Gros Louis reflects on past year


Ken Gros Louis’ office is small and unmarked, tucked away in a back corridor of Woodburn Hall.

It’s on the other side of campus from the space he occupied as University chancellor in Owen Hall, a spacious room with big windows that was once used by Herman B Wells, the only other man to be honored by IU with the University chancellorship.

Gros Louis, now University chancellor emeritus, was informed in spring 2011 that his office would close effective June 30, 2011.

However, no formal review — customary in the closure of senior administrative offices and promised by then-IU President Adam Herbert in a letter signed upon Gros Louis’ appointment — was undertaken by the Board of Trustees. Gros Louis was not informed of the trustees’ decision until after it had been made.

Student and faculty governing bodies were also unaware of the change.

Before being named University chancellor in 2006, Gros Louis had been on IU’s faculty since 1964 as vice president for academic affairs, Bloomington chancellor, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of English and comparative literature.

The University chancellor has long been a resource to student and faculty leaders in the University.

Gros Louis worked closely with the Bloomington Faculty Council, IU Student Association executives and Union Board directors during his five years in the chancellorship.

In the past year, after learning of Gros Louis’ office closure, IUSA and BFC officials passed resolutions requesting further information about the process used by the trustees.

Now, Gros Louis continues to occupy an office in Woodburn Hall, where he works without a support staff and continues to meet with student leaders whenever it is possible.

However, he said the removal of his office more than a year ago limited his ability to serve as a resource to student and faculty

IDS: Before the office closed in March of 2011, what was your role as University chancellor?

GROS LOUIS: “Actually there’s no definition. In the original appointment letter from Adam Herbert, one of the things would be to stand in for the president if the president requested it at, say, the inauguration of another president, which I did several times.
“I made calls on behalf of the (IU) Foundation to thank people for their gifts, made talks to alumni clubs around the nation about IU history.
“I spent a lot of time with student leaders. That I loved, and I still do. (Former IUSA President) Justin (Kingsolver) was a very good friend last year, as is (IUSA President) Kyle (Straub) now. (Former Union Board President) Evan Farrell and I were very good friends last year. I’m friends with the Union Board president now. And other IUSA execs come by to ask advice about things.”

IDS: How has your role, or your ability to be a resource to students and faculty, changed since the closure of your office and your reappointment as University chancellor emeritus?

GROS LOUIS: “It’s really difficult because there’s no secretary to make appointments. They’ve got no one to contact. I mean, they can contact me if they want. They don’t even know where I am. They ask, ‘Where is your office?’ The office has no number on it. It’s been more challenging.

“Those who I do know, when they find out, they usually send me an email or something. To many of them it kind of ignores the special culture that Herman Wells created on the Bloomington campus. Strangers who have relatives here stop me at Marsh and say, ‘I don’t know you, but I have a sister or a brother, and I just think what they’ve done to you is outrageous.’”

IDS: When did you come here and how have you worked your way through the institution?

GROS LOUIS: “The trustees, when they named the president of the University also president of the campus (in 2006), made (current President Michael) McRobbie provost and gave me the title of University chancellor with the understanding in the letter from Herbert that it would be reviewed in five years and see whether or not it would continue, and a core part of that review would be my assessment of the success of the office and my willingness to continue. Five years passed, and (Board of Trustees Chair) Bill Cast came to the office to say the trustees had decided to close the office, and I said, ‘I thought there was going to be a review.’ He said, ‘Well, since we’ve decided to close the office, there’s no reason to have a review, but a review would be very positive.’
“It was a lie, unless Cast thought it was a contract, but if so, he didn’t see Adam Herbert’s letter of appointment.
“Since then, the trustees have gotten a number of emails from alumni saying, ‘This is an outrage and it shouldn’t be done, etc. These are not the values that IU holds.’”

IDS: What kind of communication have you had with the board or with Bill Cast in the past year or so regarding the future?

GROS LOUIS: “Nothing. No communication from the board.”

IDS: What are your plans if there isn’t any sort of restoration of an office or a fund or anything to help?

GROS LOUIS: “I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing.”

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