To date, the firing of UVA President Teresa Sullivan remains mysterious, not to mention shady, with Board of Visitors members basically hush-hush about the sudden, surprise, even bizarre move. What, everyone’s wondering, is going on here? Personally, my view is that “follow the money” is not a bad rule to follow in situations like these. Which is exactly what UVA Alum Anne-Marie Angelo has done:
I’ve poked around the internet and have come up with a theory about what I think may have been happening in Charlottesville to force Sullivan to leave. Some parts of it may turn out to be a bit off, time will tell, but I’m confident enough in what I’ve found to present it as plausible. I am neither a journalist, nor a lawyer or a higher education administrator, and I am sure there are elements here that would benefit from the input of those professionals’ expertise.
All of this is information freely accessible to the public. I am sharing it in hopes that others may form their opinions and offer their insights, so that we might build a fuller picture of what has happened.
The theory I have is that Goldman Sachs’s Education Management Corporation, a for-profit education provider, wanted to make or made a bid to offer online education through UVA. From this endeavor, EMC would invest profits back into the University, helping to heal some of the University’s fiscal woes. When Sullivan was reluctant or refused to agree to the venture, key members of the Board threatened litigation related to her performance as a fundraiser for the University.
What is the Education Management Corporation? Ms. Angelo provides a link within her article to a Huffington Post story, which is a bit long but well worth reading, particularly tidbits like the following:
*”[F]ive years ago, the Pittsburgh company’s executives agreed to sell its portfolio of more than 70 colleges to a trio of investment partnerships for $3.4 billion, securing the needed capital for an aggressive national expansion.”
*Among those investment partners was Goldman Sachs.
*Not surprisingly, given that this industry is about as scummy as you can get, “a recent complaint from the U.S. Justice Department detailed a business bent on recruiting students at all costs…a cutthroat sales culture that rewarded employees who regularly bent the truth and took advantage of underprivileged and unsuspecting consumers,” with new recruits “viewed simply as a conduit for federal student assistance dollars…and pressure mounted from management to enroll anyone at any cost.”
Lovely, huh” What an industry.
Meanwhile, UVA alum Anne-Marie Angelo has cleverly, even brilliantly, pieced together a few more relevant facts. For instance:
*”[A]n article from Charlottesville’s The Hook raised questions about the potential role of Peter Kiernan, the chair of the Trustees at the Darden Foundation, the Board of UVA’s Graduate Business School, in the circumstances leading to Sullivan’s ouster. The article noted in particular Kiernan’s role as a former partner at Goldman Sachs and that Goldman Sachs ‘recently took a major ownership position in a group of online universities.’” Hmmmm.
*”It also turns out that EMC’s General Counsel is a two-time University of Virginia alumnus.”
So, Ms. Angelo concludes:
…the theory is that EMC approached the University with the potential of offering the “online education” component to which Dragas has referred, as a subsidiary of UVA’s educational offerings, one that would have healed a lot of fiscal woes for the University. As an independent entity who invested its profits back into the University, EMC’s involvement wouldn’t have made the University in and of itself private. Essentially it would have been selling the UVA ‘brand name’ for the opportunity to receive major gifts for the University. When Sullivan resisted this venture, the Board found fault with her performance as a fundraiser and made moves to oust her.
Now, I’m not one who’s normally (ever, actually) into conspiracy theories. In this case, though, the strange and sudden nature of Teresa Sullivan’s firing raises suspicions, and the near silence of the people who fired her raises even more. Add in the scumbag, for-profit “education” industry angle, and the huge amount of money at stake, and I’m actually starting to feel a bit conspiratorially-minded for once. How about you? Any better theories than this one?