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01 Aug 2017
Audio Overview
John Alexander

Note Audio not available.

Ross: So, first of all, this is just kind of like background information.  Can you kind of briefly explain how you became a part of the UVa community, and what UVa means to you?


Kevin: Yeah, sure.  Uhm, so I was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and my dad was a professor and senior associate dean at the business school at UNC, and in 1997 or 8, he got offered to be the dean of the Mcintire School here at UVa.  And so when I was 4, we moved to UVa, and immediately became… as a four year old, five year old, I immediately became a part of the community through professors and meeting students.  And then when I was 8, we moved onto the Lawn and lived there for ten years.  I grew up in Pavillion 10 on the Lawn.  That was sort of where my experience comes from I guess with the University, uhm… so for me, what the University means to me, I think  it’s different than a lot of people.  Since I grew up on Grounds, to me the University is… more than anything, it’s my home.  So it’s the place where I feel the most comfortable in the world. I’ve traveled a fair bit, and there’s really no place I feel more comfortable than on the Lawn.  So it’s a safe place for me, and you know, it’s sort of secondary… it has become a school for me, so…

R: So it’s almost like in your blood, and going to college isn’t really going to college.  It’s kind of staying home.

K: Nah.  I’m at home, uh… but away from my parents, which is nice. 

R: There ya go.  So you kind of touched base on this, but uhm… I guess as a UVa student, what are your favorite things about the University? 

K: Are you looking for more intangible things, uhm…

R: just like… what about the community do you love?  What about the people, and things like that? 

K: This is something that you hear a lot about during admissions, I feel like is that there is a place for everyone at this university.  Everyone has their own little outlet.  You know, no matter what your personality is, no matter what your interests, no matter what your activities are… If you have none, then there is gonna be a place for you here.  And that’s something that I found out very, very quickly.  I had my hands on a lot of different things in high school, and when I got here, it was sort of like… I could continue doing all those things, but then I realized that… I guess this is sort of getting into a second thing is that like UVA helps you focus… it helps you find your passions.  That’s something that… I took all my involvements and activities, and I was able to find exactly what I was passionate about, and that sort of culture at UVA helps you do that

R: So you talked about how you continued your passions.  Were there any specific that you found that you love that you didn’t know before going to UVA

K: I loved singing all through high school.  It was something that you know, I was in choirs and a-capella in high school, and musicals, but it never really became the focus of my life like it is now, other than academics.  Singing with being in academical village people, taking musical instruction; voice lessons… you know, I’m now devoting 10-20 hours a week on it… so, or… not that much.  Maybe ten hours a week on it.  Uhm, so yeah it’s definitely… it’s helped me sort of narrow the focus a lot, uhm and recognize you know what I’m good at and what I really enjoy doing. 

R: Absolutely.  Okay, uhm… So this is kind of branching out.  So you mentioned your dad, or you started your life at UNC Chapel Hill. 

K: Yeah.

R: So, along those same lines and along with the continuation of you coming to UVA, what is your perspective of a liberal arts education?  And did you go to UVA for that kind of liberal arts atmosphere, or was it more so… “oh, this is where I feel most comfortable.”? 

K: I went to UVA because… I was pretty sure of what I wanted to study… Or at least I could narrow it down to one subject: Politics.  Whether I wanted to do a specific program or something like that, I wasn’t sure, and so I went to UVA for a couple of reasons.  It was… it’s sort of funny to say, it’s close to home.  It’s home, and so that was nice.  I knew that I could escape from my family if I needed to… and man have I needed to (laughs).  And uh, but also mainly because you know, I… since I was, you know, really old enough to form coherent arguments, I’ve been saying that you can’t find a better public education in the country, or the world.  And there are many, many people who agree outside of the UVA community… So for me, it was a no-brainer.  I’ve always said that if you are in state in Virginia, there is no reason that you should pay to go to an Ivy League school.  You know, you come to Virginia, and you will receive one of the best educations in the world.  That for me… that was the factor, the deciding factor.  I didn’t want to go to a worse school just to be farther away from home… it doesn’t make sense.

R: Do you value the idea that we are not… the premise of a liberal-arts education is to get kind of a collection of everything, and to kind of find what you want to do, but also find things you know you didn’t… you thought you didn’t like, but you actually do like.  And… is that important to you, and what is the importance of a liberal-arts education.

K: Most definitely.  Yeah, uh… one of the first classes I took here was in the religious studies department, my first semester.  It was called ‘Religion After Jefferson.’  And… hands down the most interesting thing I’ve ever studied. 

R: Wow, first semester too.

K: Yeah, it was phenomenal.  And I am eternally grateful to the people that pointed me to that class .  So there, is, I think, sort of … picking your classes, there is always the risk that you’re going to get something bad, but my sort of general mentality is that, you know, have at least one class that’s way out in left field, because you will literally… you will never know what you’re going to get into.  You might get a crappy class, you know… you might hate it, but you might find something, you know, that is going to be your major, and you never had any idea, so…

R: Well, along those same lines, you mentioned Jefferson and that class you took.  We talk a lot, here at the University… we sound like a broken record when we talk about Jefferson (laughs), and his ideals. 

K: Because he’s the best

R: Of course, of course (laughs).  So… as a student, what do these ideals and ideas of morality and honor mean to you? 

K: I guess, for me, I think of Jefferson’s sort of contributions to the University, other than his, you know, actual physical contributions to his founding of the University… sort of his ideals, the most important is sort of when they’re applied to the idea of student self-governance.  For me, we could sit here all day and argue about whether student self-governance works, but it’s the ideas of morality and honor , and independence, that empowers students to do incredible things later in their life.  So, you know, we have an incredible student body that does, you know, arguably the… incredible things here at the University, but it’s honestly laying the groundwork for what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives, so that to me is how… how… when it’s applied that it’s most important. 

R: So it lays a foundation for the rest of… not only their University lives, but the lives past that.

K: Yeah, exactly.

R: Okay, so uh… Moving on to the actual Crisis, as we like to call it, how did you first hear about the ouster, and what was your immediate reaction to it? 

K: I actually heard about it… I was out of town, uh, on the 10th… it started June 10th.  I was out of town and heading home.  I actually got a flat tire, and so I called my mom to get the AAA number, and she had told me how President Sullivan was asked to step down, or resigned… I guess at that point we just knew that she had resigned.  And I was like ‘Cool.’  No big deal, like I really don’t care.  Uh… I was mainly focused on my flat tire, uh (Laughs), and the fact that I was sitting in the middle of nowhere by myself.  So you know, I honestly did not think about it at all until I came home a couple hours later, and started talking to my mom about it a little bit, and so… we literally… there was no speculation at that point about anything.  It was just… we were dealing with the same facts that everyone was, and so… my dad was out of town, so it was basically just me and my mom sitting around the kitchen table, talking about what had happened, and why we thought it had happened.  So…

R: Okay, uhm… So jumping ship a little bit, uhm… as we know, your father was interim president… and, but…. Before all of that drama and hoopla surrounding it, what was or what do you think his opinion of the Ouster was? 

K: Could you say the question again?  Sorry.

R: Okay, okay.  Uhm… your father was obviously interim president.  But before all that happened; before he actually became interim president, what was his kind of opinion of the event in itself, or did he have one?

K: So, basically the way that it had happened is… like I said, my dad was out of town when it had been announced, so he and the rest of the deans were scrambling to get as much information as they could.  And so, he… there’s been all sorts of things going around over the past four months, uh, how long has it been?  Five months.  And talking about the different ways that the deans reacted, and especially him, reacted immediately following.  There was a Freedom of Information Act thing that came out two months ago, you know, so… arguing that he supported the ouster immediately… and basically, none of that is true, and none of it… it’s not really grounded in fact.    Basically what happened is he had no idea what had happened, you know… he, uh… there were lots of people that were sort of, uh, frustrated with things, uhm, you know, different things, not necessarily with President Sullivan; just, you know, everyone in a work environment has their frustrations, so… basically he was… yeah, it’s hard to… it’s a hard question to answer, uh… you know it, uh… it was very difficult, in talking with him now…  it was very difficult for him to form an opinion.  His opinion changed every time he got a new piece of information.  So, you know, with every rumor, he would go from supporting it to not supporting it, to, you know, in between… uhm, so at no point and time though did he say that he, you know, did he ever think that he supported the way it was done or anything like that.  You know, he wanted to see a… you know, a uh… civil resolution to the whole issue, so…

R: Well, I think it’s interesting, because our opinions in class change every time we get  a new piece of information.  Because we have somebody from the Cav Daily who’s in our class, and he gets these kind of sneak peeks, so to speak, about stuff… like leaked information.  And our opinion as a class changes every time.  It’s interesting though, because your dad was basically caught out of the loop like everyone else, essentially.

K: I think it’s important, though, to recognize, and you talked about this sort of leaked information… that to me, and to the people that were directly involved with it, was the biggest problem, with this summer, is sort of information that gets out, that—you know, it’s sort of the problem with being in the soundbite generation… is that you get one sentence of information, and then you try to form a vast, overarching opinion on the entire situation, and out of that.  Anyone that is trying to form an opinion about this summer, I urge you to not base your opinion on snippets of fact, or what is claimed to be facts.  There is no way, and there is no place in a society like UVA, and a culture like UVA, for that sort of broad speculation to happen. 

R: Because it’s our job to make important decisions, and that’s ignorance in a sense.

K: Exactly.

R: So… you can answer this I guess.  Had you, or your family, or your father had any inclination that he would become interim president? 

K: No (Resoundingly).  We… over the past 15 years, since my dad took the job, the Mcintire School has gotten progressively better and better… and I guess it was 7 years ago now that Business Week released their rankings of the #1… the top undergraduate business schools in the country.  Every year that Business Week has done that, Mcintire has been number 1 or number 2 in the country.  So, it has been very apparent to us that, you know, people have been impressed with him.  My mom and I are his biggest supporters, along with the rest of my siblings, but when it happened… immediately after it happened, it was sort of… the conversation was not “What’s gonna happen next?”… it was “What just happened?”   Because even a few days after it happened, we still didn’t really know what was happening.  It wasn’t until he had a conversation… he spoke… he talked about this in his press conferences this summer… and he had a conversation with the rector… Rector Dragas and the Vice Rector at that point which was Mark Kington, on the Thursday following… I think that’s right, maybe the Friday.  And they talked to him about the situation, and they talked to him about how it was done, and they asked him if he had any interest… the first offer was any offer in being the new president.  And he just immediately, you know, said no.  He told me there was absolutely no consideration of that offer at all, on his part.  And so, they started talking some more.. It wasn’t actually until the end of the meeting that they suggested the idea of interim president, and at that point he said no… or said that he wasn’t interested.  He very much likes… I think he would prefer that he could make it through his entire life without anyone knowing his name, so that to him was like his version of Hell (laughs).  So it took a while for us to even consider that option.  I think once the rector and vice rector asked to meet with him, we sort of had a… we knew at the very least that we wanted to get his opinion on everything.  And that was sort of like in the back of our heads: You know, what kind of conversation is this going to be, are they going to offer?  Ask for his help and support, or are they gonna ask for something more tangible, so…

R: It seems like he… He said no in the first place because he kind of wanted to keep that cover… his own sanity in a sense.

K: He also thinks that… there are those that agree that he can do more good in the Mcintire School.

R: That’s his specialty, right?  I mean…

K: Yeah.  I’ll at least say that he thinks he can do more good in the Mcintire School, he thinks he is not qualified.  He says that very humbly, that he should not be the president of the university, he doesn’t have the knowledge of the hospital… and that’s something that a lot of students forget when they think about the president of the university… of a university like this.  It’s not just the university itself, it’s the hospital, which is, you know, a massive, massive business. 

R: It is.

K: It’s a business model that is not doing very well around the world.  So there’s a lot of things that go into it, other then “Oh, can you run a school?” So he jokes that he’s not able to do it… a lot of people disagree with that.  I would disagree with that, but he mainly wanted to stay in the Mcintire School because that’s where he’s comfortable, it’s what he’s good at.  He knew he was good at it.  And also, he’s got a lot of devotion to his faculty.  You know, he has built an incredible faculty, an incredible staff, you know… that’s where his best friends are, and that’s where, like I said, where he feels most comfortable, so…

R: Okay, and along with that, obviously, when he was named interim president, or when they asked him originally if he was (wanted to be) interim president, obviously all the facts weren’t clear, and all the facts still aren’t clear.  But do you think his initial response in saying no had anything to do with the way things might have been handled, or was that just out of the equation completely?

K: Yeah… No, I think that was definitely part of it.  The sort of uncertainty of what he was getting into, of what he would be getting into, was definitely a major factor.  This summer, you heard about people trying to hire other people at the university, and the number one question was like, you know “What am I getting myself into?” with this school.  And so that was definitely a consideration. 

R: This is kind of the subject that I proceed with caution.

K: Okay.

R: Were you, or your family, personally treated any differently before, during, and after that time, where your father was named interim president? 

K: Yes

R… and how so?

K: Before, no… uhm, while he was serving as interim president elect… because he never actually took over, the level of hostility reached levels that I never imagined.  I will admit that I was sort of the one that pushed my dad to do it.  He… like I said, he turned down the job the first time, and then was offered it two more times.

R: Wow.  Okay

K: And finally the third time he said yes, and that was very begrudgingly…. He accepted it very begrudgingly.  It was with sort of the urgings of my mother and I, and my dad… before he was appointed interim president, he left to (cannot decipher the rest)… out of the country.  One of the last things he said to me… he left I guess maybe the Friday before that Tuesday, when he was appointed, and he was leaving to go to the airport, and he said, “You know Kevin, if… if this happens, I am going to be vilified.  I’m going to be the bad guy.”  And I actually said to him, you know, I’m quoting myself here, and I apologize for the language… I was like “You’re full of shit…” you know, “I do not believe you at all.”  And uh… and he was right, which he usually is, uhm…

R: But why do you think he accepted that?  He accepted the role of interim president knowing that he would face those vilifications. 

K: He did what he thought was best for the university.  That is the reason he took it.  He did it because the University was facing an incredible period of time that was… or an incredible period of hardship that was… it was… He felt that if he didn’t take the job, then he didn’t know who would.  You know, he has a lot of confidence in himself, but you know, I said earlier that he didn’t think that he was 100% qualified, especially with the hospital stuff.  But, you know, he was confident that he could do the best job he could, uhm… and finally, you know, when it came down to it, it was… it was a matter of sort of helping the university get out of this, because he… I think he loves the University… his family is probably the only thing he loves more than the University, uhm… and at that point, it was just… it was saving the University.

R: Absolutely

K: And so after he took the job, over the next two weeks… you know, really over the next month, he got about 5,000 emails. 

R: My goodness.

K: And the overwhelming majority of them, maybe about… I’m not sure, a couple thousand of those, were hate mail.  And he would… he read all of them.

R: Wow.

K: And responded to a lot of them.  There were, you know, there were some really interesting things out of there.  He sent… I’m the youngest of five kids, and so we had a family, uh, thread going on email, talking about them.  And he would forward along emails from people, that were… that he thought were particularly funny.  Lots of people called him a scab, lots of people said that he had betrayed the University by accepting this.  The main one is that he should have turned down the job on principle.  And so he uh… yeah, he went through those, sort of that time of basically everyone telling him that he was worthless.  And there were students also, that, you know, went to his office, uh and tried to speak with him.  He was not there; he was gone, he was out of the country… but you know, demanded that they speak with him.  And basically, it got to the level actually that I was physically sick from it.  Basically, I was… I was tired of watching my dad, you know, sort of having to deal with these incredible emotions that I don’t think anyone should ever have to deal with… uhm, so, to say that he was vilified… is an understatement.  He, you know, he said a few weeks ago that, uhm, that was the hardest two weeks of his life…. Without a doubt.  So… if I learned anything from this summer, it’s that, sort of what I said earlier.  It’s that, you know, bad things can happen when you try to form opinions on little pieces of information.  People get hurt for no good reason. 

R: And I feel like motives are a big thing. 

K: Yeah

R: Because if… if we had known why your father took that position in the first place…

K: Yeah

R: It would have been completely different.

K: Well, it’s funny, is that, you know, he explained it a couple times in his press conferences and statements, and you know, no one really cared.  They’ve already formed their opinions.  You know, the news media in Charlottesville, and around the US… you know, they had differing opinions.  In particular, there was one newspaper in Charlottesville that for some reason seemed like they were out to get him, and you know,  I now encourage everyone I know not to go anywhere near…

R: Subscribe

K:… that newspaper.  It’s actually a free newspaper.  So you don’t subscribe to it.  But uh, yeah.  Like I said, bad things happen when you try to form opinions on little bits of information.  Uh…

R: And you mentioned your dad’s… uhm, vilifications.  Were you personally treated any differently?

K: Not to the same extent.  I actually got a lot of support from my friends. 

R: That’s great

K: There were those students that sought to take out their anger on my dad out on me.  Anger towards my dad out on me.  Which I didn’t really have a problem with.  You know, I would much rather he get five less emails than have to deal with it.  But no: for me, the hardest part was watching my dad go through it.  And you know, that’s something that he’s still… still dealing with.  You know, there’s still repercussions from the events this summer, and uhm, so yeah, it was a… it was an interesting time.  I actually… yeah sorry, I’m rambling now, I’ll stop.

R: No, no you’re good, you’re good.  So this is kind of like… You have an interesting perspective because your father was interim president, yet I’m sure you , like many other students, were confused with why Sullivan resigned in the first place, and had questions on that.  So, did you like actively participate in any of the rallies or anything that…

K: I was at all of them… uhm, and yeah, I went to all of them, and then I was at the… I was outside the Board meeting when he was appointed interim president, and I was outside… I was in the Rotunda when Sullivan was reinstated.  I was actually… when Sullivan and all that happened, I was up on the (what word?) of the Rotunda with her, and spoke to her briefly afterwards, along with Rector Dragas.  I had a long conversation with her after that vote, so I was at the rallies, I was not participating in them.  You know, I tried to be very impartial on the whole thing, because of the sensitive nature of it.  And you know, I still am trying to be.  Especially when I’m on the record (laughs).  But no, it was very interesting to watch them, and to people that I knew feel…and how strongly they felt about the situation, so…

R: So you mentioned that long conversation with Dragas.  After having that conversation, what was your opinion of her, compared to everyone else’s?

K: That to me is the funniest thing.  I spoke to her for a couple minutes after the vote, and then I actually had lunch with her this past week.

R: Oh wow.

K: She’s an incredibly nice lady.  Just incredibly easy to talk to, incredibly nice.   She actually has a soul, in case anyone was wondering.  You know, she’s not the devil incarnate.  And she… it is very clear to me that she is an incredibly brilliant woman.  She screwed up.  She really screwed up.  And, you know, she… I think recognizes that.  You know, she apologized for that.  But she’s an incredibly smart lady, and I’m very glad to have gotten the chance to meet her and talk to her.  Because now, I can tell this to people.  You know, I can say… I can make those jokes, sort of like “She does actually have a soul.”  You know, she’s not actually a bad lady.  She’s not trying to screw you over.  She’s not trying to… we were talking the other day about… she and I were saying that the sort of… the craziest thing that came out of this summer was this whole conspiracy theory that Goldman Sachs was trying to take over the University, based on one board member that worked for Goldman Sachs like 15 years ago.  And it’s like… it’s like where is this coming from?  This is so far beyond anything that is even remotely rational.  So it was very interesting to get her perspective about a lot of it.  And during that conversation, I asked her what I should care about.  You know, what the student body should be caring about, and what we should worry about… uhm and her response was academic quality.  And I couldn’t agree more.  You know, I think… if we want to be involved with something, it should be the quality of our education, and the cost of tuition.  There are lots of people working on faculty salaries, and lots of people worrying about corporate governance in higher education and the relationship with the state, and my dad is actually chairing a committee that is looking at corporate governance in higher education and the relationship with the state, and I obviously have a lot of faith in my dad.  So I am not going to spend my time worrying about that.  I would much rather… you know, instead of getting upset about the vote that happened at the Board of Visitors meeting, I am gonna get upset about the crappy TA that I have, or the crappy professor that, you know, has no idea what he is talking about… Which hasn’t really happened yet, but… so…  I’ll just say one more thing about that.  I think one think that the University, for better or worse does that the students do very well is constantly worry about something.  We constantly care about something, and if we don’t have anything to care about that isn’t really important to us, we will find something and make it important to us.  And you know, that has created some incredible results, but I also believe that it led to a lot of the conspiracy and a lot of the negative side effects of this summer. 

R:  So, you’ve had some conversations with Dragas.  Do you think… like a… like you said, there’s a lot of conspiracies out there, and there’s a lot of stuff; he said, she said, I think this, I think that.  But do you think she was acting in the best interests of the University? 

K: Yes

R: And how did it get skewed, and… why do you think she was vilified? 

K: This is what happens when you try to do the right thing the wrong way.  And you will see this in, you know, throughout history.  You will continue to see it throughout history.  You see it in organizations around the world.  A lot of people said this summer that “Well, in the corporate world, if someone makes a mistake like this, then they would be fired in an instant.”  That may be true; however, we are not in the corporate world.  We get to deal with the wonderful bureaucracy that is the Commonwealth of Virginia.  So, we have, for better or worse, safeguards against people getting axed right away.  There are checks and balances which allow us to think about these things rationally.  And there’s a vote in January to approve the Board appointments.  So that is the… that is sort of the battleground for this, and that is where it should be. 

R: Absolutely, absolutely.  So, what is, or what was your opinion of Sullivan before, and then after, and uhm, I guess, a follow-up question, yeah… did it change at all?

K: Uhm

R: From beginning to end?

K: You know, I am… I don’t really have enough experience with President Sullivan personally to form much of an opinion.  I’ve talked to her a number of times very briefly, so I don’t have the ability to… you know, she seems to be an incredibly nice lady, and probably smart lady, and whether or not she is good at her job, you know, I can’t say that, because that would be speculation. I don’t think… I don’t think the student body in general has enough information to make that judgement, to make that kind of call, and I am definitely not gonna try and tell her whether she is doing a good job or not.  You know, I thought she was very strong during the whole situation, she… you know, she remained composed while speaking, and I respect that a lot.  But, you know, I leave the quality of her work to herself and to the people around her. 

R: So as a student, and the fact that you have so many ties to UVA, what did you know and what was your opinion about the governance of UVA?

K: I think corporate governance works.  You know, I think there are definitely some things that should be changed… you know, there is a… this is something that I’ve had long conversations with my dad about.  There are reasons that it’s been in place for hundreds of years, throughout universities around the world, and I do think though that there’s a lot of (blank:38:50) to get more voices on the board, get a faculty opinion on the Board.  I think… there’s a number of people that think that the student representative should have a vote on the Board.  I disagree with that sentiment.  Sort of what I was saying earlier, our focus should be academic quality.  I think it’s already incredible that we have a student representative who gets to speak and sit in on executive session… I think that we are not informed enough to be able to make those kinds of calls, to make a vote.  I consider myself intelligent enough to… to add to the discussion.  I don’t consider myself, or anyone else at this University as a student to be able to form an opinion well enough to decide who to hire as the next president of the University.  There is a lot to be said for experience.  And that is why we have very experienced people on the Board of Visitors. 

R: So uhm, you mentioned that you agreed with the corporate model.  What is your… what is your definition of a corporate model running a university?  Like what…what does that entail?

K: I mean, well… I think that the system that we have here, or sort of the bare bones of the system that we have at the University of Virginia and the rest of the state, works well.  You know, we have a 16 member Board of Visitors, all appointed by the governor…. You know, usually in rotations of about 4 per year.  Or excuse me… 4 every two years.  I can’t remember.  But… you know, we’ve got a Board right now where… no, sorry, 4 every year, yeah… uh, 12 of the members I believe were appointed by Governor McDonnell, and 4 were appointed by Governor Kaine.  And so, you know, it changes.  I don’t think that, you know, Rector Dragas I know is a… she’s a very… has a very involved civic life down in the Tidewater region, in Norfolk I believe.  And so, you know, a lot of these people are involved politically.  And you know, that is sort of the nature of a state-run university.  So… it’s hard to argue against having governor appointments if it’s a state-run school.  There are people that advise the governor from the University on who should be on the Board.  You know, I know someone in the President’s Office that works with the Governor’s Office on the Board appointments, and I trust them with the safety of this school.  So, there are people smarter than me that should make these decisions.

R: Sure.  

K: So that goes into the whole student vote as well. 

R: Yeah, uhm, so we mentioned the fact that… we talk a lot about how UVA is a state-run institution.  But the interesting thing is that only 7% of our funds come from the state of Virginia. 

K: Yeah

R: So do you think that Governor McDonnell should have that say with who is on the Board?

K: There are a lot of benefits to being a public university.  There are also a lot of benefits to being a private university.  I think, you know, that since Virginia law says that we are a state-run university, we’re a state-run university.  It doesn’t matter how much funding is coming from the state.  I am… I’ve heard that number before.  It’s somewhere between 6 and 12% of our funding comes from the state.  It sort of depends on what you count.  And that number is shocking to me as it is to a lot of people, but there are, like I said, there are important aspects with the governor making those sorts of appointments that he is specifically… you know, I am a very strong democrat, and I am saying this about a Republican governor, you know.  There is a reason that he should be making these calls, and the people that are helping him make these calls.

R: Right, so…right.  Uhmmm…

K: Will you excuse me one minute?  I just have to get something

R: Yeah, sure, absolutely.

K: Alright (Time passes).  Okay cool, go for it.

R: So, along those same lines, what is your opinion of what a state university should be?  Uhm, in other words, what should be the role between the University and outside community?  Because we talk a lot about UVA and its interaction with Charlottesville

K: Yeah

R: With like the internet courses like Corsera and how that would help the community.  It wouldn’t necessarily make money for the University, but it helps the community. 

K: Mhm

R: So what’s your opinion about that?

K: You know… I think that, you know, we are a public institution, it’s with the idea of public education, there has to be state oversight.  Even if we’re only getting 6-12% of our operating budget from the state, the fact that we’re getting any money from the state means that there should be state oversight.  That’s one of the basic functions of government.  If you’re gonna give money to something, you make sure that it’s going to things that it should be going to.

R: Yes.

K: So to me, that’s why public education works… in higher education.  You know, I think our primary education and high school… public high schools, uhm, don’t work.  I think they’re, you know, that just needs to be reformed, but the relationship with the community is one of the more important things to state schools, and especially UVA.  Luckily, the city that has grown up around the University, has been… basically I should say that Charlottesville grew up because of the University.  You know, there are… Charlottesville was tiny before the University was formed.  This was farmland… the University was founded on James Monroe’s farm.  And so this… this is all here because of the University.  So it is vital that we keep a good relationship with the city and the county.  I agree that, you know, online education programs would be very beneficial to the local community, and it’s sort of… the programs that the University runs for the rest of Charlottesville are very important, and I think we should devote, you know, some decent funding to that.  Because there is no downside to having a more educated populace. 

R: So, uhm, going back to the Board of Visitors, in your opinion, with the Board being 16 members as you said, and having that corporate makeup that… in some opinions  good, some opinions is bad.  What do you think… do you think their role right now is how it should be?  Or do you think their role in the University should be changed? 

K: The funny thing is that the only reason anyone cares is because of this summer.  You know, Hillary Hurd, who I think is an incredible person, just from my very brief interactions with her, and from her role this summer… she is the student representative of the Board of Visitors.  I would guess that maybe 5% of the student body knew that her job existed before June 10th, and now everyone knows what she does, and… it was funny that like, you know, people… people decided to tell her how to do her job this summer.  You know, people told her that she was doing the wrong thing and it was hurting the student body, and she wasn’t speaking up for the voices of every student, and that’s complete crap.  The rest of the student body has absolutely no idea what goes on in those meetings, because you know, we haven’t taken the time over the past, you know, however many years you’ve been here, to learn more about it.  The only reason that we give a damn about what the Board is doing now is because of this summer, and like I said earlier, I think… this interview is probably not going to make me a whole lot of friends, uhm… but we are, we care about these things because we need something to care about, I think.  We all love our university, and I will say that that is a major factor why we care about these things.  We want what is best for the University.  I want what is best for the University, and that’s why I care.  But I think there is… and I think there is, you know, a large portion of the students that were involved this summer, that that was their reason behind it.  But I also think that the average student that will pass an opinion on this really doesn’t know a whole lot about it, and that’s sort of the society we live in.  I say plenty of things that are completely unbased, you know, frequently, about any range of topics. I happen to be, just because of how I was involved this summer, I happen to be very well-educated in what happened, and you know, can form decent opinions on it…. Not as well as people that were even more involved, but the role of the Board of Visitors is… is going to be changing a lot because of this.  You know, I don’t know if that’s what’s right,  I don’t know if that’s a good thing… uhm, but… but it’s going to.  So…

R: Yeah, and uhm, that’s a great point, because we talk a lot about if what we saw this summer, specifically at UVA, is going to change the broader sphere of public education, in the United States… specifically higher public education in the United States.  And do you think that there will be a trend to move away from a corporate structure like the Board of Visitors?  Or do you think that it will stay the same, simply because it’s worked in the past?

K: I think higher education is changing a lot, and this is where I have to be careful what I say, because I could say something that is completely unbased, and just saying it to say it, but just from my conversations with professors and administrators here and my dad, and from reading the news every day, it’s very clear that the culture of higher education is on a precipice, and it is about to change dramatically.   Whether it’s gonna be… I think everything about it is going to change.  I think the way that we teach our students is going to change, I think that the way we fund our programs is going to change, and arguably the most important thing is that the way we are going to interact with the state is going to change.  And… so I am sort of expecting broad and sweeping changes to higher education in the US… uhm education in the US I should say.  I think our entire education system is going to change in the next 20-50 years. 

R: This is an interesting topic, because personally, I am very passionate about Spanish, and I really want to minor in it, but I can’t, because of costs obviously.  Because they’re trying to save money.  Whether that’s the primary reason or not, I don’t know, but that’s what’s speculated.  Do you think… what’s your opinion on… There’s kind of this trend… maybe not… at UVa and everywhere else… Okay, get your degree at UVA, make money, and come back and give money back to the program that you graduated from.  Do you think that we’re trending towards an educational system that stresses money and monetary value more than educational intellectual value? 

K: Here’s the thing, it’s that the University, whether you like it or not, is a business.  Uhm, a school is a business.  It has a budget, and you’ve gotta be in the black at the end of the day.  So, you know, I said, I was talking it the other night, I said  that the role of the Board of Visitors, or we,  I guess we sort of said this together, is that the role of the Board of Visitors, and top administration in the University, should be first and foremost to create the perfect world.  To create the “This is our University, this is what we want it to be, this is what—if we could wave a magic wand, this is what it would be right now.”  Not thinking about money whatsoever.  And then the second step of that process is to look at the budget.  You look at how much money you have, you look at what you can fund, what you can’t fund… you look at every scenario of funding.  And then, you go back to your perfect world scenario and decide what’s the most important things.  Uhm…

R: So it’s a combination of both.

K: Yes.  You have to decide what the most important things are, and obviously it’s your perfect world, so everything is important, and so you strive to create that perfect world, and you know, your job… your first job is to implement what you can implement, and then strive to implement the rest of it over the next however many years, and that’s what a strategic plan is.  That’s what they’re trying to do now.  They’re trying to… they’re trying to implement that perfect world in the next, you know, however many years, and that is sort of… that’s what corporations everywhere do.  And you know, this school is a school, but it’s also a corporation.  And it has to be run like a business, because if you, you know, if you’ve got crappy management, we’re not gonna have any money, which means it’s not just the Spanish minor getting cut… it’s everything.

R: Everything.  Absolutely

K: Yeah

R: Sure.  So this past summer, you kind of talked about that balance.  Do you think that for a brief moment in time, the Board of Visitors kind of lost sight of the perfect world, and the making money, and the combination of both.

K: No.  I think that they thought they were striving to create that perfect world.  And if you talk to them, I think that they would agree.  They felt that that was the best decision for the University—the people that made the decision did, and so that was the next step in their perfect world.  You know, whether that’s correct or not, I don’t know. 

R: And to go along those same lines, I think a lot of people are frustrated with the Board of Visitors, not necessarily because of what they know, but because of what they don’t know.  What do you think the balance is, because obviously, to a certain degree, we will never understand everything—what happened this past summer.  Maybe because it’s so complex, and because there are so many factors that go into being involved, but also, what do you think… to many, the Board of Visitors is just so ambiguous, and it seems, it seems to a lot of students at least that they’re… they won’t talk. 

K: Yeah.  If you look at the way that businesses operate, they don’t talk about personnel decisions.  And I think that’s one thing—you know, it is very easy to talk about why you hire someone… you don’t talk about why you fire someone.  You know, unless it is a clear, like, a scandal, you know now we’re watching David Patreaus.  You know, that is, it’s very clear why he quit.  No one needs to be told in any greater detail why he decided to resign.  You know, though, if it is a personnel decision like the one this summer, the only real answer that sort of the… I guess… it’s coarsely simplified, but it’s in the best interest of the University that these two part way.

R: Right

K: You know?  And Rector Dragas, I think, finally, after a lot of pushing and shoving, you know, said a little bit more, but because it was so sudden and because of the way it was handled, it wasn’t gonna be enough.  It was like, everyone was arguing… everyone was yelling “We want more information,”… there was never going to be enough information to satisfy people.  You could’ve said—literally the only way that would’ve satisfied people is someone said “Oh, she committed some horrible crime.”  And people would’ve been like “Ehhhh… Okay.”  If Rector Dragas had come out and given a thousand statistics, people would’ve been like, “Well I still don’t see why this was necessary.  Uhm… and it’s because of the way it was handled.  And it’s not because it was a bad decision or a good decision.  It’s because of the way it was handled… uhm,

R: So it’s not because of motives, it’s because of how that was handled in the first place.

K: Exactly.  Yes.  I’ve actually gotta run in a few minutes, so if you’ve got like one more…

R:  Last question.  This is actually my last question.  What does this whole situation tell you about UVA, and what did you learn and/or discover, uhm, new about the University that you hadn’t before.

K: I’m incredibly grateful to be at an institution like this.  I am surrounded by an incredible peer network.  And I meet people that are smarter than me every single day.  And that to me is the most remarkable thing.  Not because I think I’m the smartest, but because I didn’t realize there were so many smart people out there.  And so, that to me was remarkable at UVA.  And I’ve said it a couple of times already, but you know, the things I learned were… things that were reinforced is… people make mistakes.  People make big mistakes everywhere, in every walk of life, every aspect, people make mistakes, and they pay for them.  There are consequences for mistakes.  Bad things happen when you do the right thing the wrong way.  And then also, people get hurt when… and institutions like UVA get hurt when you act on small pieces of information.  So that is how I can sum up this entire thing.  But I would never trade this institution over anywhere else in the world… I don’t want to be anywhere else.  I don’t hide… after this summer, I don’t hide who I am.  I enjoy talking about it.  I like it when people talk to me about it, and there is nothing bad to be gotten out of a civil conversation about it.  Yelling and protesting is going to do nothing at this point.  And so it, it is… there is much more… at this point there is much more that’s going to be done behind closed doors than outside on the Lawn. 

R: Awesome.  Appreciate it.

K: Yeah, thanks Ross.