Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Transparency at UVa

Helen Dragas has spoken in defense of her and the Board of Visitor's decision to force Terry Sullivan to resign from the position of President of the University of Virginia.  No reason was given for the move, and Sullivan had been a highly respected and appreciated leader.  Her resignation was a shock, but the most poignant demands were not that she had to be reinstated, but that the decision to remove her had to be explained.  Without transparency, only the most careless and vile motivations (e.g., corporate greed) can be supposed.

Dragas apologizes for this. She says, "our actions too readily lent themselves to perceptions of being opaque and not in keeping with the honored traditions of this University. For that reason, let me state clearly and unequivocally: you - our U.VA. family - deserved better from this Board, and we have heard your concerns loud and clear."

So you'd think she would try to close the gap and offer transparency, at least some. But she doesn't. Dragas does not offer an explanation. She claims that Sullivan was a good leader and that they are grateful for her service, but that they had to let her go. Dragas implicitly denies having to account for the Board's decision. In fact, she explicitly says that the board, and only the board, is in a position to know what is best: "the Board is the one entity that has a unique vantage point that enables us to oversee the big picture of those interactions, and how the leadership shapes the strategic trajectory of the University."

Her argument, in a nutshell: The Board of Visitors has privileged access to the right information, which allows them and them alone to properly evaluate the reasons for their decisions. The beloved UVa family should trust them, because their hearts and minds are well-intentioned and of the right stock. This can only be read as an argument against transparency.

Dragas denies the need to be transparent, and yet says the UVa "family" deserves better. I think they do.