Trustees give Hogan a task: Restore trust
CHICAGO — President Michael Hogan received his orders from University of Illinois trustees on Monday: Rebuild faculty trust or expect "change."
After a three-hour emergency closed-door meeting in Chicago, board Chairman Christopher Kennedy said trustees asked the embattled president to identify specific actions he can take to restore a good working relationship with faculty. And he said the board would review Hogan's progress in 10 days, when it holds a regularly scheduled meeting in Urbana.
"We let him know that we thought we needed our people to change, or we needed change in our people," Kennedy said after the meeting.
"We are as trustees committed to the notion of shared governance, a collaborative atmosphere, and we want all the faculty to understand that they have an important role in the leadership of the university," Kennedy said. "We are convinced over the next month or two we'll see specific evidence in the president's leadership along those lines."
The board called the meeting in the face of mounting pressure on Hogan, including calls for his resignation from 130 of the campus' most prestigious professors and senate resolutions and a petition signed by almost 500 faculty expressing doubts about his leadership.
When asked how Hogan could start restoring his relationship with the faculty, Urbana Professor Sarah Projansky said, "a public response to the faculty's specific concerns would be appropriate."
The complaints center on his actions related to a controversial enrollment initiative, fears about campus autonomy, Hogan's perceived "bullying" of Chancellor Phyllis Wise and questions about the future of Lisa Troyer, his former chief of staff.
An outside investigation found that Troyer likely wrote anonymous emails to faculty senators, posing as a senator and trying to dissuade them from criticizing Hogan's enrollment management plan. The emails were traced to Troyer's computer.
Troyer resigned during the investigation but has denied writing or sending the emails.
Hogan offered an apology to faculty for the incident and noted that the investigation did not find any evidence that he was involved. But faculty remain dubious.
Kennedy admitted the current climate is not ideal.
"We have so many of our incredibly important professors writing letters to us to express their concern, and that in and of itself represents concern on the part of trustees," he said.
Asked if Hogan can remain effective as president, Kennedy said: "I'd say issues around rebuilding that support are issues that Mike Hogan needs to play a leadership role in. That is not something the board can do for him, but we are confident that Mike can do it for himself. Time will tell, and we'll review it closely over the next few months."
Kennedy said the board asked Hogan to identify specific steps he can take to repair relationships with the faculty.
"We want to see specific actions on a regular basis," he said, referring to upcoming board meetings in March, May and July.
Urbana Professor Nicholas Burbules said he welcomed the board's intervention.
"The relationship of shared governance at the university level is broken, and I welcome the board's urging the president to work to repair it," he said.
"The senate has identified a series of actions of the president that it's concerned about and deemed unethical, including his interaction with our chancellor, the production of a report that was supposedly an objective external report, but was actually co-written by his office, inappropriate interference in campus affairs and ... these are the things we want to discuss with him in an upcoming senate meeting. I fully support giving him an opportunity to speak with the faculty to address these and other concerns," Burbules said.
Urbana senate Chairman Matthew Wheeler said the group is working on setting a date, time and location for the senate's special meeting with the president.
On Monday, the Senate Executive Committee briefly discussed the agenda for that meeting, which will likely include an opening statement by Wheeler, followed by a statement by Hogan and then questions and discussions by faculty.
Kennedy said the board encouraged Hogan to meet with the faculty senates on a regular basis, whenever invited.
Overall, Kennedy called Monday's meeting a "productive meeting and a great dialogue" with the president.
Trustees met in closed session just after 11:30 a.m. Monday at the UI Chicago campus and were scheduled to wrap up at 1 p.m. All three student trustees, who share one vote, and the nine voting trustees attended, two by teleconference. About 2:15 p.m. ,UI officials announced that trustees would suspend the meeting so several board members could attend a previously scheduled meeting of the audit, budget, finance and facilities committee, then return to closed session. But spokesman Tom Hardy said later that the board had wrapped up its meeting with Hogan and did not need to resume.
Hogan attended both the closed-door session and the board committee meeting, speaking up during a discussion of tuition waivers given to the children of university employees.
Other trustees deferred to Kennedy after the meeting for public comment.
Kennedy said the board continues to support the president: "I don't think there is anything we can do to provide that support that is more important than the clear and specific direction and feedback that we provided today."
"We want to be part of a university where shared governance is fully embraced, where there's a respectful dialogue between our senior leadership team, and where the faculty feels welcome and important."
At the meeting, Kennedy said, Hogan reviewed his accomplishments since taking over as president in 2010.
"He expressed a great personal desire to recommit with the faculty, and I'm convinced that he can do that," Kennedy said.
"I think that the president's leadership at the University of Illinois and at his prior jobs demonstrate his ability to lead a large and complex faculty, and I'm confident he can do it in this case."
Kennedy did not address Troyer's status. She now holds a tenured appointment in the psychology department, but the campus is conducting its own ethics review of her actions as chief of staff.
Last week, she issued a statement saying the investigation into the anonymous emails was mishandled and said she had evidence, though she did did not offer any. UI spokesman Tom Hardy said last week the university stood by the investigation, which he called rigorous and independent.
While meeting with faculty Monday afternoon, Urbana's interim Provost Richard Wheeler said applications to the campus are up in several categories, including among minorities, in-state students and international students; the plan to boost faculty hires is moving along and he hopes to see "robust results" and; the university is moving forward on a $70 million initiative to renovate classrooms on campus; and other initiatives.
"The essential work of the university is going on," as it has in previous years when the university has encountered struggles, Wheeler said.
"There are so many things the university needs to do," said Urbana Professor Bettina Francis. "There are so many challenges — promoting diversity, the state budget, tuition waivers (for employees). I wish we could focus on these things," she said.