Questions remain about UI exec's future on campus

Questions remain about UI exec's future on campus

UPDATED 5:10 p.m.: The University has released the anonymous emails after The News-Gazette filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The emails are here, in pdf format (a 54 K document).

The investigation into anonymous emails sent from the computer of a top administrator at the University of Illinois is almost complete, and the chairman of the UI's board — who called the sending of those messages a "juvenile" act — said trustees have moved on and will continue with a controversial effort to revise how the university admits and accepts students.

Meanwhile, questions linger about Lisa Troyer's future on the Urbana campus. Troyer, the chief of staff to President Michael Hogan since July 2010, resigned last week amid inquiries into anonymous emails sent that reportedly attempted to sway members of a faculty governance group from criticizing President Hogan's proposal on enrollment management.

The UI launched an investigation into the matter before Christmas, within 12 hours of the two anonymous emails sent to members of the Senates Conference, according to university spokesman Tom Hardy.

Ted Chung, of the Jones Day law firm in Chicago, and the forensic accounting firm Duff and Phelps are working with the UI's legal counsel, ethics office and information technology chief on the inquiry. Both firms previously worked with the UI on uncovering the manipulation of law student test scores at the College of Law.

The recent investigation was launched to "ascertain the circumstances of those anonymous emails ... and whether or not the university's IT system had somehow been hacked or otherwise compromised," Hardy said. "We've been conducting a thorough and expeditious inquiry into those circumstances since that time."

That investigation is "largely complete," UI board Chairman Christopher Kennedy told The News-Gazette on Monday.

"Someone did a juvenile thing, and that's behind us now," Kennedy said. "When people fail to live up to the greatness of the university, they depart. It's a reflection of the new standard" at the university, he said.

As for Troyer's future employment at the university, Kennedy pointed out that she does hold tenure. The board has purview on positions reporting to the president; who has or whose tenure is being contested is not the board's focus, he said.

Asked what bearing the inquiry had on Troyer's resignation, Hardy said, "Her decision to resign was a personal decision," declining further comment.

Troyer contacted CIO

Hardy said Troyer herself alerted the UI's chief information officer, Michael Hites, "that there'd been an anonymous email and expressed a concern about the security of the IT system."

Troyer's notification came 25 minutes after computer science Professor Roy Campbell emailed other Senates Conference members that the anonymous emails appeared to have come from Troyer's computer.

Troyer sent her resignation to the president late Tuesday, and he became aware of it Wednesday morning, Hardy said. He then notified university administrators and senior administrators from the three campuses on Friday.

Hardy declined to comment about the president's knowledge of the emails.

Trustee Ed McMillan said he and other trustees were informed about Troyer's resignation Friday, but he doesn't know anything more than what's been publicly reported.

McMillan also said he didn't know how much the president knew about the emails.

"At this point I don't know enough to say. I think it's a legitimate question," McMillan said. "I was a CEO. The buck always stopped with me."

Don Chambers, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who chairs the Senates Conference, said he was pleased to hear the university hired outside legal counsel "and they're taking it very seriously."

"I wouldn't presume guilt on a variety of people's part, but I wouldn't presume innocence either," Chambers said.

Her next move

In his message announcing Troyer's departure, Hogan said she would rejoin the faculty. But what specific role she will have on campus is not clear.

When Troyer was hired as chief of staff, she also was given a zero-time faculty position in the Department of Psychology as a tenured full professor. She holds a doctorate in sociology from Stanford University, but Hardy said Troyer has a background both in sociology and psychology.

UI Provost Richard Wheeler, whose office oversees academic programs and policies on the Urbana campus, said the presumption is Troyer will assume a position in psychology, but that depends on the outcome of the investigation.

"What we have here are rather special circumstances that have provoked a pretty extensive examination that comes out of the ethics office. And until the campus understands what the findings of that investigation are, nobody knows anything about what the next step is going to be," Wheeler said.

The provost said he has "complete confidence in the people conducting the investigation," but added, "The campus needs to have an opportunity to study the findings of this investigation and determine whether or not it's appropriate to conduct a further investigation of what is now a faculty member, as opposed to an administrator."

Chambers said: "If it turns out she was guilty, I don't think that the faculty would be happy being a default for her employment."

As chief of staff, Troyer's salary was $200,850. Hardy said Troyer's faculty salary has not been determined, but "she would revert to a salary that's more in line with faculty members in the department, with comparable levels of experience."

It's not unusual for administrators to rejoin their academic departments after leaving an administrative post, but in this case Troyer has not worked in the department, officials said Monday. Troyer has not done any teaching or research since coming to the university in July 2010, when she was appointed Hogan's executive assistant and chief of staff.

"Neither the appropriate salary nor the appropriate source of funds has been conclusively identified yet," Wheeler said.

Troyer was on the Iowa faculty from 1994 to 2007 and rose to the rank of full professor of sociology. During that time she was tapped by Hogan, then Iowa's provost, to be an administrative fellow in his office and to work on a strategic plan, according to the University of Connecticut website. She was eventually appointed interim associate provost, and when Hogan was named president at UConn, he asked Troyer to move with him.

She became senior associate to the president and chief of staff at UConn, and also held an appointment as a tenured sociology professor but dealt exclusively with administrative matters, said spokesman Michael Kirk.

Moving on

Meanwhile, UI board Chairman Kennedy said trustees "back President Hogan 100 percent" on the issue of enrollment management, the topic that has sparked debate among university circles throughout the fall.

The university needs to be highly targeted and highly effective at attracting the best students to the university, Kennedy said.

Hogan commissioned a report from consultants on how the UI could improve its enrollment procedures and asked faculty to review that report last semester. Among the many issues they raised, faculty expressed concerns about centralization of enrollment management.

"Lots of people think enrollment management is a contentious thing, but we all agree there needs to be enrollment management," Chambers said.

Last month, the Senates Conference voted 13 to 2 in support of a subcommittee's report that ended up endorsing only three of the 21 recommendations in the consultants' report.

On Monday, in light of the investigation and Troyer's resignation as chief of staff, Harriet Murav, president of the Campus Faculty Association, a faculty group separate from the Senates Conference, called for a moratorium on Hogan's efforts to rework enrollment management.

Hardy, however, said the plan is to move forward with the proposal.

Comments

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read the DI wrote on January 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

$200K is a pretty sick salary for a hand-picked administrator with no real authority.

asparagus wrote on January 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

If Troyer is found guilty (seems likely), then there is NO place for her at the U of I.  If Hogan knew (seems very plausible), then there is NO place for him at the U of I.

This double standard for the elite has got to go.  All university employees take ethics training each year.  The bar for the university elite should be even higher.  I am sick to death of the arrogance and sense of entitlement of these careerist stooges.  THIS MUST END!

 

Fedupwithstatereps wrote on January 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

There is something rotten in Denmark!  She should not hold any position at this University whatsoever if found guilty.  The ethics training that is conducted annually is a result of the antics of the higher ups.  It's about time they be held to the same standards as the minons.

doglvr wrote on January 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

what course is she going to teach?   deviant juvinile psycology?  studies in administrative misconduct?  lecture in how to make $200K doing almost nothing?

KSearsmith wrote on January 10, 2012 at 10:01 am

I can imagine that everyone in the U Illinois community is disappointed in Lisa Troyer's actions as reported, and perhaps more than disappointed -- a feeling of having been betrayed. President Hogan and his staff entered U Illinois aware that we had suffered a terrible period of scandal, that we required healing internally and a recovery of reputation externally. Yet, here we are again. 

I am hoping that President Hogan will be found to have been ignorant of Lisa Troyer's actions. But I will continue to wonder whether those who have worked with her over the years have been aware of the complete dimensions of her character that seem to have been revealed here.

In our University administrators, I long for individuals who set service to the institution and its many members (faculty, staff, students, alumni) ahead of their own careers and local interests; have the highest ethical standards and hold themselves to those as well as others; work in a spirit of deep generosity; are transparent in their actions; and believe in fair and open discussions of the issues that concern us -- for the sake of our community spirit, for the airing of the best ideas, for the difficult decisions we face.

I long for administrators who love this University in particular, and are not looking for their next opportunity elsewhere; who are grateful for the responsibility they have been given and exercise it with the care and seriousness with which it is due. I long for leaders that are humble, humane, and--even if this word has gone out of style for its seeming naivete-good.

Certainly people make mistakes, and the ideal for which I long may be impossible. But I am left to ask what someone striving for this ideal would do if they had made the kind of mistakes we have seen here and lately, or if someone in their service had been found so wanting. What would they say? How would they attempt to make it right?   

pattsi wrote on January 10, 2012 at 10:01 am

Just think how informative it could be if the N-G wrote an investigative article about the cost to the university, hence taxpayers, to "compensate, pay off, or whatever term" to all of the people who have recently been removed for the various issues that have happened at the university. Most of the costs are public domain information, but retirement and health insurance costs would have to be added. Another variable might be added--the huge increase in administrator salaries and huge increase in number of administrators within the last 3 years. Then take this estimated bottomline amount and figure out how many individuals who lost their jobs at the university could have remained employed.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Gee.. pattsi.  Your making too much sense.  The university does not work that way.  A committee would have to be formed.  That would lead to competition by the faculty to get on it.  It would have to be independent of the administration.  There would have to be legal counsel hired.  The Board of Trustees would have to covene more often.  A report would have to agreed upon by the Board, and the committee.  The media would have to file Freedom of Information suits with the Attorney General to get the report.  It would end up with a court deciding if the public has a right to know.  Of course, the Inspector General could investigate.  The university has pretty much ignored the findings of the State Auditor so that office cannot do it.   Sadly, you make sense; but the public may not be smart enough to understand the workings of academia. The matter is probably better left to the Ph.D.'s, and the politically appointed Board of Trustees.  Transparency in academia for the public would be confusing.  They are honorable people who studied a narrow subject matter for years.  They are capable of running large, expensive institutions.  After all, they do their own travel vouchers don't they.
 

jwr12 wrote on January 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I find Chairman Kennedy's comments, as reported here, cryptic and unintelligible.  On the one hand, we are told, an investigation is ongoing.  At the same time, Kennedy tells you the following:

"Someone did a juvenile thing, and that's behind us now," Kennedy said. "When people fail to live up to the greatness of the university, they depart. It's a reflection of the new standard" at the university, he said.

To put it mildly, there's a lot that's unclear about this statement.  So does he know who did the juvenile thing?  In what sense can it possibly be "behind us," when no one officially knows anything about the results of the investigation? When the public has had no accounting of the incident?  Furthermore, who has "departed"? Does he mean Troyer? In what sense has she departed?

Last, as one of the many hard working employees of this university, I take offence at the idea that Troyer's (?) departure somehow marks a new standard.  The employees of the University pushed for the previous board and president to be dismissed for unethical behavior; and I'm sure we're ready to do it again.  What will be a "new standard" is if, as this article implies Kennedy has concluded, the president's chief of staff can engage in such shenanigans, and then retire to a cushy job in the psychology department.

It seems to me unseemly for Chairman Kennedy to try to shuffle past all this--and "put it behind us"--on a wave of half-statements, winks, nods and innuendos; and I'm surprised the News Gazette allows him to get away with such statements, without pushing him to explain what he means.

asparagus wrote on January 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm

This is pure FUD!  You must have a severe interest in this issue, but it is pathetically expressed!

The people are not going to accept this kind of behavior anymore!

urbana_resident wrote on January 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Sounds like a UI version of Watergate.

EdRyan wrote on January 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Excellent example of why higher education has gotten so expensive.  The salaries are sky high and the lawyer and forensic accountant bills will probably hit 7 figures just for this little bit on academic insanity.

Hartree wrote on January 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm

My goodness... 


She sent an anonymous email from her own computer through the U of I email system? An email that was addressed to (among others equally capable of tracking it back) Roy Campbell? Roy Campbell, who among other topics does computer security research?


This is equivalent to sending a threatening letter to the head of the FBI, putting all of your return address except for first and last name on it and being surprised when the cops show up at your door.


All the computer professionals in the audience are now rolling on the floor giggling wildly.


 

jwr12 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 1:01 am

@Aparagus: I'm not sure what you mean.  My point was that Chairman Kennedy seems to be making pronouncements on what all this means, ahead of the results of the official investigation.  I have no doubt this is a serious matter, and that someone committed a serious breach of judgment and professional ethics.  So I'm not interested in a cover up, as you imply; I'm actually interested in a full inquiry and actions taken on its basis, not on summary judgments by higher-ups who have clear interests at stake.  I think "the people" (who, by the way, I am a part of, financially and in terms of paying taxes) deserve no less.

"We don’t serve our offices well by covering up reality," as one of the anonymous letters states with truly shocking hypocrisy.