Michael Hogan University of Illinois


Michael Hogan—whose official title is "Embattled University of Illinois President"—announced his resignation today after months of icy relationships with the faculty:

Earlier this month, the university's board of trustees directed Hogan to improve his relationship with the faculty, who questioned whether he could change his leadership style. Hogan said he planned to meet with deans, chancellors and faculty Senates at the university's three campuses to convince them otherwise.

The directive to play nice was too little, too late. In February, 130 UIUC profs, most of them bigwigs, requested Hogan get the boot:

The faculty members contend Hogan has lacked financial discipline; usurped duties usually assumed by the campus chancellor; tried to bully faculty and the chancellor on enrollment issues; and generally has had a "failure of ethical leadership," a criticism levied by the Urbana-Champaign faculty Senate earlier this month.

Just over two weeks later, a letter signed by 120 faculty members was dispatched. They weren't convinced:

Hogan’s performance to date on the three tasks with which he has been charged, is anything but reassuring. Hogan’s actions thus far appear to be two in number. First, even before reaching out to the senior administration and faculty of the University, his first priority was to engineer something of a media blitz, giving a two hour interview to the News-Gazette (March 9, 2012) appearing on local television, and giving other interviews (ten in just one day according to the Chicago Tribune, March 9 2012). Second, on March 8 he sent a mass-mailing entitled, “Restoring trust, achieving our goals,” addressed to “everyone” on the UIUC campus. The tenor of both efforts is the same.

From the interview with Hogan, a longtime editor of Diplomatic History:

Q: Your email exchanges with Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise also have fueled faculty anger. The tone of complaints about, for instance, the fact that you weren't provided car transportation at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, seems to have been a particular problem.

"There's no doubt there was an edgy tone, a tone of frustration. … At the time I remember one of those emails, I had just come back from a bowl game. I came back with the flu. I was tired and frustrated and in a hurry to catch up with all the things that were on my table. And I sat down and wrote an email too quickly without reviewing it and sent it off.

The News-Gazette has a lengthy piece about those e-mails, which can be read here (PDF). It seems more like confusion over the transportation—Hogan expected transportation for himself, Pat Quinn, and a board member; the chancellor said the Bowl committee had taken care of it; and Hogan and his guests "ended up walking or making our own arrangements (that is, I made the arrangements for the other two)." I read the note as curt—but dealing with VIPs, especially when they're your bosses, can set people off if all doesn't go well. In all, it seems like a lot of little things, poorly handled, made the difference.

Oddly, one point of tension was a plan to centralize enrollment among the campuses, which faculty feared would reduce autonomy. And just before his resignation, the administration conceded on that point.

It's not the first time Hogan has left behind an annoyed institution. When he left the University of Connecticut after three years, the announcement was also notable for its edgy tone of frustration:

"Mike Hogan has done a solid job during his brief tenure at UConn," Gov. M. Jodi Rell said in a statement. "Many, including myself, are deeply disappointed that he is leaving the university at such a critical time, particularly on the heels of the landmark financial investment we have just made to the UConn Health Center. We had assumed President Hogan's commitment to UConn was a long-term one; it should have been."

Not to mention:

Trustees learned of the resignation only hours before it was publicly announced Tuesday evening.

"That disappointed me," [Board of Trustees Chairman Lawrence] McHugh said. "The phone call came at 5:30. He was in Chicago. . . . All of the trustees I've talked to – none of them knew about it."

Hogan's University of Illinois salary came under fire when it was reported that it was $170,000 more than his predecessor, plus two country club memberships and other perks. This, however, is something of a universal issue—Hogan, for better or worse, didn't even make the top tier of public-university presidential compensation.


Photograph: Chicago Tribune