URBANA — Answering faculty calls for change, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy expressed his support for Michael Hogan on Monday, saying the embattled president has been instrumental in building a strong administrative team at the UI.
He also pledged to continue working to strengthen relationships with faculty.
Meanwhile, the campus senate is inviting Hogan to a special meeting to publicly address faculty concerns about his leadership, expressed in several recent letters, petitions and resolutions. The meeting will be scheduled "as soon as possible," said Professor Joyce Tolliver, vice chairwoman of the senate.
Kennedy responded in writing Monday to the latest letter, signed by 130 professors with prestigious endowed chairs or professorships who said they no longer have confidence in the UI president and called for Hogan's resignation. The letter was made public last week and delivered to trustees Monday.
In a written reply to the original 14 signatories, Kennedy answered many of the concerns laid out in the faculty letter, which criticized Hogan's actions during the ongoing enrollment management controversy and the resignation of his former chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, as well as other steps they felt threatened campus autonomy.
Kennedy said some of the issues raised by faculty are "peripheral to the core values we think a strong president brings."
But he added, "The fact that each of you is concerned about these points, though, is concerning in and of itself. You are the heart and the soul of the University, and your presence here continues to make the University great."
Kennedy did not directly address one major point: what the faculty called Hogan's "extraordinary bullying" of Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise, as revealed in emails released under the Freedom of Information Act. The letter said Hogan lacked the "management style, ethics, and even manners, needed to lead this University."
The 130 faculty signing included two-thirds of those holding campus-level endowed chairs and professorships and 12 professors in the Center for Advanced Study, including Anthony Leggett, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics, and Leon Dash, Pulitzer Prize-winning professor of journalism and director of the center.
Kennedy emphasized that he's been involved in "nearly constant communication" with various UI constituents, including senators, faculty, officers and trustees. The effort is "often exhausting in nature and sometimes challenging, but I should make it clear that I greatly appreciate everyone's passion and interest in the future of the University, and I welcome the continued dialogue," said Kennedy, who met with faculty on the University Senates Conference last week.
Kennedy praised Hogan's hires in several newly created central administrative positions, including Dr. Joe "Skip" Garcia as vice president for health affairs and Lawrence Schook as vice president for research, Michael Hites as executive director of information technology, and Maureen Parks as executive director of human resources. He also mentioned the hires of Wise and Chancellors Susan Koch in Springfield.
"(W)e are slowly but steadily building one of the great academic leadership teams in the country," Kennedy wrote. "Many of these people were drawn to the University by its track record, its success, its potential for further greatness and by the reforms that the current President and the Board of Trustees have instituted. We believe that good governance can be a competitive advantage and that a president capable of attracting great talent can make a tremendous difference to the future of the University. We believe President Hogan has been instrumental in attracting this team. ... We continue to support his efforts, and we hope you will, too," Kennedy said.
Regarding enrollment management, the faculty letter had accused Hogan of engineering "the supposedly 'external' consultant report so as to make it conform to already pre-existing desires for a centralized, University-level enrollment, admission and financial aid system" and then discussed it with trustees without faculty consultation. Recently released emails showed UI administrators had envisioned centralizing enrollment management well before hiring the external reviewers in early 2011, and that the reviewer's report was edited several times by Troyer before it was submitted to faculty and trustees.
Kennedy said the board "pre-approved the concept of an external enrollment management report, and we were informed by and concurred with the actual consultants. Many campus representatives were interviewed by the consultants, and we are unaware of any concern about the quality of the consultants or the conclusions of the report made during the process or in the immediate period after the report was issued."
Kennedy also said he and Hogan had both apologized for the controversy surrounding the controversial anonymous emails traced to Troyer's computer, and the board acted quickly to launch an external investigation.
"(W)e gave them full latitude and their report did not sugar-coat anything," he said.
"I acknowledge your continued suspicions around President Hogan's involvement in the email controversy. I can only say that an outside party with full access, without resource constraints and with a compelling mandate to seek the truth concluded that President Hogan was not involved in the creation or distribution of the emails," he wrote.
Kennedy also said:
— The board is unaware that Hogan has embraced the "trappings" of the presidency in any way different from his predecessors, and no audits have raised issues about spending in the president's office or any "lack of financial discipline." The faculty letter had accused Hogan of spending too much money on office improvements and raises for his staff.
— The board is unaware of any "inappropriate intervention into athletics. In fact, we appreciate President Hogan's leadership, as we replaced both an athletic director and the football coach at a time when we had either an interim chancellor or a chancellor in transition at the Urbana-Champaign campus."
Kennedy said he would share the letter with others to "make certain every issue is fully vetted and reviewed."
He stressed the need for "continued dialogue regarding shared governance. There is a need for mutual respect and realization that a collaborative approach is more effective than any other form of leadership."
"I assure you that the entire Board of Trustees and senior leadership team are aware of this broader issue. I believe we are making strides to embrace the best aspects of shared governance. My hope is to continue moving forward in this regard."
The principal author, law Professor Michael Moore, said he was "gratified" that Kennedy "at least takes us seriously," contrasting his statement with that of a university spokesman who last week said the group represented a small fraction of the UI's 40,000 employees.
But he was dismayed by Kennedy's characterization of the 10 issues raised in the letter as "peripheral," saying they go to the heart of "what kind of power a president of a multi-campus university should exercise." He also challenged some of Kennedy's statements.
The letter, "while respectful, well crafted, and from someone I and my colleagues respect, does not change the conclusion of our letter, which was that President Hogan should resign or be asked to do so."
Delivering remarks on behalf of Senate Chairman Matt Wheeler at Monday's meeting, Tolliver took note of the faculty letter and a petition signed by almost 400 faculty last week that raised "serious doubts" about Hogan's leadership, but the senate did not endorse either document.
"Groups of faculty have the right to express their views," Tolliver said, adding that the senate is the "place where difficult questions need to be debated." She then invited Hogan to join senators at a special meeting to hear their concerns publicly and respond to them.
"In all fairness, we owe him that," Tolliver said.
The president had not yet received the senate's invitation Monday, but UI spokesman Tom Hardy said Hogan talks frequently with faculty both individually and collectively and "I don't foresee ... barring a scheduling issue, a reason that he wouldn't talk with faculty members."