Strategic Planning

Public University

What does it mean to be a public university in the 21st century?  To what extent can a public mission be pursued in the face of diminished public funding?  How do we make a compelling case to the citizens of the Commonwealth and our legislators that investing in the world-class excellence of UVA pays clear dividends to the Commonwealth?

  Emergent Ideas of the Public University Working Group

  Public University Principles

Email the Public University working group or add a comment below.

Carl Zeithaml Chair
Pace Lochte Working Group Staff Lead
Maurice Apprey Dean, Office of African-American Affairs
Gerry Baliles Director, Miller Center
Billy Cannaday    Dean and Vice Provost for Academic Outreach
Cristina Della Coletta Assoc. Dean, Arts and Humanities; Faculty Italian
Sarah Collie Asst. VP, Management and Budget
Brandon Garrett        Faculty, School of Law
Mark Gruetzmacher Undergraduate Student, A&S
Harry Harding Dean, Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy
Kathleen Jump Working Group Staff Member
Lem Lewis      Alumnus, College, Darden
Bob Pianta Dean, Curry School of Education
Bernard Williams Graduate Student, Darden



Submitted by Terry Birkel (not verified) on

I would think that the quesion of " how do we frame a compelling case" should not be limited  to the citizens of Virginia or the Virginia legislature alone, but be expanded commensurate with the national and international scope of "public" universities in the 21st century and especially UVA.  The University is a "public" but not a "state" univeristy and UVA, as shown by the forseeable shortage of state funding as well as the nature of commerce in the 21st century is best seen as having an audience well beyond Virgina.  This includes its significant out of state alumni body.  Mr. Jefferson envisoned UVA to be national (and international)  in scope and this working group should , while certainly focusing on Virgina interests, reach out to the University's broader interest groups. 

Submitted by Tom Tracy (not verified) on

I am a father of 6 sons, all of whom graduated or continue to attend UT-Austin, MIT, U.Mo- Columbia, JMU and UVA (x2).  I think that public universities should be accessible to the public, which implies that it should receive adequate funding.  However for UVA, it  should drop its state status and focus on becoming a national public university (like the federal academies) or become private. UVA is an elite, merit based, highly selective academic institution, sought after across the globe and UVA would need little financial support from Richmond if it took an 'ivy league' approach. Currently 33% of the school is attended by out-of-state students, a percentage that is capped.  If the state of Virginia continues to inadequately support the university, as witnessed by the hefty tuition increases every year, then make UVA an ivy league type school (U Penn) and allow the best qualified students from across the globe attend and pay a tuition rate that is higher than it is now for in-state but less than for those out-of-state. UVA should better market its notoriety, focus efforts on building greater endowments, and seek out more research opportunities. Virginia residents should realize how lucky they are to have such an esteemed public university; too bad the state legislature does not. The number of PhD candidates studying engineering is paltry in comparison to the institution's potential. Diversification: Recommend a UT-Austin style approach, whereby admissions is guaranteed to the state's top 10% H.S. graduates; place no cap on out-of-state students.

Submitted by Eric Nordstrom (not verified) on

The question seem to me to be, what precisely is the function of a university? I would say that there are two major prongs of purpose. One is the age old factor of simply learning information then forming ones own opinions on the information. The scholar.. The problem is scholars aren't highly paid. So the second fork of the prong is to prepare young minds to either employ others or to become employed. I chose to become the employer at Expert NDT. Many simply haven't the endurance to run a company and so elect to become an employee.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Though intended to be constructive, I prefer to submit these comments anonymously for my protection. I’m also not sure which working group to submit them to, so ask for your assistance in delivering them to the right place.

Mounting evidence indicates that the high-level officials who run UVA are not objective (this includes those are reading this comment and deciding whether to share it more broadly with the broader UVA community). The officials themselves have a stake in the outcomes of any planning. For example,

…apart from a few examples, “shared sacrifice has not been practiced by the presidents of our colleges and universities.” Inflation-adjusted median salaries for presidents continued to rise even as median faculty salaries decreased in all but one category.

I would like to see the concept of shared sacrifice figure more prominently in the strategic plan for UVA’s future. Ideally, sacrifice is modeled from the top down by those who have the most resources. Sacrifice demonstrates that the greater good is more important than an individual’s gain. It allows us to live by the notion that “you don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.” The financial problems from which this country and our beloved UVA suffer from seem to originate at least in part from confusion between what we want versus what we need.

I strongly support and admire President Sullivan so this is not meant as a personal attack. It’s meant as an example of the conflict of interest that seems inevitably to overtake large organizations such as universities and governments.

Every bureaucracy is run by individual human beings whose power puts them in the position to make choices about where the money goes. I’d like to see the leaders at the top – presidents, deans, and the top 5% of earners in each department – provide the community an assessment of their individual salaries. I would ask the leaders to write a letter to families that justifies their salary, and in turn the costs of higher education at UVA. This seems especially important when families can expect many of their children’s courses to be taught by adjunct faculty, who are usually younger, and more likely to be female or a member of a historically disadvantaged minority group, compared to the top earners in the department.

Parents and stakeholders in higher education need to know what they are paying for and also deserve reassurance that the University does not plan to depend on future students to go into debt so that UVA leaders can keep the raises they have come to expect. I’m particularly concerned with the “Resources” working group, which seems in so many words to imply that UVA’s most recent graduates are somehow the best people to tap for financial support. These are young people in debt and so the leadership’s position to try to bleed them for more funds seems, with apologies for the frank language, unsustainable and myopic. A recent article in the Economist is only one of the many news articles that documents the rise in the cost of higher ed, which has been far outpaced by its value.

UVA leaders could make headlines by coming together to renegotiate top-earners’ salaries – downward. Some of those leaders would undoubtedly leave for higher pay at other places. But they evidently weren’t here for the intellectual work and community in the first place. We have the opportunity to make a strong statement to the community that says, “We’re not here for the money. We’re here to teach your children.”

Money talks. So does turning it down, or making an honest attempt to redistribute it more equitably. I believe it would be extraordinarily meaningful if UVA’s leaders were to sacrifice rather than continuing to pass the debt around to society’s youngest and most vulnerable.

Submitted by The Quill (not verified) on

Thomas Jefferson founded The University as an truly significant alternative to the educational-system paradigm in which a student received "just as much private, religious education as his parents could afford."  The University's founder very much had the nation in mind.  Don't cause this World Heritage Site to have to pander to and please self-interested entities. Jefferson's historic vision of "public education" must be preserved - in spite of laxities by any who would, (willfully or unknowingly), seek to spurn such distinctivenesses, to embrace a non-Jeffersonian, and pre-Revolutionary standard.  Look to the stars.  Stay true to Jefferson's course.

Submitted by E. Franklin Dukes (not verified) on

December 12, 2012

Members of the Public University Working Group


The University & Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE) is pleased to be able to respond to the call by President Sullivan to “consider the issues we are facing and offer advice.”

The Public University working group has the broadest and most far-reaching mandate of any of the strategy groups as it asks, “What does it mean to be a public university in the 21st century?”

We urge the members of the Public University group to consider the historical context of this question. The University of Virginia, despite all of its accomplishments, has far too often ignored or spurned its responsibilities to the citizens of the Commonwealth and the nation.

In UCARE’s May 2012 Report and Call for Reflection and Action, we note the actions taken by University leaders that supported and even led to extraordinarily harmful public policies such as slavery, eugenics, segregation and white supremacy. Substantial opposition by University leaders to integration of African Americans and women meant decades of struggle, a struggle that has not yet been fully resolved.

These two major social transitions of historical proportions at UVa – the inclusion of African Americans and of women – are a prelude to a third, the subject of your investigation: how a public university may develop authentic partnership with, and service to, the public. The University of Virginia has always prided itself on its status as a public university, with a mission to seek knowledge to improve the condition of humanity. But what has it meant to be a “public” university?

Until very recent decades, UVa earned the reputation as a largely provincial institution concerned with preserving mostly Southern institutions. At the same time, paradoxically, UVa’s vision also included a broader ambition expanding to the international arena, an expansion that promises a global perspective to students and faculty. The University has a welcome and determined vision to achieve greatness as a world-class institution of higher learning.

Yet that ambition also has had a less desirable consequence. This broad vision too often has meant ignoring duties and opportunities at home. UVa’s presence in the central Piedmont, surrounded by the city of Charlottesville and adjacent counties, has been viewed by many as no more than a happy accident of history, to be enjoyed with little care or even awareness of any responsibility for those surroundings and the people who inhabit them.

Faculty who seek to engage public issues in the local community find few incentives and many disincentives, most prominently tenure and promotion criteria.

This attitude is ripe for dramatic and productive change. More and more students, faculty, administrators and members of the Board of Visitors recognize the hubris of this view and see the problems it spawns. This is not a view that can continue if students are to become the citizens that UVa desires them to be. And this is not a view that can continue if the University community can hope to have genuine learning partnerships and respectful relationships with the community-at-large. Ultimately, for the University of Virginia to truly serve its public mission, it must be rooted healthily within its own home as much as it participates in the global village.

While UCARE has a particular interest in issues of race, we ask you to consider how to nurture a wide-ranging and genuine interest in the surrounding community and how to create and reward a culture of service and accountability to a public mission. This needs to occur throughout all elements of University life, engaging all disciplines and students, alumni, staff, faculty and community members as well as the Board of Visitors and administrators.

Finally, we ask you to do so in ways that address real needs and issues of concern to the community. The University needs to become far better integrated into this community so that it is not viewed as an exclusive presence behind highly effective barriers (however unintended those may be); nor a massive obstacle, isolated from community needs and inaccessible except when it suits the University’s interests; nor an oppressor actively fostering elitism and privilege. Instead, the University need to be, and to be known as, an authentic partner and a responsible member of this community.

We are attaching a copy of our Report to this letter. We invite you to look carefully at the ideas for actions included in the Report that have come from several years of authentic dialogue among the University and surrounding community. We would be most pleased to speak with the group or individual members to explore common ground and to answer any questions.

Respectfully yours,

E. Franklin Dukes, Ph.D.

Steering Committee members:

Mr. John Alexander

Ms. Riana Anderson           

Ms. Lawrie Balfour

Rev. Lehman Bates

Ms. Selena Cozart O'Shaughnessy

Ms. Holly Edwards

Ms. Ishraga Eltahir

Ms. Bonnie Gordon

Ms. Claudrena Harold

Mr. Walt Heinecke

Ms. Phyllis Leffler

Mr. Dion Lewis

Ms. Sarah Malpass

Ms. Leontyne Peck

Ms. Regina Pencile

Ms. Leah Puryear

Hon. Kristin Szakos

Mr. Sherman White

Rev. Erik Wikstrom


Submitted by shocked by bias... (not verified) on

This statement is incredibly, shamefully biased, prejudiced by half-truths.

The statement repeatedly refers to the concerns of faculty, and the sacrificial heroism of faculty - without including staff - as if staff of the University are inconsequential!  What's up with that bias and half-truth?

The word faculty occurs many times, the word staff once; showing clearly that staff's concerns matter little to the statement.  What's up with that bias and half truth?

The statement says that "The University needs to become far better integrated into this community so that it is not viewed as an exclusive presence behind highly effective barriers".  But faculty routinely speak and act in 'exclusive' ways, dismissive of staff's contributions and concerns.  Faculty find ways to improve their salaries, benefits, protections; what have faculty done collectively to ensure improving salaries, benefits, and protections for staff? to ensure 'equal pay for equal work' among staff?

How can the endorsers of this statement - with sound moral conscience - demand that the University do for itself, what faculty all together do not do with staff: 'break down barriers' between faculty and staff, and 'become a whole community'.

The broader local community that the statement says must be embraced by the University cannot not be sure that faculty-centric activities are any different from the same old same old paternalism and manipulation.

How can the local community believe the intentions of the statement that harkens to "opposition by University leaders to integration of African Americans and women meant decades of struggle, a struggle that has not yet been fully resolved" that fails to mention that gay and lesbian, and transgender, members of the University community, and local community, and immigrants in our communities, continue to endure state-sanctioned, and University-enforced discrimination? 

It is incredibly and shamefully biased to pretend that such a limited view is one that restores a whole community.  This is the 21st century, where global survival is at stake.  That reality has a moral demand beyond favoritism.  This statement - disclosing favoritism to faculty's concerns and faculty's privileges - is a half-truth that is untrustworthy.

A good place to begin, to restore trustworthiness of faculty: ensure 'equal pay for equal work' as the University's measure of effective policy, practice, and outcome for all employees, particularly staff.


Submitted by Susanna Nicholson (not verified) on

1) adequately sized room.  over 30 people left standig and therefore were left out of all proceedings since it was small group dialogue at tables & the room was cacaphonous, too small... difficult to "sit in"

2) advance notice to students

3) do not schedule during examination period when faculty and students are overwhelmed.

4) provide professional facilitation or a review of facilitation skills. Our group was bogged down by one speaker for 18 of our 25 allotted minutes because of poor facilitation skills.  same goes for ur summary person whomissed almost all our salient pints in her wrap-up

5) longer period for deliberation on what seemed to me an overwhelming and rather complex list of broad questions.  Those questions amounted to an afternoon's work, at least.  I say this as a professional group facilitator

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