URBANA — About 400 professors, including the heads of several academic units, have signed an online petition expressing "serious doubts" about President Michael Hogan's leadership style based on recent emails from his office regarding Chancellor Phyllis Wise.
Specifically, the petition expresses strong support for Wise and questions Hogan's treatment of the chancellor during a contentious debate over proposed changes in admissions and other enrollment management issues. The emails were obtained by The News-Gazette through the Freedom of Information Act and published on Feb. 14. The online petition is here .
An enrollment management report commissioned by Hogan last year included 21 wide-ranging recommendations to improve student recruitment and diversity, such as easing the transfer of students between the three campuses, adopting a centralized admissions and financial-aid processing system and emphasizing the UI as a whole when branding the university to students.
Throughout the fall, faculty raised questions about the report and fears about the loss of campus autonomy.
During that debate, emails showed, Hogan pressured the three campus chancellors to issue public statements in support of the changes. Hogan's chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, also resigned amid an investigation into anonymous emails sent from her computer, which were aimed at defusing faculty criticism of the report.
Among the emails was an exchange between Hogan and Wise in early January — heavily redacted by the university before it was released — in which he accused her of a "lack of leadership" on enrollment management because she appeared to agree with faculty who had criticized some of the proposals. Wise responded that leadership included listening to the people who reported to her as well as those above her.
The petition, which began circulating Friday, said enrollment management is complex and will likely involve further debate, but it called the "tone and content" of Hogan's emails troubling. It cited a passage from a letter Hogan wrote to board of trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy, in which the UI president said he reminded Wise that "my goals are her goals."
"It is clear from such comments and others that President Hogan has adopted a managerial stance toward the Urbana campus that is not conducive to free and open discussion of the pertinent issues," the petition said.
Wise has made an "extraordinarily positive impression" in her first months as chancellor, it said, adding, "The University of Illinois is fortunate to have attracted such an outstanding scholar and administrator."
Given the tone of the emails, "we have serious concerns about the attitude and relationship of President Hogan toward Chancellor Wise. A strong working partnership between the President's and Chancellor's offices is crucial to the vitality of the Urbana campus and the entire University of Illinois," it said, as opposed to a "simple top-down command system."
"In conclusion, we have serious doubts and concerns about the President's approach to this relationship, both in terms of simple collegiality and respect at the personal level, and in terms of an effective leadership style that will serve the institution well," it said.
The petition lists nine faculty sponsors from four colleges, and the signatories represent all the major colleges.
"We realized there was a great concern about these issues in various parts of the campus. We thought it was important to express that," said John Caughlin, professor of communication and one of the sponsors. He said the group plans to send the petition to UI trustees soon.
Among the signatories are Thomas Dunning, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications; Carl Woese, Ikenberry Professor of Microbiology at the Institute for Genomic Biology and MacArthur "genius grant" recipient; Charles Zukoski, former vice chancellor for research and now Elio Eliakim Tarika Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; journalism Professor Leon Dash, director of the Center for Advanced Study; James Anderson, Gutsgell Professor and head of the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership; and Joseph Mahoney, Caterpillar Chairman of Business and director of graduate studies in the Department of Business Administration.
Professor Nan Goggin, director of the School of Art and Design, said she signed to support the new chancellor and encourage open discussion of the enrollment management proposals and other issues.
"I think she's got the interests of the campus at heart," Goggin said. "I signed it because I felt her voice needed to be heard."
She said the issue isn't so much enrollment management as "how it's been done."
"The problems have been on campus for a while — we haven't been able to disagree," Goggin said. "I think people can have differing opinions, but they need to be out in the open. If you bring things to the table, they get resolved."
History Professor Carol Symes said she wanted to support Wise and "her commitment to a style of leadership that is strong but not coercive." She said the goal of the petition was to "shape a meaningful dialogue about governance in a way that was not strident or patronizing ... modeling the respectful, inclusive and constructive tone that should be a feature of such discussions."
Professor Marc Snir, head of the Department of Computer Science, said the root problem is "the insistence of President Hogan to handle the university using a command-and-control approach where he dictates where the university goes without worrying about the opinions of faculty. ...
"The high quality of research and education on our campus is largely due to the high autonomy of the campus within the university, the colleges within the campus, the departments within colleges, and faculty within each department," Snir said. "The president is determined to build a centrally managed monolithic university. The result will be a mediocre university — a result that I, and most faculty on campus, want to avoid."
Kennedy said Tuesday that he hadn't seen the petition but said faculty have various ways to express their opinions and be involved in shared governance. He and Hogan met again Tuesday with the University Senates Conference to review a revised enrollment management plan, which drew praise from faculty.