Thursday, March 22, 2012

University of Illinois president to step down

By Jamey Dunn

Almost a month after several high-profile faculty members called for his resignation, University of Illinois President Michael Hogan has decided to step aside.

The university announced today that Hogan will step down July 1, when Robert Easter, a long time University of Illinois employee and current interim vice chancellor for research on the Urbana-Champaign campus, is slated to take his place. A news release from the U of I said that after he resigns from the presidency, Hogan plans to continue working for the university as a tenured professor.

“It has been a distinct honor and privilege to serve as president of the University of Illinois,” Hogan said in a prepared statement. “While the university has faced some significant organizational and budgetary challenges over the past several years, we have initiated the reforms necessary to modernize and streamline our business functions and redirect the savings to academic purposes. The underpinnings of this great institution are sound." Hogan took the job at U of I in 2010 after then-President B. Joseph White resigned as part of the fallout from an admissions scandal. Before coming to Illinois, Hogan was president of the University of Connecticut.

The news of Hogan’s resignation comes after the U of I Board of Trustees received a letter in February signed by more than 125 of the university’s faculty members calling for Hogan to resign. Several endowed professors, a Nobel Prize winner and a Pulitzer Prize winner were among those who signed the letter. “We wish to state for the record that we have no confidence in Michael J. Hogan as president of this university. In our view he lacks the values, commitments, management style, ethics, and even manners, needed to lead this university, and his presidency should be ended at the earliest opportunity,” the letter said.

The faculty members said Hogan should step down because, among other issues, he used bullying tactics when dealing with university administrators and “exempted himself and those who immediately serve him from the financial discipline to which the rest of this University has been subject in times of frozen salaries and tight budgets.” Hogan was criticized by legislators and others for his more-than-$600,000 salary and additional perks that came with his job.

Hogan came under fire last January when his chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, resigned amid allegations that she posed as a member of the faculty Senate in emails that seemed intended to influence the group’s debate. She denied those allegations. The university later announced that Troyer would work as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology. Hogan has denied any involvement with the fraudulent emails, but the faculty letter chastised him for a “failure of ethical leadership” in the incident.

Christopher Kennedy, president of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, said in a letter to U of I faculty and staff announcing Hogan’s resignation: “President Hogan joined the university at a very challenging time, when it had just weathered a long and very public controversy around admissions and enrollment practices, had major gaps in the administrative team, and was under such significant financial constraint that furloughs and salary freezes were required. Th board sought out a reform-minded leader and was glad to find Mike Hogan, a veteran and accomplished educational leader with a distinguished record, who was committed to carrying out an exhaustive mandate of change with a sense of necessary urgency." Kennedy touted some of Hogan’s accomplishments during his short time in the office, including budget cuts and efficiencies that Kennedy said resulted in $30 million in annually recurring savings. “It has not been easy. Some of what Mike Hogan was compelled to do was not popular, but he did what this University needed over the past 20 months, and we thank him for his hard work, perseverance and achievement.”

The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet tomorrow to vote on the terms of Hogan’s resignation and to appoint Easter as president-designate. The full board is expected to vote on both actions during its May 31 meeting.

Easter has worked on the Urbana-Champaign campus for 36 years. He started there as a doctoral student.  He was dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Science for seven years and later served as interim provost for the campus and also served as interim chancellor. He was appointed to his current post as interim vice chancellor of research last October.

Kennedy said the board thought the next president should be “a proven administrator with a track record of collaboration and success within our university.” Easter said in a written statement that he plans to “move forward energetically and collaboratively with an agenda that reaffirms the University of Illinois’ special place among the very best of institutions of higher learning in the United States.

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