Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 21, 2012

Students shocked by Harris’ departure

Some at IU Kokomo look for explanation; others want to move past it.

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

Kokomo — Indiana University Kokomo student Russell Mueller said he was shocked when he received word Wednesday of Chancellor Michael Harris’ abrupt resignation.

“I find it very puzzling since he was so gung-ho about advancing the university,” Mueller said. “Then he just leaves. I don’t understand why he wouldn’t give a notice or an explanation.”

University officials were tight-lipped about the resignation Wednesday.

The media relations department in Bloomington issued a press release that offered few details.

It said Harris had decided that the time had come for him to seek new challenges at another institution. It didn’t even state whether Harris had another job lined up.

The whole situation seems “fishy” to IU Kokomo senior Katie Wilson, and she is not alone.

She said there are rumors about Harris flying around campus, and some people are speculating that he was actually forced out.

“Everyone thinks something scandalous is going on,” Wilson said.

Junior Ashleigh Skiles said the university isn’t helping by withholding information.

“I think that shows he did something wrong,” she said.

Mark Land, associate vice president of public affairs and government relations at the Bloomington campus, said he knows about the rumors and speculation, but he would not say if there was any truth to them.

He made it clear that the university wasn’t going to release any more information on the resignation.

“We’ve said everything we can say on that,” Land said.

Former IU Kokomo political science professor Allen Maxwell said that isn’t good enough.

In a post on Facebook, he said the students, faculty and community have invested in the university and are owed an explanation.

In a follow-up interview with the Kokomo Tribune, he elaborated on that response.

“I am aware that Chancellor Harris was an important change agent in the two years he was at IUK and that he pushed faculty and staff hard to achieve the goals that he had set out for IUK,” Maxwell said.

Harris’ abrupt departure in the middle of his many initiatives leaves the IU Kokomo community with a major void, he said.

“Faculty, staff, and students, as well as the larger community, have supported him with much time and effort during his tenure at IUK and it is my belief that, having done so, they deserve more than a terse press release from the IU administration.”

IU Kokomo biology professor Michael Finkler had a different opinion, though.

In a post on Facebook, he asked people to focus on the progress that the university has made and will continue to make.

“Why the Chancellor resigned ultimately is between he, the IU upper administration and his family,” Finkler said in the post. “We can indulge in all sorts of speculation, but our focus needs to be on our campus as an institution of learning.”

Mueller said he fears that the university will suffer because Harris left before many of his campus initiatives had been fully implemented.

“I’m indifferent to the rumors, but I am concerned about the campus more than anything,” he said.

An IU Kokomo student leader said in his own Facebook post that the university would be fine.

“I feel compelled, or perhaps obligated, as a student leader on campus to say that I don’t know why Chancellor Harris left so abruptly; I don’t know, though I do care,” Brian Arwood said in the post. “Our campus, our IUK has grown so immensely, has become such a big part of North Central Indiana with national and worldwide recognition that it can’t have been just one man making such an impact – that it wasn’t about one person.”

He said the leaders on campus will keep that momentum and progress going.

“We are in good hands, and personally I am entirely behind them,” he said. “They have my utmost support in these times of difficult change.”