CARBONDALE - Walter Wendler is out as chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, says university President Glenn Poshard.
Poshard announced Wednesday he has asked Wendler to step down as the Carbondale campus' chief executive officer effective next Wednesday, citing a need for a "different set of skills and additional strengths" to move SIUC and the university system forward.
Wendler has been chancellor since July 2001. He will be reassigned as a tenured, full professor in the SIUC architecture school but will still earn his annual executive salary of $256,500 including a housing allowance until his contract expires June 30 of next year.
Wendler issued a statement on his reassignment Wednesday afternoon but declined further comment.
SIUC Provost and Vice Chancellor John Dunn, a native of Pinckneyville, will step up in the interim as chancellor over the campus, while the university sets in motion a national search for a permanent replacement. Dunn will earn the same salary as Wendler for the interim service but said he will not be a candidate for the permanent job. Dunn came to SIUC from the University of Utah in 2002.
Poshard said he decided to remove Wendler as chancellor because the current makeup of leadership in Anthony Hall - where the senior campus administrative offices are housed - wasn't conducive to meeting some of the long-term goals the university's board of trustees wanted the system to achieve, including creating an atmosphere of teamwork, improving enrollment and marketing and improving customer service to the region.
"We do not have an atmosphere of teamwork here - not in Anthony Hall, not between Anthony Hall and the president's office," Poshard said. "And as president, I accept my share of responsibility in that."
The president said blame could be laid at everyone's doorstep; however, he added, he is not going to ignore the inadequacies of the university that need to be addressed.
A new leader in the top office at SIUC may not be the only change in store for the campus, officials indicated.
Dunn will need to appoint an interim provost once he takes over for Wendler; the provost and vice chancellor is responsible for enrollment management. He also said he will be assessing whether further changes among top administrators are necessary in consultation with the president's office.
"I think all of us know universities are never static," Dunn said.
Poshard said Dunn's primary responsibility as interim chancellor will be to work with both SIUC constituency groups and the president's office to create an infrastructure of open communication and set forth plans to improve enrollment and community service. Dunn will outline a major enrollment plan to the board of trustees at today's meeting in Edwardsville.
The president also said the primary goals Wendler has set for SIUC in the Southern at 150 plan would be retained but added that corrections in attributions in the document will be added where needed, alluding to recent plagiarism charges leveled against the chancellor regarding the plan. Poshard, though, said those allegations had nothing to do with his decision to reassign Wendler.
Wendler apparently had been notified as early as January of 2005 by then-President James Walker and the board of trustees, which Poshard chaired at the time, that his contract would not be renewed after 2007. Poshard said he notified Wendler about immediate changes he wanted to make in early October, before a committee appointed to review the plagiarism charges had completed its report.
Campus leaders react
Provost Dunn indicated Wednesday while he is honored by his appointment, it is important not to forget what Wendler has done for SIUC.
"I would ï¿½ like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Wendler for his leadership and contributions to Southern Illinois University Carbondale," Dunn said. "There is much that has been achieved under his stewardship and we acknowledge him for his service."
Wendler frequently said his style of leadership may not have exactly endeared him to some on campus, but in the position he was adamant about getting SIUC on track to meet its goals for plans like Southern at 150 and Saluki Way.
SIUC Graduate and Professional Student Council President Jon Pressley expressed this opinion about Wendler's professional mannerisms:
"With Wendler, there was no working with him," said Pressley, who has often found it frustrating to get student concerns to affect change in administrative decisions. "The constituency suggestions were merely that; they carried no weight with him."
However, SIUC Faculty Senate President David Worrells said at first he was dismayed by Wendler's reassignment because he had spent the last six months working out issues of shared governance with the chancellor. He felt he was making progress.
Under the leadership of Dunn and in consultation with Poshard, Worrells said he hopes the campus can pull together a system that is in place by the time SIU selects its next Carbondale campus CEO.
"There's a very good possibility with Dr. Dunn we will be laying the foundation for a new chancellor," Worrells said. "There may be more opportunity here than I initially thought."
SIUC Faculty Association President Marvin Zeman said he wishes Wendler all the best in his new role as a faculty member. He noted the union would be extending an invitation to the chancellor to join as a dues-paying member, but even if he declined, Zeman said Wendler would have full and willing access to all benefits afforded to full professors by the organization.
The union is currently negotiating a new contract with the university administration for better pay and increased measures of shared governance in tenure and promotion grievances.
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