UVa's Painfully Public Lesson in Leadership

A board's anxiety about the future led to tumult over the president's status

UVa's Painfully Public Lesson in Leadership 1

Justin Ide for The Chronicle

At the heart of the power struggle between Teresa Sullivan and the governing board of the U. of Virginia was a debate that struck a broader chord, about how quickly a historic institution can or should transform itself.

As the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors gathered in the historic Rotunda last Tuesday, Helen E. Dragas betrayed little emotion. The rector of the board, who had come to be viewed as the architect of Teresa A. Sullivan's ouster from the university's presidency, politely smiled as her colleagues voted one by one to reverse course and reinstate the leader.

When it came time for Ms. Dragas to join the unanimous vote, she did so with an "unequivocal yes."

Ms. Dragas's