After scandal, U. of I.'s former chancellor isn't teaching but still makes $212,000

Richard Herman doesn't have to do much teaching as part of his $212,000 faculty job at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

When he resigned as chancellor after a high-profile admissions scandal, he made a deal to teach just two classes a year in the College of Education, where a professor typically teaches four.

But Herman's class this semester was canceled for low enrollment — the second time that has happened since 2011. His biography on the College of Education's faculty website is blank. Herman, who lives in Chicago, said through a university spokesman that he goes to campus about once a week.

While Herman still plans to meet the teaching requirement in his contract this year, the situation raises the question of whether the cash-strapped university is getting its money's worth. Herman is one of several top U. of I. officials who resigned under pressure in recent years and subsequently moved into high-paying faculty positions.

"I don't think you should expect him to teach a freshman calculus section with a ton of students, but on the other hand, you don't want to give him an easy out when he is supposed to live up to the agreement," said U. of I. emeritus aerospace engineering professor John Prussing, who has served in various faculty leadership positions.

In addition to Herman, other top officials who have moved into faculty roles include former U. of I. President Michael Hogan, who resigned last year after months of controversy with the faculty. He is now on a paid sabbatical, but in keeping with his contract to teach two courses a year, he plans to teach two history courses this fall on the Springfield campus. His salary will be $285,100.

His predecessor, President B. Joseph White, is assigned to the Urbana-Champaign campus' College of Business, where he receives about $288,000 a year and has been keeping a regular teaching load, including two classes during some semesters.

But Herman, 71, has had a more difficult time fulfilling his teaching obligations, and has twice switched to teaching online classes to make up for on-campus courses that were canceled for low enrollment. He did not respond to requests for comment from the Tribune, instead relaying his answers through university spokesman Thomas Hardy.

In response to a question about whether he thought Herman was meeting his responsibilities, U. of I. President Robert Easter replied: "I look forward to an increasing portfolio of activities in the future."

Herman, chancellor of the state's flagship university from 2005 to 2009, resigned in October 2009 after a Tribune series revealed that the campus had a shadow admissions system that allowed well-connected applicants to get into the public university over more qualified students.

A state commission, formed in response to the Tribune stories, investigated the university's admissions abuses and concluded that Herman was "the ultimate decision-maker" for the applicants who were connected to trustees, lawmakers and other powerful people. Herman at times overruled admissions officials to enable the students to get into the school.

After resigning, Herman worked for eight months as a special assistant to the interim president at his nearly $400,000-a-year salary. Then, during 2010-11, he took a $244,000 sabbatical designed in part to prepare him to teach.

Since he joined the faculty in fall 2011, he has taught two online classes and one on-campus class. Slightly more than 50 students total took those classes.

In addition to teaching, Herman also is working on various initiatives, including programs to enhance teaching in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). He is on a graduate student's advisory committee, and does fundraising for the College of Education and Chabad, a Jewish student group on campus, he said. He also has co-written a scholarly article.

"Dr. Herman is performing as expected," according to a statement from the College of Education.

The graduate-level class he had planned to teach this semester, Critical Issues in Higher Education, was canceled after he submitted the description too late for it to be included in the course catalog and not enough students signed up for it. College of Education officials said Herman missed the deadline because they did not provide timely information on when he needed to submit the information.

The college sent students two emails to let them know about the course, but only four students registered. Classes are canceled when fewer than six students are registered.

"Richard acknowledges that he probably missed a deadline for getting his information submitted in time to get included in the (catalog)," said Hardy, the university spokesman who commented on Herman's behalf. "By the time they sent the emails ... (students) very well could have made decisions about what they were doing or would have had conflicts if they wanted to take the course. Consequently, he didn't get the enrollment needed."

To make up for that canceled class, Herman plans to teach a once-a-week online class this summer for six weeks. He expects 24 students in his class, Hardy said. Herman also plans to teach a fall course on the Urbana-Champaign campus, for which six students are currently registered. That class, which will meet one night a week, is on Topics in Higher Education, including the role of philanthropy, new uses of technology and issues related to diversity.

Herman also had a class canceled for insufficient enrollment in fall 2011, his first semester on the faculty, when he planned to teach a graduate course at the university's Chicago campus. The course was related to higher education, but because the UIC graduate program doesn't offer a higher education degree track, there was insufficient student interest and enrollment, Hardy said.

History professor James Barrett, president of the Campus Faculty Association in Urbana-Champaign, said that when classes are canceled for low enrollment, professors typically teach a different course that same semester or make it up during the next semester like Herman is doing.

"Most faculty do feel that we get paid in part to teach these courses and have a responsibility to do that," said Barrett, who teaches two courses a semester. "I would guess that most faculty probably take that pretty seriously. If he is contracted to teach courses, then he has to teach them."

Education professor Nicholas Burbules said he guest-lectured in Herman's fall class and has provided input as Herman designs his coming fall class.

"I think he's making a valuable contribution to the department," said Burbules, who was on a faculty committee that had urged university trustees to replace Herman in the wake of the admissions scandal. Herman apologized repeatedly for his role in it.

Herman's current teaching arrangement goes until 2014, at which point campus officials will decide whether he should continue teaching in the College of Education and how many courses he should teach.

A mathematician by training, Herman has indefinite tenure as a mathematics professor at the Urbana-Champaign campus.

jscohen@tribune.com