Western Illinois University president announces departure

MACOMB, Illinois (KWQC) - UPDATE: Just into the TV6 newsroom, the president of Western Illinois University has announced he will be leaving his position.

President Jack Thomas has announced he will serve his last day on June 30, 2019. He said he believes the university will be "best served by new leadership."

President Thomas has requested to be moved to administrative leave for two years at current salary, with the option to return to his faculty position after two years, which has been approved by the Board of Trustees.

ORIGINAL: Signs popping up across Macomb, Illinois are demanding the Western Illinois University president be fired.

Some community members wouldn’t go on camera, but there were mixed emotions throughout the city about Jack Thomas, the WIU president. After a recent long-time employee was let go, and enrollment numbers continuing to decline, some feel there should be new leadership - others, think he's doing all he can.

“Times have changed, and as our country changes so do institutions,” said the Dean of the WIU Centennial Honors College, Rick Hardy.

Some Macomb community members want the WIU president to be fired, but officials at the university say the numbers aren't solely his fault.

“Yes the university has had a budgetary problem, we've had enrollment problems,” said Dr. Ron Williams, the Vice President of Student Services. “But instead of working together there has been some kind of strategic plan to divert attention from serious problems to one specific person.”

There are multiple contributing factors to declining enrollment, like online classes.

“We don't have the clout, we don't have the population,” added Hardy. “As the population goes so do the students. On top of that we've had a growth of community colleges. Since the 1965 Community Colleges Act, we've seen community colleges growing and growing - some have 29 to 30,000 students.”

Cuts are required as well, because of budget constraints.

“In a community like this everybody seems to know everybody else. I'm not privy to what happened in regard to that termination. All I know is, a coach has to be able to have his own team together, and if you're going to be the leader of something you have to put the people around you you feel confident in, and I trust that's what happened,” said Hardy.

The issue will be addressed at Friday morning's board of trustees meeting.