UI releases anonymous missives

UI releases anonymous missives

The University of Illinois on Tuesday released the text of anonymous emails that are now the subject of an investigation being conducted by outside legal and accounting firms.

Lisa Troyer, UI President Michael Hogan's chief of staff, resigned last week in the wake of the investigation into the emails allegedly sent from her computer.

University spokesman Tom Hardy said he has not spoken with Troyer, but she maintains that she did not send the emails. University officials have said the investigation is wrapping up and the results will be announced soon.

Hogan said he was not aware of the anonymous emails until he was informed about them after they were sent, according to Hardy. The president has provided his full cooperation to the external, independent investigative experts, he added.

The emails shed some light into the debate occurring among faculty leaders at the time. Throughout the fall, the University Senates Conference, a group of faculty representatives from all three campuses, was reviewing an external report on the university's enrollment management. Enrollment management covers the recruitment of students, admissions, financial aid and other related processes.

Commissioned by Hogan and written by two outside consultants, the report outlined 21 different suggestions for reform.

Some of the recommendations called for campuses to set strategic enrollment goals, including developing a diversity recruitment strategies; to establish university-wide, centralized admissions and financial aid processing; redesign scholarship programs, such as offering more four-year scholarships; and in marketing to prospective students, emphasizing the university as a whole, while also retaining strong messages of campus identity.

At the time the anonymous emails were sent — midday Dec. 12 and later that evening — Senates Conference members were busy sending emails back and forth discussing a draft report that would respond, recommendation by recommendation, to the report and that ultimately would be sent to Hogan.

In the first anonymous email, the author, who signed the message as "Senator," a member of the faculty senate, wrote: "Pretending consensus exists when it does not will undermine the credibility of our body. We need to be transparent and honest in sharing the points of disagreement in any final document we issue. I agree with some others that appending individual campus reports is the best solution in the interest of integrity and transparency. We should not be afraid to be open and honest about our disagreements. I'm also disturbed by the comments of some that the purpose of conveying consensus (whether real or false) is to avoid appearing weak or to avoid strengthening the president's position. There is nothing weak about a lack of consensus if that is the case. There is strength in honesty; there is weakness in dishonesty. We don't serve our offices well by covering up reality."

The second anonymous email addresses messages sent by members of the Senates Conference who questioned the author's decision to write anonymously.

Later in December the Senates Conference ended up voting 13-2 in favor of the report. It was sent to Hogan and the UI Board of Trustees.

The report recommended moving forward with three of the recommendations, ones that have to do with setting goals, enrollment management plans and setting tuition no later than February to allow admissions and financial aid staff to offer financial aid packages to students before decision deadlines.

Senators recommended "collaborative evaluation" of several other recommendations, stressing that these would require "a collaborative process involving the input of key campus academic and university administrative leaders and enrollment managers."

The report did not recommend moving forward with seven of the original recommendations, without further evaluation and revision. Those included calls for the university joining the Common Application Consortium, which allows students to fill out one application for many different colleges; adopting a centralized admissions and financial aid processing system; and marketing the university as a whole to prospective students; and more.

The investigation into the anonymous emails began after Lisa Troyer and another Senates Conference member reported the emails to university's information technology office.

Security personnel began to look into the situation on the evening the emails were sent, according to Hardy. University information technology staff conducted a forensic investigation within the first 12 hours, and later, the university's legal and ethics office were brought in.

On Dec. 22, the UI hired law firm Jones Day and forensic accountants Duff & Phelps to conduct the investigation. Both firms assisted the university with its investigation last fall into the manipulation of law student data at the College of Law by an admissions dean there. The UI estimated the cost of that inquiry to be about $1 million.

It's not clear how much the UI will spend on this investigation, though it's expected to be shorter; Jones Day will be paid an hourly rate of $440, according to Hardy.

News-Gazette staff writer Julie Wurth contributed to this report.

Comments

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jwr12 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 am

You write: "The emails shed some light into the debate occurring among faculty leaders at the time."

This seems misleading to me.  The whole point of the e-mails, clearly, was to stir the pot of differences and stoke them.  The ultimate vote (13-2) shows that actually people were actually quite close to consensus, given that only 2 objected to the very carefully crafted and consensus-driven report in the first place.

What these e-mails show, then, is possible differences fanned into a seeming debate, in order to distract the committee from doing what it was set to do, namely, approve an actual consensus.  It uses all sorts of incendiary innuendo and strawmen to do so, trying (for example) to make this about supposed prejudices between schools, when it's not about that.  For all these reasons, I think any historian would be highly unlikely to use these e-mails to try to describe the actual debates.  They are deceptive on purpose.

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 03, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Dr. Hogan is a historian.  He authored a book on President Harry S. Truman, "The buck stops here" president.  Maybe, Dr. Hogan can shed some light on the e-mails.

enoughalready wrote on January 11, 2012 at 10:01 am

why did she resign if she did not send the emails, as alleged?

wayward wrote on January 11, 2012 at 10:01 am

http://www.news-gazette.com/sites/all/files/pdf/2012/01/10/anonemails.pdf

Something about those emails made me think of Dolores Umbridge in the "Harry Potter" books.