University of Illinois Trustees Reject $400,000 Payout for Wise

This afternoon, the University of Illinois trustees’ Executive Committee voted to reject Phyllis Wise’s negotiated settlement and $400,000 payout to resign last week, effective today.

The Executive Committee is made up of Chair Ed McMillan and trustees Karen Hasara and James Montgomery (the lone trustee who changed his mind about Salaita and voted against dismissing him). All three voted no.

Governor Bruce Rauner spoke out against the $400,000 payout, urging them to reject it. Former chair of the Board of Trustees Christopher Kennedy (who is criticized by Wise in the newly released emails) also she he “wouldn’t give someone $400,000 to leave peaceably.” However, the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette called it “the cost of doing business.”

Kennedy self-righteously declared, “You can fire someone for cause for this. When have we started giving money to people who (do this)?” The answer is, when Kennedy and the other trustees voted for the contract giving Wise a $100,000 per year retention bonus even if the trustees forced her out, regardless of her performance or even if she was dismissed for cause.

President Killeen will reassign Wise as a special assistant to the president for biomedical issues at her current $549,000 salary, and Barbara Wilson, the dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will be appointed as interim chancellor. According to the Chicago Tribune, Killeen will begin dismissal proceedings against Wise. But it’s not clear if this maneuver is really legal to deprive Wise of the $400,000 bonus, since whenever the Board of Trustees acts to dismiss Wise, she will be entitled to the $400,000 payout. This all appears to be public relations.

Wilson had worked in the provost’s office, but didn’t become dean until after Salaita had been rejected by Wise for the job. In the recently released emails, Wilson is a minor figure. She didn’t participate in the secret private emails, and Wise and other administrators are clearly irritated with her.

On Sept. 8, 2014, an email to the deans about a proposed letter endorsing Wise noted, “I know Barb Wilson has talked to several of you. She feels she cannot sign the letter at this time since more LAS departments have voted no-confidence.”

On Nov. 14, 2014, Wilson gave Ade a draft of her proposed email to the LAS faculty about the Salaita case, and the administration was very unhappy with it. Ade wrote, “it goes into too much details about the past” and asks Robin Kaler to rewrite it, cc’ing Wise and legal counsel Scott Rice.

Wise herself starts rewriting Wilson’s letter: “I think a simple first statement that I (Barb) and the provost and chancellor realize that the Saleit a decision has had greater impact on some departments/programs than others. She does not need to/should not go into the detailed list of repercussions that she did.”

Two weeks later, the administration is still sitting on the letter. Ade wrote on Nov. 30, 2014, “I have been bellyaching about the letter that barb Wilson wants to send to the LAS faculty. I am attaching it here. She feels compelled that she needs to get something out because she may become ineffective in the college!” Ade wants Wilson to wait until the CAFT Report on the Salaita case comes out, and notes, “However, I am not sure that Barb will be able to stay action until then. She is really conflicted!”

It’s not clear if Wilson was merely seeking to appease the LAS departments who objected to the Salaita firing, or if she disagreed with the dismissal and used her faculty as an excuse to resist complete support for the actions by Wise and the trustees.

In any case, it seems clear that nobody associated with Wise’s secret email societies has much credibility on campus, and Wise might be left as the scapegoat of a decision that was made with the enthusiastic support of Rauner, Kennedy, and rest of the trustees. But will Wise decide that since Kennedy betrayed her and tried to pin the Salaita firing on her, that she will reveal some details about how Kennedy pushed for Salaita’s dismissal?

7 thoughts on “University of Illinois Trustees Reject $400,000 Payout for Wise

  1. I’ve been tweeting about the same concern in this post: if the Board dismisses Wise doesn’t she get the pro-rated bonus anyway? I would think that would not apply if she were fired for cause, but I don’t know. This urgently needs to be clarified. It would be absurd they refuse her resignation only to pay her the money anyway.

      • There are more details in this Tribune story, but the matter remains unclear.

        From the Trib:

        > During the dismissal proceedings, Wise will be reassigned as an adviser to the president on biomedical affairs, according to board documents obtained by the Tribune. She’ll have a hearing before the board of trustees within 30 days and continue to receive her current salary of about $549,000 during that time.

        After the meeting, Killeen said he hoped Wise would stay on as a faculty member.

        “I had hoped to handle Chancellor Wise’s exit in the spirit in which the original contract was conferred,” Killeen said after the board’s decision. “But the board, with a lot of discussion and a lot of analysis, has mandated a different track, which I fully respect.”

  2. Statement from the university on Wise’s reassignment and dismissal proceedings: (

    > In a separate letter signed by Board Chairman Edward L. McMillan, Wise was informed that dismissal proceedings against her are being initiated under Article IX, Section 10, of the University Statutes.

    > “In the near future, you will be receiving a statement of the reasons for your proposed dismissal as Chancellor, accompanied by the facts in support thereof and upon which such action is based, together with notice of the time and place of the hearing thereon,” McMillan said in the letter. “Please be advised that pursuant to Article IX, Section 10 you have the right to appear at the hearing, with counsel if desired, to comment on the reasons and to present evidence. The Board’s decision on this matter will be final.”

    Here is Section 10 of the University Statutes (

    > Section 10.

    > Dismissal of Administrative Officers

    > a. In the exercise of its authority to dismiss or request the resignation of administrative officers from their administrative positions, the Board of Trustees may take such action in respect to such officer prior to the expiration of the term for which the individual was appointed only after presentation by the board to the officer affected of a statement of the reasons accompanied by the facts in support thereof upon which the proposed action is based, together with notice served by registered mail of the time and place of the hearing thereon which shall be not less than 30 days after the date of notice.  A copy of the statement and notice shall be sent by registered mail to each member of the Board of Trustees at least 30 days prior to the hearing.

    > b. The officer shall have the right to appear at the hearing, with counsel if desired, to comment on the reasons and to present evidence.  The board shall not be bound by formal or technical rules of evidence and its decision shall be final.

    > c. In designating the effective date of dismissal or requested resignation, the board shall give due consideration to the time reasonably required for the adjustment of the officer’s personal affairs.

    • Parsing all the information that has surfaced in the last few days, and today’s announcements, I am sill trying to wrap my brain around the fact that a majority of the same BOT (2 new heads out of 11?) that was apparently involved in making the decision to unhire Dr. Salaita, and then painting it as Dr. Wise’s decision, is now going to sit in judgment of her.
      While I am definitely not defending her curious decision-making process of last fall or her decision to circumvent FOI rules, I am also troubled by her being turned into a convenient scapegoat. With this judge-and-jury, or, accomplice-and-judge system, the BOT has refined the perfect throwing-under-the-bus machine.

      • That has everything to do with trying to prevent a real house-cleaning; if Wise takes the fall, the people who enabled and encouraged her at every turn can continue to do exactly the same things they’ve been doing all along.

        And if the investigation doesn’t go further it will be a huge loss for the university, its students, the state of Illinois, and probably higher-education in general, since this is hardly confined to UIUC.

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