President Michael Hogan resigns amid concerns about his leadership ability at UI

Editor’s note: in an earlier version of this article, Board of Trustees Chair Christopher Kennedy had been quoted as saying “much of the work he came here to do hadn’t been done…” This article has been updated to reflect the correction. The Daily Illini regrets this error.

Just two weeks after the Board of Trustees told him to repair his relationship with faculty or risk losing his job, University President Michael Hogan resigned Thursday.

Hogan — who replaced former University President B. Joseph White after the Category I admissions scandal — unexpectedly stepped down from his post amid growing concerns about his leadership ability.

The board’s Executive Committee accepted Hogan’s resignation in an emergency meeting Friday afternoon at the Chicago campus, where trustees also signed off on the selection of Robert Easter, former interim chancellor, as president-designate. Easter will take over as president July 1.

“It has been a distinct honor and privilege to serve as president of the University of Illinois,” Hogan said in a statement Thursday, adding that he is optimistic about the future of the University.

Board chairman Christopher Kennedy said Hogan felt he had accomplished what he wanted to do during his short term.

“(Hogan) came to the University to complete a certain agenda,” Kennedy said. “At the last board meeting, he concluded that much of the work he came here to do had been done, so rather than create a whole new agenda, I think he recognized that this was a great time to move on and let somebody else step in.”

Faculty members were the greatest source of pressure on Hogan since he took over two years ago. Last month, a group of 130 distinguished professors from the Urbana campus wrote a letter to the trustees asking him to step down, as they had no confidence in his leadership.

Also, members of the Urbana-Champaign Senate have expressed disapproval of Hogan on several occasions, but the senate never officially called for his resignation. Hogan was scheduled to meet with the senate and other campus officials next Friday, but the meeting was called off as a result of this latest development.

Senate Executive Committee vice-chair Joyce Tolliver said this move was in the best interest of the University.

“I know this was a difficult decision for the board and for (the) president and Mrs. Hogan, and I commend them for making this hard, but correct, choice,” Tolliver said. “I sincerely wish Dr. and Mrs. Hogan all the best as they plan for their new roles at the University.”

Nicholas Burbules, member of the Senate Executive Committee, echoed his colleague’s response.

“I think it’s a sad situation, and it’s unfortunate that we’ve reached this point,” he said. “I do respect the president for doing the right thing for the University. It couldn’t have been easy for him.”

While the board had previously backed Hogan and his initiatives, the trustees met with the embattled president behind closed doors in an emergency meeting March 5. In response to recent concerns from faculty, the board reviewed its expectations of Hogan in that meeting. But Kennedy said Thursday that he does not remember Hogan indicating that resignation was a possibility that day.

Soon after, Hogan reached out to the University community in a mass email, saying that he regretted the failure. However, the same group of faculty that sent the original letter delivered another memo March 15 during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting in Urbana, this time telling the trustees to fire him.

Throughout this semester, Hogan had stated that he had no plans to step down. But last weekend in a meeting with Kennedy, Hogan expressed his desire to leave the hot seat as the University’s president.

Hogan — who was earning more than $650,000 a year — will retain a faculty position at the campus of his choice but may face a similar internal investigation that his former chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, is currently going through at the Urbana campus.

Controversy over Hogan’s proposals to centralize financial aid and admissions was magnified after Troyer resigned in early January amid an investigation of whether she sent anonymous emails to an advisory faculty group.

Those emails urged the University Senates Conference to accept changes to the University’s enrollment management, which Hogan had supported. In response, the campus senate passed a resolution that criticized Hogan’s possible involvement in that scandal. He has denied the accusations, and the investigation of Troyer cleared him of wrongdoing.

In addition, thousands of emails obtained by The Daily Illini through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, showed that Hogan criticized Phyllis Wise, Urbana’s chancellor and vice president, and pushed her to support his goals, which had been outlined for her before she became chancellor.

Due to strong faculty disapproval of Hogan’s centralization plans, he and Kennedy met with the University Senates Conference on several occasions this semester to give faculty members input in the decision-making process. At the last board meeting, University Senates Conference chair Don Chambers commended Hogan and Kennedy for their roles in coming to a positive conclusion about the enrollment management plan. The final version of the plan, called “The Path Forward,” was released just days before Hogan announced his resignation.

Despite the “positive conclusion,” this had not been the first time Hogan and faculty clashed on centralization issues. Tensions between the two sides have been mounting as Hogan has pushed for a one-University model during his short-lived presidency, creating University-wide administrative positions in an effort to streamline costs. In response, faculty members have continued to argue that this could diminish the distinctiveness of the Urbana campus.

But this problem was not isolated to the University’s flagship campus. Philip Patston, chair of the Chicago senate, said that campus is also concerned about its distinctiveness, leaving faculty frustrated about Hogan’s plans and his means to implementing those.

“It was inevitable this was going to happen,” Patston said. “Now the challenge is to separate the problems caused by leadership from the two presidents and make it clear that this is not the University of Illinois.”

Hogan came from the University of Connecticut, where he served as its president for just three years before accepting the job offer at the University of Illinois.