Interview Transcript (Lindsay Kijewski)
P = Posie Holmes
L = Lindsay Kijewski
P: Alright my name is Posie Holmes and we are here with Lindsay. Can you spell your first name and last name as you would like it to appear on the record?
L: Yes. My name is Lindsay Kijewski; that’s L, I, N, D, S, A, Y (pause) K, I, J, E, W, S, K, I.
P: And we are here to do an interview as part of a class at the University of Virginia, which is Media Studies 3559: an oral history of the ouster and reinstatement; documenting UVa’s future. Can you go ahead and tell me a little bit about yourself? What is your role here at the university?
L: Okay I am a fourth year double major student in the College of Arts and Sciences. My majors are Media Studies and American Studies.
P: How did you hear about the resignation of President Sullivan?
L: I got the email that the Board of Visitors sent out in June. I was in New York for the period of time between the- for the entire period of time, the resignation through reinstatement for an internship so most of my communication about the case came through emails and social media.
P: Did you continue to follow it through email or as the events progressed did you use different sources to get your information?
L: Email ended up falling to the wayside a little bit. I found I got more of my information from Facebook and Twitter. I am a member of a Media Studies group on Facebook and Siva Vaidhyanathan, the chair of our department, was very vocal and very involved in the case and would post a lot of information up on that group about rallies and meetings and calling congressmen and things like that so I got most of my information I’d say probably from that Facebook group with Siva spearheading the effort.
P: How did your involvement in Media Studies change the way you perceived this information?
L: I guess the most- the most- or I guess the thing I noticed the most out of how the information was conveyed was really just the mode of information and the way it was passed along, if you will. The majority of the information was dispersed through Facebook and Twitter and emails and generally if this case had happened, you know, ten years ago or twenty years ago or even five years ago the modes would have been very different and I think in a much less effective way. If Facebook and Twitter were not so popular and you could rely on most people being able to follow information that is given through those media, then there wouldn’t have been any really effective mode of organizing so many of these happenings on grounds like the rallies and, you know, the heads on a stick and things like that. So I think it was just interesting the role that social media played in the case and how it unfolded.
P: What was your reaction to the news of President Sullivan’s resignations? What did you think? What did you feel? Who did you talk to about it?
L: At first I was surprised, and I was getting texts from a lot of my friends, mainly recent graduates from the university who were like, “What the heck T-Sul??” and all sorts of stuff like that. I was, I guess, surprised at first but I wasn’t- I didn’t suspect that anything was amuck here. I just assumed that basically what they said: that something had happened and that she was moving on to another position elsewhere and I thought it was a little strange but I didn’t think much of it and I certainly didn’t think that it would blow up into the national media spectacle that it did. But I didn’t think there was anything necessarily wrong with it until it was released that she had had no idea that this was going to happen, so that’s when I started realizing that maybe something was awry here.
P: And if you looked back is there any one point where you can pinpoint that you thought, “Wow”, something big is going on here? Any transitional moment for you here while this was going on?
L: I guess there were a lot of- when I started seeing University of Virginia’s name on national media publications in relation to this case, I guess that’s when I really started realizing. When Siva Vaidhyanathan released his article on Slate.com about the, you know, conspiracies and agendas in higher education, that also was a big turning point for me because I had no idea that this was really happening in higher education and much less at my own university. So, I mean, there were a couple of turning points. It was, I think like most people, the shocks just sort of kept on coming until the end and well, you know, still kind of now. But there wasn’t one turning point per say but rather a lot that made me realize more and more how, sort of, deep we were getting ourselves into.
P: Now after the reinstatement did all those feelings resolve themselves? Did you feel satisfied? Are you satisfied now?
L: I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied. I think that, you know, the fact that she was reinstated just given the nature of how the entire process was carried out was the correct decision, but I still don’t know what was at the root of what happened; why she was forced to resign to begin with and why the sudden- well obviously there was some really great grassroots efforts happening here at the university and people voiced their opinions and that meant that the Board of Visitors was under a lot of pressure to do what people were asking them to do but the Reinstate Sullivan Campaign didn’t start until later in the process. The first things we wanted were more information and when we didn’t get that I think it became apparent that until we get the information we need to make a decision, you have to put things back the way they were. And I think that’s where we are- they put things back the way they were but I still don’t know the answers. I don’t know it we will find out the answers or if we’re allowed to find out the answers, but I certainly think we should be able to. So I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied per say with everything. I am encouraged by the fact that the Board of Visitors did listen to what the community was saying and did what they were asking them to do to an extent but there is still a lot of work to be done.
P: So for you it’s an informational issue?
L: Yes, definitely. It wasn’t a matter of whether or not it was the correct decision for the university that she (she meaning President Sullivan) keep her job or not. It was for me just a fundamental issue of, you know, upholding trust in the community and when the Board of Visitors breached that trust between President Sullivan and themselves and the faculty and themselves and the students and themselves and, you know, and the greater university community, it just- any decision they that would have made at that point I wouldn’t have seen as credible and they needed to stop making action until they were willing to give the community the information that they needed to be informed on what happening at our university.
P: Now you talk about credibility; to you, in terms of governance of a university, what makes it a credible system of governance and leadership?
L: I think what makes the university’s governance credible is the fact that it takes the interests of the students and the faculty and the alumni and anyone else who may be involved, the staff and, you know, anyone, into consideration and when any one of those party’s interests get ignored then something isn’t being done correctly and I think the University of Virginia has had a great system of governance in the past. It would seem that the Board of Visitors and the students and the faculty and staff and administrators have all had the ability and facility of communication between parties to make effective decisions; this is just a sort of a bump in the road. We’re known here for a very strong system of student self-governance, as demonstrated by organizations like the Honor Committee and Student Council and University Judiciary Committee and things like that. So it’s obvious that, you know, we are students who have viewpoints and we can get jobs done on our own and it just, you know – when the Board of Visitors is to make a decision like that without consulting all the necessary parties, especially those that will be directly affected, like President Sullivan, it’s not fair and I think it puts- it’s like a kick in the face to the community of trust that everybody works so hard up to uphold here at the university.
P: Do you think this is over?
L: No way. I don’t think this is over at all. The fact that we are taking this class right now and that we are sitting here giving our oral histories of this case here at the university makes me think that we still have a lot of work left to be done. As I had stated earlier, the Board of Visitors- they restored what had been in place before but they don’t understand- well they probably do understand- the fact that now we’ve taken two steps back as for trust here between their group and the rest of the university community, and that’s one of the most important trust relationships that needs to be in place and right now I don’t think it’s there and there is a lot of work to be done to repair it. I think there needs to be a better system in place to ensure that transparency will be restored and that all people will strive to be transparent in their decision making here at the university and do it in the best interest of the majority of the university community as opposed to a few. So that’s just one, you know, area of work that needs to be done. I think, you know, there’s going to be a lot of studying and analysis of the case that happened and it will teach us a lot about our university and crisis and how we come together and deal with things when they happen. And I think that is going to be- that process will provide a lot of answers as well. But as for now it’s- it’s just sort of laying- not quite stagnant right now because it is being discussed. There are round table discussions happening all the time and rallies still for honor and transparency and things like that. But I think we have sort of hit a lull, a sort of calm after and before the storm, seeing as the President was reinstated which was, you know, obviously a great milestone for those working at the rallies and for the cause of transparency and everything. But I think we need to wake back up and realize that there’s the hardest work I think is still left to be done.
P: Did you think that the hardest work was yet to be done when you heard that President Sullivan was reinstated or is that an opinion that you developed from our class?
L: I think the foundation was there. When I found out that she was reinstated I said, “okay, but what’s going on?”. We still didn’t get any answers yet. We still don’t know what these “fundamental differences of opinions” are. We still don’t know a whole lot. They’ve banked a lot on the discrepancy between the Board of Visitor’s vision of the university and President Sullivan’s vision and their plans to carry that out. But we need details and we need information and coming from somebody who is about to be a young alumni come May- or a young alumnus come May- I am a little nervous about leaving the university in this state. No matter where I am, even if it is close or whatever, I will feel removed from the situation but I’ll yet, you know- this is a big point in my life because I’m going to need to figure out how I want to support my university that I absolutely adore and feel indebted to for the rest of my life, but in the same vein I need to know what’s happening and what needs to be done in order to best utilize what I can contribute here. So I think the feeling has only gotten deeper as I’ve been back here on grounds and seen the environment that’s going on around this case and taken this class but I think I knew even back then that yeah it was a small step but there is a lot of work to be done here.
P: What do you think about the types of people appointed to be voting members of the Board of Visitors and everything that happened this summer?
L: I’m not going to pretend that I know a ton about the Board of visitors because I really don’t.
P: Is that an issue?
L: I think it is and one of the reasons I’m in this class is to become more informed about the happenings here at the university. I mean I hadn’t even heard the name “Helen Dragas” except for on the occasional email until this started unfolding and it was a wake-up call not only for the Board of Visitors and the president and for everyone in this community that works very hard to ensure that the environment we’ve become accustomed to is safe, but it was a wake-up call for me as well. I didn’t- I mean as a member of this community who considers herself to be pretty involved, I think that I should know a little bit more about how it’s run and that’s my fault party. I think it falls a lot- it’s a community effort and as much effort as they take to know the interests of the students, that’s how much I should take to know more. So as for the make-up of the board and the decisions that they make, all I have to say is that I’ve never been disenchanted with anything that has been instituted by the Board of Visitors until now. I think in my first three years here at the university they have done a great job for all I know and I’ve never been upset, really, with any of the decisions made my any of the higher up parties in the university until this case. I would say that for the most part they are a great governing board that is effective and loves UVA and really- we have to remember that most of them have an affiliation with this place here too- and it’s almost- to be here and to know UVA is to love UVA. I think that they are just trying to act in its best interests but every once in a while people make mistakes and we have to make the best of that and work through it.
P: Alright we are going to stop the interview for now and we will revisit some of these questions later. So thank you so much!
L: Thank you.
P: I look forward to talking to you again.
L: You too!