No, The Conflict At The University Of Virginia Has Got Nothing To Do With A 'Queen Bee Scenario'

Back when the contretemps that's currently engulfing the University of Virginia concerning the ouster of University President Teresa Sullivan started heating up in earnest, I was worried that someone, somewhere in the world, would look at the conflict between the president and the school's rector, Helen Dragas, and reduce the whole matter to some dumb "women in the workplace" story. This would have cemented the tiresome cliche that co-working women inevitably turn into bitter enemies in some grand intra-gender war for supremacy. Happily, people out there in the world did a good job of not doing that.

Until today, anyway! This morning, the Washington Post's Petula Dvorak decided to do some high-test concern trolling on the conflict at the University of Virginia, in which she wondered if all the interest in the story is not about the future of the institution or competing visions about higher education, but rather if it's "just the woman-on-woman smackdown that makes us all keep tuning in?"

It has come down to a clash of two successful women, and they are both great characters, both firsts in their positions ...

Snape vs. Dumbledore, but female.

It is difficult to understand exactly why Dragas called for Sullivan’s resignation. The best we got was “philosophical differences” and a charge that she wasn't moving fast enough on a vision for the university’s future, in her two years there.

That’s why the Queen Bee scenario seems to make so much sense here.

Does the "Queen Bee scenario" really "make so much sense here?" Sure! Provided you have not read any of the stories that have been written about the conflict, all of which very decidedly rule out the "Queen Bee scenario."

One of the reasons that it might have been, at one point, "difficult to understand exactly why Dragas called for Sullivan’s resignation" has to do with the fact that Dragas very pointedly refused to articulate why she called for Sullivan's resignation. This is a big reason why the ouster drew such outrage from the university community. As board member Heywood Fralin made clear when he dissented with the rest of the board during last week's 11-hour meeting that culminated with its naming McIntire School of Commerce Dean Carl Zeithaml as interim president, "[I have] not been presented with evidence that I believe merits asking for her resignation.”

But since then, there has been a lot of reporting on the matter that makes "why Dragas called for Sullivan's resignation" clearer and precisely none of it has to do with the relative femaleness of any of the parties. The Cavalier Daily obtained email exchanges between Dragas and the school's vice rector, Mark Kington -- who is a man, by the way -- in which they discusses their plot to remove Sullivan.

By their reasoning, Sullivan was not moving quickly enough on the initiatives they had glommed onto after passing a bunch of op-eds on online education back and forth to each other. We also know that Dragas and Kington -- again, he is a dude -- favored profit-center programs over old-guard academic programs, like German language studies and the classics.

Dragas and Kington were, to a certain extent, cheered on in this initiative by Peter Kiernan, formerly of the Darden School of Commerce's Foundation Board -- who also possesses male genitalia -- and who praised their commitment to "the strategic dynamism effort." In an email that ended up getting inadvertently leaked to the public, Kiernan wrote:

The decision of the Board of Visitors to move in another direction stems from their concern that the governance of the university was not sufficiently tuned to the dramatic changes we all face: funding, Internet, technology advances, the new economic model ... These are matters for strategic dynamism rather than strategic planning.

Not much there for a gender studies major to go on, I'm afraid.

Given that all of this has been pretty widely reported, it's a little late for Dvorak to be interjecting this thesis, which has long been demonstrated to be false. In fact, it's puzzling that she's wondering if it's "the woman-on-woman smackdown that makes us all keep tuning in," as no one who has been tuned in could possibly be wondering that.

By the way, as anyone with a passing understanding of the Harry Potter series -- which I'll remind you includes elementary school children -- could tell you, Snape and Dumbledore were allies, not antagonists.

So go read a newspaper or a book, Petula Dvorak.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: I've added additional detail, noting that Mr. Kiernan was a member of the Darden School of Commerce's Foundation Board, so as to avoid any confusion with that school's Dean, Robert Bruner. My apologies to all readers who may have been confused.]

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