UVa President Teresa Sullivan addressed the university community today, her remarks are below in the embeded YouTube video. You can see the bulk of her comments in under 21 minutes. There are a couple of additional minutes of questions that don’t really add anything for the general viewer.
I have, in a couple of earlier posts, noted that I was thinking through a post about leadership. Having watched this address, I must say that, in my opinion, so far, Dr. Sullivan is demonstrating good leadership.
She did not rush to make this address, but neither did she drag her feet. She speaks with clarity rather than academic or administrative obfuscation (like we get from D.C.). She neither denies there is a problem nor does she shirk responsibility. She wisely cautioned against painting all fraternity men with a broad brush, but didn’t shy away from stating the problem as being one based in the party life, in frat houses that provide opportunities for predators.
She is not just taking surveys, but is taking steps: a police substation on ‘The Corner’ is a sound idea and getting the ‘real’ police involved in these matters is long overdue. (SIDE NOTE: 3 state legislators have stated they are introducing legislation in the Virginia House of Delegates to remove rape from the university administrations and place it in the hands of police.)
Sullivan stated numerous other first steps and that these are just that, steps. I infer from her remarks that she gets that. It would appear that she understands that she needs to listen, be vulnerable, and act. She asked for accountability for progress. She spoke about the many conversations she has had and plans to have. But she is doing more than talking, she has described measured, positive steps. More steps must be taken, but they have begun.
The University of Virginia is in the spotlight. It has, without a doubt, great resources. With the spotlight, UVa has an opportunity to make some changes that could become a model for other schools to take action to reduce this problem.
But in her remarks President Sullivan could not address the cultural issues that have been mentioned in my posts. She can not change the culture. Culture is changed one person to one person. Parent to child. Teacher to student. All of whom impart to the other that taking care of another person is more important than one’s success.