NORMAL -- The abrupt departure of Illinois State University's president just seven months into his job surprises students on the school's campus in Normal.
The university's governing board on Saturday accepted Timothy Flanagan's resignation, effective immediately, and replaced him with Larry Dietz, the university's vice president for student affairs. Dietz was the runner-up to Flanagan in last year's presidential search.
University officials haven't disclosed why Flanagan stepped down, although he's being investigated after a police complaint said he hit a former campus groundskeeper during an argument. Flanagan has denied any wrongdoing, and McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers said he plans to call for a special prosecutor to review the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest since a relative of Chambers works at the university.
State lawmakers also have questioned Flanagan's recent absence at two budget-related hearings in Springfield.
Flanagan, formerly president of Framingham State University in Massachusetts, was appointed in May 2013 to replace Al Bowman, who left after a decade as ISU president. Flanagan took up his duties on Aug. 15 with a three-year contract that included an annual salary of $350,000 plus benefits.
Lauren French, an ISU junior from Chicago, told the The (Bloomington) Pantagraph she thought an email she got about Flanagan's resignation was a joke, given that Flanagan "hasn't been here that long."
"It was just kind of a shock that it all happened so quickly," French said Sunday outside the Bone Student Center.
Other students appeared to be ambivalent about Flanagan's exodus.
"It's important, but it's not," said Jade Hopkins, another junior from Chicago. "It is big news, but really it doesn't change anything about going to class or anything like that."
Other students said they weren't familiar with Flanagan because of his short tenure, while some were too distracted by other activities to notice the sudden shuffle in leadership.
"I guess I have been too busy with March Madness," Rockford junior Matt Drost said, referring to the NCAA men's basketball tournament.