Ohio State president Kristina M. Johnson announces resignation
We expected it would be a tough week for Ohio State, but not like this.
Catch up quick: University president Kristina M. Johnson announced her abrupt resignation late Monday, shortly after the Columbus Dispatch reported an unnamed consulting firm had investigated unspecified "concerns" raised by her staff.
- Two days later, it's still unclear why she'll be leaving next May and if the impending departure is embroiled in behind-the-scenes controversy.
Why it matters: OSU is the state's flagship university and features a massive student body larger than any of Columbus' suburbs.
- The president's vision and priorities shape not just the institution but the entire state, and rapid turnover can lead to significant turmoil.
The latest: An OSU spokesperson tells Axios "there was not an investigation" and the outside firm was tapped to assist with the president's annual performance review.
- But Johnson privately informed the Board of Trustees of her intent to leave, so the firm did not complete that review.
- Axios requested the name of the consultant as well as any copies of investigatory findings, but hasn't heard back yet.
Flashback: Johnson was hired in 2020 to stabilize OSU amid the pandemic and declining enrollment across most universities nationwide.
- Her background as an engineer, entrepreneur and former undersecretary of energy during the Obama administration was seen as a perfect fit to guide the school's long-term future in a region increasingly becoming a research and tech powerhouse.
What she's said: Speaking at the Intel groundbreaking in Licking County, Johnson described a need to revive the "powerful private-public partnership of industry, government and academia" — a trifecta defining not just Ohio State, but her own professional career.
And yet, she is leaving halfway into a five-year contract, the second-shortest presidential tenure in school history.
Between the lines: No one accepts such a significant and lucrative role in higher education with the expectation of lasting just two years. And the board of trustees would not hire someone with that anticipation, either.
- The job boasts a nearly $1 million salary and features unique opportunities like serving on the College Football Playoff's Board of Managers.
What we're watching: Trustees will begin the difficult task of finding a new leader who ideally combines higher education experience with personable leadership.
- Johnson's replacement may choose to carry on plans for a workforce development pipeline for Intel's new semiconductor plants and a debt-free degree program.
- But they'll also inherit challenges, from maintaining fundraising in an uncertain economy to ongoing litigation related to late campus doctor Richard Strauss' sexual abuse of hundreds of students.
- 67,772: Students across main campus and five regional campuses
- 475+: Combined number of all degree programs
- 49,325: Total faculty, staff and executives
- $6.8 billion: Endowment as of June 2021
- $8.1 billion: University spending in FY2022
- 1,400: Student organizations
💭 Our thought bubble: A prominent institution like Ohio State will no doubt attract good candidates, but this unexpected turnover — whatever the reason — is anything but ideal.
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