UI Trustees To Vote On Easter Extension
University of Illinois Trustees are expected to approve a 1-year extension of the contract for President Robert Easter in their meeting in Chicago next week.
The item before trustees Thursday would keep Easter in the position through June 30th, 2015.
When Easter was approved to take over for the resigning Michael Hogan in March of last year, the original appointment was for two years.
Hogan resigned under pressure from faculty in response to an enrollment management plan, as well as an e-mail controversy regarding that plan, through messages traced back to former Chief of Staff Lisa Troyer.
Easter is also eligible for bonuses for the first time. The extension calls for him to receive ‘performance-based compensation’ this September.
U of I Trustees' Executive Committee will also review performance of university goals and recommended bonuses based on his performance fiscal 2014 and 2015.
This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talked with University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise and President Robert Easter. We asked them about the sequester and how it would affect the University and research efforts on campus, how the state's budget issues are affecting the university and if the UIUC will be getting a new mascot.
We also want you to have the opportunity to interact directly with your leaders. Do you have questions for President Easter or Chancellor Wise? If we didn't get to them today, post to our Facebook page, tweet us @Focus580 or post in the comments section below. We'll be talking with the President and Chancellor again on Focus.
Longtime University of Illinois administrator Robert Easter began work on Monday as the university's newest president. He comes into an office that has been marked by controversy in recent years.
Within the last three years, two U of I presidents have resigned. Easter said he is focused on creating a sense of stability at the university, and making education affordable despite lagging state support for higher education. He told Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers that he has spent a lot of time over the last few months talking with faculty and students about their concerns.
EASTER: What I'm hearing is we want to be part of any decision, and as a longtime faculty member, I resonate with that. The faculty in some sense are the university. They embody the values of the institution. They embody the knowledge base. They are what make the university. They because of what they do in their individual disciplines within their departments have more insight than any of us in leadership have to what's the best strategy for moving forward. Our role is to capture their insights, to understand them, and then to work within the constraints that we have financial and otherwise to move the institution forward.
POWERS: How have you been able to address their concerns and their comments? Have you been able to in this short amount of time?
EASTER: One of the early conversations we had was around pension reform, and I think in formulating the positions that we have taken and been asked to do so, we've tried to consider their viewpoints on what might work and I think we've been very effective in doing that.
POWERS: On the issue of pension reform, this past month more faculty and staff did retire from Illinois' community colleges and state universities than in recent memory, and for the three campuses at the University of Illinois, retirements for the last fiscal year topped a thousand...large number of people leaving their jobs comes a few months after Governor Quinn introduced a plan that would leave state employees, university workers, and teachers with smaller pensions. With fewer trained and skilled staff on all three campuses, what will this mean for the university next semester?
EASTER: I think it means that we have opportunities, perhaps larger than in the normal year to re-energize our campus, to choose to make directional changes as appropriate, and that's the responsibility of the local level to figure out what that is. It also gives us the opportunity to ask the question where we had two staff doing this previously, could we with technology do that same job with less input, and thus control cost and tuition increases and so forth.
POWERS: Do you see a lot of people taking on multiple roles in the next year because of all of this?
EASTER: Yeah, I do. I think we have a long tradition in units when there are retirements that others step in to make sure that the programmatic needs are met, that the quality remains constant, but at the same time, we may well find ourselves needing to bring some people back if they're willing to fill in on a part time basis. As you well know, the legislature did put some boundaries around that, and as we have those conversations going forward a year from now, we'll be very conscious of those boundaries.
POWERS: What is your plan right now in terms of tuition?
EASTER: The board of trustees put in place a policy...I think two years ago now thinking back when it took place...that constrains the increases in tuition to (the rate of inflation), and my goal would be to stay within those boundaries. As cost increase, inevitably tuition reflects that. If we go through a period of minimal cost increase, one would hope we would have minimal tuition increases.
POWERS: The University has had a rough period over the last few years. It's been marked by the admissions scandal, the enrollment management policy that was highly criticized, resignations of two presidents...what do you say to prospective students who look at the U of I and ask themselves, 'Why should I go here? This place doesn't necessarily seem to have its act together.'
EASTER: The University of Illinois is a very robust organization, and the true values of the university lie within the faculty. They lie within the staff, the very competent staff. They lie within the department leadership, and college leadership, and campus leadership. I think those intuitions, those individuals are incredibly strong. The ship, if you will, is rock solid, and I have absolutely no problem telling anyone that this is still a great institution.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
The University of Illinois' new president is getting high praise from Governor Pat Quinn.
He calls former faculty member and administrator Robert Easter an outstanding choice to lead the university for two years after Michael Hogan officially steps down July 1st.
"I know he has the utmost respect of all of the students, the faculty, and the administration." Quinn said Monday. "And it's all about the students. We shouldn't forget that. The university is set up for the education of men and women who are going to make a difference in the world."
Hogan resigned Thursday amid faculty concerns about his leadership. Quinn says he knows Easter well. The two recently traveled together as part of a trade mission to China.
Quinn also wished Hogan well, calling him an excellent scholar who simply didn't work out.
"It was probably the right thing to do to have this change," the governor said. "And I think it's important for us to move on and not to dwell on the present."
Meanwhile, Quinn urged the Illinois Senate to end a controversial legislative scholarship program after passing the House last week.
University of Illinois President Michael Hogan has resigned amid criticism from faculty and students.
"It has been a distinct honor and privilege to serve as President of the University of Illinois," Hogan said in a statement. "While the University has faced some significant organizational and budgetary challenges over the past several years, we have initiated the reforms necessary to modernize and streamline our business functions and redirect the savings to academic purposes. The underpinnings of this great institution are sound."
Hogan took over at the University of Illinois in 2010, in the wake of an admissions scandal there.
The Board of Trustees Executive Committee is expected to name Robert Easter to succeed Hogan at a meeting on Friday in Chicago. Easter, who served as interim Chancellor & Provost, will take over as president July 1, for a two-year term.
"Now, as Mike has decided to move on, the Board of Trustees has asked me to assume the mantle of leadership of this great institution as its President. I do so with pride, but also humility-with eagerness, but also enormous respect," Easter said. "I am committed to our students and all of our campuses. And, it is for this reason that I accept the responsibilities as President and pledge to move forward energetically and collaboratively with an agenda that reaffirms the University of Illinois' special place among the very best of institutions of higher learning in the United States."
Trustee Karen Hasara said that Easter is a good choice for U of I president, because he is well known and respected throughout the university community.
State Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), who is a graduate and a student trustee of the University of Illinois, said he supports the appointment of Easter as the university president-designate. Rose said as a U of I faculty member, Easter is someone everybody trusts.
"I just hope they give him a long enough contract that he can move us forward," Rose said. "I mean I don't want to see some other search, you know, for somebody else. I mean the U of I has this history of always looking for some guy from Michigan or some guy from Stanford. Forget that. The right guy has been here the whole time."
In the email, Chairman Chris Kennedy suggested the U of I's next leader should be "a proven administrator with a track record of collaboration and success within our University."
Hogan had been criticized by faculty and students for weeks for allegedly not listening to the concerns. He has been under pressure for months as faculty complained about his management style and plans for the campus. His chief of staff resigned over anonymous emails intended to win faculty support of an unpopular enrollment management plan. Hogan was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident.
Kennedy said earlier this month that he expected Hogan to improve his relationship with the university community within a couple of months. In an interview on March 8 after that meeting, Hogan said he would redouble efforts to better communicate with University faculty and students.
"I've spent a lot of time with faculty. I've spent a lot of time with faculty governance groups, but I have to take it up a notch," Hogan said. "I really have to persuade people that not only I am in the room with them, I'm actually listening to them. I'm not only seeking their advice, I'm profiting from what they have to say."
Joyce Tolliver is an Associate Professor of Spanish, and Vice-Chair of the Academic Senate Executive Committee. Tolliver said Hogan's exit was difficult, but it had to happen. She also wished him well.
University of Illinois entomology professor May Berenbaum was on a committee that hired Hogan, but had signed two recent letters calling for his resignation. Both letters were signed by more than 100 faculty members. Berenbaum said she was surprised to learn about Hogan's resignation.
"It's just an unfortunate situation all around. It wasn't supposed to go this way. That's all," Berenbaum said. "I have every confidence that our campus will recover from this. I mean this has been difficult, but I am absolutely sure that we can move on successfully."
Professor Laura Greene said Hogan's resignation is "good for the university." She was also one of more than a hundred faculty members who signed a letter asking for Hogan's dismissal. Greene said she opposed plans to consolidate the university's admissions system.
"For this particular university system, I think it's important to maintain the strength of each campus," Greene said.
U of I student Keenan Kassar is a Senator-elect on the Urbana campus. He helped organize a student demonstration last week to speak out against Hogan's leadership. Kassar said the next president of the University of Illinois should be someone who can repair the U of I's reputation, and prevent additional scandals from happening.
"With Hogan we ran the risk of our reputation dropping," Kassar said. "He was seeking of repairing it, but he was the one damaging it. I don't think it's damaged beyond repair. I just hope we don't get anyone who does damage it."
Trustee Karen Hasara said it was clear that public dissatisfaction with Hogan was high in the university community, for his handling of his enrollment management proposal. She said trustees took the latest letter signed by chaired faculty calling for Hogan's quick departure very seriously. But Hasara said it was Hogan's resignation was his own decision --- and not due to pressure from trustees.
"I don't know that we ever suggested that he resign," Hasara said. "We certainly discussed with him what we thought needed to happen, and he actually was receptive to that. But I think in the final days, he just realized that it was going to be better if he did step down."
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who is an ex officio member of U of I's Board of Trustees, said in a statement he respects Hogan's decision.
"I would like to thank him for taking on the challenge of heading our state's flagship university during a difficult transition period," Quinn said.
Quinn also commented on the decision to appoint Bob Easter as university president-designate.
"I have confidence in his (Easter's) leadership and ability to continue moving the state's largest university forward," Quinn said.
Hogan will stay with the University of Illinois as a history professor.