Phyllis M. Wise, who leads the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), surprised many when she announced last Thursday that she plans to resign this week, Brad Wolverton and Jack Stripling report for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The announcement comes just weeks before the start of the school year on August 24.
The Salaita affair
Recently, Wise oversaw the school's controversial decision to rescind its job offer to Steven G. Salaita after he made inflammatory comments on social media. Only hours before Wise's announcement, a judge rejected UIUC's motion to dismiss Salaita's employment lawsuit.
Throughout the Salaita affair, Wise issued statements and met with representatives across campus. But Robert Warrior, who directs the program Salaita would have joined, says the controversy irrevocably soured relationships between Wise and faculty members. Cary Nelson, a UIUC English professor, told the Chronicle that most faculty supported Wise's decision about Salaita but about 40% were "strongly" opposed.
Wise cited "external issues" as the reason for her resignation.
An impossible job?
Douglas H. Beck, a UIUC physics professor, said Wise's announcement made him feel "surprised and really quite sad." He told the Chronicle that Wise was a fair leader and a good listener—but stayed tough.
"I do wonder whether these jobs are becoming impossible," he added.
Timothy Killeen, president of the University of Illinois system, thanked Wise for "excellent service." Killeen added that Wise's "energy and commitment to [UIUC] have never flagged … her vision and advocacy for a new College of Medicine represents a major contribution and provides for a lasting legacy."
Wise says she plans to resign and resume her faculty position on August 12 (Wolverton/Stripling, Chronicle of Higher Education, 8/7; Wurth, News-Gazette, 8/6).
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