URBANA — University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise publicly thanked faculty members and the campus senate Monday for their support during her tumultuous first few months on campus, which culminated in last week's resignation of President Michael Hogan.
Wise arrived in October, just as a fierce debate about administrative streamlining and campus autonomy was about to come to a head over proposed changes in enrollment management. As strains between Hogan and campus administrators became more apparent, faculty sent several letters expressing strong support for Wise and criticizing Hogan's leadership. The senate also approved similar strongly worded resolutions.
At Monday's campus senate meeting, Wise thanked the senate for its "thoughtful discussions and consultation" about enrollment management and other issues. She also expressed appreciation for the faculty support, saying she felt some of it was "undeserved" since she'd only been on campus a short time.
"It's been a very interesting and challenging time," she said.
"I truly believe President Hogan had the same goals we have," to make the university the best it can be, Wise said. "What has been shown is the importance of this consultative process."
She also said she looks forward to working with President-designate Robert Easter, whom she first met when he was interim UI chancellor and she was interim president at the University of Washington.
"I saw him as a very thoughtful, a very consultative and a very visionary leader," she said. "All three campuses will benefit from his leadership over the next two years."
Wise also singled out three senate leaders — Senate Executive Committee Chairman Matthew Wheeler, Vice Chairwoman Joyce Tolliver and Nick Burbules, vice chairman of the University Senates Conference — for "the work they've done over the last few months in educating me and leading a thoughtful discussion."
"Certainly this has been a challenging time for the University of Illinois," Wheeler said in his remarks. He applauded UI trustees for their leadership, thanked Hogan for his service to the university and said faculty stand ready to help Easter.
Now that the campus doesn't face other "distractions," Wise said, it can concentrate on its primary mission of providing excellent research and teaching for students.
Wise said she will continue with a "visioning experience" she launched recently, asking faculty to identify key areas where the campus can position itself as a leader for the next 20 to 50 years. The campus must be careful to manage change or "change will manage us," she said.
With cuts in government funding, fewer and fewer public institutions will be able to maintain their stature as elite public universities, Wise said.
"I truly believe in the end we will be one of the very few premiere public universities," Wise said. "But we have to be careful in the way we invest."