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Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 10:37 am

Ting sent packing

UIS faculty senate leader resigns

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Tih-Fen Ting, chairwoman of the UIS faculty senate
Bowing to pressure from colleagues, Tih-Fen Ting has resigned from the University of Illinois Springfield faculty senate.

Ting, an environmental studies professor who had been the senate’s chairwoman, quit on Jan. 27, immediately after the senate in a 16-5 vote approved a resolution asking for her departure.

Senators demanded Ting’s resignation in response to revelations that she had been leaking emails since last fall to Lisa Troyer, former chief of staff to University of Illinois president Michael Hogan [see “Email-gate, Jan. 26]. Troyer resigned on Jan. 6 amid an investigation that ultimately determined that she was the likely source of two anonymous emails that had been sent to members of a committee of faculty from all three University of Illinois campuses.

Investigators in the probe headed by the university’s ethics office determined that Ting had been forwarding emails between committee members to Troyer and had also sent her a draft report from the committee charged with reviewing a report on enrollment procedures and making recommendations to Hogan.

During the UIS senate meeting that resulted in her departure, Ting, who admitted sending emails to Troyer anonymously, insisted that she had done nothing wrong. But in response to questions by senators, she said that she would not do it again.

“Why?” asked Lynn Fisher, a sociology professor who helped draft the resolution and asked Ting to resign three days before the meeting.

“Look at what happened,” Ting answered.

The response didn’t impress Kent Redfield, a professor emeritus of political studies who sat in the audience.

“It wasn’t clear to me that she wouldn’t do it again if she wasn’t going to get caught,” Redfield said after the meeting.

During a discussion prior to the vote, Ting continually defended her actions, saying that she wrote anonymous emails to Troyer because she thought that they would be taken more seriously than if she had used her name, given that UIS faculty members on the inter-campus committee were so marginalized that they had planned to resign from the group.

“Are anonymous emails an appropriate way for a senate president to communicate?” Fisher asked.

“I think that it depends on the context,” Ting responded.

Senators said that Ting’s actions had embarrassed the university. Redfield agreed, telling senators before the vote that Ting’s actions were “reckless” and that faculty on other campuses were “appalled.” What Ting did will only reinforce the perception outside UIS that the Springfield campus isn’t on par with other parts of the university system, Redfield said.

“Now, they are going to say, ‘See? We can’t trust them,’” Redfield said. “The damage is already there. At this point, it’s a matter of undoing it.”

After the meeting, Redfield, who began teaching at UIS in 1979, when the school was called Sangamon State University, said that there has long been a feeling that the Springfield campus wasn’t in the same class as the Urbana campus, which is known as a leading research university. UIS faculty had generally favored a consolidated approach to such enrollment procedures as recruiting efforts, but faculty on other campuses had resisted, Redfield said.

“It has been, really, a struggle to get them to accept us as an equal partner,” Redfield said. “I would have preferred that she publicly apologize and resign. Obviously, this is a huge mark on her record. … It’s really unfortunate. There’s no winners in this. It’s bad for everybody.

“It’s very disheartening.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.