URBANA — Lisa Troyer, chief of staff for University of Illinois President Michael Hogan, has resigned amid an internal investigation about anonymous emails sent from her computer to faculty members.
Hogan announced Troyer's resignation Friday in an email to administrators. The president gave no reason for her departure but said she would remain at the UI as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology.
The Chicago Tribune reported Saturday that the university's ethics and information technology offices are investigating allegations against Troyer.
A member of the Senates Conference, a university-level faculty group that advises the president, told The News-Gazette that the concern is that Troyer may have posed as a member of the group and sent anonymous emails to sway them from issuing a report critical of Hogan's controversial proposals on enrollment management.
Professor Nicholas Burbules, vice chairman of the conference, said Saturday that someone sent out two anonymous emails to faculty in early December purporting to be a member of the conference.
Computer science Professor Roy Campbell, also a panel member, determined that the emails appeared to have come from Troyer's computer, and emailed his colleagues to that effect. "The emails instantly stopped," Burbules said.
He said the emails "stirred the pot" of division among senates from the three campuses about Hogan's plan to centralize some aspects of enrollment management, admissions and financial aid. The Urbana and Chicago campus senates had expressed reservations about the plan, but the Springfield campus senate had supported it.
The conference was in the midst of drafting a final report on the plan, trying to reconcile three separate reports from the campuses.
Hogan had been unhappy with an earlier draft in mid-November that called for further exploration of some of the president's proposals and he urged the faculty to move more quickly to adopt them.
The anonymous emails said the conference was too divided to reach a consensus and should just "acknowledge that we're irreconcilably divided from each other and we should stop trying to pretend we can reach a consensus," Burbules said.
"It's our job as the Senates Conference to try to pursue a consensus when senates are divided," he said. "A letter that was urging us to give up, and admit that we can't do it, would prevent us from being able to advise this president on this very controversial proposal."
That would "clearly serve the president's interests," Burbules said, and the substance of the email showed knowledge of internal deliberations by the conference, he said.
"The idea that this was just some random person hacking into the computer really doesn't make a lot of sense to me," Burbules said.
He also said the investigation should cover whether the president knew Troyer had sent the emails.
University spokesman Tom Hardy did not respond to a call or email late Saturday, and Troyer did not respond to an email. Hardy told the Tribune that Hogan and Troyer would not be available for comment.
Hogan's announcement said Troyer will "resume teaching and research duties" as a tenured psychology professor.
But interim Provost Richard Wheeler told the Tribune that the campus may need to review the results of the internal investigation before making a decision about Troyer's role with the faculty.
Troyer, a tenured professor and former assistant provost, worked with Hogan at the University of Connecticut where he was president and before that at the University of Iowa, where he was provost. Her initial UI salary was $195,000 annually. She is earning $200,850 this year.
"I have worked with Lisa for the last nine years at three flagship public universities and know her to be an exceptional colleague: knowledgeable, hard working, loyal, collegial, and dedicated to helping each one of the universities achieve its aspirations despite challenging circumstances," Hogan wrote.
The Senates Conference approved a final report Dec. 21 endorsing some enrollment-management recommendations, rejecting some and urging further study on others. The vote was 13-2. Like the Urbana senates it said the most important recommendations were the first two, saying "there should be a collaborative process that involves the campuses and preserves the locus of control of setting enrollment policies and targets with the campuses," Burbules said.