UVa vice rector resigns after president's ouster

AP News
Posted: Jun 19, 2012 7:36 PM
UVa vice rector resigns after president's ouster

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The vice rector of the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors resigned Tuesday, saying he wanted to help quell the turmoil surrounding the abrupt ouster of President Teresa Sullivan.

Mark Kington said in a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell that he was stepping down immediately as vice rector and also would quit the 16-member board, nearly two years before the end of his term. That came hours after the board named an interim president to head the university when Sullivan departs Aug. 15.

"I believe that this is the right thing to do and I hope that it will begin a needed healing process at the university," Kington said in the letter. A call to Kington's office in Alexandria wasn't immediately returned.

Capping a marathon session that ended earlier Tuesday, the board named McIntire School of Commerce Dean Carl Zeithaml as the interim president.

Sullivan was forced out after a closed-door meeting of the board. The June 10 announcement that she would resign blindsided Sullivan and ignited a furor at Virginia's flagship university, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. More than 2,000 people gathered outside the Rotunda on Monday to show their support for Sullivan, who gained wide popularity since taking the job in 2010.

U.Va.'s Faculty Senate and other groups had called for Kington and Rector Helen Dragas to step down as they severely criticized the board's handling of Sullivan's removal. Dragas and Kington joined in the behind-the-scenes effort to call for her resignation, and no board members have publicly discussed specific reasons behind the decision.

McDonnell appointed Kington, managing director of a capital management firm, to the board in July 2010. His term was to expire July 1, 2014, and he was eligible for one four-year reappointment.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, chairman of the media studies department, said that Kington needed to resign for the university to move forward since the June 10 announcement of Sullivan's removal.

"It's necessary but insufficient," Vaidhyanathan said. "We should also see the rector take the same responsible choice, and need to see several members of the board who agreed to do so much damage to resign."

Then-Gov. Timothy Kaine appointed Dragas to the board in 2008. The Virginia beach developer is eligible for a second term, but Gov. Bob McDonnell hasn't said whether he would reappoint her.

The controversy surrounding Sullivan's removal has led Democratic state Del. Joe Morrissey to ask for a legislative investigation of board members' actions.

Morrissey, D-Highland Springs, cited General Assembly oversight over boards of visitors for the request. He said he will ask the House Education Committee to call Dragas and Kington to discuss their roles in Sullivan's forced resignation and clear up what he called "rampant confusion."

Sullivan defended her performance during her tenure at U.Va. and her strategic goals before the board Monday. She also warned that other universities have plans to poach key U.Va. faculty members because of widespread discontent regarding her forced departure.

Computer science professor William A. Wulf said he's among those leaving the university, effective immediately.

"I want no part of this ongoing fiasco," he said.

Wulf and his wife, U.Va. computer science professor Anita Jones, hold the prestigious University Professor designation, which only a handful of U.Va. faculty members hold.

A board "that so poorly understands U.Va., and academic culture more generally, is going to make a lot more dumb decisions, so the University is headed for disaster, and I don't want to be any part of that," Wulf said in a letter Tuesday.


Zinie Chen Sampson can be reached on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/zinie