Genoways stays: UVA's VQR investigation a whitewash?

snap-teresa-sullivan-smAlthough UVA President Teresa Sullivan allowed VQR editor Ted Genoways to keep his job, she's called for University-wide changes by which "employee complaints about their supervisors can be taken, registered, and followed up."


The same day the Hook published a cover story [Conflicting Tales: The unfolding tragedy at the VQR] on the conflicting tales surrounding what went on at the Virginia Quarterly Review before the July 30 suicide of its managing editor, UVA released an anticipated audit report (with responses written by UVA President Teresa Sullivan) on the magazine's finances and management that presents even more conflicting information.

While editor Ted Genoways and other staff members will not be losing their jobs, unspecified "corrective action" will be taken regarding Genoways' handling of VQR finances, his poor management style, his failure to provide his staff with the information they needed to do their jobs, and his failure to adhere to UVA policies in the treatment of his staff.

While Genoways hasn't yet responded to the Hook for comment, he told the New York Times that the report lacked "a clear statement of the facts."

“I suppose they don’t want to state my innocence too plainly, because it makes their actions – cleaning out my office, canceling the winter issue – look panicked and ill-considered,” Genoways told the Times. “But I think moving on will require greater honesty.”

The report concludes that while complaints were received about Genoways' management of the magazine, no "specific allegations of bullying or harassment" were made before Morrissey's death. However, as the report later recommends, "the current structure for receiving employee complaints needs to be re-evaluated by the University."

In addition, what was revealed about the inner workings of the magazine has prompted the creation of a University-wide "task force" to "strengthen the institution’s policies and structure with regard to acceptable workplace conduct," which includes "developing a structure within Human Resources in which employee complaints about their supervisors can be taken, registered, and followed up."

Essentially, the report appears to have ignored the numerous complaints made after Morrissey's death, as well as charges of harassment made by one former VQR staff member, 30-plus-year veteran Candace Pugh, in 2005. However, as UVA spokesperson Carol Wood points out, the audit report covers operations at the magazine only during the last two years.

hotseat-genoways1"I can't see any situation in which Molly [Minturn] and I would work with Ted [Genoways] again," says VQR assistant editor/circulation manager Shelia McMillen.


The report did cite reports of Genoways "not being courteous or respectful with some contributors and colleagues," and "problems with certain employees" in the past, but concluded that no reports "ever seemed to rise to the level of a serious, on-going concern." However, that conclusion appears to conflict with comments made by Genoways himself, who has said that office tensions since the beginning of the year had "grown poisonous," and that he hadn't known until recently "how severe" the complaints that his staff had lodged against him before he took leave in June for a fellowship had become.

The report also concludes that it is "sometimes difficult to define where the line gets crossed between a tough manager and an unreasonable one," but, as already mentioned, recommends that the University take "corrective action" with regard to Genoways concerning his financial dealings (including $2,000 in VQR funds used to subsidize the publishing of his own poetry, numerous undocumented credit card purchases, and careless spending of the magazine's endowment) and management style. Sullivan did not specify what kind of correction action would be taken, saying only that it was a personnel issue that would be handled confidentially.

The report makes no mention of VQR development manager Alana Levinson-Labrosse, the daughter of major UVA donor Frank Levinson (and a major donor herself), whose hiring was exempt from standard UVA posting and search requirements, and who had little or no fundraising experience. In addition, documents obtained by the Hook show that Frank Levinson "tentatively" planned to commit $150,000 to the VQR. In fact, a reliable source says he had already cut a check to the VQR in July for $75,000. According to those same documents, Levinson-Labrosse planned to use the $1.5 million she'd committed to UVA's Young Writer's Workshop to help the VQR.

And while the report finds that that "UVA personnel responded to employee concerns in accordance with institutional policies and procedures," it cites flawed oversight of VQR's operations and later recommends that the University give HR personnel more authority to enforce UVA policy and intervene when employee complaints arise.

In September, Genoways told the Hook that the "real problem" concerning continued financing of the VQR was the falling stock market between 2007 and 2009, which affected the magazine's invested endowment payouts. However, while the audit report says that "some decreases" in the endowment were caused by the economy, it alleges that financial strain was "largely the result" of Genoways having spent $475,000 from the principal amount of an estimated $800,000 "rainy day" fund established by former editor Staige Blackford (which was created from savings Blackford had accumulated over the 28 years he served as editor) between 2006 and 2009.

Genoways has said he was told to "spend down" that endowment, but UVA's Wood has said the University was unaware of such a directive, and that it was not consistent with UVA policy. As for the management of VQR's finances, the audit report is pretty clear: "The investment funds arguably were not spent in a judicious manner with regard for the needs of the future. There was more of a focus on generating new investment funds than on being frugal with the current funds."

However, while the report criticizes Genoways for not being frugal, there's no questioning the University's decision to approve a $170,000 compensation package for the editor. By comparison, only four high-ranking faculty in the English Department make the same or more that Genoways, and among the Pulitzer, National Book Award, and and MacArthur Fellowship winners in the University's Creative Writing program, Genoways makes as much as the highest paid faculty members. Typically, editors of University literary magazines are faculty members as well, though that hasn't been the case historically at the VQR. For example, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is currently looking for a new editor for Prairie Schooner, a highly regarded literary magazine, who is expected to teach undergraduate and graduate classes in the English department as well. Here at UVA, The Hedgehog Review, a tri-quarterly "intellectual" journal published through the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, is co-edited by two current faculty members with a combined base salary of $125,000.

"There are a number of details still to be worked out with individual employees," Wood says in the aftermath of the audit report's release.  "Employees will be given the time they need to decide whether they wish to remain with VQR or pursue other options."

For remaining VQR staffers Shelia McMillen and Molly Minturn, who've been unequivocal in their condemnation of Genoways' leadership and his treatment of Morrissey, that doesn't present much of a choice.

"I can't see any situation in which Molly [Minturn] and I would work with Ted [Genoways] again," says McMillen, who says she found the audit report "extremely disappointing."  McMillen has a storied past with the VQR herself, having been a reader for former editor Blackford for many years (McMillen discovered many writers, including Christopher Tilghman, who now teaches in UVA's creative writing program) and was the co-editor, with late UVA prof George Garrett, of one of only two VQR anthologies, Eric Clapton's Lover and Other Stones from the Virginia Quarterly Review (University Press of Virginia, 1990).

"The University will help me find another job," says McMillen. "I just hope it's not editing the newsletter of the Department of Plastic Surgery."

Updated 10/22/2010

Updated 10/24/2010


Security cameras. And frankly, how about a couple of cops walking the Corner between 10pm and 2am on Friday and Saturday nights? I don't think that's too much to ask. As it is, they do nothing and this has gone on for years.


Would you have them declare martial law? Increase the police force by 500? Racial profiling? What more can they do to protect students after dark?

Typical UVA response: nothing (couched in the language of a report). What is UVA doing to protect students after dark? The same nothing (report to come, I'm sure).

Read the UVA report,read a number of media accounts of the case. Most mature, fair-minded people will I hope agree, this report, not addressing Pugh's case or the full spectrum of available testimonies,is a typical UVa admin whitewash: protect the institution is always Mission One. Second, do not criticize the former Great Helmsman and Earth-Mover, President Casteen, Genoway's boss.
Item, the mag was in financial trouble and never fully self-supporting.How did UVa justify a $170K editor's salary? higher than nearly all Humanities chaired professorships.

I was truly hoping that Sullivan would make a difference, I see now my hopes have been dashed beyond any type of repair. So goes it for UVa and their employees until the next "change of the guard". Unfortunately, I am sure another Casteen/Sullivan will be chosen to steer the helm. UVa could have been a trailblazer in the field of "workplace bullying" or bullying of any type for that matter, yet the administration has chosen to stick their head in the sand.....unfortunate and sad.

This story has shown us that the reason why the management job of this literary magazine gets paid more than the manager of the City of Charlottesville is because its so much harder to run and complex than the whole City of Charlottesville. (At least its my understanding that the new City manager will not start out at 170K a year)

This is an unfortunate outcome, but sadly typical. We've all seen it happen, the boss is a problem, so you follow the rules and then somehow they're given a "confidential corrective action" while you are labled the "problem." It's also why no one actually ever trusts an HR department, you know that no matter what they say, they're there to help the management, not the employees, even when it's as blatantely obvious that management was wrong, as in this case. Even here, where there's an entire staff and former employees saying this, this man gets to keep a six-figure job while everyone else is left with the decision to either find another job or go back to dealing with him.

It seems to be the normal response for UVA, as I know of another person (no, not me) with a similarly "poisonous" boss who, after several complaints and a near breakdown, was given the same option. She was fortunate to move, but the boss is still there, making people miserable.

As for the C'ville, I stopped reading it long ago due to it's poor reporting and lousy content.

As usual, the University's written response to the VQR's circumstances--and particularly Sullivan's interpolations in the auditor's report--is an exercise in derriere-covering, veneer application, and bureaucratic twaddle.

And unless I missed it, there's no mention of the gross violation of university policy entailed in the hiring of Alana Levinson-LaBrosse, which was one of the precipitating factors in the whole sorry mess.

Meanwhile--no surprise on the c-ville issue. The Hook has been eating their lunch in the investigative journalism department for years--it isn't even close--and C-ville is far and away in second place in this department. The kids who inhabit the newsdesks at the Progress and the tv news outlets in this town compile internet reports and write summaries of press releases. At least they do a pretty decent job with High School football.

There are so many issues that come to light as a result of this story. My comment is regarding only two.

The first issue is the audit report's release.

I think President Sullivan is doing a very smart thing by responding to the audit and defending current HR personnel. From a leadership perspective, she is binding these employees to her and earning their loyalty. The message will be sent to all employees (excluding those that used to work at VQR, of course) that she is one of them and will defend them when a defense of their actions can reasonably be made.

The other issue is the way that local media outlets are treating this story.

This is no getting around the fact that this is a small town and everybody knows everybody else. That there would be two free weekly papers in a town this size is a fluke. But the contrast in how these papers are treating this story is instructive.

Reading the articles and editorials in the C-Ville Weekly leads me to believe that a prior personal or professional relationship between Ted Genoways and C-Ville Weekly staff has colored their reporting.

Cathy Harding wrote in an editorial that she believes Ted Genoways was treated unfairly and that there was a rush to judgment. The article in that issue of C-Ville Weekly is recapped above and speaks for itself. C-Ville Weekly's blurb (and it's hard to call it more than that) on the audit report was essentially a recap of the report with little to no analysis.
Today there is an "update" on this blurb which amounts to printing Ted Genoways' lawyer's response to the audit report, as if a lawyer's words somehow casts light on the facts of the case.

It seems as if C-Ville Weekly simply does not care to know what the truth is regarding the tragedy of Ted Genoways' management, nor to perform any sort of analysis of the audit report. It certainly looks like C-Ville Weekly has chosen sides with Ted Genoways and that all reporting on this story will reflect this choice.

As an editor at a university, I'm nonplussed to see what this guy was getting paid at a quarterly. How did UV justify such an unseemly salary? In addition, was there no oversight as he spent down a considerable endowment left by the previous editor? The interest from that endowment could have funded the quarterly into the next century. Oh, but wait - this guy paid writers the kind of money NY magazines pay them. Why wasn't this guy in NY trying to make his name with a corporate magazine like the New Yorker? Being narcissistic by their standards is a virtue, not a vice. He obviously took advantage of an "old-fashioned" university, and the university, just as unethically, allowed him too much leeway in hopes of burnishing its lagging literary reputation in the academic world. Sad, and a lesson learned, I hope, at UV and in the larger university literary community.

ââ?¬Å?I suppose they don’t want to state my innocence too plainly, because it makes their actions
ââ?¬â? look panicked and ill-considered,” Genoways told the Times.

No, Mr. Genoways, they don't want to state your GUILT too plainly, because admission of wrongdoing would leave the university exposed to lawsuits. Anyone who can read through the weasel words and evasion can see that you are clearly not "innocent" by any standard. You're lucky you still have a job. And as for your reputation, what has happened--what you did and the death of Kevin Morrissey--will surely follow you the rest of your life.I won't say it will haunt you because that would credit you with feelings of responsibility and empathy you clearly don't have.

I wonder if the audit and reorganization enables a redefinition of the editor's appointment and a "special salary action" by the BOV.

Secondly, I wonder what liabilities for the University this audit may unintentionally create. If there are future problems, are they more vulnerable to a suit?

It is time for this guy to move on. I am sure there is a Wendy's somewhere that needs a night shift manager to keep those kids in line.

I would like to see this guy get fired just so people can see how far he would fall having to compete in the real world.

UVA's audit makes me want to vomit. Literally every player gets a pass, except the staff. After all they have gone through, it's another punch in the gut. Good luck everybody reporting an incompetent, absent, cruel, crooked, secretive, toxic manager to HR.
Please, please bring on the lawsuits with the best lawyers in the country.

It's sad that the blerb about Dunkin' Dounuts has more comments than this sad for Cville/Albemarle County...guess this one isn't "NEWS" anymore....So let me go grab my doughnut from Spudnuts while UVa continues to keep the "queen" protected.

Whitewash - business as usual. Seems the new administration has the same goal as the old one: not to be embarassed. It doesn't matter if people are getting raped (literally) if they can sweep it under the rug. That is why things like the black drapes on the Rotunda are so hypocritical.

jeezlouise: yep. that's life in the state of nature: nasty, brutish, and short.

U Va wanted a woman in the President's office. About time, long past due even. Well and good, they got a woman in the President's office. But they certainly didn't get a President. This is no Margaret Thatcher, or Golda Meir. Weak, yielding, clueless--she let Genoways dictate the outcome of his investigation? He took $2000 to publish his own poetry at a vanity press. Another guy got jail time just for taking home a U Va laptop. Genoways depletes an endowment fund by $440,000, and she gives him a pat on the back? A new non-boss, and a new budget? U Va's wealthier alumni didn't get rich by being stupid: they'll see this clueless President for what she is, and stop giving. Would you endow money when people like Ted Genoways roam free to loot it? My guess is the capital campaign will take a hit, maybe even founder. Certainly U Va isn't getting any of my buck$---I just wrote them out of my Will.

I wonder whether Mr. Genoways will repay the $2000 he spent from the VQR coffers to support the publication of his own book. In cases of subvention, which this practice is called, a professor always has university permission to spend such an amount or is granted the subvention money, not that Mr. Genoways was a professor. It's inconceivable to take money from the venerable Review's budget for personal gain precisely because the editor is charged with protecting the journal and his staff -- so that both succeed. Mr. Genoways has always been concerned with one goal: consolidating power for himself, neither a desirable nor useful trait in an editor, who ultimately must champion others.

Hmmm's comment is impressive, especially the part about the VQR's endowment having been sufficient (before Genoways bled it) to keep the mag going for a long time. Thowing irreplaceable capital at any print mag project in these times is just crazy nuts. The economy and the overall impact of the internet on print publishing are causing major havoc across the industry. Never mind the fate of the little magazines, iconic commercial magazines that have long known how to cover foreign wars (a category that Genoways apparently aspired to, based on 4 soldier covers in a row!) are barely functioning. The last Time Magazine I received as a subscriber was easily folded flat in fourths like a pamphlet and slipped into my pocket. And Genoways thought this would be the time to spend down the endowment inventing the wheel, while an obviously uninformed, foolishly indulgent U. President had his back. I honestly think Genoways' thinking appears impaired. And now the University moves the VQR from the President's office (ridiculous that was!) to a Vice President's office? (Did I read VP of R&R or some such?) Wake up, Madam President. Put your lit mag in the English Department where it belongs under control of the people who know something about writing and reading and support them as they re-build a good, literary "little" magazine such as VQR once was. Or at least turn the remaining endowment over to the English Department so it can start the New Quarterly while the old one expires of its own absurdity.

If you want a Harvard Business Review case study which will explain tactfully how management reacts during a massive publicity event which casts the management in a bad light, then this is for you. Reward the cause of the problem even with uncontrolled spending and no adequate audit by anyone. Tell us you are on top of the burning fire with your little garden hose and hope to put out the flames? This compares with the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico with the CEO walking the plank and the new CEO treating us to more blame the media and not his predecessor for the damages. I see a Gothic non-fiction work coming out: set in the South, weird characters with flawed personalities, institutional skulduggery, finger pointing based on point of view insisting each only knew a part of the facts, and anecdotes to enliven the dialog. Call it the conflict of competing authors trying to pitch publishers and extracting as high a price as possible in a bidding war.

UVA = beehive

workers are completely dispensable. queen is protected at all costs.

How things work in University Land. The report has carefully skirted individual responsibilities.Yet it is hard to believe that Mr Genoways can function well as editor after this case and with bad relations with the powerful English dept.So things will be allowed to simmer down and at some point in the spring a power person will suggest to Mr Genoways that for the his own good and the good of the U and the publication, that he move on, which if he does quietly, will be facilitated by good UVa relations/connections, resulting in a decent job.


"Security cameras. And frankly, how about a couple of cops walking the Corner between 10pm and 2am on Friday and Saturday nights? I don’t think that’s too much to ask. As it is, they do nothing and this has gone on for years."

There are multiple cops on the corner every night of the week, and more on weekends. There is usually one or two around LIttle Johns and another one walking around.

I don't know about security cameras.

Seeing the salaries at this magazine makes it harder for me to believe UVa can't afford the living wage plan for all its workers.

"UVA = beehive
workers are completely dispensable. queen is protected at all costs."

Same as the business world my friend.