CHAMPAIGN — Following the advice of trustees, University of Illinois President Michael Hogan pledged Thursday to meet more often with faculty leaders, reach out to individual professors and show his "human side" in an effort to rebuild trust on campus.
In a wide-ranging interview with The News-Gazette, Hogan also discussed his relationship with Urbana campus Chancellor Phyllis Wise and his own future as president.
Asked if he expected to be in the job a year from now, Hogan said, "I would bet on it."
Some faculty, however, said their problems with the president extend beyond communications, and his efforts to restore trust have come too late.
"I don't think he can rebuild the trust at the faculty level. It's beyond the point of no return," said Kim Graber, a member of the Urbana faculty and Senate Executive Committee.
"If he really cared about the university, he would resign," she said Thursday.
In his nearly two-hour interview with The News-Gazette, Hogan said he still believes he has the board's support.
"There's been nothing said or done that doesn't suggest full board support," he said.
Hogan's outreach efforts come within a few days of an emergency, closed-door meeting in Chicago at which UI trustees discussed recent events with Hogan and directed him to repair relationships with the faculty.
Last month, more than 100 of the UI's most prestigious professors called for Hogan to step down after an outside investigation found his chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, likely wrote anonymous emails intended to encourage faculty to support a Hogan-backed enrollment initiative. She resigned but denied writing the emails. Faculty also have criticized Hogan's leadership style.
After the meeting on Monday, board Chairman Christopher Kennedy said the board told President Hogan the university "needed our people to change, or we needed change in our people."
"I take the board's thoughtful and candid advice very seriously, and I am committed to restoring the trust and teamwork that will help us achieve the goals that we all share," Hogan said.
Since Monday's meeting, Hogan met with faculty and administrators on the Springfield campus and plans a meeting soon with Wise. Hogan told The News-Gazette he believes he has repaired his relationship with Wise, who has had strong support from faculty.
"At this particular point ... I think we're working very well together," he said.
Hogan to the university
On Thursday, Hogan issued a universitywide statement saying he regretted the breakdown of shared governance. Hogan intends to meet more often with faculty leaders, including members of the Senate Executive Committees from all three campuses, at the invitation of the chancellors, as well as deans. As part of his plan to restore shared governance, Hogan will meet with the Urbana faculty-student senate on March 30.
"While it's very nice to be focused on your goals and have a sense of urgency in achieving your goals, at the same time you have to reach out to a lot of people at a very big university ... and do a good job communicating to them why change is required and what it means," Hogan said.
"I lost track of the fact that even when people don't agree with you, they feel better about it if they think you've listened to them," he said.
The president also plans to reach out to faculty members who are not part of the formal faculty governance structure, but who were among those who signed a letter last month urging trustees to ask for Hogan's resignation.
"The bottom line is, I've got to convince faculty that the board's agenda and mine is a healthy agenda and that they've heard it, they've listened to it, been consulted about it, and get sufficient buy-in to move forward," he said. "I'm certainly willing to invest as much time as it takes to do that. ... and I'm optimistic that it can be done."
Understanding the problems
Don Chambers, a UI Chicago professor and chairman of the University Senates Conference, said he was pleased the president expressed a desire to "make amends."
But the "saga," as Chambers called it, is not yet over.
"It is not over until we see there is a true understanding of what the problems are ... and they are much deeper than communication," he said.
"What active way is (Hogan) going to change things? Listening is not an answer because he's listened before.
"How is he prepared to change? What are the changes he thinks he needs to make? It's not just a change in communication, but a change in style, substance and understanding," Chambers said.
Graber said she took offense at the statement Hogan issued Thursday in which he said "this is a great university, and I want to play an important role in rebuilding its reputation."
"We have an outstanding reputation and for him to suggest otherwise shows his complete ignorance of who we are," Graber said.
Yes, the university has had recent challenges and problems, Chambers said, referring to the admissions scandal from 2009 that resulted in the resignations of UI President B. Joseph White, Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman and most of the members of the board of trustees.
President Hogan "hasn't understood he doesn't have totalitarian power. He hasn't understood things were not broken from top to bottom and bottom to top," Chambers said.
Faculty discontent with Hogan predates revelations about the anonymous emails and Lisa Troyer's resignation, but criticism has intensified since then. After Hogan arrived 20 months ago, he undertook a series of initiatives that sparked some criticism from the Urbana campus, where some saw them as a threat to campus autonomy. The Urbana senate objected to the addition of "vice president" to the chancellors' titles and the centralization of some information technology and human resources services.
Hogan on Thursday described those initiatives as more "rebalancing" than centralization and emphasized that with IT, human resources and enrollment management, academic functions will essentially remain under campus control.
Hogan also said he believes he has repaired his relationship with Wise.
Emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reflected Hogan's irritation with Wise for not doing more to convince faculty senators to support his enrollment management initiative. He accused her of a "lack of leadership" and, in the same Jan. 5 email, expressed frustration about the negotiations to hire football Coach Tim Beckman and the campus' arrangements for the president at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31.
The no-confidence letter from faculty bluntly characterized his behavior toward Wise as "bullying."
Hogan said Thursday that he regretted the email "almost immediately after I sent it." He said he went to see UI Board of Trustees Secretary Michele Thompson and told her, "I probably shouldn't have sent it."
He said there were four or five emails he now sees as "problematic."
He said he was sick with the flu when he returned from the bowl game and faced "a mountain of work."
"I let something get away that I probably should have sat on for a couple of days," he said. "I have a pretty straightforward style to begin with. It's good to be direct with people. ... That particular email took on an edge it shouldn't have."
Hogan said he has "great confidence" in Wise, but it takes time to develop a working relationship.
"We're new to each other," he said, noting she just took office five months ago. "I'm still learning the Illinois way after 20 months."
'We've made progress'
The president said the most contentious part of enrollment management involved the issue of whom a new enrollment management director would report to. At the chancellors' insistence, he agreed to have the director report to both the campus and the president's office, and under pressure later from faculty, later shelved plans for the position altogether.
He characterized the process as "give and take" and "different points of view," rather than him pressuring the chancellors to back his proposals.
"The chancellors gave as good as they got. We ended up in a pretty good spot that there should be a shared relationship," he said, calling it "perfectly appropriate."
Hogan said his first 20 months as president were consumed with repairing damage from the Category I controversy, dealing with an unprecedented state budget crisis and implementing administrative changes begun before he arrived and backed by a "reform-minded board."
"Every one of (the changes) has been contentious in ways I never would have anticipated," he said. "It was a very, very busy two years. I like to think we've made some progress."
Moving forward, he hopes to have more time to focus on other challenges and initiatives, such as state pension reform and research collaborations between Urbana and Chicago.
"We've got to move forward, and there's still much more to be done. We don't want to do it in a constant state of controversy," he said.