UI unappealing due to Hogan’s fleeting tenure

Michael Hogan was brought in as a reformer in the wake of the enormous clout scandal that led to his predecessor’s messy resignation. With Hogan following in the footsteps of B. Joseph White with the University in an even larger financial mess than when we last had a stable administration, it’s fairly clear that Hogan’s resignation does not get us out of the woods. In fact, there’s a slight chance that we may be even deeper than we were before.

Looking at Hogan’s brief stint at the University of Illinois, one can hardly imagine who would want to come in and take up his position in continuing to implement the Board of Trustees’ policies.

It’s still unclear what impact this is going to make on the school’s ability to support itself. The Board of Trustees killed two birds with one stone with Robert Easter, the former ACES dean and interim chancellor who will take over July 1. Easter has already been hailed by faculty leaders as the perfect fit for president. But even more important is the fact that for the first time since White’s departure, Easter’s title will not have “interim.” Indeed, while the search for Hogan took close to nine months, the search for Hogan’s successor is already over. Quite conveniently, Easter’s contract will last through 2014, and the board has already made it clear that the search won’t occur until that time.

In the meantime, Easter has an interesting task ahead of him in maintaining the balance of faculty and administrative power. The momentum toward Hogan’s resignation began snowballing when faculty called for his ouster in late February. It matters not that correlation does not necessarily equal causation; it’s hard to believe that observers, whether outside or from within the University, will not try to equate the two.

This raises very troubling questions about the balance of power at the University. Regardless of Hogan’s job performance, the impact that faculty made in removing Hogan from office without any proof of wrongdoing appears to be unprecedented. In the past, faculty’s role on campus was generally confined to teaching, researching and focusing on the University’s considerable academic prowess. It’s the administration that must make the tough, unpopular calls, particularly in a time of financial constraints. It comes down to the fact that much of the University’s reputation is staked in its big names, which gives those faculty an enormous bargaining chip. But if the University wants to make it out of the woods, it’s going to need a stable leader who won’t collapse under the pressure of faculty complaints.