IU deserves a serious president. Pamela Whitten has to go.

For a top public university with a $4 billion budget that educates Nobel Prize winners and NCAA champions alike, it seems reasonable to expect that our board of trustees could have fulfilled its legally required fiduciary duty by finding us a capable leader three years ago . We’ve had 18 of them in 200 years and very few of them are viewed retrospectively as failures.

How did we end up with someone who can’t do this job?

Opinion: I know Pamela Whitten. He is the leader Indiana University needs.

Jim Banks: Stand with Pamela Whitten against the radical, immature IU authorities

In May, Pamela Whitten faced calls to resign from all IU Bloomington schools that voted, including the Kelley School of Business. These faculty actions stem from growing concerns over the past three years that neither our chancellor (a longtime colleague of Whitten’s) nor Whitten can lead an institution they do not want to understand.

The IU Board of Trustees announced on May 15 “an independent review of campus climate to better determine a path forward.”

But the board is wrong. A full review of the university climate and the process that led to this disastrous presidential hiring is needed. Focusing concerns on the Bloomington campus ignores evidence that the toxic culture we experience stems from Whitten and trustees who are asleep at the wheel.

Many people who gathered at the rally outside Bryan Hall on Friday, April 26, 2024, held signs reading “Whitten Resign” in response to the actions of Dunn Meadow police during the previous day’s demonstration. Pamela Whitten is the president of IU.

When Whitten arrived from Georgia, she was a household name. This was followed by allegations of verbal abuse and a toxic work culture. But the trustees ignored the candidates put forward by a selection committee of alumni, faculty and high-level staff and brought in someone who had led a university only a fraction the size of IU.

IU deserves a serious president. Someone who agrees to be guided by the principles of shared governance and respects the thousands of people who came before them and did the hard work of building institutions.

Serious presidents prioritize students’ rights to freely express ideas, regardless of their content or popularity. They do not practice discrimination based on point of view.

State politicians who play the culture war card by condemning IU faculty as political partisans are also not serious people. State leaders who brag about their alumnus status need to think ahead, because there will come a point where Whitten will do lasting damage to the brand. Lawsuits will continue to pile up (they have already started) and donations will continue to decline (this is also already happening).

And that’s why – independent review or not – Whitten must go. And why our 20th president should be elected with much more caution and a full understanding of how quickly one person and a careless board can damage the institution they are sworn to protect.

Beth Gazley is co-founder of the Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute. He is also a professor of public affairs at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Paul H. O’Neill.

This article originally appeared in the Indianapolis Star: The IU Board of Trustees miselected a president who can’t do his job