Thursday, June 21, 2012

Did PR Firm VP John Ullyot Write Dragas' June 21 Statement?

This, from cvillenewscom on twitter, is really something.  When you look at the "General Info" box of University of Virginia Rector Helen Dragas' June 21 statement explaining the dismissal of popular President Teresa Sullivan, the "author" field doesn't have Dragas' name on it.  Instead, it has "John Ullyot".  You can download the file here, from the Richmond, VA Times-Dispatch and see for yourself.  (On a PC, it'll probably be called "Properties").  Here it is as I saw it:

So who's John Ullyot?  A Senior Vice President for Media Relations and Issues Management at PR firm Hill & Knowlton, which has in the past taken on clients including the tobacco industry and the Church of Scientology.  He's also gone on Fox News and CNN as a "Republican Strategist".  He doesn't appear to have any especially strong connection to the University of Virginia community, having done his undergrad degree at Harvard and then gone to the Marine Corps.  He was a high-level staffer for Virginia Republican Senator John Warner, though.

So what just happened here?  It looks like Helen Dragas' statement justifying Sullivan's firing, and explaining how it fit into a larger vision for the University, was actually put together by an external PR firm that's happy to take on all kinds of sinister clients.  Those who were worried about a takeover by outside forces that don't understand or care about how to build a good University will find their suspicions confirmed.
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