Two weeks after arts and sciences professors overwhelmingly voted no confidence in his leadership, Edward M. Hundert announced that he was resigning from the presidency of Case Western Reserve University.
In a letter released on Thursday, Hundert told students and faculty members that he had "reluctantly concluded that the continuing tension on campus is too distracting to the advancement of the university." Hundert will continue in office until September 1 and vowed to work between now and then to improve Case's finances.
Hundert, president at Case since 2002, has faced increasing criticism from professors over mounting deficits at the university and a management style that many faculty members said was secretive. Hundert has pushed for ambitious plans to improve undergraduate education, but fund raising has lagged, leading to numerous budget cuts that have angered professors. Many also said that Hundert had ignored their warnings about financial problems and moved ahead on academic initiatives without consulting them.
Faculty members in arts and sciences at Case voted this month, 131 to 44, that they lacked confidence in Hundert. While grumbling about his leadership was a constant in recent years, the magnitude of the vote surprised even the president's critics. In the immediate aftermath of the faculty vote, Hundert appeared to be trying to regain momentum at the campus. He held a series of meetings with professors and students, vowed to listen to his detractors, and pledged that he could turn around the situation.
But the lopsided vote left many on the campus assuming that his days were numbered -- despite board pledges of support. A spokesman for Hundert said that he was spending Thursday with family members and would not be answering questions.
Frank N. Linsalata, chair of the board, issued a statement Thursday in which he said explicitly that the board did not ask for Hundert's resignation and accepted it "with reluctance and sadness."
Linsalata said that board members had heard from both supporters and critics of Hundert and had "paid attention to all of those views." Looking forward, Linsalata asked that "those voices within the university who have been so vocal in their criticism turn their energies to working together to move the university forward and to respect the opinions of all constituents."
Lawrence Krauss, a physics professor who organized the vote of no confidence, said that Hundert's decision was "appropriate," and that the letter explaining his resignation was "gracious." Krauss said he believed professors viewed Thursday's announcement as the first step "in the healing process" and that faculty members would work hard to help Case through its financial difficulties. Krauss predicted that Case would emerge "stronger than before."
Hundert's presidency is the second in a row that has failed at Case.
David Auston quit as president in 2001, not having lasted two years in office, amid reports of tensions with the board over an attempt to redefine the university’s relationship with its teaching hospital. Hundert became president in 2002, having previously served as dean of the medical school at the University of Rochester.