The University of Illinois' Board of Trustees directed the university's president to rebuild trust with the faculty as the board reviewed his performance during a three-hour special meeting Monday.
Michael Hogan has been president of the University of Illinois less than two years. Trustees unexpectedly called Hogan in for the urgent meeting after a group of influential faculty members asked for his resignation over his management style and some of his plans.
Hogan was told to identify specific actions he can take to regain faculty trust, trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy said after Monday's meeting.
"We let him know we needed our people to change or we needed change in our people,'' Kennedy said, adding that the board will be looking for specific actions on a regular basis from Hogan. Time will tell if Hogan can rebuild trust with the faculty, Kennedy said.
Hogan was not available after the meeting, but Kennedy added, "[Hogan] expressed a great personal desire to recommit to the faculty and I'm confident he can do that,'' Kennedy said. "We want to see specific actions on a regular basis.''
Monday's meeting came just over a week after faculty members signed the letter calling for Hogan to step down. Kennedy responded with his own letter backing Hogan.
The faculty letter concerned the trustees, Kennedy said.
"When we have so many of our incredibly important professors writing letters to us that express their concern, that in and of itself represents concern on the part of the trustees,'' Kennedy said.
Hogan's dispute with faculty erupted over a plan to manage enrollment on all three university campuses, which faculty leadership opposes. But the conflict flared when faculty were sent anonymous emails, which an investigation found likely came from Hogan's chief of staff, trying to curb their disapproval. News reports that followed on emails from Hogan criticizing Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise for not doing enough to rally support for the plan further fueled dispute.
In his remarks to reporters after the meeting, Kennedy alluded to those disputes.
"I think we want to be part of a university where shared governance is fully embraced, where there's a respectful dialogue between our senior leadership team and where the faculty feels welcome and important,'' Kennedy said when asked what Hogan was told.
One expert familiar with interactions between university presidents and trustees around the country said Monday that trustees would be wise put together a plan to work through the current difficulties rather than consider firing Hogan. If trustees didn't block Hogan's plan when he introduced it, then they need to back him, said Ray Cotton, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who represents presidents in negotiations with universities.
"Let's say they get rid of Dr. Hogan -- how are they going to get anybody of any stature or quality to take his place? Because it would send a message to future candidates that the board cannot be trusted.''
Some faculty members said Monday that Hogan has irritated them by treating each of the university's three campuses as if they were the same. And his criticisms of the popular Wise only made faculty more upset.
"The sentiment of the faculty on campus, or what I call the trenches, is lots of frustrations over these issues with the president trying to take much more oversight of the campuses,'' said Susan Martinis, who is head of the Biochemistry Department at the Urbana-Champaign campus. "[Wise]has an incredible capacity to listen, and I think that's starkly contrasted with my understanding of the way he tried to go about solving problems.''
Hogan was hired from the University of Connecticut in 2010 after the resignation of B. Joseph White during a scandal over the influence of politics on admissions.
Faculty grumbling about Hogan began last year, but his support of the enrollment management plan has become a flashpoint.
Hogan's chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, resigned in January over the anonymous emails. She denies writing or sending them.
Then, in late February, the faculty letter followed. Its signers included some of the most influential people on campus, among them Nobel Prize winner Anthony Leggett, Pulitzer Prize winner Leon Dash and most of the university's endowed chairs and professors.
Richard Wheeler is interim provost at the Urbana-Champaign campus. Given the level of acrimony between Hogan and faculty, he doesn't know whether the president can meet Kennedy's demands.
"[Kennedy] has put him in a pretty awkward spot, I'd say. I think he's got a pretty serious challenge ahead of him."