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University Of Virginia Reinstates President, After Public Outcry

The governing board of the University of Virginia decided to reinstate the president it had ousted earlier this month.

The AP reports the 15-member board voted unanimously to give Teresa Sullivan her job back, after it faced scathing criticism for its original decision, which students and faculty thought had been reached in a secretive manner.

"I want to partner with you in bringing about what's best for the university," Sullivan said after the vote.

The AP adds:

A majority of the 15-member board was needed to approve the reinstatement for Sullivan to remain in office. Rector Helen Dragas, who was central to the initial move to oust the president, opened the meeting with comments seeking to reunite the university community. She said she was convinced the university would emerge stronger after the controversy and reiterated an apology for the way the matter was handled initially.

"'The situation became enormously dramatized and emotionally charged,' she said Tuesday. 'I sincerely apologize for the way this was presented and you deserve better."

The Washington Post reports that when today's decision was announced "we could hear cheering from outside the Rotunda where hundreds of people are gathered on the Lawn."

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told the board members they had make a final decision about Sullivan today or they should hand him their resignation.

Bloomberg reports that this kind of revolt has not been seen since Lawrence Summers was ousted as president of Harvard in 2006.

"Summers stepped down as faculty were preparing a second no-confidence vote in objection to his autocratic work style and comments he made suggesting that women lacked an aptitude for science," Bloomberg reports. "He later became director of the National Economic Council under President Barack Obama, and still teaches at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government."

The Washington Post has a bit more on the differences that led to this moment:

"Last week Dragas published a 10-point critique of Sullivan's two-year tenure, asserting that the former University of Michigan provost had no concrete plan to move the university forward in such key areas as fund-raising and faculty pay.

"But many detractors contend Dragas never built a credible case against Sullivan. In the end, the dispute came down to what was described as a "philosophical difference." Sullivan sought to bring change to the university from the ground up, through a process of building consensus and empowering individual academic units. Dragas and her allies thought Sullivan was moving far too slowly in an economic climate that demanded swift and decisive action."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.