Initiatives to centralize admissions incite conflict

_Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series regarding contentious discussions over proposed changes to the University’s enrollment management, after thousands of emails were obtained by The Daily Illini under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act._

Concerns about campus authority are still prevalent, as off-campus administrators push for a more centralized University of Illinois.

The highly contested enrollment management recommendations made last year urged the University to create an administrative position that would oversee enrollment decisions on all three campuses.

But in a late-November meeting with University President Michael Hogan, Chancellor and Vice President Phyllis Wise and the other two chancellors demanded that campus enrollment managers continue reporting to their provosts, in addition to a University-wide director.

Hogan gave in during a later discussion, promising that campus enrollment management will have a dual structure, reporting first to an executive director. This plan was provided in a document sent to the chancellors that outlined “talking points” for them to convey to faculty leaders. Wise passed these plans on to the Senate Executive Committee, which rejected Hogan’s plan to centralize admissions, at its Dec. 12 meeting.

University spokesman Tom Hardy said these back-and-forth discussions were all part of an ongoing collaboration.

“The chancellors all voiced the concern that their respective campuses had … (and) the president listened as part of a consultative process,” Hardy said Friday. “They compromised and reached an agreement to make sure the campus voice would be heard.”

While the enrollment management recommendations were reviewed on both a campus and University level, Hogan had multiple conversations with the chancellors to reiterate his and the Board of Trustees’ plans. After one of the meetings in late November, Hogan emailed the chancellors explaining why he was hesitant to have dual-reporting lines.

“A dual-reporting relationship was never envisioned by the board or me. Indeed, it would be impossible to recruit someone who would be held accountable for the job but not have full authority to get it done,” Hogan said. “Nevertheless, I remain open to other suggestions that might ameliorate your concerns.”

However, two weeks after that email, Hogan wrote to board chairman Christopher Kennedy to say that he was surprised how Wise had handled the conversations to that point.

“Her position began to reveal itself in a conversation … about our enrollment management plans going forward,” Hogan told Kennedy, adding that Wise demanded the dual-reporting structure. “I made it clear to Phyllis that the decision to appoint and fully empower an executive director of enrollment management had been made over a year earlier by the board and we were not going to backpedal on it.”

In an email from Hogan to Kennedy obtained by The Daily Illini, details about why the University rejected this idea on past reforms were redacted. But after her conversation with Hogan, Wise sought the opinion of interim provost Richard Wheeler, vice provost for academic affairs Barbara Wilson and former associate provost for enrollment management Keith Marshall.

The next day, Nov. 23, Marshall told Wise that this was a direct contradiction of what Hogan told the campus enrollment managers in a summer meeting.

Marshall said Hogan went to great pains in that meeting to say he would not implement enrollment management like human resources or information technology but would rather have the enrollment managers maintain their direct line to campus and the administration.

Marshall left that position in mid-November after being “roundly criticized” by University administration, according to an email sent to colleagues by Eric Meyer, a member of the Urbana enrollment management task force.

This is not the first time campus official has left the job while restructuring initiatives were imminent.

Just last April, Sally Jackson, who was then Urbana’s chief information officer, resigned from her position, criticizing the decision to “centralize authority over academic and research computing.” The University had created an executive chief information officer position, similar to the executive director for enrollment management that Hogan intends to create.

This shifted reporting lines of campus chief information officers from the provosts to the new University position. But even now, concerns have not died down about the possibility of centralization.

“Each initiative that gets proposed or rolled out or tries to be implemented, we have seen over the last 18 to 20 months a knee-jerk opposition in some quarter,” Hardy said. “These are natural occurrences. These things happen when you have a big institution and there’s change. Some people find it hard to adjust or accept change, (but) I think there has to be changes, as we all know, given the fiscal situation the University finds itself in.”