more as an association of independent contractors than as corporate employees (they certainly are not “inmates”). They are selected for their independence, entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and drive. If their contributions are disrespected they can and will pick up and leave. In fact, many have left UVA over the past ten years, and that slow bleeding couldn’t be stopped in two years, no matter who was the president.
    I agree with the initial premise of the BOV that the world is changing faster than UVA is. However, Dr Sullivan came into an institution with serious and diverse problems that developed over at least a decade. No one could resolve them overnight. The BOV can be commended for recognizing the problems forthrightly. But their ill-considered actions have made a difficult situation much, much worse

  67. Your post has restored my confidence in Darden. Thank you, Dean Bruner, for your razor-sharp clarity and elimination of any doubt about where you and Darden stand. This is the Darden that I had come to admire, with its evolving focus on corporate sustainability and ethics.

  68. CLASS OF 2001 says:

    As an alumni of Darden, I wonder where our critical thinking skills are and why anyone would demand the return of the president at this juncture? Instead, why aren’t the Deans demanding additional information about this situation, digesting and analyzing that information and then taking that information to make informed decisions about either supporting the president or not. Very surprised the Deans aren’t taking a more enlightened and educated stance on this matter and demanding more information before passing any judgement. Dean Bruner, I highly doubt that in your old M&A class, this action would have received a high grade, and very much agree with the business / board analogy above. If we are looking for more transparency and information, then why aren’t the deans asking for that before proclaiming support? Allowing emotion to overcome reason, analysis and critical thinking is the downfall of any institution and unfortunately happening with increasing frequency.

  69. Edward Swindler says:


    Thanks for taking a strong and (as usual) articulate stand against the clearly defective process by the BOV, for debunking the implication of Darden’s involvement in this mess, and for correcting the facts in the press.

    I appreciate you joining your fellow deans in calling for Dr. Sullivan’s reinstatement. While many students, alums, professors, and others who care about UVA have worked behind the scenes to clarify and rectify the Visitors’ actions, the deans’ statement of support adds gravitas to the the movement and gives Tuesday’s vote a better chance for success.

    Whatever the outcome, I suggest you have a case written to highlight the lessons of this affair, including the operation of boards, the key role of communication and transparency with constituent groups, the criticality of setting common goals and objectives, and ultimately the need for truth and trust in any management circumstance.

    There will be a period of healing, rebuilding trust, and refocusing energy on the future of this great university. Thanks in advance for your leadership, and for continuing to be a great Dean at Darden.


    Darden 1984, GSAS 1982, BA 1976, UVA Parent 2014

  70. Jacob Rothman says:

    I was proud of Darden after reading the WSJ editorial today. Thank you, Dean Bruner for clarifying that Darden stands in solidarity with the culture of mediocrity upheld by the other schools. Bahnson’s analogy captures the problem perfectly. The issue going forward is that the BOV has been stripped of its authority and the University is now being run by a a group of self-entitled professors who will live off of the great reputation of the University, while dragging it down to irrelevance. In this UVA is a microcosm of higher education in general – rapidly increasing in cost and just as rapidly declining in value.

  71. George Shipp, BA '79 MBA '82 says:

    Dean Bruner, I applaud you and the Darden leadership for getting out front on day one and letting the world know the BoV had subverted due process in its original decision to dismiss President Sullivan. You took a not-insignificant personal and organizational risk, because you saw a wrong that needed righting. When Peter Kiernan’s unfortunate and perhaps even accidental involvement came to light, spoiling decades of dedicated service to the institution he surely loves, the Darden Foundation quickly took difficult but necessary action. Thanks too for this timely and pointed rebuttal to the ridiculously shallow WSJ piece today; all of us who have followed the saga knew this morning that the “editors” (coached by Hill & Knowlton’s hired hands?) had mangled the facts, grossly mis-read the mood of the vast majority of caring constituents, and applied the same two-second “soundbite logic” to complex issues that it seems the BoV did in the first place when it created this mess

    This alumnus is very proud and even encouraged by what is transpiring at UVa. Democracy is about to triumph over closed door meetings among a sub-group of political appointees, who never did take a proper vote on President Sullivan’s dismissal. Faculty, students, alumni, and friends of the University are pulling together because they care so much about its future. I feel confident that the collaborative efforts of its broad community of supporters will prove far more effective in solving properly identified financial, academic, and strategic challenges than would be accomplished by an impatient elite. (Whoever you are, please come out from the bushes and tell us why Ms. Sullivan is unfit to lead! Twelve deans, two past presidents, at least three governors, and thousands of concerned alumni, faculty and students think you are wrong, but you are entitled to your opinion if you would just state it.) Thoughtful progress is better than rapid change for change’s sake

    My admiration for Darden, as an integral part of a large and diverse community founded by Thomas Jefferson, has grown substantially in the last two weeks. Thank you for cementing my confidence in the institution by “fighting for truth” and honor. It’s worth fighting for

  72. Paul Pliakas says:

    I am disturbed that the WSJ got the story so badly wrong.

    I expect their editorial page to have an extreme right-wing slant about national politics and the economy, but I am amazed that they choose to fabricate this nonsense.

    Did they really think Dean Bruner wouldn’t respond to their inaccuracies with the truth?

  73. Current Grad Student at UVA says:

    In response to the gentleman who asked why the deans hadn’t sought more information, please note this statement came out after about 2 weeks of asking for more information. The reason more hasn’t come out is because both the BoV and Sullivan signed a kind of agreement where they would not disparage each other. So, for all the speculation about why Sullivan was fired, the main message from Dragas has been that she legally can’t comment further on the specifics. No one actually knows what the differences are in the Board’s financial plan compared to Sullivan’s plan; the Board is not unified and has not stated a plan.

  74. Christian Roberts says:

    I appreciate your clarification of many errors that have circulated regarding Teresa Sullivan’s ouster by the Board of Visitors. There are many wrongs to be “righted,” beginning with the President’s reinstatement. The list continues, however, and you have addressed what should be temporary damage to Darden’s image by its unfortunate connection, so widely publicized, to Rector Dragas, Vice-Rector Kington, and Board-hopeful Kiernan. I prefer to call attention to your words of wisdom. You are a model of honesty and integrity, as well as an eloquent statesman. Darden is fortunate to have you at its helm. Although the school is self-sustaining, the contribution it makes to the University is significant, and I thank you and your colleagues for your generosity. In the full quotation of the poem, Kipling presents a tall order – not only appropriate for sons, but also for daughters!Christian Roberts, MWC of UVa ’68, GSAS ’71, GSEAS ’89

  75. Jim Mooney says:

    I welcome your advocacy of searching for the truth in this “morass”, but I suspect you are doomed to fail. We are hearing and will continue to hear a lot of opinions, but even more obfuscating, positions and posturing. And how can we steer the ship towards the truth with Hill and Knowlton at the helm of their gunboat?
    It is incomprehensible to me that Helen Dragas could serve on the Board that hired Dr. Sullivan, and interact with her operationally and strategically for a period of two years, including functioning as Rector, and not have gotten the message to her: You’re not cutting it! To have to sneak into a “resign or we’ll fire you” surprise confrontation allegedly without knowledge of three BOV members is a sign of extraordinarily weak leadership on the part of someone who seems to have decided she can force UVa towards her vision with or without the support of the people who will have to take us there.
    I think they should both go. Sullivan has disqualified herself by maintaining: “I am an incrementalist”. What if our future success requires something quite different? Dragas has wrapped herself in the flag of “strategic dynamism”, which to me translates to ”flavor of the month”. Surely the Governor can do better than that.
    Surely The University deserves better than that.

    Jim Mooney
    GSBA ’66

  76. Dean Bruner,

    Your correction to the WSJ article was needed and a contribution to the truth.

    Regarding the truth, however, you could make a greater contribution by forcing the revelation of the real causes and motivations of Ms. Dragas and her collaborators or by providing corroboration that the reasons provided are in fact true with the same force you have employed in this statement.

    I say this because the explanations we have been given just do not “wash” with the speed, severity, and ferocity with which this action was implemented. In fact, they are contradictory.

    For example, Dragas wanted UVA to move faster but knew dismissing Sullivan and demanding she leave the campus virtually immediately would leave the University in limbo for at least a year, unless she had a replacement in the wings which would be another level of deception full of risks.

    Another of several additional possible examples: Dragas wanted a more vigorous approach to fund-raising and “revenue-generation” but would have known that the summary firing of a President would throw a lot in turmoil, including contribution initiatives and decisions not to speak of the inevitable cost of the internal turmoil caused even when the process is anticipated and deliberate.

    With a more cautious approach, if the BOV were so unanimous in their conviction, President Sullivan was wrong for the job, Dragas surely could have engineered a graceful exit for President Sullivan which would at least ensure some continued momentum while laying the groundwork for more “strategic dynamism”.

    But the chosen course was one which would be appropriate for a desperate situation or desperate urgency.

    As someone who has participated in and witnessed Board deliberations, I think it unlikely Dragas would bypass normal procedures in the way she did and virtually force a decision of this magnitude on her Board and the University for the reasons which have been offered.

    I have seen the proclivity of Boards to close ranks and serve up “spin” for this kind of action with worthy motives of protecting their organization or for the protection of one or more of the members whose motives and actions might be harshly judged.

    If I am not alone in this skepticism, the University and all invested in this matter are best served with the full truth or, if this has been done, some reassurance from a trusted source to that effect.

  77. Chris Moein - CLAS '89 GSBA '96 says:

    One of the most memorable lectures at Darden in my experience was actually delivered by, then Assistant Dean, Bruner on the first day of orientation. In that welcoming speech, Dean Bruner made a shocking, but truly illuminating statement to the students. He told us that we were not “customers” of the school. In fact, he stated we lacked the breadth of experience and insight to provide useful commentary on the methods and processes the schooled employed. He explained that Darden long per-existed our brief tenure at the school and would be around long after we left. We could either trust the process and accept it or we could attempt to rebel against it, but our reaction made no difference to the faculty. We were getting the Darden experience because they (the faculty) did have the experience and insight to know what was best for us during those two years. It was a profoundly bold statement, bravely delivered to students raised in a culture that had taught us that our opinions, no matter how uninformed, were equally valued. I wonder whether any of that wisdom is applicable to the BOV’s firing of Sullivan and the reaction of the University community.

  78. Winston Wang says:

    Mr. Bruner, thanks for taking the leadership to be direct and straight forward at this critical moment. The Board of Visitors needs to be held accountable to make transparent of the process that makes decision and impacts the future of UVa. Board of Visitors are supposed to act more than a group of political appointees from Virginia, but take on a broader vision to build the school into a global leader in higher education, and safeguard the interest of the University’s students, faculties, and alums.

  79. John Tindale MBA '77 says:

    Dean Bruner,

    Perhaps I’m looking through the wrong end of Jefferson’s telescope, but from a distance I see the Rotunda on fire, and there you are pouring water on . . . yourself? I do appreciate your correction of the various inaccuracies. But, sir, this brouhaha isn’t really about you, is it? Why not rest your own defense and tell readers instead why you think Teresa Sullivan is the very best person to guide the University’s strategic planning. (Had I witten anything like her excerpt in the WSJ while I was at Darden, I think, I hope it would have been red-lined. It reads like something written by someone treading water in the deep end, and the parallels between Sullivan and Obama beg mentioning.)

    If we reinstate the wrong person, we won’t have solved the problem.

  80. Eric D. Randall '91 says:

    It always enlivened Darden case discussions to offer a contrarian view, so I’ll say something nice about Rector Dragas, a fellow Darden graduate whom I’ve never met and know nothing about except what I’ve read in the news and blog postings in the last few days. While she made no credible case for the dismissal of President Sullivan in her email on Friday, June 22, she did identify strategic issues for the university. As Tamar Lewin points out in today’s New York Times, universities have consensus culture that can stymie or at least slow change. In a manner very different than she intended, Rector Dragas has focused attention on critical issues and rallied unprecedented support for dynamic leadership by strong president (that would be the now wildly popular Teresa Sullivan after a reinstatement). When she leaves the Board of Visitors, either by resignation or by not being reappointed, Helen Dragas will have left the institution a stronger place. While she has been severely criticized for errors that are now obvious to all, she deserves credit for courage.

  81. “Armed & Dangerous” v. “Checking your Swing”

    The Carl Icahn reply in Dean Bruner’s blog was dead on.

    With (now) our many years in business and those at UVa; we all have received a pretty good education in using the tools of negotiation without having to resort to the use of “deadly force”…especially on (basically) an unarmed liberal artist. University boards are supposed to be more genteel. Check weapons at the door.

    A few Darden grads seem to only find memorable the case studies where abrupt change was 100% accomplished (bagged & tagged); i.e. Alex Horniman’s “It is easier to change people than it is to change people”.

    Sure, we all learned what COULD be done if one disagreed or wanted to change the status quo…but the reported methods employed by our fellow alums appear on face to be ham-fisted and poorly supported through building consensus with other votes on the UVA board. I am sure they didn’t get the results as quickly as they wanted and got frustrated. That, however, is the game they signed on for. To be on that board is an honor and privilege.

    I am not on the board and can’t opine whether Dragas & Kington had a legitimate issue… I can only tell when someone perhaps should have checked their swing.

    Congrats to our Dean who got out in front early and will stay out in front to protect ALL of our collective reputations.

  82. Jim Westphal says:

    John Tindale is exactly right. The comments I see here are more reflective of what I’d expect from an OWS crowd (at least its more articulate supporters, to be fair) rather than from those who are focused on solving serious financial and strategic problems. I don’t have first hand knowledge of Sullivan’s abilities or positions in these regards. But there is a substantive debate to be had on policy. The relative focus on an accidental misrepresentation in the WSJ and incredibly sloppy communication is akin to the old sky deck chip shot.

  83. Rick Rohrbach says:

    In response to those who are analogizing UVA to a business, and ending up in the WSJ/Dragas corner, check out Sullivan’s May strategic memo.

    It’s worth reading for drollery of the last sentence. The memo shows that Sullivan, contrary to the French government bureaucrat the WSJ makes her out to be, does have a cogent strategic vision. Just because her vision is more niche oriented and less “universal” than that of Dragas and company doesn’t make it stupid. Shades of some Bank of America Board member saying not to buy Merrill Lynch.

  84. David Charlton D 78 says:

    Thanks very much for your efforts to keep us aware of the twists and turns of this strange journey. It is helpful to know that others feel as confused as I feel about the machinations of the University.

    What is impossible to see now is whether either of the parties, the President or the Board of Visitors acknowledge the “brokenness” of the system. The driblets that trickle out suggest that neither party acknowledges how dire the situation really is and what to do about it. To think that “on line learning” is the answer is to misunderstand the question badly. (My view of the Dragas letter is that she failed to deal with the many cultural issues at UVa)

    For some time, it has seemed apparent to me that the University value-creation model is well and truly broken. The costs are well out of alignment with the value it creates for the typical student. While certain fields seem to result in flourishing graduates and careers, Darden being an example, the majority of students do not get value from the education they received in their major. Moreover, this was true even before the current down turn.

    Therefore, I would like understand; is this a fight about who gets to align the furniture on a sinking ship, or is this about who gets to set a new direction for the ship? If I really care for the long future of the University (which I do) which side do I want to win? I cannot tell from any on the communications so far. I hope that information emerging in the coming days will clarify this matter. What was the President’s plan? What is the Board’s plan? A lot depends on these answers, which do not seem to be forth coming. If this process fails to illuminate these uncertainties, the University is at great risk, I believe. Possibly Darden as well but that is a post for another day.

    David Charlton

  85. John F. McJennett says:

    Dean Bruner, Thank you for the energy and clarity you have attempted to bring to this horrendous situation. It is illuminating to see how difficult it is to correct a falsehood or a half truth once it enters the maw of the electronic and print media. It seems to me that there is a pressure to continue the story, rather than determine the truth of what happened.

    I am seeing some of the same pattern as the State-appointed Receiver for the City of Central Falls, RI that is preparing to emerge from a “Chapter 9” municipal bankruptcy. The Mayor and the City Council opted to oppose Receivership and the planning process and have been “locked” out of their offices for more than two years. We have worked out a viable 6-year plan with balanced budgets that fund totally restructured pension plans on a current basis with the active help of the retirees and the active unions and a dedicated central staff. We have a chance to make it work!

    Please stay the course and keep the bright light on the BOV to encourage them to do the right thing.

    John McJennett
    MBA ’68
    Class Agent

  86. William F. Richmond says:

    The Board of Visitors (“BOV”) is responsible, either directly or indirectly, for all operations at the University. Most of this responsibility is delegated to the President, and the BOV has the responsibility and authority to both hire and terminate the President. Arguably, however, no BOV action is more critical to the future of the University than the termination of a recently-hired president, and the BOV must execute such action with decisiveness, clarity and transparency, with the caveat that transparency is, of course, limited to the extent prohibited by the applicable confidentiality laws. In my opinion, while the BOV acted within its authority, which seems to be acknowledged by all parties, it failed with respect to the attributes of decisiveness, clarity and transparency, and has caused unnecessary concerns and negative national publicity related to one of the country’s most distinguished universities. Accordingly, it is my opinion that Governor McDonnell should immediately ask for the resignations of all BOV members and move expeditiously to name a new BOV. Such resignations should occur regardless of the results of today’s (6/26/12) BOV meeting. One can debate whether President Sullivan should have been terminated, and I have no opinion on that matter as I am not privy to all the facts. However, I do believe that her resignation should stand, as a broken bond can be mended but rarely, if ever, permanently fused. Even if a completely new BOV is installed, President Sullivan’s continued tenure would create a most awkward situation which would probably detract from the critical issues facing the University.

    Bill Richmond
    Comm ’71, Darden ’76

  87. Carolyn says:

    Bravo–actually Brava!–to Rev. Deborah E. Lewis for her letter to the WSJ and all of you folks. Are we writing to individual Visitors? They need to come forward and say, “We made a mistake.” That’s what conscientious grown-ups do.

  88. James H. Whitcomb, Jr. says:

    The ineptitude of the Board of Visitors reflects the caliber of its composition. And it begs the question of why, when the Commonwealth represents a mere 6 – 7% of the University’s budget, should Virginia’s Governor continue to appoint virtually all of the members of the Board? A world class university needs a Board comprised of individuals of commensurate stature and expertise – not patronage recipients.

    Jim Whitcomb

    MBA ’81

  89. Wayne Christmann says:

    As both an undergrad (College ’74) and grad (Darden ’83) the circumstances of President Sullivan’s dismissal have been both disheartening and embarrassing. Not only have the Board’s chosen methods seemingly violated the core value system I developed while at UVA, they continue to publicly refute the importance truthfulness, respect, and ethics should play in their roles related to this affair. While I am not in a position to judge the merits of their decision, I feel very qualified to criticize the methods by which they carried out their responsibilities to the University community. And it is particularly disturbing to note that so many of those with critical influence in this fiasco have the University, Darden, and even the Darden Board of Trustees on their resumes. We are all tarnished by their behavior.

  90. Ryan Inman says:

    I appreciate the lively debate on the broader issues that has transpired in response to Dean Bruner’s blog posting on Truth. Regardless of the BOV’s decision today and the consequences, intended or otherwise, I am personally invested in the future of both UVA and Darden. It is my strong belief that outstanding leadership is our University’s greatest need. In Dean Bruner, I believe Darden has an exceptional leader. I trust that the University and the BOV will have the same going forward. We all have the opportunity to lead by supporting our University at this critical time to the best of our abilities. Will you lead?

    Ryan Inman
    College 03
    Darden 09

  91. Letitia Green says:

    As always, spot on and inspiring.

  92. Bryan Wright says:

    In response to Jed Kincaid’s note, above: The fact that 12 Board members voted to name Zeithaml interim president doesn’t in any way imply that these Board members would have voted to dismiss Sullivan. The Board was presented with a fait accompli, in Sullivan’s forced resignation. If an interim president was needed, Zeithaml seemed like a perfectly reasonable choice, and most board members agreed with this. Naming him to the post was a no-brainer.

    It was a much larger decision, with far reaching ramifications, to dismiss President Sullivan. It’s not a given that the full board would have approved this decision, given the absence of any compelling reason to do so.

    In response to those who would like to see the University run in a more businesslike way: The University isn’t Microsoft. It’s a non-profit organization with an obligation to serve the public. Most people who have worked at UVa for a long time have turned down offers to work elsewhere for more money. In part, we’ve done this because we feel that the work we do here contributes to the public good. We teach students, we discover new things and we heal the sick. That feels pretty good. UVa is able to afford a top-notch workforce because of this.

    If we chop and rearrange the University to make it a revenue-generating diploma mill (160,000 online students! Think of the income!), many of us won’t feel that pride in our work any more. Maybe that wouldn’t matter to the hollow, rotunda-shaped shell that the University would become. But it would be a great loss to our future students, patients, and to the world of people who benefit from the research we’ve done here.

  93. Williamsburg says:

    I just noted that the WSJ printed your corrections.
    After reading the article and all other sources available, I still question both the reasoning and the timing for the Terry Sullivan’s termination. I have not read any comments on the Breitbart article that questions the nexus of their ‘investigation’ with the termination.

    From their 17 Jun article: …

    “While President Sullivan’s resignation and the Breitbart News investigation into unresolved allegations of scientific misconduct may not be related in any way, it’s worth wondering if new information will reveal whether the timing of the two events is simply coincidental, or if there’s more to it than mere coincidence.”

    Again, I would be interested in your thoughts.

  94. Cullen Coates - Darden '78 says:

    What is lost in all this commentary is the paragraph in Dean Bruner’s statement of truth that, on the one hand makes the point that Darden is financially self-sufficient and in fact pays tax tot he University, and on the other hand is not a profit-making enterprise.

    When I attended Darden one of our finance Professors made the point that enterprises require more resources going in than going out, or they ultimately fail. This applies us as individuals, our families, our companies and “non-profits” (without comment on our governments). In common parlance this referred to as “profit”.

    Apparently the theory has changed since I attended Darden. I find it dismaying that the Dean of a leading business school would hide behind the notion that there is nothing in the culture etc. of Darden to indicate that it wants to make a profit – and yet it is dedicated to teaching students how to manage organizations with precisely that metric in mind.

    The collective Deans of the colleges and the faculty bemoan the lack of resources available for them to hire the best and the brightest faculty in the face of significant competition from other institutions that appear to be willing to have more resources coming in than going out. It is not entirely clear exactly on which bush they expect this money to appear.

    There is one school at the University uniquely suited to educating the others on the notion that profit is not a dirty word. It is a shame that an important teachable moment was lost to political correctness.

  95. UVa Parent says:

    Thank you for your strong wise leadership .
    My husband a UVa Alum, daughter a UVa student, and I all pray that President Sullivan will be reinstated today.
    We are not wealthy or politically connected but we hope the voice of ordinary people such as we will not be overlooked by the BOV .

    A beautiful tribute on the front page of today’s Washington Post that expresses why we feel Terry is such a star and asset for our University

    From the Post :

    “From the start, Sullivan outlined what she called “Sullivan’s laws”: Never surprise an administrator. Never punish the messenger. Don’t hide bad news; meet it head-on. People and time are our greatest resources; don’t waste them. When dealing with a difficult matter, don’t leave anyone out, or else be prepared for fallout. ”

  96. Glenn Geiger, Darden '83 says:

    Thank you Dean Bruner. Your statement is one I am proud to share with family and UVa friends.

  97. Caroline Schoenecker says:

    Thank you, Dean Bruner. You make the Class of 2011 proud. Your leadership over the last two weeks has been felt by the alumni base. Thank you.

  98. Betty Mooney says:

    Thank you Eric for pointing me to the excellent NYT’s article by Tamar Lewin. I also appreciate the many thoughtful comments on this blog. I have learned a great deal about why some are unhappy with ” incremental progress ” . Perhaps Darden, post this crisis could teach a course discussing the pro and cons of various leadership styles at public universities.

    I hope professors at Darden and around the University will continue to probe the reasons this failure of leadership and the ensuing turmoil occurred. I am a firm believer as Dean Bruner is, that the truth will set us free.

    And for those wanting answers to the Breibart accusations about President Sullivan, this appeared in today’s Washington Post.

    “Sullivan is married to U-Va. law professor Douglas Laycock; they have two grown sons. She has few detractors in Charlottesville. But recently she issued a rebuttal to a blogger’s account of accusations from 1990, when a reviewer alleged scientific misconduct in a book Sullivan wrote with Elizabeth Warren, now a Democratic candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, and another co-author.

    At the time, Sullivan was on the University of Texas faculty. The University of Texas investigated the allegations and found them to be false, as did the National Science Foundation, which funded the research, said U-Va. spokeswoman Carol Wood. “

  99. Louis P Le Guyader says:

    Please review the Wall Street Journal Editorial concerning The University and T Sullivan’s possible re-instatement. That editorial identifies the Dean’s Letter on the topic but comments that the Dean of the graduate school of business was not a signatory. That seems wrong.
    It also seems plausible that the Wall Street Journal did not recognize the subtle distinctions between the Darden School and the McIntire School (are both truly graduate schools of buisness?) and likely misunderstood that Mr Zeithaml did not sign but mis-identiifed his affiliation within The University.
    What will you do to set this straight?

  100. James Spearman, Darden '76 says:

    Dean Bruner,
    Thank you for your clarification of the role and mission of the Darden School. The actions by the BOV concerning President Sullivan have not been adequately explained and raise many issues concerning transparency, honesty, and governance. However, I am not convinced that a petition signed by you and other Deans is an appropriate response. It is my opinion that such a petition only adds to the confusion of governance at the University. There can be only one body which has that responsibility, and I think it is the BOV. Based on the information I have received, it appears that the BOV did not seek the counsel of the Deans, faculty, staff, students, or alumni.Also, it appears that not all members of the BOV were consulted. Such action by the BOV is not a good management style, but the BOV can choose whatever management style it desires. I have a great fear that the reinstatement of President Sullivan will do nothing to heal the rifts that appear to have developed in the University community. The University needs to move forward and address critcal issues it faces. Although two years is probably an insufficient time for evaluating the performance of President Sullivan, I am concerned that she has not raised the ire of the faculty, students, or many alumni. If critical decisions have been made by President Sullivan, someone would be unhappy. A new President and a new BOV may by in order.

  101. Dot Kelly says:

    Dean Bruner–

    You have showed exemplary leadership for decades. It is all the more valuable in these distressing times. Thank you.

    For those who seek to apply business analogies to the current situation at UVA (and others who may be interested), I respectfully recommend studying the Board of Visitors manual available online at The manual explains the mission of the University (no, it is not to maximize profit), the responsibilities of the Board (no, they do not have responsibility for the operations of the University), the requirements of the Board (yes, they have specifiic rules requiring how they will conduct Unversity business–in public and with advance notice and opportunity provided to the President) as well as other matters. It is quite informative and accessible to all.

    It is easy to apply one model to all circumstances, but models, as we have all learned in recent years, have their limits. Proper research and analysis, including stakeholder analysis, can help overcome the limitations of models and lead to better decisions. Fortunately, Darden faculty teach those skills as well as ethical leadership.

    The actions of the Board’s “leadership” have caused great harm to our University. They failed at the most basic level and along almost every step of the way. Those who followed without question or failed to insist on adherance to the established rules of governance also played a role in this fiasco. All of them need to go back and read the manual and learn from this situation.

    Perhaps in the future, board members will read and study the manual, express their concerns openly and in a timely fashion, and engage in honest debate and collaborative effort. If they do, all sides will learn something and the University will be able to move forward.

    In the meantime, we, the UVA and Darden communities, must continue to fight for the truth.

  102. Rick Pfeiffer, Darden '82 says:

    Thanks for the links to the various articles. Unlike many of the rest of the posts, I do NOT take exception with the WSJ article. While the article may misstate what happened (and news misstatements happen all the time), it suggests the BOV hired Pres. Sullivan with a directive of fixing a tough budget gap created by reduced alumni support and reduced taxpayer support and that Pres. Sullivan did not embrace this directive fully.

    The US higher education industry has largely been unaffected and undeterred by the world outside of academia. More to the point, with the benefit of tenure and that academic leadership comes from within the industry, there doesn’t appear much academic institutional leadership across the US to lower the cost of higher education and make it more affordable. So, the BOV may not have conducted their process as transparently as some would prefer, but their reason for Pres. Sullivan’s dismissal may nonetheless be just as germane, i.e. it’s time for the leaders of higher education to create a sustainable higher education model that doesn’t leave students and parents of students overly burdened with student loan debt and doesn’t look for greater alumni support.

  103. CLASS OF 2001 says:

    Dean Bruner,

    It is clear from these insightful posts that there are very diverse views from students / alumni / parents regarding this issue, and I would want to highlight a final few points:

    * You state in your blog that “Virtually all of the communications I have received from Darden’s alums have been strongly supportive of Terry Sullivan’s reinstatement”. This clearly isn’t the case in reading the blog and therefore wouldn’t a more measured view from you have been more appropriate given your representation of the entire Darden community?

    * This situation is so incredibly complex, that trying to boil it down simply into whether to reinstate or not to reinstate the President is a great disservice to the University

    * In a world where corporate governance is increasingly becoming an important topic / debate, very surprised that governance around the BoV and how to potentially reform / improve this wasn’t the primary discussion coming out of Darden

    * What also has surprised me is that no one has discussed what reinstating the President does to the governance structure. Wouldn’t that action dramatically alter the current governance structure and has the University thought about its future impact on the checks and balances of the current structure. Obviously reform of some type is required, but is reinstatement reform or a complete shift in how the University will operate going forward. There is no doubt that the BoV created some grave errors, but are we really to believe they took actions in a fit of pique. Our MBA program would be better served if we were thought leaders on the second derivative impact of this action and think through what it really means beyond simply reinstatement. Unfortunate things happen all the time, it is more important to ensure that the next steps don’t exasperate the problem.

    * Finally, as has been mentioned before, instead of simply standing with the other Deans, providing insightful thoughts / case studies / leadership regarding improving the governance structure around the University would be a far better exercise for the professors and dean of the business school to engage and highlight what I believe to be one of the preeminent MBA programs in the US

  104. Thomas S. Inman says:

    Dear Sir,

    I welcome your accession to Truth.

    With that said, … I hold with deep regret the comments of a scion to Virginia’s governance, … comments concerning fealty to so-called Truth, Truth betrayed by reason.

    I shall simply say, scions of governance have responsibility to their line.

    Some seem to think that their line provides opportunity for mischief.

    I think not.


    Thomas S. Inman

  105. Marcos Morand says:

    Great example of integrity and leadership! I’m still proud to join the Darden’s Class of 2014!

  106. Darden Grad says:

    Although Darden, the institution, may not have been involved, and Dean Bruner is absolutely correct to state that this mess was entirely caused by the Board of Visitors, we should not ignore the fact that Darden graduates were at the center of this plot to oust Terry Sullivan.

    Three members of Darden’s class of 1988, Helen Dragas, Mark Kington, and Allison Cryor, were on the Board of Visitors that plotted the President’s ouster, and Helen Dragas and Mark Kington were the plot’s leaders. Kington has resigned in disgrace and Dragas has taken what is arguably a worse path by refusing to resign. Peter Kiernan, another Darden graduate and also Chairman of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, admitted (bragged) in an email that he too participated in planning this ouster and subsequently resigned from the Darden Board.

    It is hardly worth restating the many ethical breaches, the poor judgment, and terrible leadership shown by this group of people, but it is not the full truth to suggest that Darden had nothing to do with this. If a group of our graduates has strayed so far from the ethical values Darden prides itself in teaching, shown such poor management skills, and at the same time heaped such embarrassment on our school, I suggest Dean Bruner address this issue as well rather than stating Darden as an institution had nothing to do with it. I expect Dean Bruner agrees that Darden deserves better than this group of four has given us.

  107. Jonathan Russell, Class of '91 says:

    Anyone know where I might find a response to or analysis of the 10 “difficult challenges facing the University” outlined and described in an email from Helen Dragas on June 22nd? In the email, the list is followed with the statement “these challenges represent an extremely steep climb, even if the University were lean and on top of its game.” There is no doubt that the actions by Helen Dragas and a group within the BoV created a mess that should have been avoidable. But as the UVA community moves forward, I’d like to hear from the faculty and deans their response to that email from June 22nd.

  108. Darden Grad says:

    @ Bahnson Stanley

    Your business analogy has a significant flaw. The Board of Directors is chosen by shareholders and is accountable to the shareholders (in your analogy, the alumni).

    In our case, the Board of Directors has been chosen instead by the Governor of a state which has consistently reduced funding to the university, while the university has depended more and more on alumni funding. Nevertheless, alumni have no say whatsoever in choosing the Board of Visitors, and the Board has been chosen by governors based on a patronage system which adds up the size of donations to the political party in charge of the governor’s mansion.

    Why should your shareholders support a Board which they have not chosen, which has shown itself to lack competence, and which shareholders reasonably expect to be selected without proper care to be the best possible Board? As Dean Bruner writes, this whole mess is about the Board of Visitors. The Board of Visitors has not lost its leadership and oversight role, but it has certainly proven that it needs to be staffed by competent individuals.

  109. David M. Martin says:

    Dean Bruner,

    I am a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences and of Darden. I am a donor to both, although on a much more modest scale than Paul Tudor Jones, and I have always felt deep pride for the University and for the Darden School.

    Since I first heard about the forced resignation of President Sullivan, I have vacillated between anger, depression and acute embarrassment for Darden. If the news reports are even partly accurate, three prominent Darden graduates were involved in a colossal example of poor management. The merits of their issues with President Sullivan have been completely lost in the wave of protest over their methods, and the University has lost a crucial opportunity to deal with very real problems. It was a depressingly accurate mirror of the collapse of our national political process.

    Your post on this blog is the first clear example of positive leadership I’ve seen in this entire sad process. Thank you.

    However, I feel more needs to be done. The Darden School should take the lead in emphasizing and internalizing the important lessons to be learned from this sad debacle. Those lessons may be the only positive legacy. Great institutions like UVa and the Darden School can be an example to our national leaders who seem to have completely lost sight of the public trust. I am afraid that Helen Dragas must resign as Rector, but before she completely departs she should lead a public discussion on how this process should have worked.

    The Darden School has terrific knowledge and skills in it’s faculty, students and alumni on dealing with structural issues like the ones UVa faces. Darden should make a public offer to lend those skills to the larger university. I for one would be happy to volunteer my time to such an effort, and I believe every Darden alumni would make the same offer if asked.

    The Darden school prides itself on teaching it’s students to be more than just managers, to be true leaders. Let’s see those values in action now.

  110. Betty Mooney says:

    David, I appreciate your perceptive comments and hope that Darden will heed your advice.

    You say,” I am afraid that Helen Dragas must resign as Rector, but before she completely departs she should lead a public discussion on how this process should have worked. ” I agree, but if the Governor reappoints her, I fear, this important teachable moment will be lost.

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