Wise consults lawyers, rejects new position

Soon-to-be-former University Chancellor Phyllis Wise is at the center of emails released Friday by the University detailing tensions between Wise and former Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy. 

By Megan Jones

UPDATE (9:05 p.m.) — University spokesperson Tom Hardy responded to Wise’s statement saying: “Dr. Wise’s resignation statement was received by the university this evening. It will be reviewed and the university will determine its appropriate course of action. There will be no further comment at this time.”


Former chancellor Phyllis Wise released a statement Thursday stating she declines President Timothy Killeen’s reassigned position for her. She writes she is consulting her lawyers and “considering options to protect my reputation.”

The statement comes after almost a week of silence following her abrupt decision to resign as chancellor of the University. She wrote that in the spirit of placing the University first, she “acceded” to the board and Killeen’s request to resign.

At Wednesday’s Board of Trustees executive committee meeting, the board rejected her resignation, reassigning her to a position under Killeen as an adviser to biomedical affairs. The board has initiated formal dismissal proceedings against Wise.

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    “Yesterday, in a decision apparently motivated more by politics than the interests of the University, the Board reneged on the promises in our negotiated agreement and initiated termination proceedings,” Wise wrote. “This action was unprecedented, unwarranted, and completely contrary to the spirit of our negotiations last week.” 

    Wise argued that she acted in what she believed to be the best interests of the University.

    “In fact, many of these same communications included campus counsel, board members and other campus leaders,” she wrote.

    In a letter by Board Chairman Edward McMillan, he said Wise will receive a list of reasons for her proposed dismissal as chancellor. Wise will have the chance to appear in front of the board to comment and defend her actions. 

    However, she wrote she has no intention of engaging in a public debate that would ultimately “harm the University and the many people who have devoted time and hard work to its critical mission.” 

    Wise wrote that the negotiated $400,000 retention incentive was not a bonus or golden parachute. 

    “As the University knows, months before this controversy began, I had begun discussions with campus Development leaders about gifting an amount equal to my deferred compensation package to the College of Medicine,” she wrote.

    Wise sent the statement to several reporters and wrote to not contact her, writing she has no comment beyond the statement. 

    “These recent events have saddened me deeply,” she wrote. “I had intended to finish my career at this University, overseeing the fulfillment of groundbreaking initiatives we had just begun.” 

    At Wednesday’s meeting, Killeen said he had not spoken with Wise yet on her reassigned position, but hoped she’d be willing to work on core issues in biomedical sciences, particularly related to curriculum. 

    [email protected] and @MeganAsh_Jones