University of Illinois See-saws on Dismissal of Chancellor


After a public scandal over freedom of information accountability, trustees at the University of Illinois have decided to begin the process of firing Chancellor Phyllis Wise rather than to accept her resignation — and then they reversed course again after deciding to accept a resignation that did not include a hefty bonus.

She will be placed in an advisory position that reports directly to President Timothy Killeen.

A closed-door meeting of the trustees committee last week ended with the announcement of Wise’s firing, almost one full week after Wise had said she planned to resign from her position at the Urbana-Champaign campus.  Under her resignation terms, she had negotiated a $400,000 bonus that firing would prevent her from receiving.

The decision to fire Wise instead of accepting her resignation came as a result of calls by Governor Bruce Rauner and others to not offer Wise the bonus after an announcement was made that she, along with a number of other administrators, had used their private email accounts in order to discuss university business without being in the public eye.

“I think this is a time to turn a page at the university,” Killeen said after the meeting. “Practices of the past are not going to be the practices of the future.”

Killeen and the trustees will make Wise aware of their decision to proceed with her dismissal, as well as the rejection of her bonus, in a pair of letters.  Her firing will not be immediate and will include a hearing before the board of trustees.

The letter from Killeen states that she will be removed from her position and will be placed in a position as advisor on biomedical affairs.  Wise will now report directly to Killeen, writes Tyler Kingkade for The Huffington Post.

Her salary will remain at $549,069 per year until the dismissal process is finalized, which could take a number of months, according to university spokesman Tom Hardy.  At that point, she will receive a faculty salary of around $300,000.

Prior to this announcement, Wise had made a deal with the university concerning her resignation that stated she would be paid $400,000 as a prorated portion of the $500,000 she was promised had she remained in the position for five years.  No official word has been said concerning why the deal was turned down.

In response to her dismissal, Wise has submitted a second letter of resignation to the Board of Trustees, and is currently consulting with lawyers to consider her legal options in an effort to protect her reputation.

For The Washington Post, Jonathan Adler reports that the university has accepted her second resignation, which would return her to a lecturing position and does not include the $400,000 bonus.