Protesters Demand IU President Whitten’s Ouster at Trustees Meeting; Whitten Announces Two New Hires

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JUNE 14: A board of trustees meeting is interrupted by protesters demanding Whitten be fired on June 14, 2024, in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Staff report

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — June 14, 2024

Around 30 protesters gathered outside Indiana University’s Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, calling for the dismissal of IU President Pamela Whitten. The demonstration took place during the second day of the trustees’ campus meetings.

Inside Henke Hall of Champions in Memorial Stadium, Quinn Buckner, chair of the board of trustees, expressed unwavering support for Whitten, expressing that he fully supports President Whitten and has full confidence in her ability to run the university. His statement came despite a recent vote of no confidence from the IU Bloomington faculty.

In her remarks, Whitten acknowledged the faculty’s vote, expessing that the vote of no confidence stung, but that she is committed to running the university in what she described as a challenging time.

As Whitten spoke, protesters, mainly holding signs supporting Gaza and some demanding her resignation, interrupted with chants and scripted speeches. Security personnel escorted each interrupter to the elevator. Buckner informed the protesters that they could hold signs but should not disrupt the meeting’s proceedings. However, the interruptions continued

Buckner eventually adjourned the meeting, which resumed minutes later via video from a more secure location within the building. The room’s chairs for the trustees and the president were empty. The protesters exited following Whitten’s departure.

Simultaneously, an email from Whitten announced significant hires at Indiana University, including the creation of a new chancellor position for the Bloomington campus. The message emphasized the need for substantial changes to advance the campus community and enhance collegiality and shared purpose.

“Starting immediately, we are beginning a search for the right person to lead the Bloomington campus as chancellor,” Whitten wrote. She explained that the complexity and size of the campus necessitated a dedicated chancellor to work closely with faculty and staff, fostering increased participation in decision-making and transparent communication.

The new chancellor will oversee DEI efforts, student life, and campus finances while collaborating with Whitten to enhance faculty engagement and achieve the university’s strategic goals.

Whitten also announced a search for a faculty fellow to reside in the President’s Office, aimed at promoting shared governance and fostering faculty leadership across all campuses.

Additionally, Whitten disclosed an independent review of the recent events in Dunn Meadow, to be conducted by the Cooley Law Firm, with a commitment to act on the findings.

(Note: Fifty seven students and faculty were arrested recently at a protest camp in Dunn Meadow in response to the Israeli war in Gaza. Members of the Indiana State Police Swat team cleared a protest camp, which led to outrage. Dunn Meadow had been a free speech zone since the 60s, but after some rules were changed during a meeting held overnight, the protesters were told the next day to take down the tent camp, or face arrest.)

“The opportunity we face is immense, the potential is ripening, and the momentum is in our favor,” Whitten wrote, expressing optimism about the university’s future and the shared commitment to its students.

During the meeting, the outgoing president of the IU Faculty Council told Whitten he was embarassed that he was getting so many questions about why is IU dysfunctional and in crisis. He stated that faculty’s concerns have been ignored, and dismissed. He said he couldn’t wait until his term is over at the end of this month.


Here is the full text of the letter:

“To the IU Bloomington community,

I want you to know that I have spent the past weeks carefully listening to you and learning your heartfelt concerns with the state of affairs on our campus. As I reflected on what you shared, revisited the history of this august institution and contemplated a path forward, it became clear that it will take significant change for this campus community to advance together in the appropriate spirit of collegiality and shared purpose. To ensure we are fortifying Bloomington’s flagship status by communicating and collaborating in real and meaningful ways, making impactful investments of time and energy in solutions that hold promise for the long term, we must adopt a new way of doing things.

It’s time to do something big, together.

Starting immediately, we are beginning a search for the right person to lead the Bloomington campus as chancellor. While the role has been meshed with the IU president’s for as long as most can remember, the challenges of higher education paired with the size and complexity of the Bloomington campus have made it clear that a chancellor is needed. Every other IU campus, from Indianapolis to all regionals, are well-served by both a chancellor and an academic affairs vice chancellor. As the university’s flagship campus, Bloomington deserves this same level of resource and attention.

This leader for the Bloomington campus will focus on working together with the campus community to foster increased faculty participation in campus decision making. They will also prioritize clear and transparent communication on initiatives and challenges to the campus and higher education in general. They will work closely with me and university administrative leadership to ensure issues are addressed with input from campus faculty and staff partners. The new chancellor and I will work closely together to advance opportunities for richer engagement between myself and members of the IU Bloomington community. The chancellor will report directly to me, serve on the president’s cabinet, and oversee the Office of the Provost.

In the coming days, we will form a search committee in partnership with the Bloomington Faculty Council. I am confident that faculty insights will help us find a leader whose professional achievements and familiarity with our unique campus culture will inform a desire for a rich understanding of the prevailing issues and a commitment to collaborative resolutions. In addition to participating in Bloomington community relations responsibilities, the new chancellor will also oversee DEI efforts, student life, and campus finances. In the end, the chancellor’s impact will be felt in stronger relationships, a more harmonious campus and successful attainment of the IU 2030 strategic plan

<https://click.e.iu.edu/?qs=b929b3e3823e6ac8f143a2f373d72beacdfbfcdc2c917993c88ff862d17c3e7185691343bf398ba7200e55ca9a8bbfb34bff638df614b4f1>.

We are also immediately beginning a search for a faculty fellow to reside in the President’s Office with the goal of helping me, my cabinet and faculty leaders engage fully to ensure the principles of shared governance are embraced and maintained. The fellow will achieve this by cultivating relationships with faculty leadership across all campuses and creating organizational opportunities to effectively accomplish the university’s goals and objectives. I sincerely believe that these two vital additions will begin the process of unlocking the unlimited potential of our campus and securing its flagship status.

Additionally, in the spirit of communicating more openly and advancing together, I want you to know that I have requested an independent review of the events in Dunn Meadow. To that end, we’ve selected the Cooley Law Firm to conduct the assessment and my leadership team is committed to acting on the study’s findings when presented.

To capitalize on this moment, we must seize the opportunity together, united by our shared love for this university and our unwavering commitment to the students whose lives it shapes. While the road ahead will no doubt feature its share of challenges, I am optimistic about our future because I believe in our faculty, our staff and our students. Others do as well—look no further than the record number of new applications and high levels of giving that have occurred this year. The opportunity we face is immense, the potential is ripening, and the momentum is in our favor.

We can establish our legacy by helping this university achieve everything of which it’s capable for generations to come. To do so, we will all need to work together. My intention with this new plan for Bloomington is to ensure we have strong and dedicated leadership to guarantee that all voices play a part in our path forward.

Sincerely,

Pamela Whitten
President”

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