The drama and disruption at the University of Virginia appears to be on its way to healing, with the university governing board voting unanimously to reinstate popular UVA President Teresa Sullivan. The battle was over money and mission, with the members of the board (made up of businesspeople) taking Sullivan to task for not moving quickly enough on reforms—reforms Sullivan said involved making deep cuts in education.
The central figure on the board's side was its chair, Helen Dragas, who was behind the secretive effort to oust Sullivan after two years. It's a testament to the power of protest, with faculty and students alike battling to get Sullivan reinstated.
It was about money, and it was about the role of higher education in our society. So why is there a focus on the players' gender?
Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorkak wonders in her column:
Are we so worried that Thomas Jefferson's "academic village" will be run like a fast-food chain? That the pride of the Old Dominion will turn into a drive-through degree mill that offers 25 percent off if you order online? Or really, is it just the woman-on-woman smackdown that makes us all keep tuning in?
True, women are still woefully underrepresented in positions of authority—in politics, in business and elsewhere. But is it really so compelling that the two central figures in this fight are both female? What is the presumption—that the only drama the media can understand is one in which to testosterone-filled men are duking it out like fighters in the OK Corral, or one in which the weak, beleaguered woman stands up to the boys' club trying to silence her?
The whole point of having women in power is that they can do their jobs—and even act badly in their jobs—just like the men. To reduce this serious dispute over the role of higher education into some petty female fight is insulting to all women—including Dragas. And it detracts from the real issue at hand.