Carl Zeithaml to 'suspend' UVA interim presidency negotiations

McDonnell wants a resolution to the controversy at the university by Tuesday. Photo: Associated Press

The saga surrounding the presidency at the University of Virginia took another turn Friday when the official tapped as the interim president said he wouldn't assume duty until the school's board made a final decision on the office.

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell demanded swift action by the school's Board of Visitors on Friday night, asking them to make a final decision on recently resigned president Teresa Sullivan on Tuesday.

McDonnell's request comes a day after interim president, Carl Zeithaml wrote a letter to university faculty saying that he is suspending his role as the school's temporary leader. The governor said that he'll ask for the resignation of the entire board on Wednesday if they don't make a decision.

"The time is now for finality and closure," Gov. McDonnell said in his letter. "I expect you to make a clear, detailed and unified statement on the future leadership of the University.”

Zeithaml’s letter comes after there were reports that several members of the university’s governing board spent Wednesday quietly counting votes and plotting a move to reinstate ousted president Teresa Sullivan.

He cited an "enormous groundswell" of support for Sullivan as his reason to step aside and let the situation play itself out.

Officials say that Zeithaml will hold a 1 p.m. press conference to address the situation.

Sullivan reportedly told The Washington Post that she wants to remain, but only if Rector Helen Dragas resigns.

The board had named McIntire School of Commerce Dean Zeithaml as the interim president.

In his letter, Zeithaml wrote:

“I am grateful for the trust that members of the University's Board of Visitors expressed in asking me to serve as interim president during this extraordinarily difficult time in the life of our University. I made the decision to accept this transition role because of my love for U.Va., as well as my desire to help in a time of crisis.
There is an enormous groundswell of support for Terry Sullivan's reinstatement as our president, and I understand that the Board will meet next week to consider this possibility. As a result, I am suspending any further negotiations with the Board regarding my status as interim president, as well as any activities associated with this role. In the meantime, I will return my focus to the McIntire School."

“Trust cannot be restored in our community until the President Sullivan's status is clarified and ultimately resolved,” Zeithaml wrote, signing the letter as the Dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, rather than the interim president.

The full letter from the deans of the university's colleges requesting the reconsideration to reinstate Teresa Sullivan can be found here:

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