The chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has announced that she will be resigning, citing “external issues” that have distracted the institution from “important tasks at hand”.
Phyllis Wise said that she will step down as head of the university from 12 August and resume her role as a member of staff.
In a statement published by the university, she said: “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.”
Last year, Professor Wise withdrew a job offer to Steven Salaita, who had been offered a tenured position in the institution's American Indian studies programme, weeks before he was scheduled to start teaching after he made a series of critical comments about Israel on Twitter.
The decision provoked much controversy, with several academic departments at the institution voting no confidence in the university’s administration and academics across the US pledging to boycott the campus. The American Association of University Professors said the decision “violated the principles of academic freedom”.
Professor Salaita has now filed a federal lawsuit alleging breach of contract and violation of his free speech rights.
The university has also been under fire recently after athletes at the university claimed that they had been mistreated by coaches and other staff.
University president Timothy Killeen said he is in the process of selecting an interim chancellor and “expects to name that person within the next week”.
“Chancellor Wise’s energy and commitment to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have never flagged. In addition to other accomplishments too numerous to list, her vision and advocacy for a new College of Medicine represents a major contribution and provides for a lasting legacy,” he said.