This has been a busy week for President Sullivan, who extended a warm welcome to new faculty members — who had the benefit of a 3-day orientation at UVa’s Morven Farm — and, in a meeting with ‘settled members’ of the faculty on Tuesday, she formally welcomed the Faculty Senate, on the first occasion following the events that took place here earlier this Summer.
Brokaw Professor of Corporate Law and Faculty Senate chair, George Cohen, injected a bit of levity, as he brought to the podium a little blue elephant, symbolizing the “elephant in the room,” as Dr. Sullivan received two standing ovations, and thanked the faculty for their confidence in her, as well, noting:
The support of the faculty decisively shaped events and opened the possibility of my reinstatement.
President Sullivan observed that there were only four members on the Board of Visitors who had actually been involved in her hiring. Explaining that up to 25 percent of its members can turn over each year, she also mentioned that if there were anything she would change about the Board, it would involve timing.
She has accepted, now, assurances by the Board, of their confidence in her leadership:
I believe that they are committed now to seeing all of us be successful together, and I have to go forward in that belief. It’s simply the way public institutions work, that we are given a governing board in the public interest.
Acknowledging that some values taken for granted have been in question, there is one value – honor – that is paramount to the University of Virginia, and that educators and those supporting public education, are closely monitoring how UVa responds:
We learned at least two things: shared governance works, and a united UVa faculty is a force to be reckoned with.
A link to the full video presentation of this event is available.
Addressing the challenges the University now faces, President Sullivan didn’t shy away from those that have to do with ‘bottom-line’ concerns, like the development of a new financial model for the medical center, and the need to recruit and retain world-class faculty with competitive salaries. Salaries for faculty have not increased in several years, for a number of reasons.
Introducing the concept of peer review, as it relates directly to merit increases in salary, President Sullivan remarked:
The prospect of review by one’s peers can be powerfully motivating
Speaking also of the need to “revamp the liberal arts curriculum,” Sullivan noted the various responsibilities to be met by legislators, by the Board of Visitors, by the administration, and members of the faculty:
The faculty will drive our efforts of how we teach and how we conduct research.
Urging her audience to think imaginatively, she did mention one experimental approach, in particular, that she called “the flip class” (probably referring to a relatively inexpensive means of recording lectures or other course materials digitally), in order to dedicate class time for interactions, in discussions and debate.
A few days earlier, in the peaceful 18th-century setting of UVa’s Morven Farm, nearly 70 new faculty members had experienced an “academical village” of their own, during a three-day orientation this week, hosted by the Teaching Resource Center, and the Vice Provost for Faculty Development.
This immersive orientation featured workshops about teaching, as well as career advice and the ins and outs of human resources; and a tour of the facilities at Morven Farm. At its conclusion, there was a reception, hosted by President Sullivan at her home, at Carr’s Hill.
According to a statement released by UVaToday, there are close to 180 new teaching, research and professional faculty members this year.
An orientation of this scope can be an extremely valuable experience, modeling something of what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he established the University – the opportunity to interact with other educators in other disciplines, and the added benefit of having teaching advice from their colleagues, and the Teaching Resource Center:
One luncheon panel featured four UVa professors who have been on the faculty for at least five years recounting what they wish they’d known in their first year.