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« Latercomers | Main | Burn after reading - Josh 171 »

Something strange at UVa

Anthony Watts has noticed some strange goings on at the University of Virginia.

Early on Sunday morning (6/10/2012), UVa Alumni received a stunning email sent by Helen E. Dragas, Rector, and Mark Kington, Vice Rector of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors, that conveyed startling news:

On behalf of the Board of Visitors, we are writing to tell you that the Board and President Teresa Sullivan today mutually agreed that she will step down as president of the University of Virginia effective August 15, 2012.

Anthony wonders if there might be a connection with the proposal to appoint Michael Mann to the Kington chair at UVa.

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Reader Comments (32)

Even the most evil people in history needed help.

The Joker had his henchmen.

Jun 11, 2012 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

Not able to access WUWT at the moment, anyone else having problems?

Jun 11, 2012 at 8:45 PM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Could be lots of reasons for this , many of them boring . But is the idea of appointing Michael Mann to the Kington chair at UVa an attempt to block the release of his e-mail by claiming he now works for UVa so they where not already released externally?

Because UVa and spent a lot of money and a lot of time supporting someone that no longer works and therefore so does not bring any cash nor prestige in. You have to ask , what is the 'value' of Mann to the UVa that they go so far for him?

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

If I were Mr Kington and I had anything at all to do with the Kington Chair, I would smash it with an axe rather than have it besmirched by contact with Mike Mann's ass.

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Kington created the chair with a 1.5 mil gift to the school to honor his father who was a scientist in Oak Ridge on the Manhattan project.

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

@Lord B - WUWT working for me (using Chrome)...

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:45 PM | Registered Commenterwoodentop

What is the Kington chair? A piece of art or a position at the board or what?

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSophus

@Shevva: Even the most evil people in history needed help.

Or, more generally, "Even Hell has its hereos" =)

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterdread0

Whatever the reason was, my guess is that we'll see some visible change in policy at UVa somewhere, sometime soon, that will clarify the dispute more than any public statement will.

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

re: the "Kington Chair in Environmental Change"

Climate Depot ran a brief bulletin on April 12, 2012 that the University of Virginia (or "UVA" as we refer to it over here in the states) was on the verge of offering Michael Mann an endowed professorship. The fact that nothing seems to have been announced since then is most curious, and could suggest a snag (since Morano was reporting that the Dept. of Environmental Sciences had voted in favor of the offer). Still, there are a variety of reasons a university may not conclude an offer/hiring process rapidly (sometimes these matters take many months or even years), and a departmental vote does not necessarily dictate a university offer, especially for a more prestigious "endowed" chair.

IF the report about the departmental vote is accurate, a hiring might still be pending, in negotiation, etc., or it might indeed have been blocked at some administrative or trustee level (although in US university governance it would be extremely controversial, almost unheard of I think, if trustees or regents involved themselves in blocking a specific academic appointment). It could be (more likely) that President Sullivan is embroiled in other univ. issues to do with budget and fundraising, which are normally the big areas for a univ. president, at least in the USA. Still, if Kington was unhappy with how the chair named in honor of his parents was being handled, that could have contributed to other conflict of vision, personality, etc. and he is the Vice-Rector (essentially #2 in the Board of Rectors). He is on record expressing grave concern recently about the university budgetary and planning situation (I linked a story at WUWT). They are under much financial pressure.

btw, it also seems curious that there is no more info for Morano's "Update #3" at this link, considering that he seemed to have some kind of inside source on this story:

The "Joe D and Helen J Kington Professor in Environmental Change"???

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:32 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

So UVA is having financial difficulties and the State of Virginia Government is not coming to the rescue, while at the same time UVA is spending megabucks to prevent the release of Mann's e-mails ..... hmmmm. Then the UVA Faculty, which has backed not releasing Mann's e-mails (to the Virginia Attorney General and an FOIA request), decides to take an overt swipe at Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli by offering Mann a prestigious position. I would say that there is not a good relationship between the current UVA administration/faculty and the State of Virginia Government administration. That is not healthy.

Jun 12, 2012 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterdrcrinum

The plot thickens. Breitbart is reporting that Sullivan has a history with scientific misconduct charges, as well as investigations that exonerate without actually asking the tough questions.

Jun 12, 2012 at 12:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Watts

Can someone supply a motive for any of this?

Jun 12, 2012 at 12:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

I browsed a University blog (sorry, don't remember the URL) and the speculations there said little about Mann (past, present or future), and seemed to revolve mostly around Sullivan's publicly stated determination to seek pay raises for the professors at a time when overall University budgets will likely be shrinking, which would either necessitate tuition increases or additional appropriations from the State of Virginia legislature. I'm not too familiar with Virginia's budget, and most U.S. states have had budget shrinkage over the past 4 years due to the economic downturn. But much of Virginia's population is in the Washington D.C. area, which of course has many Federal government workers and contractors. So perhaps Virginia's budget may not be as dire as other states.

Comments from students and univ. staff were generally supportive of Sullivan, and surprised, saddened or outraged over her firing.

Jun 12, 2012 at 1:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

Hmmm, might this have anything to do with it?

Jun 12, 2012 at 2:04 AM | Unregistered Commentermitchel44

It is strange to fire a president after two years. Still, I tend to doubt the Mann angle. U-Va. is a large school, and even with his ego Mann would be just one of many tenured profs there, assuming the endowment were to go through.

My guess, based on the cryptic comments by the school provost, is that the woman was not raising enough money.

Jun 12, 2012 at 2:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJBirks

O/T but wondering if u saw this, Bish:

8 June: Guardian: Tony Levene: A green investment that turned hazardous
An explosion in high-pressure selling of carbon credit schemes is exploiting green investors. Tony Levene reveals how one company has left buyers with losses of up to £50,000
Guardian Money can reveal how one City of London firm that specialised in selling carbon credits to private investors looks set to be liquidated in the high court at the end of this month.
The court will hear from the official receiver that the company, Tullett Brown, should be wound up on public interest grounds following the presentation of a petition by the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills. The firm is in provisional liquidation and its website has been taken down.
It will be unclear how much was invested in Tullett Brown, or how many investors have lost money, until after the court hearing on 29 June. But with many investing £10,000 or more, the total is likely to run to seven figures. It is understood that one investor alone put £50,000 into carbon credits via the firm. But there is little hope of any substantial recovery of funds…
***This week an elderly Guardian Money reader in Eastbourne, East Sussex, wrote to complain about having received “several pressured telephone calls to invest in one form or another in the certificates”. Why, he wondered, has the Guardian not warned readers about these calls?
The answer, in the case of Tullett Brown, is simple. The firm employed firms of lawyers to gag the Guardian and, subsequently, other media. One firm threatened a consumer website with “injunction proceedings” if it failed to remove a Tullett Brown story. A second threatened me (I’m a freelance journalist and former Money staffer) with personal libel proceedings for posting a warning on Twitter...

Jun 12, 2012 at 6:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

The UVa has spent a lot of money defending Mann, I wonder who funded that? On the other hand his recent book, or rather it's contents, would make any normal person wonder if he is a serious academic. "Mutual consent" in my experience at least, is a code for "big pay off".

Jun 12, 2012 at 6:34 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Thanks Woodentop, a reboot has cured the ills.

Jun 12, 2012 at 7:35 AM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook


'"Mutual consent" in my experience at least, is a code for "big pay off".'

True. But it usually involves a 'we aren't going to hurt each other or say anything at all' clause as well.

You can think of it as 'hush money'.

I don't think we've heard the last of this little escapade............

Jun 12, 2012 at 7:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Regarding the Breitbart article update:

friends and former colleagues ... quickly completed an error-filled investigation

Why's that sound familiar? ;)

Jun 12, 2012 at 7:46 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

What the academics have failed to notice is that the Internet has broken down the walls of their ivory towers and the hordes of 'citizen scientists' are piling through the breach.

Maybe even five years ago they could get away with all sorts of shenanigans and duplicity within their closed little in the knowledge that it would only be fellow academics with access to their innermost secrets and that they could be controlled by the usual means threats of career limitation and intimidation. Hence their failure to debate 'the science' in favour of grandstanding and denunciation of any opposing views.

These tactics work if - and only if - the dissenting party has a substantial personal and/or economic stake in academia. And has worked well when the only possible mavericks are grad students or postdocs who desperately need a 'good reputation' to secure employment, bed and board for their next career step.

But they are spectacularly ineffective against anybody who doesn't adhere to this profile. Judith Curry, for example, is moving towards the end of her academic career. I'd guess that this has given her the freedom to examine the AGW case more dispassionately and she has had the courage to voice her doubts.

But outside academe those sanctions have no effect. Anthony Watts does not seem to me like a guy who is easily intimidated, nor who seeks the good opinion of the climatology establishment. He and his readers are good at finding those nasty little stones where bad academic things are buried and, just for fun, lifting them up to see what emerges. Ofttimes it is something that the establishment hoped would never see the light of day.

McSteve, Ross, Douglas, Andrew, Jean S, Willis and countless others (no disrespect meant if you don't get a name check) are great at the next and most terrifying stage..actually checking the academic's work and publishing its deficiencies. One might argue that this is what 'peer-review' is supposed to do anyway. To which the counter argument is that the results show it has been a very poor mechanism for actually doing so.

And I doubt if any of that crew (or myself) are at all susceptible to academic blandishments or blackmail. Its probably fair to say that McIntyre isn't on The Team's Xmas card list, and even fairer to say that I doubt he cares.

Twenty years ago these sceptics would have been far less effective. Geographically dispersed we'd have had to rely on snail mail and samizdat copies of THSI. But the internet allows instant worldwide communication and groups of like-minded individuals to come together without a formal organisation, work on something and then disperse until new formations occur in response to more news or scandals or whatever. Worth remembering that we are the first people in human history who have had this opportunity.

Twenty years ago the alarmists would have won hands down. But today we realists have the tools to give a different result.

Jun 12, 2012 at 8:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

[snip] Academics need to smarten up their game considerably. Their cosy incestuous world will never be the same again. They may dislike this development intensely, but it would be fatal for them to ignore it and hope it will all pass over. It won't.

Jun 12, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Just for the record, the study and development of 'science' is open to all: just because you're not paid to do it (i.e. you're not a professional scientist) does not mean you cannot contribute... take Einstein, for example.

Moreover, if memory serves, Watts played a major roll in auditing the quality of weather stations around the US, so I think he's quite entitled to be considered as a scientist.

Jun 12, 2012 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

Shuchman, a Prof at Rutgers, made charges about the 1989 Sullivan et al research on the role of health costs in bankruptcy back. To the best of my knowledge, nothing has been proved nor in fact demonstrated to be wrong though others have sharply contested their results. Among the charges were that Sullivan et al had not made their data available so that others could replicate the results.

Jun 12, 2012 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Sullivan's dirty washing now emerging appears to be a remarkably similar issue to that of Mann, and with a high political profile.

Then Hilary Ostrov notes: Sullivan’s CV… indicates that her background and areas of interest… are very far removed from anything that might impinge upon the holy writs of “climate science”. The closest thing I could find …was her participation in the NRC’s 2007-09 “Committee on Ensuring the Utility and Integrity of Research Data in a Digital Age”.

Shades of Gleick's double-standard behaviour as well as Mann's data-obstructivism. Then we find that Mark Kington, son of those whose donated Chair was going to be offered to Mann, is a strong Republican supporter... and is not amused...

Jun 12, 2012 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker


Jun 12, 2012 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker

Probably worth pointing out that Professor Sullivan was famous in some academic-administrative circles for wondering why her academic staff needed to travel outside of Virginia. Apparently she resigned over 'philosphical differences' which might suggest many things, but quite a lot of money is on this being a key problem - she failed to grasp the importance of being internationally-connected in modern academia, which is basically the big career no-no (far worse than dubious scientific practice).

Jun 12, 2012 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterWatchman

Patrick J Michaels is a climatologist who has close association with the Environmental Science department at the University of Virginia. He was a tenured professor there until not many years ago, when he was pushed out.

And he is intrigued, even as he adds details from his departmental contacts:

michaelspj says:
June 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm
Inside baseball:

In April, the Department of Environmental Sciences voted to offer the Kington Chair, donated by Board of Visitors’ Vice-Rector Mark Kington, to Mike Mann. This was Mann’s Department when he was at UVa.

The vote was at the urging of Associate Dean for the Sciences, James Galloway, who also is a very powerful member of the Environmental Sciences Department faculty. He is a far-left greenie, and pretty ruthless. But, such an appointment has to be approved by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Meredith Woo.

My Enviornmental Science contacts down there are minimizing the Department’s activity, under the assumption that Dean Woo would surely have enough sense to not go along with the Deparment’s vote. That being said, UVa is a “Chair-oriented” university, with the Dean usually not interfering with departmental hiring votes. So it is quite possible that it was approved. I have no information about this and my “friends” have clammed up.

Kington was one of three BOV members who met to recommend Sullivan’s termination/resignation. Whether Mann and the Department were any factor in this, whether it ever got to the level of the University President (it should have), and what she would have done about it are things that we just do not know.

One thing is certain: “philosophical differences” aren’t sufficient to support such a drastic and sudden action against a person who I believe was genuinely liked by most everyone there. Nor is a slight donor shortfall. Nor is a decline in research funding because the “stimulus” money ran out (Mann had, I think, about $600K in stimulus money at PSU).

One candidate is that her sacking of Leonard Sandridge, the COO with Charlottesville connections that go back to the ice age, may have encouraged revenge, and this was it. Whatever, it is dark, dirty and unseemly behavior that begs for a real explanation.

SOURCE emphasis added

Jun 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterOrson

Just to add a little flavor -- Sullivan's co-authors on the very questionable bankruptcy research included Elizabeth Warren (who has a long history of such questionable research). For those outside the USA, Warren is presently running for the US Senate in Massachusetts as a Democrat. Warren is presently embroiled in an embarrassing scandal since it came out that she has claimed to be a minority (i.e. Native American, aka American Indian) to take advantage of affirmative action policies in getting hired by various law schools during her career including Harvard. She claimed to be a minority on the basis that she was 1/32 Cherokee according to supposed family lore that her great, great, great grandfather might have been Cherokee. But the Cherokees keep great records and her claim proved busted. [Ignoring for the moment the sheer ridiculousness of claiming minority status on the basis of 1/32]. What makes it even more interesting is that Warren is an extreme wacko lefty who has taken credit for helping to start the bizarre Occupy movement (noted for its rampant crime and disgusting hygiene). She was so left-wing that Obama tried to appoint her to be his new consumer finance czar, but Congress wouldn't approve her.

Jun 12, 2012 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

"an extreme wacko lefty ": come, come. The Law Squaw may have dubious morals, but your description of her is plain silly.

Jun 12, 2012 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

“I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do,” the Harvard Law School professor and former Obama administration consumer advocate told Samuel P. Jacobs of The Daily Beast. “I support what they do.”

The Occupy crazies are as extreme wacko lefty as one is likely to find in the US.

Jun 12, 2012 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

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