News Local/State

U of I Trustees Reject Wise’s $400K Bonus; Wilson Assigned As Interim Chancellor

U of I Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Barbara Wilson

U of I Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Barbara Wilson (U of I News Bureau)

A U of I Trustees committee has rejected a $400,000 bonus for outgoing Chancellor Phyllis Wise.  The panel opted to dismiss her instead, and reassign Wise. Meanwhile, Barbara Wilson, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on the U of I's Urbana campus, has become interim chancellor, replacing Wise.

The unanimous vote by the 3-member executive committee followed calls by Gov. Bruce Rauner, State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) and others to rescind the award after Wise said she would be leaving following a number of scandals, including her use of private emails to avoid public scrutiny.

Killeen told Wise in a letter that her duties as chancellor and vice president of the University are reassigned effective at the close of business Wednesday, and that until further notice Wise will report directly to the president as an advisor.  In a separate letter, signed by Trustees Board Chairman Ed McMillan, Wise was informed dismissal proceedings as chancellor are being initiated.

“Your duties will be as prescribed by me,” Killeen said in the letter. Wise’s salary will be unchanged.  She announced her resignation last Thursday.

Wilson, 57, became the Harry E. Preble Dean of LAS in 2014 after having served since 2009 in the Office of the Provost.  In Wednesday's meeting, Killeen announced Wilson would remain in her role as Dean of LAS while serving as interim chancellor.

"Barb Wilson brings a wealth of experience and familiarity with the operations and the people of the Urbana campus, and her academic lifetime has been spent at public universities renowned for high performance and excellence,” Killeen said, in a press release. “I admire Barb for her superb talent, her loyalty to the Urbana campus, and her willingness to step up to this critical role.”

Liberal Arts and Sciences is the Urbana campus' largest college with 11,000 students, more than 60 departments and academic units.  It also has a $232-million annual budget. 

"I am honored to be asked to serve in this role," Wilson said.  "As interim chancellor, my focus will be on stability and continuity in the transition to a new permanent chancellor so our faculty, students and staff may concentrate on their work and the fulfillment of our missions."

Former U of I President Joseph White says Wilson only needs to look as far as the last administrator to retire, former president Bob Easter, who left office in June, on how to go about her new job.

“So I think the tone that Barbara’s striking is exactly right," he said.  "A person in an interim role, a senior interim role, needs to be calm, steady, reassuring, available, focused on continuity."

Before coming to the U of I's Urbana campus in 2000, Wilson was a faculty member at the University of California, Santa Barbara for 12 years. A professor of communication, her research focuses on the social psychological effects of media, particularly on youth.