A group of prominent deans at the University of Virginia are sounding alarms about challenges facing the university. It comes as UVA President Teresa Sullivan, Rector Helen Dragas and the UVA Board of Visitors prepare to leave Charlottesville for their annual retreat.
"What do we want the university to be in 10 years?" is the question UVA Provost and Executive Vice President John Simon and 11 deans want answered. It's contained in a six-page letter released to the media Monday.
"It was a very well done letter," UVA Faculty Senate Council Chair George Cohen said. "I think it's a chance to sort of explain to the board the way President Sullivan and the deans want to do business."
The letter asks President Sullivan to convene a small committee of deans, faculty, and alumni to look at so-called "strategic planning" for the next decade. That includes goals like bolstering UVA's global academic reputation, increasing compensation for faculty, and finding new ways to make money.
"It's a step in the right direction," Cohen said. "I think it basically lays out an agenda that the deans and the provost and the president all seem to be on board with, and it's an agenda I think the faculty can support as well."
The letter also calls for examining how board members are selected following a very public leadership breakdown earlier this summer after the forced resignation and then reinstatement of UVA President Sullivan. In response, Sullivan has sent a letter of her own to the rector and the board echoing faculty concerns.
"Trying to convince the board that having dialogue and input from a variety of university constituencies is a very helpful way to go to move forward," Cohen said.
The topic of strategic planning is sure to come up during the board of visitors annual retreat set to begin Wednesday in Richmond.
Following that retreat, Sullivan plans to do what the provost and 11 deans recommended. She's convening a group of stakeholders, including Cohen, to talk strategic planning. That work session is set for August 31.
University of Virginia Press Release
The challenges facing the University of Virginia and all of higher education are serious and numerous. U.Va. academic leaders are united and eager, however, to take on the job.
Deans of all 11 schools and the University Library, along with Executive Vice President and Provost John Simon, delivered a letter to President Teresa A. Sullivan that identifies goals and lays out a process by which U.Va. can map out the best route ahead.
"In doing so, we must define our current strengths and weaknesses, develop strategies that advance and differentiate U.Va. from our peers, and then execute these strategies aggressively, yet with a flexible and learning mindset, to move the University forward," reads the letter of July 25.
Sullivan shared the letter on Aug. 6 with the Board of Visitors, promising more details at both the Board Retreat in Richmond this week and at the next regular Board meeting in September. She also suggested that key ideas highlighted by the academic leaders align with the work of two new Board of Visitors committees – the Special Committee on Governance and Engagement and the Special Committee on Strategic Planning.
"The letter shows that our academic leaders are all on the same page and are ready to work with everyone – faculty, staff, students, alumni and visitors – to move ahead with real purpose," Sullivan said. "This is part of the process of deciding exactly where we want to go from here and how we plan to get there."
The letter states that U.Va. leaders must examine macro-level issues and then focus on strategic decision-making to be able to answer the question, "What do we want the University to be in 10 years?"
The macro issues center on relationships between the Commonwealth and the University, and between the Board of Visitors and the academic and executive leadership of U.Va. Governance issues, the subject of intense scrutiny since the June resignation and reinstatement of Sullivan, are included in this category.
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Derick Waller joined the NBC 29 news team in August, 2010. Prior to this, Derick graduated with degrees in both broadcast journalism and political science from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story