URBANA — Three weeks ago, on a board-ordered mission to rebuild his standing with faculty and the public, University of Illinois President Michael Hogan expressed confidence that he would still be in office a year from now.
Within a week he had tendered his resignation, effective July 1.
Unrelenting pressure from the campus's top faculty and new revelations about Hogan's former chief of staff apparently convinced UI trustees that he would be unable to effectively lead the university, board members told The News-Gazette last week.
"There were just so many things piling up, we didn't think he was going to be able to reconcile with the faculty," Trustee Timothy Koritz said. "You obviously can't have an organization where the faculty doesn't work with the chief executive officer."
"There were two things," added Trustee Karen Hasara. "The Lisa Troyer incident that caused a lot of concern mostly with the faculty and the board, and the letter from all the well-known and wonderful faculty members like Nobel Prize winners and long-term faculty — that was the tipping point. We had to take that very seriously."
Last week, The News-Gazette contacted the other UI trustees, in addition to Hasara and Koritz. They either did not return phone calls or declined comment.
Through UI spokesman Tom Hardy, Hogan declined to discuss his resignation.
As they met at the Illini Union on March 15, trustees were handed a new letter from more than 100 of the UI's most prestigious professors, saying the board needed to fire Hogan immediately or risk losing its own ability to govern.
The faculty members had urged Hogan's departure in an earlier letter, but they were upset by former chief of staff Lisa Troyer's claims that she had continued working after stepping down from her administrative post and wanted to be paid for that time. The details were published in The News-Gazette on March 14.
The board met with Hogan in closed session on March 15 and reached a consensus that "we needed to try to do something," Koritz said.
"We had a long talk with Mike," Koritz said. "We thought, 'This just isn't working out.'"
"Obviously the faculty are a huge part of the university. We want to all be working together. If it's a situation where one group won't work with another group, we've got problems and the board needs to try to do something about that."
The board "negotiated strategies," he said, agreeing to keep everything under wraps until they knew what Hogan wanted to do and that Bob Easter would be willing to succeed him for the next two years.
Easter, who was the interim chancellor for the Urbana campus after Richard Herman resigned in October 2009, "was the logical person to look to," according to Hasara. "We knew we needed someone respected on the Urbana campus and someone who would not ignore the other two campuses."
Trustees agreed that Kennedy would meet with Hogan that weekend, March 17-18, and "see how he felt about it, and if we could come to a mutually agreeable strategy," Koritz said.
Koritz said he wasn't privy to those conversations but said Kennedy kept them apprised of developments.
Asked if Hogan was forced out, Koritz said: "I got the feeling that it was mutually agreeable. Mike felt really frustrated. It was going to be a huge mountain to climb to maybe surmount what had gone on, and maybe it was better to move on. That's the impression I got from Chris.
"When we talked about Mike and possibly asking him if he would consider resigning, the chairman asked for anyone to voice their dissent. A few of us said, 'This is really unfortunate,' but I think most of us felt in the end the consensus was we needed to go ahead and look at that."
On March 22, the day Hogan's resignation was announced, board Chairman Chris Kennedy said the decision was solely Hogan's.
"Mike initiated this action," Kennedy said then. "Mike scheduled the meeting to discuss it with me and Mike indicated immediately that the discussion was about his decision to resign as president. There were only two of us in the room. It was Mike's decision."
Hasara said she regrets that Hogan has taken so much criticism in recent months.
"We all appreciate what President Hogan did. And I guess you could blame us for setting the direction that we had — to cut back on things and save money," she said.
But Hasara does not regret the directives the board has given to Hogan since he joined the university in July 2010. One of the board's goals for Hogan this fiscal year was to move forward with changing the way the university handles enrollment management, the contentious issue that sparked debate among faculty last fall.
Given budget constraints in recent years, universities and other organizations have all had to look at their core missions and figure out ways to be more efficient, Hasara said. That includes how the university handles enrollment management, she said.
Perhaps not all the initiatives considered for enrollment management will be implemented, but "we'll count on Bob Easter" to figure out what those initiatives might be, she said.
"I am so convinced going forward the university is going to be fine. I'm hoping over the next six months Bob Easter will prove he's everything we're hoping he will be. ... The university is so much bigger than the president, the chancellor or a few faculty members," Hasara said.
Trustees said they were all too mindful that they had taken office after the resignation of another president, B. Joseph White, during the Category I admissions scandal.
"I don't think any of us wanted to see this happen. In the end we just felt it was in the best interests of the university. And I think President Hogan felt that, too. Nobody wanted to come to this," Koritz said.
The timing of Hogan's announcement caught most observers by surprise, though speculation was rampant that he would resign by the end of the fiscal year.
"I had a sense that inevitably, one way or the other, at a moment in the not terribly distant future, Dr. Hogan would step down. But I certainly did not expect the announcement to come on (that) Thursday," said Professor Joyce Tolliver, vice chairwoman of the campus senate, who had strongly criticized Hogan in a senate speech in February.
One scenario had Hogan's resignation coming by April 9, the next scheduled meeting of the Senate Executive Committee, which would set the agenda for the final Urbana campus senate meeting of the semester on April 30. Any move for a faculty no-confidence vote would have had to be made by that date, Tolliver said.
Tolliver said she knew of no plans for such a vote, but "it would not have been a surprise the way things were moving." Still, she felt that wasn't the "desired outcome."
"Many of us felt it was so much better if the president could respond himself and take the initiative to resign, rather than having a more complex situation in which there would be a formal vote of no-confidence," Tolliver said. "Everybody knows votes of no-confidence are not so good for the reputation of the campus in general, or the image of stability on the campus."