CHICAGO (AP) — The University of Illinois system has hired State University of New York Vice Chancellor for Research Timothy L. Killeen as its next president, overseeing the school’s three campuses and multibillion-dollar operating budget, the university announced Wednesday.
Killeen will become the university’s 20th president when current President Robert Easter retires in June. Easter, a longtime university administrator, became president in 2012, during a three-year period of turmoil.
Killeen was a faculty member and administrator at the University of Michigan for more than 20 years and worked at the National Science Foundation, a federal agency that provides hundreds of millions of dollars in federal research money to the University of Illinois every year.
“The University of Illinois, with its three distinctive world-class campuses, stands poised to build on its tremendous and ongoing history of accomplishment to envision and define the future of public comprehensive higher education,” Killeen said in a news release.
The widely respected Easter is credited by many with overseeing a relatively calm period for the three university campuses after two successive predecessors resigned during scandals. Still, Killeen faces uncertainties over dwindling state support, rising tuition and other issues.
University officials said last week that if the state doesn’t extend a 2011 increase in the state income tax, the university could lose up to $70 million a year from its $4.5 billion annual operating budget.
The university has also started to see smaller percentages of applicants enroll as tuition increases. In-state tuition at the flagship Urbana-Champaign campus now costs more than $12,000 a year. That means four years on campus, including room and board, costs more than $100,000.
Some faculty at the Urbana-Champaign campus were angered by the decision this summer to rescind a job offer to a Native American Studies professor, Steven Salaita, over profane, anti-Israel Twitter messages that some university donors complained were ant-Semitic. The spring decision not to continue employing James Kilgore, a part-time instructor who spent years in prison over his role in a 1975 California bank robbery that killed a woman, similarly angered some faculty. Administrators last week changed course, saying Kilgore could again be hired.
A key decision is also to come on competing proposals from the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses to set up an engineering-based medical program.
The university’s campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, along with smaller regional campuses in Rockford and Peoria, have more than 78,000 students and about 23,500 employees.
Killeen is a native of Wales and a U.S. citizen, according to the news release. He has a Ph.D. from University College London in atomic and molecular physics. He has been at SUNY since 2012.
Easter, 67, is being paid a base salary of $478,558. Killeen’s University of Illinois salary wasn’t immediately available. His appointment still requires the approval of the university’s board of trustees, expected in January.
Before he became president, Easter was dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the Urbana-Champaign campus.
Easter became president following the resignation of Michael Hogan, who was unpopular with many faculty members who considered his leadership style dictatorial. Some faculty called for him to be fired over anonymous emails sent from his chief of staff’s computer trying to sway a decision on a controversial enrollment management plan.
Hogan succeeded B. Joseph White in 2010. White resigned after media outlets found that politically connected applicants seeking admission at the Urbana-Champaign campus were given special attention and tracked through a list known as Category I. Some of those students were admitted over more-qualified applicants.
Hogan is now a history professor at the university’s Springfield campus, while White is a business administration professor at the Urbana-Champaign campus.
Easter also is expected to remain on the university’s faculty, according to the news release.
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