Teresa Sullivan has been on the job for about a week and, now, she's speaking out about the challenges and issues she'll face. University of Virginia's new president faced the cameras for the first time Friday, holding a "casual conversation" with the media.
President Sullivan says she inherited a university that is in remarkably good shape. But she also admitted that she does have several fears heading into the New Year.
Sullivan says more money for higher education is at the top of her list. "I am very concerned about what we foresee as continued loss of state appropriations and what that will mean for us," she stated.
The General Assembly has proposed to cut UVA by $14 million between now and 2012. So now Sullivan, and her financial team, have to take a close look at how UVA is financed. "It's funding that basic operating budget from year to year that continues to be the challenge for us," she said.
More and more of that money is coming from the private sector. State funding only makes up about 10 percent of UVA's annual budget. Her predecessor, John Casteen, started UVA's $3 billion Capital Campaign. Sullivan stated, "I'm pleased with the progress that the Capital Campaign's been able to make especially in the face of a really tough economic climate."
Sullivan says layoffs are not off the table but they are a last resort. As for tuition increases, they will be looked at on a yearly basis as the budget is put together. Sullivan said, "We'll do what we can, certainly, to keep it affordable for families." In May, tuition went up for in-state undergraduate students by $956.
Perhaps the most compelling moments of her first meeting with the media as president is how the university is addressing the death of lacrosse player Yeardley Love. Sullivan said she felt helpless as she watched the news unfold about Yeardley Love's death and the fellow student accused of the crime. But now at the helm of UVA, she's determined to stop it from happening again.
With the murder of fourth year student Yeardley Love marking the end of classes in May Sullivan says there is an added emphasis on student safety for the incoming class. She said, "It has been hit real hard in every freshman orientation program."
Sullivan just signed off on a letter that will also go to parents addressing safety on and around grounds. It will also be a main theme in her address during move-in weekend. Sullivan said, "The parents have trusted us with their greatest treasure, which is their sons and daughters."
Sullivan says that all students will attend mandatory sessions about domestic violence. She also says a grassroots effort is starting on grounds called "Get Grounded".
Sullivan said, "Which is how to get involved and not stand by passively when you see something bad happen."
Four UVA organizations have students coming back early to start the bystander training and to help spread the word.
Sullivan said, "I'm really heartened that the response is moving in from all directions including the students themselves. I think that's really important."