Miller Center

American Forum - The Way Forward

Teresa A. Sullivan
September 12, 2012
11:00AM - 12:00PM (EDT)

Teresa A. Sullivan
Teresa A. Sullivan

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The Miller Center invites students, faculty and the public to hear President Teresa A. Sullivan discuss "The Way Forward" from the controversial events that unfolded at U.Va. this past summer, her perspectives on larger trends and challenges facing all of American higher education, and how the University can create a model for public universities that will survive and thrive in this era of rapid change.

Douglas Blackmon
Welcome to the Miller Center in the University of Virginia. I'm Doug Blackmon and this is the Miller Center Forum. Over the span of two weeks this past summer, the University of Virginia experienced a crisis in governance and leadership. Followed by an uprising by faculty. Supported by students and citizens, that was unique and unparalleled in recent American academic life. That uprising famously reversed an effort to remove Theresa A. Sullivan from the presidency of the university, and suddenly made her a celebrity of sorts. An emblem of what appears to be a crisis in American higher education. And now, inarguably, the most well-known and closely watched university administrator in the United States. [laughter] Yet the issues which triggered this startling sequence of events are not unique to Virginia. Even as Americans incessantly lament what appears to be a decline in our society's level of educational attainment, and a surge in the numbers of engineers and critical professionals in China and India and other countries, public funding for state universities has fallen precipitously for dozens of states and school. Twelve percent lower for all higher education in Virginia, this year than five years ago. Twenty five percent lower in South Carolina. Almost a third cut in New Hampshire. At the same time, tuition has risen stratospherically across much of higher education. While salaries for faculty and staff are stagnant. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are enrolling, often draining taxpayer dollars to do so, in for-profit educational institutions with dubious or unverifiable outcomes. At the same time, online learning programs offered for free via the internet, sophisticated podcasts and the focused intellectualism of elite entities such as the Aspen Institute, or the Miller Center, have become the rage among dynamic young people and Wall Street visionaries. The academic village seeded by Thomas Jefferson, with tenured faculty, rumpled suits, honor codes, and starry eyed students seeking enlightenment above fortune, can at times seem a relic of a time past. Two years ago, Dr. Sullivan left her post as provost and executive vice president at the University of Michigan, to take the reins here. At a storied university that by her own estimation before the conflicts of the summer began, was nonetheless at risk of resting on its laurels. A school that she wrote was "Reputed in some areas to be better than we actually are." She also confronted a faculty that was restive. Impatient with compensation levels no longer competitive with her peers'. And students passionately opposed to both tuition increases and the low-pay of non-faculty workers. And at the same time, Dr. Sullivan found herself in partnership with a radically altered Board of Visitors. Some of whom had dramatically shifting sensibilities about the future of the university. And a willingness to act with the kind of speed and private sector power that was deeply unfamiliar and disconcerting in the genteel confines of Mr. Jefferson's university. Yet through that extraordinary storm, Dr. Sullivan has emerged. She remains president of the University of Virginia after a reaffirmation of her leadership by faculty, students, and the Board of Visitors, that is as unparalleled, as was the effort to end her tenure. And certainly no one can any more claim that the challenges facing her, the University of Virginia, and all of higher education have not been made absolutely clear. She is with us today to discuss her vision of the way forward. For herself, the university, and all of American higher education. Welcome to the Miller Center. [applause]
Theresa Sullivan
Thank you. [applause] Thank you very much. [applause] Good morning. I'm grateful to Doug Blackmon for his introduction. I'm grateful to Governor Baliles for inviting me to speak at the Miller Center Forum today. And I'm grateful to all of you who have joined us in the live audience, and also those who may be watching us via web streaming. There's a popular slogan in the self-help books and posters that goes like this. "Don't look back. You're not going that way." [laughter] At UVA and in higher education generally, we're not going back. So we're not looking that way. That's why the title for my talk today is "The Way Forward." I think it goes without saying though, that the point of departure for going forward in this case, is the controversy at UVA that made headlines here and across the country. Actually internationally as well, last June. So I will look back briefly to examine some of the issues behind the controversy. But mostly I want to look in the direction we're going. Which is the future. And I'll discuss these issues broadly in the national context. Because what happened at UVA and how we move on from here, are relevant topics for all of American higher education. But particularly the public sector of American higher education. The issues that surfaced in Charlottesville this past summer are the same ones that face nearly every university in this country. But especially the public universities. That includes the erosion of state and federal funding. The sharpened focus on efficiency and productivity. The increased demand for affordability and accountability in our colleges and universities. The question of how we use emerging technologies appropriately. And other risks and opportunities. For all the hand-wringing and the op-ed writing that we do about the international competition for American universities, notice that these challenges are not coming from our foreign competitors. By the way the challenges from our foreign competitors are real and pervasive. But the internal challenges come from within our own federal and state governments. From within our own communities. And from within our own institutions. So when we look for solutions, we need to look first and foremost within ourselves. Part of this self-examination involves governance and the fiduciary responsibility of boards. Last summer's events triggered a discussion of these issues. And the discussion has been wide reaching, very public, and generally civil. UVA's faculty senate has a task force interested in governance. A number of UVA alumni are also interested in the issue. The university's Board of Visitors has appointed its own special committee on governance and engagement. And at the Board retreat last month in Richmond, governance was the main topic of discussion. Tied into this discussion are many threads. What it means to be a public institution. How not for profit boards should operate. Best practices for governance. And the ideal composition for boards. Several public institutions in other states have boards whose members come from a variety of sources. Including some board members that are self-perpetuating, some that are elected, and some that are guaranteed to particular stakeholder groups. There are also other avenues for participation in governance, including with a board such as ours, membership on a board committee, even if not as a member of the board itself. The events in Charlottesville have brought these issues into focus around the country. And I think it's healthy and constructive that different parties are looking at these issues from different perspectives. The events in June brought UVAs challenges into sharp focus. But the university is not in crisis. By any measure. The reality remains that UVA is one of the strongest, best managed, most financially stable and most affordable universities in the country. In Forbes Magazine's recent report on America's top colleges, issued last month, UVA was named the top state university in the nation. Just today, US News has announced that we've moved up one place to number 24, and number two among the public universities, tied with UCLA. All three of the major bond rating agencies took another look at us this summer. After the events occurred here. And they all reaffirmed our financial stability. Moody's Investor Service issued a report in early July about the UVA controversy. And Moody's recognized the success of our shared governance model. Part of the report said, "While UVA's reputation temporarily suffered from these events, the final resolution affirms the stability of the university's faculty-centric governance model." This is an emphatic endorsement of the way universities operate. And I might say a few words about affordability too. Princeton Review came out with their measure of the best financial aid programs this month. In which they rated UVA as number one for financial aid among public institutions. And number two overall. Second only to Princeton. For the next few years, it's clear the University of Virginia will be a bellwether for public higher education. Lots of people will be looking to us to see if the notion of a great public university is sustainable in our time. I believe it is. But the challenges I just mentioned are pushing America's colleges and universities to adapt. Or to die. To remain relevant, universities need to evolve on a constant basis. Our founder recognized this 200 years ago. In an 1804 letter, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Science is progressive. What was useful two centuries ago is now become useless. What is now deemed useful will, in some of its parts, become useless in another century." Jefferson was using the word "science" in its 19th century sense. To mean the entire body of human knowledge. The body of human knowledge now is much larger and more complex than it was in Jefferson's time. So the task before us in planning for the future will require a panoramic view and a firm understanding of the complexities we face. Let me tell you what we're doing at UVA right now, to set a course for the future. The success of any institution, especially in a rapidly shifting environment, requires that we assess that environment and think about what will most effectively navigate us through it. This fall I will be leading a new university wide strategic planning effort. My administration colleagues and I will be working with all of the UVA stakeholder groups. Including faculty and staff, alumni, students, and the Board of Visitors' new Special Committee on Strategic Planning, which is co-chaired by the immediate past president of James Madison University, Linwood H. Rose, a new member of our Board of Visitors. And by Richmond attorney, Frank Atkinson, also a new member of our Board of Visitors. This work will unfold in two distinct phases. A first phase, dedicated to assessment followed by a planning phase. I will chair the steering committee that oversees this initiative. And we'll also engage an independent consultant with significant experience with an institution like ours. This'll be a thoughtful, deliberative process but it will move briskly. We will deliver a plan to the Board by the end of this academic year. We know that this type of planning is not a one-time effort. It needs to be a permanent continuous process at any organization that wants to remain vital. With that in mind, our current vice provost for academic programs, Milton Adams, is assuming a new role as senior vice provost. To focus on planning. He will work closely with me and other stakeholders as the process gets underway this fall. And he will continue to focus on implementation. And continuous planning after we deliver this plan to the board. Our planning process will help us to understand what UVA should look like in 10 years. So that we can begin building it. But some of our priorities are so urgent that we need to pursue them right now. Even without waiting for the plan to be completed. Those priorities are, renewing the faculty, reinventing the curriculum, and refocusing research. And I'm going to talk about each one. At UVA, we are facing a huge wave of faculty retirements. The same is true at many colleges and universities across the country. As professors in the aging baby boom generation prepare to step down. At the University of Michigan, my previous employer, nearly 40% of the faculty members will be eligible to retire by 2017. The forecast is similar at many institutions. Some of the senior faculty who postponed their retirements during the recession, now feel more comfortable about retiring in a recovering economy. And this delayed surge now unleashed, will add force to the coming wave. At UVA we need to hire faculty to replace our retiring faculty. But we also need to keep pace with our plans for a modest enrollment growth. About 180 new teaching and research faculty came to UVA this fall. And greater numbers will be coming in the years ahead. As we begin our strategic hiring, we know higher education is undergoing a systemic transformation. The complex problems we face as a society, problems such as global disease prevention, cyber security, climate change among other issues, demands insights from experts in many different fields. But for many years, faculty members have worked in disciplinary silos. The iconic image of university life has been the lone researcher. Or the lone scholar, toiling away in the laboratory or the library. Seeking the next great creative discovery or creative spark. Because this was the archetype for discovery, academic program building has often been directed towards traditional isolated fields of study, frequently within a single school. That structure is a barrier to the kind of cross disciplinary work that today often leads to inventions and innovations. So as we hire we will be looking for faculty who are willing and able to work in new and different ways. Because every new hire will be precious and because cross disciplinary collaboration is often the most effective way to work. We may recruit professors who can join two schools rather than one. Or who can work in a department and in an interdisciplinary center. We want to incentivize the faculty to reach across schools and units. So they can collaborate more on the big problems of the time. Because of the approaching wave of retirements at so many universities, everyone will be hiring in the years ahead. For UVA to compete effectively with our peer universities we will need greater resources to recruit and to retain our best faculty. Our faculty have remained intellectually competitive. But they've absorbed increased enrollment over several years without raises. This trend is unsustainable. Supplementing faculty salaries, particularly through endowments, is an urgent need for UVA. And it must become our highest priority in the immediate future. I will make it our highest priority tomorrow when I take a multi-year plan for supplementing faculty salaries to the Board of Visitor's meeting here in Charlottesville. This plan is designed to ensure that we make competitive offers to the new faculty we want to bring here. And that we retain the excellent faculty we already have. Just as we need to renew our faculty at UVA, we need to reinvent the liberal arts curriculum to meet the demands of the 21st century. Some critics have questioned the value of the liberal arts. But I think that value is plain to see. Liberal arts education prepares students to be critical thinkers. To be perceptive of the world around them and to develop thoughtful habits of mind. To write clearly and persuasively. And to integrate multiple viewpoints before arriving at a conclusion. Having the capacity to integrate perspectives and draw conclusions is crucial in the modern workplace. So many of today's most successful companies, Apple, Google, Facebook, to name a few, were created at the intersection of technology, design, and other fields. But a liberal arts education also provides resilience. For the many fields that may be automated out of existence in coming years. The resilient careful thinker will be able to find new opportunities in an economy. Especially if we provide them with the tools in their college education to be able to do that. We have to consider the practical knowledge and skills our graduates will require after they leave the grounds. Indeed, Mr. Jefferson charged us to think about every sort of what he called "practical knowledge." The demand for new types of knowledge and skills and fluency with emerging technologies will be important for our graduates in coming years. And so as we renew the curriculum we have to ask ourselves, "What skills are our graduates going to need? What abilities will new hires need to take leaderships roles in their workplace? What technologies are most essential now? And what will emerge as key technologies?" So that we're preparing our students not just for the job market in the year they graduate. But for the job market ten or 15 or 20 years down the road. And just as emerging technologies are shaping the business world, they change the way our teachers teach and the way our students learned. UVA faculty members are already national leaders in digital humanities and other areas of technology based teaching and scholarship. We're taking steps to stimulate this activity. This summer the faculty senate together with our teaching resource center launched a hybrid challenge to offer $10, 000 grants to professors to help them develop courses that would combine technology enhanced teaching tools with face to face instruction. We received 41 proposals from faculty members. Many of them already award winning teachers. And we funded ten hybrid courses that began when classes began this fall. Already those courses enrolled more than 1, 000 of our students. We also arranged that every faculty member would agree to assess the success of their hybrid program. And in January, each of these grantees will offer a workshop to their colleagues about what worked and what didn't work. And we developed a university wide assessment so that we can learn for ourselves what in the digital world works best. In terms of improving learning with our students. And what perhaps doesn't work as well. Also this summer we partnered with online learning pioneer Coursera to offer five non-credit UVA courses. Three from the college and two from Darden that will be free to anyone, anywhere in the world, starting in January. The courses include physics professor Lou Bloomfield's class titled "How Things Work." Philosophy professor Mitch Green's "Know Thyself." History Profess Philip Zelikow's course on "Global History since 1760." And a two part Darden course on growing private businesses, taught by professor of Business Education, Edward Hess. More than 60, 000 people have already registered for these courses. If you're interested, you could register to take the courses at http://www.coursera.org. The goal of the Coursera experiment is neither to save money nor to displace face to face instruction. Because neither of those is a likely outcome. But it's to improve our teaching. Residential education is UVA's signature experience. But by participating in Coursera and other experiments, we have the potential to enhance the quality of on grounds instruction. While letting interested people worldwide learn from and learn about UVA. Coursera also offers us an opportunity to learn more about how students learn in what are called "Moocs". These massive open online courses. Information that can also be helpful to us in improving learning experience for our residential students. UVA occupies a unique position in the landscape of higher education. Because we combine the intellectual resources of a major research university with the relatively smaller scale of a liberal arts college. And yet, we're different from either one. Unlike the small colleges that mainly digest research and teach discoveries that were made elsewhere, we do the research and we make the discoveries. And unlike many larger research universities, for faculty to focus primarily on their own research, UVA students work side by side with faculty to create new knowledge. We seek to combine the best of both worlds, to offer a new and different world. That doesn't exist in the same way elsewhere. In spite of this tremendous advantage for UVA, the future of our research enterprise is at risk. Federal research dollars are in high demand and depending on what happens in Washington over the next six months, baseline stability in federal funding may be the most we can expect. We need to think strategically about our research investments to identify areas in which we want to develop deep expertise. UVA has small departments compared to many of the larger research universities. And so our path for a distinctive research footprint may well lie in addressing larger ideas that require efforts from multiple departments. One major opportunity for UVA lies in big data. That's the term that describes the massive complex data sets that are the realities of the modern world. Consider the volume of data being produced daily by our national intelligence services. By digital medical records. By environmental sensors all over the planet. Not to mention the marketing data developed through point of sale scanning. Or through companies like Amazon. Developing tools to manage, secure, mine, and manipulate massive data sets will be a global priority in the years ahead. UVA's existing strengths put us in a position to be a leader in this field. Last May, we held a big data summit at UVA. And we are exploring plans to create a new institute that will bring together our faculty with expertise in this field. This will not be a brick and mortar institute. This will be a virtual connector that allows engagement on an issue that affects numerous fields, the digital humanities. Astronomy. Genomics. And marketing as just a few examples. Every field will need new analytics, better data structure, better security for their data, and other systems required to transform raw data into usable information. So those are three immediate priorities for UVA. Faculty, curriculum, research. Those fundamentals together form the basis of any great university. And we intend to fortify this foundation even as we enter a period of more extensive planning. During a period of acute pressure and rapid change, we might be tempted to overlook these fundamentals. And instead go grasping for novelties in the name of innovation. But true and durable innovation begins with the foundation. And without strength in those areas, no other innovation matters. Almost exactly a year ago, last September 7th, I stood on this stage and gave a talk in which I described higher education as the engine of the American economy. I made several points. That federally funded university research has been the driving force in our economy since World War II. That we face threats to this successful formula. With flat-lining federal support and dramatic cuts in state support, not to mention the specter of sequestration. And finally, that we need a broad national reinvestment in higher education, to boost the economy and ensure our national security. One year and one big controversy later- I feel even more strongly about this imperative. The issues at the center of the UVA controversy last summer emanate in some degree from the pressures financial and otherwise, facing all institutions of higher education. All universities are being forced to cut costs. To look for new revenue streams. And develop new teaching models that make use of emerging technologies. Those realities may have reached a boiling point here, but they are bubbling over everywhere. And the pressures are intensifying. State appropriations for public colleges and universities fell by 6.7% in 2011-12. The largest decline in half a century. The depletion of federal stimulus funds explains some of this drop. But the net result is that many of America's public colleges and universities are worse off now than they were before the great recession. For example, 29 states allocated less money to higher education in 2011-12, than they did in 2006-07. That's not the way forward. That's the way backward. These cuts are coming at the same time that many states want to increase the number of young people they educate and the number of college degrees they produce. And at a time when all of our colleges and universities are under pressure to make a college education more affordable. There seems to be a stark disconnect between our national aspirations and our national investments. We want a solid gold higher education system. But we're content to build it with scrap metal and rusty auto parts. It's fair to say that higher education is under attack nationally. But the attack is not merely financial. Many of the fundamental values of higher education are being questioned. Among these are the essential value of basic research, the value of the traditional residential approach to teaching and learning, and even the notion that public education is an instrument of the public good. It's coincidental and perhaps ironic that this attack on higher education reached full swing in the year we celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of one of the great ideas and the great inventions related to higher education. One hundred and fifty years ago on July 2nd, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act. Submitted by Congressman Justin Morrill of Vermont. Whose legislation provided grants of 30, 000 acres of federal lands to help states establish public colleges and they became known as the land grant colleges and universities. I am proud to be a product of the pioneer land grant university, Michigan State. The Morrill Act was meant to equip large numbers of American citizens with skills they would need for the Industrial Revolution. Which was already transforming the economy. This led to the democratization of knowledge by giving farmers and working class people access to the higher education that had previously been restricted to the upper class. This opening of educational opportunity was an extension of Thomas Jefferson's idea. His desire was to create a system of education that would, in his words, "Reach every description of our citizens." Today we have more than 100 land grand universities in the United States. With at least one in every state. And they include some of our finest universities. These institutions have educated millions of Americans. And improved countless lives through breakthroughs in research and the discovery of new products and new therapies. The Morrill Act became law because it signified a way forward for a nation in transition, from the agricultural economy to an industrial economy. We are in transition now too. As we complete the shift from the traditional industrial economy to a knowledge economy. Natural resources and factory style mass production were our economic currencies for two centuries. Knowledge, creativity and innovation are the currencies now. The Morrill Act passed during one of the most divisive periods in American history. In the middle of the Civil War. Yet in the midst of all that divisiveness and strife, Congressman Morrill, President Lincoln, and others, saw the necessity of building a strong public higher education system, to undergird national prosperity. They had the courage to act on their convictions. We too live in a divisive period. If you doubt this, tune your TV to a major network between the hours of five and ten on any day in the next two months. And wait for the campaign commercials to come on. [audience chuckles] In Virginia, you won't wait long. [laughter] You'll see the divisiveness in full Technicolor display. We need strong leaders who can lift their heads above the fray and make the commitments to ensure a bright future and a strong economy for the generations to follow us. At a few pivotal moments in our history, the Morrill Act in 1862, the GI Bill in 1944, the Higher Education Act of 1965, government leaders have made strong commitments that advance the missions of our public universities. Because of these commitments, millions of Americans have been able to graduate from college, get good jobs, support their families, and contribute to the economy. The anniversary of the Morrill Act should remind us what can happen when we make public higher education a national priority. And what could happen now, if we were to make a similarly strong commitment. But those of us who lead America's colleges and universities know that we cannot sit around waiting for a legislative miracle. The future is rushing at us too quickly. And we need to act now to preserve public higher education. To be sure it continues to serve its great purpose. At UVA, we will chart our course into the future with a thoughtful plan while fortifying the faculty, curriculum, and research programs that will always be the foundational elements of greatness in a university. This is the way to thrive in tough times. This is the way forward. Thank you. [applause]
Blackmon
Thank you. [applause fades]
Blackmon
President Sullivan, one thing that we should take care of right off the bat is first the question that everyone asks again and again. Probably to you and often times not to you. But that is, as the events unfolded in June, I think many people would have said that the only thing more remarkable than your restoration as President, would be the idea that at the end of this process both you and the rector would be still with us. Simultaneously. I think the consensus view was that one or the other might be here. But it was unlikely that both of you would be. What can you tell us about your relationship now? Not just in terms of those events, but looking forward to the larger issue of your job, of managing the Board in a sense. And whether it would seem that there were communication issues that existed before these events unfolded. Do you have a strategy now that you think will make those kinds of questions turn out differently in the future?
Sullivan
Well, I think that the rector and I are both committed to working in the best interest of the university. And I believe that all the members of the board do have the best interests of the university at heart. We may disagree on the way to get to that best interest. But we don't disagree about the goal. And so I think with good will we can work towards that. And we will be successful. Obviously communication is an important issue. Our board expanded this year to 17 members, and under the code of Virginia, this board can turn over by 25% every year. And in fact, five members of the board are new. This means there's a constant challenge to bring the new members of the board up to date on the important issues while continuing to keep the returning members of the board apprised of new developments and what's happening. It is also a very complicated institution. Besides being a major educational producer we are also a major healthcare provider. And so visitors may come on the board expecting that what they're going to be doing is thinking about the future of higher education. And in fact, we're also thinking about the future of healthcare. So in these large, very complex universities, there is a great deal to learn. And not very much time to learn it. And that's the communication challenge I have with the board. But we're resolved to beat that communication challenge with good will on all sides.
George Cohen
I'm George Cohen, for those who don't know me. I'm the Chair of the faculty senatePresident Sullivan obviously knows me. But I've a question about the strategic planning effort. And this builds on, I think the first question. One of the things that came up this summer in terms of differences possible differences in philosophy was a kind of boldness versus incremental approaches. And, I want, I wonder whether or not that difference still exists and whether or not there will be resistance if it turns out that the strategic plan takes a more incremental approach as opposed to a bold approach. Or whether or not that difference doesn't have any content to it. It just, it all depends on the details. And so I guess I'm just curious how you see that whether that division still exists. Whether it really is important. And how it might affect the strategic plan going forward.
Sullivan
Well, let me say that the board has made it very clear that the development of the strategic plan is an obligation of the administration. And while the special committee on strategic planning is there to give us advice and to talk with us about where we're going, they don't intend to write the plan. Which is appropriate. I do have or intend to keep the board apprised at frequent touch points about where we're going with the plan. And what's developing. By no means do I want the board to be surprised when they receive the plan at the end of the academic year. And so it's -- it's my intention that because we communicate all the way along the road, there won't be any surprises, and if we have serious differences of opinion, we can iron those out. This is a new process for all of us. I think in some ways, as important as keeping the board with us will be to keep other stakeholders, and of course, George, you represent one of those important stakeholder groups, the faculty. There are also many other people who care a lot of about this institution. We learned that this summer in the most dramatic sort of fashion. So it will be important also to keep our alumni aware of what's going on. The parents of our students. To engage our students in talking with us about where they want this university to be in ten years. And so talking with all those stakeholder groups and integrating that is a challenge. But we will do our best to rise to that challenge as Virginia always does.
Blackmon
President Sullivan, let's take a question that was submitted by someone in writing. Paul, Paul Bergeron from Lake Monticello. And in a moment we'll also take a question or two from folks who are watching via Facebook or the live stream on the internet. But he asks, "Looking back at a less than admirable coup attempt, your adversaries had a number of complaints that may have had some merit. Vis a vis e-courses at UVA. In light of the 'USA Today' article today describing the explosive growth of e-courses, were they right on this point?" Let me modify that question a little bit further. You talked about the e-initiatives that are underway. And the 60,000 folks who've signed up for these new classes. But can you take that discussion a little further in terms of where does all this go? I mean, those 60,000 people are not paying money to the university, I don't think. Does-- is the talk about online classes, in the end, a really substantive element of addressing some of these core issues that face the university?
Sullivan
Well, let me break that question down into parts. One of the things the faculty senate did this summer was to put together a task force of 49 faculty. Who within two weeks produced a report. Which by itself is a miracle. [laugher] With 24 pages of -- e-instruction that was going on at the university. And, you know, many people were not aware of all the things that we were already doing including whole graduate programs that are available online at the university. So we've actually been doing a lot. And indeed, when we began looking at things like hybrid courses in the classroom, there is much of that already going on. And we want to accelerate that. A different story, you know, what supports these courses of course, is students are paying ordinary tuition for them. What's different about Coursera and some of the other so-called "moocs." That's the massive open online courses. Is that they don't have a business plan connected with them. Coursera is currently funded by venture capital. It is not a business plan. It is an experiment. And the hope is that you know, one day there will be, some kind of revenue stream that can be developed from these. But what they do for us in the meantime is they do give us a way to reach lots of people who might wanna know about the University of Virginia or might wanna know about a particular professor or a particular subject matter. And even though they don't get credit for it, they like the idea of learning. And so, this opens an opportunity for them to learn something from us. I think abroad, it's especially important that people know more about UVA and the kind of education we have available here. And so I welcome this opportunity for us to make that available. I think our alumni are actually a very large audience of people who would like to continue learning from UVA and who find this a reasonable way to do it. I'm hoping in fact, that we can get an online course available, as a mooc, on the life of Thomas Jefferson. Because I think many people both here and abroad are fascinated with Mr. Jefferson and would like to learn more about him.
Suzie McCarthy
Hi, I'm Suzie McCarthy. PhD student in the department of politics. First of all, thank you so much for speaking today. it was fascinating. I wanted to, kind of build on George's question. And I wanted to talk, ask you, about how this strategic planning committee intends to dialog with students as stakeholders, whether you intend just to talk to the Student Council, or provide an opportunity for other students, to participate. As a PhD student going into the job market, the reputation of UVA is incredibly important to me. You know, I'd love to you know, hear more about how you intend to do that. Thank you.
Sullivan
OK. Well, there will be a steering committee that I had which I intend to have both an undergraduate and a graduate student on. I should say graduate or professional student. How those students will be selected and so on is not yet decided. In addition there will be a number of working groups whose results will get reported up to the steering committee. And I will encourage the Chair of each working group to develop a group of stakeholders to interact with that and actually serve on that working group. So that it would not be a group made up of just one group of stakeholders. But instead would involve people from other groups. I would expect students would be involved in quite a few of the working groups. I'm also going to encourage each working group to have one or two open meetings in which anyone can attend. And offer commentary. Or provide written commentary. We will also have, an online presence. We will be unveiling soon a website for the strategic planning effort. Which will be a place where people can leave commentary so that we have another way to get input from people as we move forward and start to develop the plans. It's our intention to be as inclusive as possible. But at the same time, we do wanna keep moving at a brisk pace.
Blackmon
President Sullivan, from Allison Levine. "To what extent is our job as a university to train students for particular jobs? To react to the economy? Rather than to define fields of intellectual inquiry?"
Sullivan
Well, I think both of those are important for us. I think our job is to prepare students for their lives as adult citizens. Which means a lot more than being ready for a job. But it typically does also mean taking a job. But there's much more that we know college-educated people do in this country. We know they are more likely to volunteer. We know they're more likely to be civically engaged. They are more likely to give money to a charitable organization. In short, they participate in the life of the republic to a much greater extent than people who have not received a college education. That's important to us, too. But of course we want our students to be ready for the economy. Not just the economy they graduate into, but a longer term economy. One of the ways we best get them ready for that is because we have them at the frontier of new knowledge. Because we encourage our students even from their first year on grounds, to get involved in faculty research. So that they know where the new fields are going, and they're ready to step out there and take a role in that. I think the -- so I think, defining the new fields is something that we do on behalf of the students. As well as on behalf of our own intellectual curiosity. One of the things we need to do in hiring faculty is to think not just where our fields are right now, but to think about where our fields are going to be moving forward. So that we get the kind of faculty members who can bring us to that bleeding edge of their discipline.
Peter Norton
I'm Peter Norton from the faculty senate. Thank you, President Sullivan, for taking time to speak to us all today. I think the faculty and the university community we united for your reinstatement in June because we admire you, your superb and wisely incremental leadership, to comment on George, I would say that I think bold accomplishments that are good are always based on incremental hard work and I think you exemplify that. But I think we also united for your reinstatement because we saw a threat to a vital principle of higher education in the way in which you were dismissed. And that principle is shared governance. You spoke some about governance in your remarks. I would like to know, more specifically, how you use your role as an advocate for shared governance. I think the faculty see you as, in that role. And I'd like to ask you what you think you can do to help the university promote and defend the principle of shared governance. Thank you. 
Sullivan
Well, part of what I hope I do is to lead by example. Because I do, seek to get the views of many stakeholders in making a decision. The faculty are obviously a very important stakeholder for everything we do at the university. It's the faculty who teach the students. Who conduct the research. And who treat our patients. And so it's very important that the faculty be at the table when major decisions are made. I think that that's a discussion that will have to continue to go on. Because shared governance is not done by many organizations in the economy. It is not what happens in most work places. At least not in the same way. And so board members who come from different sorts of workplace organization need to understand that our organizational culture is perhaps different. Different does not mean, though, that it's wrong. In many cases, different can mean better. Or more functional. In our case, because faculty members represent areas of expertise, we need to consult them so that we can make the best decisions. And I will try to continue to be, certainly an advocate for that. But I think the most important thing I do on a daily basis- you know the board only meets four times a year- the most important thing I do on a daily basis is to continue to keep my own ties with faculty members strong. And to encourage other administrators to do the same thing. Thank you for Peter.
Blackmon
President, let me follow onto that a little bit. With a couple of things that come, that bubble up through these questions. And also another observation. But one question here was essentially that, the idea that, you have publicly stated that you don't support the addition of faculty to the Board of Visitors. If I'm correct. There's a question in the stack here of how one squares that with the notions of the Declaration of Independence. With regard to power being derived from the consent of the governed, and which I think is a partially appropriate framing of the question. But in the same vein, it seems to me that you're in a bit of a pickle now. [laughter] You've had a great--
Sullivan
Not for the first time. I might add. [laughter]
Blackmon
I can imagine. The president and I are both from, both Arkansas and Mississippi. So we understand pickles. And dilemmas. [laughter] But, the other question, I would add, would be, you have gone through this process. And it was with the support of the faculty that, that this momentous, reversal of events occurred. But it would seem that not withstanding this initiative that you are undertaking with regard to endowments related to supplements to faculty salaries, there are hard decisions you yet must make. That will probably not be completely popular with the faculty and the people who were so instrumental in your enduring through this. So it's the reverse of my earlier question. What's your strategy for dealing with what must certainly be some inevitable disappointments among those who supported you so strongly?
Sullivan
Well, inevitably, we are gonna make decisions that people aren't gonna agree with. I think that's inevitable. What I can do is to make sure I've got the best evidence on all sides of the argument before we make the decision. That's all I can promise right now. I do think that we have tough decisions ahead. Some of them are certainly in the financial realm. But to go back to your opening remarks about faculty members on the board. I do think that there are many ways that faculty members and other constituencies can communicate with the board without being voting members. Voting membership of the board is controlled by the code of Virginia. But it is possible on board committees to have faculty members appointed. The chair of the faculty senate addresses the board at every meeting. So there are ways like that in which I think faculty and other constituencies can interact with the board There is a non-voting student member of the board. And that is the principle, one of the principle ways in which student feedback is brought to the board. Whether the board should also consider putting say a staff member on some of their committees is another issue for them to think about. But the association of governing boards has, you know, written a policy paper about, the inherent conflict of interest of having an active faculty member sitting on the board. Because they have to vote on so many things that affect the personally so it's really the notion of the conflict of interest that's the issue. There are ways to get around that issue. A faculty member could recuse themselves on many of the votes. Or be a nonvoting member. But that's the basis for the opposition to having active faculty members. I do think our retired faculty members offer a terrific array of skills and experiences that could also be drawn upon by the board in the long run.
Gweneth West
Gweneth West. I'm past Chair of the faculty senate. And one of the leaders from the summer. And I would like to first say, I think we will work it out. We'll figure out how the faculty can have a strong voice in the movement as we move forward with the Board of Visitors. So I don't have any concern really about that. I think we'll find that solution. What I would like to do is thank you for being willing to come back after you were fired. [applause] So, the challenge is, my question to you is, would you share your thoughts about forgiveness as an essential core value- [laughter] Forgiveness as an essential core value for successful leadership.
Sullivan
Wow. [audience chatters] Well, I do think that for all of us, some level of forgiveness is important for us not to get stuck on something that happens in the past. And to carry the emotional baggage of that with us makes it much harder to move forward when you've got a bunch of baggage you're dragging along with you. So I think that is one way in which, forgiveness is important. An attitude of forgiveness also leads us to try and see things from other people's point of view. And for me, as I seek to communicate with lots of different constituencies, that will be very important. Not just to see my own point of view about things but also to try and see things with some empathy from other people's point of view. So that's the way in which I am approaching it. I am not an expert in forgiveness. I have three books on my bedside table right now about forgiveness. [laughter] [applause] I've made it through one of them so far. [laughter] But I do understand that it's important. Because, a level of reconciliation and rapprochement is also important to the way forward for this university. And as I say I believe everybody involved has the best interest of the university at heart. That gives us a common ground that we can move forward on. [applause] 
Blackmon
President Sullivan, a question now that comes to us via Facebook. "Do you think that the current financial troubles in the academic community and the unavoidable cuts in public institutions that will likely follow, will lead to a significant stratification between those that can afford private higher education and those who aren't able to? And if so, what effects of that stratification on society at large?" Let me add on to that as well, a question maybe you could address. I think there are, there is the idea among many policy makers and legislators that goes along with, what they might view as benign resistance. But the idea that one the economy turns around, whichever President wins, and the inevitable comeback comes, that the money will all come back and that these financial crises which seem to beset academia today will sort of vanish in the coming two or three or four years. Address that as well.
Sullivan
OK. I don't think that the money is going to come back in the large numbers that we might like. I think that we will continue to face a significant cost squeeze. And one of those squeezes is the cost of technology. Most business people are buying the technology only for the industry in which they're located. We have to buy the technology for many industries because we're preparing students in many different fields. And those technology costs are very substantial. In addition, many of the most expensive things we have to buy, electronic medical records for example, and student information systems, are nearly monopolistic in the market. So there's very little room to negotiate to bring those prices down. And yet we must have those. So we do have a kind of an iron constant in technology that we are being asked to continue to get. That's a serious problem, I think, as we go forward. As to the stratification of higher education, that's a serious concern a lot of us have. We don't believe you get your best education when you come to a wholly homogeneous campus where you interact only with students who are just like you. And so part of what we see as being a great university is that students here can meet people from other parts of the country and other parts of the world. From people who come from different walks of life, and have had different experiences growing up. That's why, if it becomes a school only for those who can afford it, that we will lose something very valuable. Many of us got through college because of other people who came before us. And arranged for us to have scholarships. Or arranged for us to have jobs as we were working our way through school. Those are things that we still need to do. And it's one of the reasons that our financial aid program remains important. And financially it's not just for low income students. It's also for middle income students. It can't be the case that a residential college such as ours is only for the well to do and for the very poor. And the middle income can stay home and go on their computers. That cannot be the solution that we want in this country for the long run. But that does mean that we're gonna have to continue to think about how we devote resources to financial aid to make it possible for students to come here. I mentioned that Virginia is still very affordable. Our tuition this year is about $12,000 for the 70% of our undergraduates who are Virginia residents. That is very reasonable. and it compares favorably with say, with what parents pay for daycare right now in Virginia. It is true that parents still have to pay, or someone still has to pay for room and board. For relocating to a residential, spot. So one of the solutions suggested is that the residential part of higher education may not be as important. Or maybe you could engage in the residential part for only two years and have people do the first two years some other way. Online, through dual enrollment while they're still in high school. Through AP credit and so on. That is one possibility. That the length of time you spend at a residential campus will become shorter. I can tell you our own UVA students are not interested in that at all. [laugh] Although a very large number of them could complete a degree in three years, they actually don't want to do that. [laughter] And so, there is so much to the residential experience beyond paying for room and board that students believe they get here. Here at UVA they have a unique self-governance system. They have many leadership opportunities. Many student organizations. And indeed, UVA hands over the running of many parts of the university to students in a way that I've never seen another university do. And so that is a rich part of this experience. And when I talk to employers, they talk about how much leadership their UVA alumnus shows in the workplace. And they talk about how much integrity they have. Which I attribute to the community of trust in our honor system. Those are things you're not gonna get the same way if you're not actually here.
Blackmon
Should there be some several thousand more students? At UVA?
Sullivan
We have a plan which we have given to, the legislature. Which is to modestly increase the size of the university over a period of five years. It involves our adding about 300 students a year. And we've put on the caveat that legislature has to pay for it advance. And so far they have, for two years. And so, that provides more seats for Virginians, but also more seats for non-Virginians. On the other hand I am not inclined to grow our on-grounds population a great deal more than that. We do have issues, the facilities, of having adequate faculty and staff to take care of more students. And frankly one of our strategic issues for the long run is that we compete with public universities that are very much larger than we are. And that lets them have larger departments which helps them garner large national reputations. Because raters will know somebody in that big department of 70 people. Whereas we might have only 20 people in that department here. So that's an issue for us. Choosing to remain relatively small is a strategic decision that we have made. And whether we continue to stick with that, I suppose, is one of the things that the people involved in the planning group should have a look at. But my sense is that people feel the relatively small size of UVA is part of what's distinctive here. We don't want to lose that.
Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hi, I'm Siva Vaidhyanathan and I'm the Chair of the Media Studies Department here at the university. Like a lot of my colleagues I've had the opportunity to work at other universities, private universities for significantly more money, and decided to stay here. One of the reasons I decided to stay here is that, this place has a commitment to the state of Virginia and one of the greatest signs of that commitment is Access UVA. Which builds upon your previous comment. What is the bottom line effect of Access UVA? Is there any frank discussion of altering it, or rolling it back? And how do you think that would affect the morale here among students and faulty if-- if such a thing were to occur?
Sullivan
Well, the board has asked for a study of Access UVA, which actually began last year. And involved bringing in an outside consultant who has done a couple of things for us. Including looking at other schools that we compete with for students. To look at the kind of financial aid package available. But also looking at students who applied here and did or did not accept their offer from us. And also students who were thinking about applying here and either did or did not follow through. So that we can learn more about how it affects their judgment. On the financial side, we are looking at the resources we devote to it. Access UVA has grown substantially since its inception in 2004-5. And part of the reason for that of course is the recession. In which many parents who thought they could afford for their child to come here learned that they couldn't. And, because of layoffs or home foreclosures or whatever reason, families were no longer able to afford, a college education in the same way that they had planned on doing. And so we have found that Access UVA has grown every year in terms of the number of students affected. It has also helped us to keep some of these low income students that we otherwise would have not had here. I'm also proud of the fact that our Access UVA students graduate in high numbers. Our Pell Grant recipients don't graduate in the same 92, 93% range as our other students do. But they do graduate in the high 80s which is very good. And not found at many schools. So I think we do a good job with our Access UVA students. And I think the issue is how we keep the program sustainable. That is one of the issues we are looking at this year.
Joseph Woodlief
Hello President Sullivan. My name is Joseph Woodlief. I'm a third year in the college as an undergraduate. I'd like to start by saying, I both love the university deeply and can express my gratitude for all that you defended this summer. That being said, my greatest disappointment during my time at UVA has been the size of some of my classes and the occasional difficulty of establishing intimate academic relationships. Given the distractions of the political whirlwind of the adult world, the financial importance of the hospital and your past experiences with schools that are much larger with UVA, how can I be sure that we are committed to stem ballooning undergraduate class sizes?
Sullivan
One of the reasons that we're hiring additional faculty is precisely so that we can make sure that our curricular offerings are appropriate. And that we have smaller classes available. I don't think we'll ever be at the point that every class can be a small class. But students should have the opportunity to get those small classes. One of the things I see in our faculty is a great willingness to reach out to students. Out of their classes as well. And I think partly that intimate academic relationship depends on looking for those opportunities beyond the classroom as well. A great opportunity we offer students are flash seminars. Which students organize and advertise every Monday morning. They take place in the evenings. Often in a faculty member's home, first 25 students to sign up get to come. And it's an opportunity to be with a faculty member and talk about an issue for an hour or two. No one gets any credit for it. The faculty member doesn't get any extra pay for it. It's done sheerly for the love of learning. But it means that a student who signs up on Monday morning is gonna have that opportunity to be with a faculty member in a fairly small setting, sometime that week. That strikes me as one of many ways that our faculty seek was to reach our, to students. I will say on the student's side, sometimes students are reluctant to go to office hours. Because they're afraid that they'll be a bother or that the faculty member won't welcome them or whatever. And to any of you here who are students, let me just say, that's not the case. All faculty members that I know of are delighted to see someone walk in. Actually even if it's not office hours, they're often delighted to see you walk in, because the reason they have chosen this path of life is because they like interacting with students. So, don't be afraid to take the initiative in doing that.
Melvyn Leffler
I'm Melvyn Leffler. I'm a faculty member here at the Miller Center and in the history department. I really enjoyed your comments today. I wanted to ask you about the following: In June, you said that there were philosophical differences, quote unquote, between you and the Board of Visitors. And I was wondering if you could define with some specificity, what precisely were those philosophical differences? And to what extent do they still persist?
Sullivan
That language was put into the press release, I think as a way to try and summarize what is still perhaps a somewhat cloudy version of what the issues were. It was intended to be used as a kind of an umbrella term. Just to say that we weren't on the same page. I actually can't give you a whole lot more, fleshing out of what that concept means. I can just say that we did not have a meeting of the minds. I am not evading this question because I don't want to give you the answer, Melvyn. I am evading this because I still don't totally understand myself what the philosophical differences are. [applause]
Blackmon
President Sullivan, let's close with, we have many, many, more questions that we could ask. But let's close with a final question that comes to us from an emeritus UVA professor, Michael Prosser, who asks, "If you write a book, 'The Unmaking and Making of a University President.' [laughter] What would be your three or four main points?" [laughter]
Sullivan
Well, let me start by saying, Professor Prosser, that you are prescient because one major university press has already been to see me about that. [laughter] But I don't have time to write that book right now. [laughs] but you know, I think, that there are a lot of things to talk about. One is the unusual position university professors find themselves with these days. Being at the nexus of many constituencies and stakeholders. And being the communication point for many of them at the same time. Not all of us have been prepared by background to do this. And none of us can do it equally well for all constituencies. So I think that that's one of the issues. A second issue, I think, is the unique characteristics and history of each institution of higher learning. Some, like the University of Virginia, rightly proud of a lengthy tradition, and not easily amenable to things that would radically upset that. A third issue is the kind of free agency in which leading universities find themselves with respect to their faculty members. James Duderstadt, my colleague at the University of Michigan, once described leading an American university as being like pushing a wheelbarrow full of frogs and trying to keep the frogs from jumping out. [laughter] That's not too far off from what it's like. [laughter] I think the fourth thing I would say is that university presidents today, in a time like no other, need to have a combination of resilience, the ability to synthesize a lot of information, and a good sense of humor. [laughter] Thank you all. [applause] Thank you. [applause]

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