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Phyllis Wise to resign as University of Illinois chancellor, cites external issues

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The head of the University will be stepping down starting next week.

University of Illinois

In news that surprised pretty much everyone, current University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise announced that she would be stepping down from her position as Chancellor next week and returning to a faculty position. Wise became Chancellor in 2011, replacing Richard Herman after an admissions scandal forced him out.

Statement from Phyllis Wise:

"During the last four years, I have worked with an extraordinary team to realize our vision to be ‘the pre-eminent public research university with a land-grant mission and global impact.' We have accomplished a great deal.

Yet, external issues have arisen over the past year that have distracted us from the important tasks at hand. I have concluded that these issues are diverting much needed energy and attention from our goals. I therefore believe the time is right for me to step aside. I will resign from the chancellor's position effective August 12, 2015, and will resume my role as a member of the faculty. I look forward to rededicating my efforts to teaching, research and service.

I would like to reiterate my commitment to this University and its role as a world-class educational institution. I have valued my time as chancellor and wish to express my deep gratitude to the many colleagues and friends who have been so essential to everything we have accomplished during my tenure."

New University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen accepted Wise's resignation and added that he expects to name an interim Chancellor within the next week.

Statement from Timothy Killeen on interim Chancellor:

"I am in the process of selecting an interim chancellor who will serve until an immediate search for a permanent chancellor can be completed, and I expect to name that person within the next week. I anticipate a smooth transition in leadership and dedicate myself to working closely with internal and external stakeholder groups—faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and community leaders—during the process."

So what all does this mean? No one knows. But that quote sure as hell sounds like all the alleged player abuse scandals played at least a small part in this change and current A.D. Mike Thomas reported directly to Wise. We'll keep you updated as more information is available.

UPDATE:

On Thursday, a judge announced that Steven Salaita's employment lawsuit against the University of Illinois can proceed, rejecting the UI's motion to dismiss the case. We're all about playing up the importance of the sports angle (i.e. the player mistreatment allegations), but this particular case most likely played an even bigger role in Wise's decision.

(h/t Brandon Birkhead)