The Daily Illini

Editorial: Thank you, Barbara Wilson

Interim+Vice+Chancellor+Edward+Feser+and+Interim+Chancellor+Barbara+Wilson+listen+during+the+SEC+meeting+in+Urbana%2C+IL+on+Monday%2C+April+25.
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Editorial: Thank you, Barbara Wilson

Interim Vice Chancellor Edward Feser and Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson listen during the SEC meeting in Urbana, IL on Monday, April 25.

Interim Vice Chancellor Edward Feser and Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson listen during the SEC meeting in Urbana, IL on Monday, April 25.

Lily Katz

Interim Vice Chancellor Edward Feser and Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson listen during the SEC meeting in Urbana, IL on Monday, April 25.

Lily Katz

Lily Katz

Interim Vice Chancellor Edward Feser and Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson listen during the SEC meeting in Urbana, IL on Monday, April 25.

Every semester, The Daily Illini tests potential employees on their campus knowledge and grammar skills. The very first question on the test for our news section asks, “Who is the chancellor of the Urbana campus?”

In years past, students rarely knew the answer. In the fall of 2015, most students who knew Phyllis Wise at all only did because of her infamous snow day denial the previous winter.

But by the spring, the majority of our applicants confidently answered that first question. Some proudly wrote out Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson’s full title, while others answered with a simple, “Wilson.” And, surprisingly, many students answered with a friendly “Barb,” as if she were a familiar classmate and not the leader of our 44,000-person campus.

You could argue that anyone who would take a “news test” at a college newspaper might be a little more tuned in than your average student, but we’d like to think that Barb had a hand in her popularity on campus.

She took charge of the campus after Wise’s resignation, but she also walked into a string of other unresolved campus issues. Within Barbara’s first official week as interim chancellor, then-provost Ilesanmi Adesida resigned and football coach Tim Beckman was fired.

The University had just been censured, and later announced it planned to settle with almost-professor Steven Salaita for $600,000 on the same day that athletic director Mike Thomas was fired. This all happened before mid-November, and Barbara handled it with grace, in spite of her admittance that she’d accepted the position mostly out of a sense of duty.

It’s early, but it appears Barbara’s resolutions to these issues will have a lasting positive effect on the campus. After filling her spot for a year, Barbara helped replace Wise with new chancellor Robert Jones.

She more than made up for her part in a questionable contract extension of interim head coach Bill Cubit by hiring Josh Whitman and Lovie Smith to head the athletic department and football program, respectively. Those moves were praised locally and nationally, bringing Illini fans a rare moment of bliss.

Her hard work led to a well-earned promotion at the end of what must have been a trying year. Monday, Barbara Wilson will begin work as the executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs of the University of Illinois system. It appears she’ll act as President Timothy Killeen’s closest adviser, ensuring that their fruitful partnership of the past year will continue on.

We’re thankful that Barbara Wilson stepped in when the University needed a strong leader, and students, whether they know her name or not, should join us in appreciating the work she’s done.

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