Provost at the U of Illinois' flagship campus resigning over ongoing 'controversies'



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CHAMPAIGN, Illinois — The No. 2 official at the University of Illinois' flagship campus announced his resignation Monday, the second high-level resignation following the disclosure that private email accounts were to use avoid public scrutiny of school business.

Provost Ilesanmi Adesida said Monday as students began fall classes that he will step down Aug. 31 and rejoin the faculty.

His resignation follows the Aug. 14 exit of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, the top official at the Urbana-Champaign campus.

The university's email disclosure on Aug. 7 included exchanges involving Wise and Adesida strategizing to win approval for a new medical school on the campus, which they did earlier this year.

"I recognize that current controversies are causing distraction to the administration and the student body, and I do not want to contribute to those distractions," Adesida wrote in a letter of resignation to interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson. His annual salary was $442,900 during the last school year. It wasn't immediately clear what this year's salary would have been.

Wilson accepted his resignation and said the search will begin for a new provost "soon," but did not specify when.

University President Timothy Killeen, the man in charge of all three University of Illinois campuses, praised Adesida.

"I am deeply grateful to Ade for his dedicated service in many critical positions at Illinois over the last 28 years," Killeen said in an emailed news release.

The state-financed university has said Wise, Adesida and others can use private email accounts to discuss business, but those emails are subject to the same disclosure as their university email addresses under the Freedom of Information Act. When the university released the more than 1,000 pages of emails, it said they should have been provided in response to a public request for documents but weren't.

In the exchanges, Wise, Adesida and others spoke in sometimes frank language about those involved in the decision-making process leading to the new medical school, and about university problems.

Wise in once 2014 exchange told Adesida that a poor quality promotional video used in the search for a new president — the search which led to Killeen's hiring late last year — might be beneficial in helping scuttle that search. She closed with "This place is so messed up."

"I agree, this place is messed up," Adesida replied. "In my opinion, the University does not need for a President. ... Well, we better get ready for the rain to fall. More controversy coming on."

As provost, Adesida was responsible for the teaching mission of the university, with deans and the admissions department reporting to him, campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said.

The email disclosures show he was involved in discussions of another matter that led to an ongoing lawsuit, the decision to rescind an offer to Steven Salaita to become a professor. That offer was taken back last year after he wrote a series of sometimes profane anti-Israel Twitter messages some considered anti-Semitic.

Adesida has been at the university since 1987 and is a professor of electrical, computer and materials science engineering.

It isn't clear yet what he will be paid once back on the faculty, Kaler said, but he doesn't have the kind of contractual deal Wise had that initially called for paying her a $400,000 bonus as she resigned and giving her a year off with pay before she returned to the faculty. That bonus was rejected by university trustees.

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