Sudden Change at Illinois State

President -- facing investigation over alleged altercation with an employee -- quits after seven months.

March 24, 2014
Illinois State University
Timothy Flanagan

Timothy Flanagan resigned as president of Illinois State University Saturday, after only seven months in office.

The university statement quoted Flanagan as saying that he had "decided it would be best that I pursue other opportunities," but did not explain why he was leaving abruptly.

Local press accounts said that Flanagan resigned at a board meeting called for the day after university police finished an investigation into a complaint filed by a former employee against Flanagan. The Pantagraph reported that Illinois State University police had forwarded the results of an investigation to the local state's attorney office, adding that the state's attorney's office was planning to have the findings reviewed by a special prosecutor because the local prosecutor has a relative who works at the university.

In an earlier interview with The Pantagraph, R. Patrick Murphy, who was fired as superintendent of grounds, said that he had filed a complaint about an incident in which he alleged that Flanagan shouted at him while he was at work on the grounds, and that during their exchange, the president's arms "struck Murphy's torso." Flanagan has denied "any criminal conduct" and said that the complaint was an attempt to embarrass him and the university. Murphy was fired shortly after the incident.

A statement from the university police department released on Friday said only that its investigation had been completed and did not say what the results of the inquiry had been.

Flanagan came to Illinois State after serving for seven years as president of Framingham State University. Local press coverage from Massachusetts suggests that his presidency there was generally successful.

Raymond Cotton, a Washington lawyer who represents many college presidents in negotiations over their contracts, said that he had some familiarity with the situation at Illinois State, although he does not represent Flanagan or the institution.

Cotton said that there are "facts that the public does not know" and that board members have had some disagreements with Flanagan having nothing to do with Murphy's allegations. Cotton said that, "given [Flanagan's] excellent track record, I find this to be quite fishy."

A spokesman for the university said that officials were not providing any additional comment about Flanagan's departure beyond the brief statement that was issued.

Larry Dietz, vice president for student affairs, was named by the board as president, effectively immediately. He had been a finalist in the search that led to Flanagan's selection.


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