URBANA — Trustees have listened to the concerns of University of Illinois faculty and staff, and board Chairman Christopher Kennedy will talk with President Michael Hogan in the coming days about "the way forward," Kennedy said Thursday.
Trustees support the president, and Hogan is intent on repairing his relationship with faculty, according to a university spokesman, despite some professors' increasing pressure on trustees to end his "failed presidency."
A new letter signed by 130 top faculty urged the board to fire the university president, following recent News-Gazette reports about former chief of staff Lisa Troyer's claims that she continued working after resigning from her position.
The letter was delivered Thursday while the board was in Urbana for a regularly scheduled meeting. Some of that meeting was devoted to a closed-door session during which trustees discussed the president and his performance.
Because they have been on campus in recent days, trustees have had a chance to meet with senior administration and faculty, including some who signed letters to the board, according to Kennedy.
"During our afternoon executive session, we had an opportunity to share the comments that we heard from the university with each other and with the president. We had a private session during which we distilled what we heard from all of the faculty. The university trustees have asked me to enter into a dialogue with the president to provide him a distillation of those thoughts, and over the next few days I intend to do that," Kennedy said.
"He and I will have a dialogue about what we have heard down here to bring clarity to the way forward," he said, declining further comment.
Trustee Tim Koritz said Hogan still has his support and the support of the board.
When asked if Hogan could rebuild the trust of the faculty, Kortiz said, "That's what we're hoping for." And "time will tell" if the president can be successful in doing just that.
"I hope fences can be mended and we can get on with more important tasks we have," he said.
The latest letter follows a similar one from the group sent to the board Feb. 27 that also called for Hogan's departure. On March 5, Kennedy called an emergency board meeting in Chicago to review Hogan's performance.
At that meeting, trustees directed Hogan to rebuild trust with faculty and said they would hear an update from the president at Thursday's meeting.
University spokesman Tom Hardy pointed out the board met 10 days ago, held another meeting today, there will be another in May, and the board's retreat is in July when the president typically has his performance review.
"These are important issues. It warrants a deliberate process, and that is what the board is doing," Hardy said. "There's no point to rush to judgment."
In the new letter, faculty thanked the board for its expeditious response to the earlier letter but criticized Hogan's recent attempts to mend fences with faculty. The letter said the breakdown in shared governance did not stem from a communication problem as Hogan described it last week.
"'Shared governance' for Hogan apparently means explaining to faculty, senators, deans, and chancellors why his way is the right way. It is still a one-way learning experience, a top-down imposition of policy," the letter said.
"This focus on form over substance reveals a truly cynical approach to governance, one which was at the root of Hogan's political and ethical problems," the letter said.
Last week, Hogan issued a universitywide statement saying he regretted the failure in shared governance and he was committed to restoring the trust and teamwork "that will help us achieve the goals that we all share."
However, some faculty, including Kim Graber, a member of the University Senates Conference, responded to that letter by saying they didn't think Hogan could rebuild the trust and he should resign.
In a cover memo to the board, two of the endowed professors, Nigel Goldenfeld and Michael Moore, said the letter was circulated starting Wednesday afternoon. By the time the letter was delivered to trustees around 11:30 a.m. Thursday, 118 professors had signed it. As of 7 p.m., the number reached 130.
"This rate of response of the chaired faculty far surpasses that of our earlier letters to you from this group. It indicates a level of support for the views expressed in our letter, but also the urgency which the chaired faculty attaches to the rapidly unfolding situation, and the need for firm leadership at this point," the professors said.
"Given the challenges that the university faces in an uncertain period for the state of Illinois, we view it as essential that Hogan's failed presidency be seen for what it is, and that a path be forged which can rapidly restore a healthy governance structure."
Trustees said Thursday they had not seen a copy of the latest faculty letter and deferred to Kennedy for any comments.
Hogan also hadn't seen it and declined to comment.
Trustee Lawrence Oliver said other board members agreed with Kennedy's statement following the March 5 board meeting that the need to "improve relations between the president and faculty was a real concern of the board."
"We view the current situation in the same way. There's a lot of actors at play. It doesn't mean we all have exactly the same opinion of every fact," Oliver said.
Professor Nicholas Burbules, vice chairman of the University Senates Conference, said the latest developments heighten the importance of Hogan's upcoming appearance at the March 30 campus senate meeting. The president was invited to answer the criticisms raised by faculty in recent weeks.
"The senate really is committed to fairness and due process," Burbules said. "We owe the president a chance to respond to this in public," to answer questions and explain his actions.
"I think (Hogan) and the board deserve an opportunity to carry out the board's directive," Hardy said. But it's tough to do that, he admitted, "when there's criticism at every turn."
The new letter said all university stakeholders would be served by "rapid and decisive termination."
"A board that does not act when there is a president who is so ethically and reputationally compromised as to be unable to function is one that is, in truth, itself unable to effectively govern the institution it stewards," the letter stated.
The letter also raised concerns about Troyer's efforts to be paid from the time she resigned, Jan. 3, to when she accepted a faculty offer on Feb. 6.
Emails recently released to The News-Gazette under the Freedom of Information Act show that Troyer claimed she continued to work in that period by developing a transition plan for the president's office, helping Hogan respond to FOIA requests and cooperating with an ethics investigation.
"It is difficult to exaggerate the impact that this finding ... is already having on the university community," the letter said.
Don Chambers, a UI Chicago professor and chairman of the University Senates Conference, said he appreciated the fact that Kennedy and the president are having a dialogue; however, new questions have been raised by the recent reports and he hopes that dialogue includes an exploration into "the role of his administration and the real role of Lisa Troyer in policymaking and in decision-making," Chambers said.
Chambers delivered some positive news at the meeting Thursday by announcing the senates conference expects to send a revised enrollment management report to all three campus senates. This document, revised several times in recent weeks, addresses all the major concerns members of the faculty governance group had about the proposal, he said.
Those issues revolved around wanting a faculty liaison to a new policy council that would focus on enrollment management issues, taking rebranding of the university "off the table," and reworking the proposal for an executive director of enrollment management into a possible position in the office of the vice president for academic affairs.
Chambers used the word "joyous" to describe how he felt about the positive outcome, which comes months after a contentious debate on the topic.
The outcome is "a demonstration of shared governance at its best and what can be accomplished when we work together," Chambers said.