A new, improved University of Illinois president promises the future will be better than the past.
A contrite Michael Hogan last week offered mea culpas and indicated his desire to repair his fractured relationship with members of the faculty.
But, judging from the reaction of some Hogan critics, it will take more than soothing words from the UI president to smooth faculty members' ruffled feathers. Most notably, Kim Graber, a member of the local campus' Executive Committee, said Hogan's relationship with the faculty had deteriorated "beyond the point of no return." She also blasted what she called Hogan's "complete ignorance" of the UI after he described his interest in "playing an important role in rebuilding" the UI's reputation after a series of scandals and embarrassing personnel issues.
If Hogan was offering an olive branch, Graber and at least some others responded with a flamethrower.
So there should be no underestimating the difficulty of the challenge facing Hogan.
His effort to rebuild the faculty's confidence in him will be a long, slow process, and it's not clear that either UI trustees, who gave Hogan a public spanking last week, or faculty members will give him the necessary time to complete that task.
However, it would be best for all concerned to hit the reset button and make a sincere effort to start over.
The UI doesn't need more chaos at the top of its organization chart. This institution has been through unprecedented turmoil over the past three years — starting with the clouted admissions scandals and continuing through financial shortfalls, the law school grade and test scores fraud and, finally, the anonymous emails that evidence shows were written by Hogan's former chief of staff Lisa Troyer.
Hogan has pointed out, and it's beyond dispute, that he took over the UI presidency at a time when the institution was struggling. He notes he confronted 17 high-level administrative vacancies and much uncertainty about finances and was given a charge by UI trustees to make dramatic administrative changes in the structure of the UI's three campuses.
Blinded by zeal to get things done, Hogan conceded that perhaps he had been too much of a hard-charger to listen carefully and respond diplomatically to those who either resisted or sought to revise his recommendations. At least that's his version.
Hogan's critics suggest that he and Troyer tried to run roughshod over dissenters and made no secret of their disdain for their colleagues on the local campus. They say Hogan and Troyer viewed them as opponents to be crushed rather than as colleagues pursuing a shared responsibility in campus governance.
Obviously, the enmity runs deep and is perhaps best exemplified by the letter from distinguished faculty members who objected to Hogan's alleged bullying of new Chancellor Phyllis Wise and called for his dismissal.
Now, following an admonition from UI trustees to rectify the situation, Hogan is promising to do better, to consult more and listen carefully. Like a repentant husband, he's attempting to win back an estranged wife.
Can this marriage be saved? Should this marriage be saved?
If so, time will have to pass and passions will have to cool. Hogan shows every sign of sincere regret over the current sorry circumstances, but his future actions will speak far louder than his words.