URBANA — University of Illinois President Michael Hogan told campus leaders Monday that he was sorry about the recent scandal involving anonymous emails sent to faculty members from his former chief of staff and he accepted responsibility for what happened.
"I sincerely regret the incident, the personal hardship it has caused to our senators and others, and the embarrassment it has brought to the university. As president, of course, I accept full responsibility for this and for any other such incident that occurs," Hogan told members of the Urbana-Champaign Senate Executive Committee on Monday afternoon.
Hogan made the remarks in a crowded room of faculty, student and academic staff leaders, at a regularly scheduled meeting during which he delivered a state of the university speech. It was the first time senate leaders had met with Hogan since the university released the findings of an external investigation that concluded Lisa Troyer, Hogan's chief of staff at the time, was behind the anonymous emails sent to faculty leaders. She resigned amid the investigation but has denied sending the messages, which focused on the University Senates Conference's debate on enrollment management and attempted to persuade faculty from coming to a consensus on the issue.
"It is my responsibility not only to articulate high standards, but also to act swiftly when those standards have been violated," Hogan told those attending Monday's meeting.
Hogan said he did so in this case, referring to the initial internal review conducted at the UI and the subsequent hiring of two external firms to conduct an investigation.
"What can be done is to assure our colleagues and our public that the board and I will continue to uphold the highest standards and will act swiftly like we did in this case when abuses occur," Hogan said.
When asked by UI Professor Nicholas Burbules if there were any ethical lapses in Hogan's behavior, the president replied that he would let the investigative report speak for itself. Investigators found no evidence that Hogan or anyone else knew that Troyer had sent the emails.
Joyce Tolliver, professor and vice chair of the committee, said she wished Hogan had concluded his statement before continuing on to say the university employs more than 100,000 faculty, staff and students "and even the most stringent oversight will not prevent abuses from time to time."
"Lisa Troyer was not just another employee," Tolliver said after the meeting. "She was his chief of staff. ... She came here with President Hogan (from the University of Connecticut). She was the enabler of his vision. She was not one of 100,000 employees," Tolliver said.
Hogan's comments were delivered at a time in which more and more faculty leaders, including groups not related to the campus senate, were increasing pressure on Hogan to reconsider efforts to centralize the university's three campuses and proposals aimed at changing enrollment management, the issue that prompted the anonymous emails sent on Dec. 12. In recent weeks, chair professors and faculty leaders of several colleges on campuses outlined their concerns to Hogan on these topics.
On Monday, Hogan said he was in the process of reviewing those letters and he considered them to be part of the ongoing, 16- to 18-month discussion on enrollment management.
In the latest development, he said he was willing to "take off the table" the proposal having to do with "rebranding" the university. Among the recommendations two external consultants made to Hogan on enrollment management was the proposal to emphasize the University of Illinois as a whole when marketing to prospective students. Faculty have raised concerns and questions about that and other recommendations.
The issue "has not been properly understood by both sides," Hogan said, and he plans to refer the rebranding matter to a council of academic leaders from the three campuses.
Meanwhile, after meeting with Hogan on Monday, members of the Senate Executive Committee decided to move forward with their plan to present a statement on leadership to the full senate next week.
The group did not vote to endorse the statement but voted to place it on the agenda for the full senate to consider on Jan. 30, senate Chair Matt Wheeler said.
The student senate will consider a similar resolution on ethical leadership at its meeting Wednesday.
Titled a "statement of ethical leadership and shared governance," the senate document first includes a definition of what is ethical leadership and then responds to the findings of the investigative report.
Tolliver said the committee described ethical leadership as "patiently building consensus for reform, not mandating it as an act of command, respectfully engaging in honest disagreements, not trying to eliminate them, working with campus leaders and faculty as partners in governance, not as subordinates to be ordered to action."
The report and its appendices "outlined a pattern of behavior that falls short of this ideal and does not represent us," she said.
The report revealed a culture in which the administration attempted to intervene in the work of faculty leaders while they were discussing the issue of enrollment management and committee members wanted to make the statement that such action "is not the Illinois way," Tolliver said.