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U Of I President Promises To Mend Fences With Critics On Faculty

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U of I President Michael Hogan met with trustees Monday. (CBS)

U of I President Michael Hogan met with trustees Monday. (CBS)

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URBANA, Ill. (AP) – The University of Illinois’ embattled president concedes he has communicated poorly with faculty members, many of whom have expressed “no confidence” in his administration and demanded his ouster.

Michael Hogan tells the Associated Press he underestimated how much time and effort it would take to communicate with faculty on three campuses.

The second-year president said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press that he believes he can repair the fractured relationship with faculty through direct talks, and plans to address the faculty Senate on the flagship Urbana-Champaign campus March 30. The interview was Hogan’s first since trustees directed him earlier this week to repair relations with faculty members.

Hogan was president of the smaller University of Connecticut — about 28,000 students on several campuses linked by one government structure versus about 77,000 on three mostly autonomous campuses in Illinois — when he was hired in 2010.

Hogan arrived at Illinois just as the university was trying to clean up an enrollment scandal that cost predecessor B. Joseph White his job. The school was also facing financial difficulties as the state struggled with a multibillion-dollar budget deficit.

“I guess I’d say I just sort of took it for granted that everyone saw it the way I did and saw the need for some quick action,” Hogan said in his office on the Urbana-Champaign campus. “And we didn’t take enough time to explain that to people, to communicate it to enough people — what we were doing, why we were doing it and the benefits that would come out of it.”

“I didn’t expect coming into it, given my past experience, it would be so demanding,” he said.

Faculty unhappiness with Hogan became apparent last year as some complained he wasn’t consulting with them as he made moves they feared would reduce the autonomy of the university’s three campuses — in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.

But the enrollment management plan he favors has become a flash point.

Hogan’s chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, resigned over anonymous emails sent to faculty to try to win their support. An investigation found she was likely the author and that they were sent form her computer, though she denies it.

And emails from Hogan to Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise, featured in news reports, have added fuel to the fire. In them, Hogan complained to the popular Wise, whom he hired last August, that she wasn’t doing enough to convince skeptical faculty to support him.

In late February, 130 faculty members signed a letter calling for Hogan to step down. Signatures included Nobel Prize winner Anthony Leggett, Pulitzer Prize winner Leon Dash and most of the university’s endowed chairs and professors.

This week, trustees unexpectedly called Hogan to Chicago for a closed-door meeting, telling him to fix what was broken and report back on how he plans to do that during a meeting scheduled for March 15.

Hogan said the crux of his plan will be more and better communication. He said he met with Springfield campus leaders and others at the university system’s smallest campus early this week and believes they’re behind him.

“They’re a very supportive bunch up there,” he said.

But bigger challenges lie ahead in reaching those he leads on all three campuses. Both the Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses are much larger, and much of the public criticism of Hogan has come from the latter.

“I think it makes it more demanding and more complicated,” Hogan said of the large, scattered group of faculty he leads, “but that’s just the way it is.”

Hogan said he plans to take questions from faculty after his March 30 address, something that might help appease his detractors.

Asked earlier this week what one thing Hogan must do better, Richard Wheeler, the interim provost on the Urbana-Champaign campus, had just one word: “Listen.”

Asked whether Hogan could rebound and lead effectively, Wheeler wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know. A lot of things are possible,” he said.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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