NORMAL — About 50 Illinois State University students took the school's “State Your Passion” motto and turned it into “State Your Power” Thursday as they gathered on the campus quad to protest the $480,000 payout given to former President Timothy Flanagan as part of his resignation.
“Would you pay me to drop out?” and “Flanagan's Check — 10 Full Rides” were among the signs held by group members, who were surrounded by another 50 to 75 students, faculty and other university employees.
“Today is a pep rally to make people aware of the situation in the most positive way possible,” said senior Ali Dilley, a sociology major from Springfield who was one of the organizers.
Flanagan resigned March 22. The Board of Trustees agreed to pay him the rest of this year's and next year's salary and allow him to remain in the university-owned president's house through the end of May.
A group of students has been standing on the quad nearly every day since shortly after the resignation, circulating a petition and calling for “answers, accountability and fairness.” Thursday's “flash mob” was its biggest activity to date.
Jay Groves, ISU chief of staff, said he has offered to meet with the group and answer questions, but has not received a response to his emails.
Keith Cox, a graduate student from Rushville, said earlier this week the the group "was born out of a social movements class,” but not everyone involved is in the class.
“We had a discussion in the context of my class and they got excited and wanted to do something about it,” said Richard Sullivan, associate professor of sociology. “They're putting what they've learned in class into action.”
The board has declined to state publicly what led to Flanagan's resignation, including whether it was related to an incident in December between Flanagan and Patrick Murphy, a former superintendent of grounds.
Murphy, a probationary employee, was fired five days later. Flanagan was charged with disorderly conduct in the incident three days after his resignation. He is due in court later this month.
Murphy's reinstatement is among the actions being sought by the student group, which has a Facebook page called, “I Paid for Flanagan 2014.”
Murphy said Thursday the students have not contacted him, but their actions on his behalf are “humbling” and “very reassuring.”
Murphy said he has not heard from the university, but declined to say what he was doing to get his job back.
Groves said he could not comment on personnel matters. However, Groves noted that after Larry Dietz was named to succeed Flanagan as president, Dietz sent an email to faculty, staff and students indicating he would be reviewing recent decisions and Groves said that could include personnel issues.