CHICAGO (MCT) — When the University of Illinois trustees gather for their regularly scheduled meeting Thursday morning, one notable person plans to be absent: President Michael Hogan.
And it won’t be the first time Hogan has been a no-show at key events since he stepped down under pressure in March, with a resignation date of July 1. He skipped graduation ceremonies and a state budget hearing, and a review of his calendar shows an overall sparse schedule, even though he is still the institution’s top official.
By extending his resignation date until July 1 — his two-year anniversary at U. of I. — Hogan will receive an additional year of his retention bonus, or $37,500. He also will continue to be paid at his annual rate of $651,000 until July. Then he will begin a paid one-year sabbatical at his new faculty salary of $285,100.
Hogan stepped down March 22 after months of controversy that included a faculty mutiny and a scandal in his office involving his closest adviser, former chief of staff Lisa Troyer.
Incoming president Robert Easter, a longtime U. of I. faculty member and administrator, has been assuming many of the presidential duties since then, including everything from meeting with state legislative leaders to congratulating the men’s gymnastics team for winning a national championship.
Hogan has met with Easter several times to brief him on key policy issues and discuss the transition, according to their calendars.
Hogan said in an e-mail Wednesday that he would miss the board meeting, where he typically presides at the head of the table next to board chairman Christopher Kennedy, because he is out of town on family business. “Bob’s appointment as president designate made that possible,” he wrote.
“He and I coordinate in all matters of significance,” Hogan wrote. “We met, for example, to review and approve the board agenda and all board materials.”
When Hogan’s predecessor, B. Joseph White, resigned in an admissions scandal in 2009, he gave three months’ notice and attended the only board meeting held in the interim.
U. of I. spokesman Thomas Hardy acknowledged Hogan has taken on fewer responsibilities since March, but said it is appropriate that Easter start assuming a more presidential role. He said Hogan’s appointment calendar is not necessarily an indicator of how much work he is doing.
Hogan’s absence at graduation ceremonies earlier this month was a “personal decision,” Hardy said.
“There is no question that his calendar is not as heavy with meetings as it previously was or as Bob Easter’s has become, but President Hogan is frequently in the office, frequently attending meetings, frequently on conference calls,” Hardy said.
Hardy said he was unsure whether the decision to set the resignation date at July 1 was tied to the date at which Hogan is eligible for $37,500 as the second installment of what could have been a five-year retention bonus.
“Common sense would indicate it may have been a factor,” Hardy said. “The president of the university worked out the terms of his resignation, and this is part of those terms.”
State Sen. Edward Maloney, a Democrat and chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said he hasn’t heard from Hogan in the past few months. Instead, he has spoken with Easter, who invited him to visit campus at the conclusion of the legislative session.
“If he was going to resign, he should have resigned,” Maloney said. “Certainly if he was not going to perform the duties, he obviously shouldn’t be receiving the salary of the president.”
Hogan’s calendar shows he took about eight personal days off immediately following his resignation. Since then, Hogan has continued to meet regularly with top administrators, but on some other days his only agenda item has been three hours set aside for e-mail and correspondence.
Easter’s calendar, by comparison, has been packed with meetings with state legislators, faculty members and trustees.
Take two days last week, for example. On May 22, Easter left Urbana for Chicago at 7 a.m., attended a faculty meeting at the Chicago campus, and had afternoon meetings with the medical school dean and a trustee. He then participated in a conference call to discuss pension issues with other state university presidents and a union leader.
The following day, Easter traveled to Washington, D.C,. to make remarks at an award ceremony and meet with government leaders including U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
Hogan’s schedule on May 22 included traveling from Chicago to Urbana at 11 a.m., and having three half-hour meetings with his assistant, the board secretary and the university’s vice president for research. On May 23, he had two half-hour meetings.
U. of I. education professor Nicholas Burbules, a member of the faculty senate, said Hogan has kept a low profile in the past few months.
“Let’s be honest. He has gone through something that was pretty difficult for him and I think that (public appearances are) one of those no-win situations,” Burbules said.
Burbules said perhaps a shorter transition time may have made more sense, but “there was obviously a lot of negotiation to make this as palatable to (Hogan) as possible,” he said. “There was no reason to make it any more punitive than it had to be. If some of these things made it more acceptable to him, personally I think that’s reasonable.”
After Hogan’s one-year sabbatical, he is expected to teach and conduct research at one of the university’s three campuses. Hogan is a history professor who is an expert in American diplomacy.
Easter, who has been a U. of I. student, faculty member and administrator for the past four decades, will have a two-year appointment as president. He is being paid at a rate of $250,000 a year until he takes over from Hogan, at which time his salary will rise to $450,000.
U. of I. law professor Michael Moore, who co-authored faculty letters criticizing Hogan, said it doesn’t bother him that Hogan already has ceded some of his presidential duties to his successor.
“He has done the right thing at the right moment, so we should thank him for it,” Moore said. “He is entitled to as graceful an exit as we could give him.”