Professor who leaked emails quits senate post
A Springfield professor who shared emails from other faculty leaders with the University of Illinois president's chief of staff has resigned from the campus senate amid a vote of no confidence by her peers.
Tih-Fen Ting, professor in environmental studies on the Springfield campus, resigned as chairwoman of the University of Illinois at Springfield campus senate on Friday. She also resigned from the University Senates Conference, a cross-campus committee of faculty leaders.
The UIS campus senate has no confidence in her leadership and "condemns her unethical and unprofessional conduct both prior to and during the anonymous email investigation," the resolution stated. Ting's actions violated shared-governance principles and diminished the standing of the campus senate and the influence of the campus within the University Senates Conference, according to the resolution.
Earlier this month, an investigation revealed that Ting sent dozens of emails to Lisa Troyer, UI President Michael Hogan's former chief of staff. Those emails, from an anonymous gmail account, contained various communications and forwarded emails from members of the University Senates Conference. Troyer later resigned amid the investigation into anonymous emails sent from a Yahoo account from her computer to the senates conference.
"Given the circumstances, she has done the correct thing," said Don Chambers, chairman of the University Senates Conference and professor from the UI Chicago.
Allan Cook, a Springfield professor and chairman of the local American Association of University Professors, urged other faculty members to read the resolution and attend Friday's meeting.
"If there was a breach of ethics as the resolution implies, (her resignation) would have been the appropriate reaction," Cook said. "We think we have a pretty good little program here, and we want to keep it positive in the public's eye," he added.
It was Ting who tipped off Troyer on Dec. 12 that the two anonymous emails from the Yahoo account "aboutuiintegrity" may have been traced to Troyer's computer, investigators said.
In fact, starting in September, Ting had sent Troyer 36 emails about the internal senates conference debate on enrollment management and other issues, identifying herself only as "Supporter," the investigative report said. The emails were sent from "email@example.com."
Among the documents she forwarded on Dec. 9 was a copy of the senates conference draft report on Hogan's enrollment management proposal.
The Dec. 12 anonymous emails from Troyer's computer to senates conference members said Hogan had likely received the senates conference draft report from an "outside source, so let us stop accusing one another."
Ting talked with Troyer three times the night of Dec. 12, first at 8:27 p.m., just one minute after Urbana Professor Roy Campbell emailed other conference members to show the anonymous emails appeared to have come from Troyer's computer, though he warned them not to jump to conclusions. Ting and Troyer spoke for 11 minutes, and at 8:43 p.m., Ting forwarded Campbell's email to Troyer. They talked again a minute later, for four minutes.
The Springfield senate's resolution contained excerpts from the investigative report and highlighted the finding that Ting initially denied sending the "uiadvocate" emails but later acknowledged it. Ting also told investigators she had difficulty believing that Troyer had any involvement with the anonymous emails sent to the conference from "aboutuiintegrity."
"I am delighted the University of Illinois Springfield senate has recognized the issues involved and taken appropriate steps," said Chambers, adding however that he was "concerned about a number of people who continue to support (Ting) and who will still be on senates conference," he said.
UIS Professor John Martin, vice chairman of that campus' senate and who also sits on the senates conference, said he regrets Ting's resignation. He declined to discuss Ting's actions outlined in the investigative report.
A replacement for Ting's spot on the senate or conference has not yet been determined. There are no provisions in the body's bylaws for removal or resignation of an officer, he said.
Emails Ting forwarded to Troyer show she had been involved in a bitter debate with Urbana faculty about the enrollment management report and other issues.
Ting and other Springfield representatives complained that their views were being subjugated by other voices from Urbana and Chicago in the drafting of the final report, and one Springfield professor, Carrie Switzer, resigned from a subcommittee putting it together.
Some communications Ting forwarded to Troyer were later quoted by Hogan in an email he sent Dec. 10 to UI Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Kennedy, updating him on the senates conference's discussions on enrollment management.
Hogan quoted an email from Urbana Professor Michael Biehl, member of the senates conference enrollment management committee and chairman of the Urbana enrollment management task force, explaining his desire to present a "joint, consensus view" to Hogan, rather than separate reports from the three campuses, to compel Hogan "to listen and collaborate. If he still chooses not to at that point, I don't think we can hold back any longer those that want to escalate this into a full confrontation with him."
Biehl said a lack of unity would allow Hogan to say that faculty are divided and move ahead with implementation.
"I don't think that is what we want, and in my opinion, will result in an operational and public relations disaster for all campus and this university," Biehl's email said.
Hogan warned Kennedy he had received anonymous information "that a confrontation may be being staged." He characterized the Urbana campus as "oppositional" and an "outlier" and said he expected to receive independent reports from each campus "in keeping with the statutes, which require that USC report differences when there is no consensus."
"The UIUC delegation is trying to pressure others to accept it as the official response with the aim of forcing a confrontation," Hogan wrote to Kennedy.
Kennedy later sent emails, based on a draft from Hogan, to the conference and three chancellors, urging them to accept the report.
Tensions among the campus senates also were reflected in a long email trail forwarded to Troyer by Ting from conference members discussing a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Martin, who had asked for the tape of an Oct. 18 meeting to be played for the full Springfield senate. Faculty from the other campuses wanted to know the purpose of the request and felt it represented a breakdown of communications and trust in the group.