University of Illinois faculty and student leaders on Monday urged that the campus' top administrators be replaced in the wake of a far-reaching admissions scandal.
The Senate's 98-55 vote, following a nearly two-hour closed-door meeting, encouraged an "orderly transition to new leadership" at the president and chancellor levels. Although the vote is non-binding, it signals weakened leadership at the university's highest ranks.
The group's strong statement overrode a last-minute recommendation from its own executive committee to instead ask the U. of I. Board of Trustees to quickly conduct a review of top administrators but to reserve judgment on the ouster of President B. Joseph White and Chancellor Richard Herman.
The resolution states that changing admissions policies, without a change in leadership, will not be sufficient in restoring the university's reputation.
"It was the consensus of the Senate that it was necessary to make a strong statement today," said Senate Executive Committee chair Joyce Tolliver, who earlier laid out her case for why the group shouldn't vote that way.
The decision came hours after the university board announced it would spend the next two months reviewing the performance of top school officials.
A three-member committee is to report back to the full board in 60 days, a deadline that coincides with the board's next meeting, Nov. 12.
Some faculty members feared a definitive recommendation would be seen as tying the board's hands.
"I hope that the trustees would see this vote not as an attack on them, not as painting them into a corner or limiting their options in any way. It is simply the result of shared governance," Tolliver said.
The Chicago Tribune revealed in May that U. of I. had a shadow admissions system for well-connected students that allowed applicants sponsored by trustees, lawmakers and others to be admitted over more qualified students.
Speaking to the full Senate before its vote, White and Herman defended their records, offering a balance sheet of their accomplishments while acknowledging failures in the admissions area.
White said he has worked for 4 1/2 years to protect the university from external pressures, including standing behind admissions denials, not backing down when then- Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office wanted a report killed, and not balking when a senior Blagojevich aide berated him for not supporting the gross receipt tax proposal.
"The notion that I would submit to pressure -- or apply pressure -- for admissions or anything else in order to please the high and mighty is dead wrong. I never did," he said.
Herman told faculty members to remember the work he has done to better their careers. He disagreed with country singer Kenny Rogers' assessment that "the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep."
"The best we can hope for is to be judged by the fullness of our lives and our accomplishments and that is what I ask for today," he said.
Political science professor Paul Diehl said both White and Herman should be replaced despite their accomplishments. He said students caught cheating wouldn't get a reprieve because they had stellar grades, and faculty who commit academic fraud don't get a pass if they have a strong teaching record.
"There are certain types of transgressions that are so egregious that they don't only tip the scales, they make them come crashing down," Diehl said.
The university's board will begin its evaluation of whether White, Herman and other administrators should keep their jobs.
The review committee includes Trustees Lawrence Oliver II, chief investigator for Boeing Co.; Karen Hasara, ex-Springfield mayor; and Edward McMillan, a Greenville businessman.
"So many of us are brand new that we don't want to presume anything," Hasara said. "A lot of us will have a lot of getting up to speed to do."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times