Ohio State University President Suddenly Resigns after Investigation

Ohio State University (OSU) President Kristina M. Johnson PhD, announced Monday night that she will transition out of her role as president in May 2023 at the end of the current academic year.

According to reports by The Columbus Dispatch, the university’s board of trustees asked Johnson to resign after an investigation was conducted by an outside firm into concerns about her which were raised by staff. What those concerns consisted of and the details of the investigation are not clear. Johnson allegedly had a contentious relationship with several members of the board and reportedly is being held personally responsible for the departure of at least two high-ranking university officials.

“I have made the difficult decision to step down as president following commencement at the end of the academic year. This will allow a search for the next president to proceed and adequate time for me to assist with a seamless transition,” Johnson said in a press release.

University Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita, who is quoted in Johnson’s announcement, thanked her for her work during her tenure.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Trustees, I want to thank Dr. Johnson for her dedication to the university, especially her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. We congratulate her on her many achievements and wish her our very best in her future professional endeavors,” Fujita said.

Johnson’s contract gives terms as to what would happen should she be fired, either with cause or without cause. However, it does not specify as to what will happen upon Johnson’s resignation. Johnson will depart approximately two and a half years into her five-year contract. Upon her departure, she will have the second shortest tenure as a president at Ohio State only following former Ohio State President Walter Q. Scott, who served from 1881 to 1833. That does not include acting or interim presidents.

Ohio State chose Johnson as the university’s 16th president in June of 2020 from the State University of New York where she had served as chancellor for three years. Her first official day as president was September 1st, 2020.

Prior to that, she served as dean of the engineering school at Duke University for eight years and spent two years as provost at Johns Hopkins University. During the Obama administration, she became a top official in the U.S. Department of Energy and founded a few for-profit businesses.

Johnson’s incoming pay was over $1.4 million which included a base salary of $900,000, bonuses, and other benefits. Initially, Johnson was to receive a fringe benefit allowance of $85,000, a $200,000 yearly retirement plan contribution, $35,00 in moving expenses, and membership in two social clubs. She also had the option to remain at the university as a distinguished university professor. She is currently earning $927,000 annually as of Sept. 30, according to the university’s salary database.

Upon completion of her contract, Johnson and her wife were also eligible for lifetime medical care under the Wexner Medical Center Executive Health Program and lifetime eligibility to purchase football and men’s basketball tickets.

Ohio State’s Board of Trustees conducts an annual review of the university’s president each fiscal year from July to June. Trustees work with the president to establish a set of goals, according to Johnson’s 2020 offer letter. Those goals are used as the basis for her annual review and those reviews are typically shared at November’s Talent, Compensation & Governance committee meeting.

However, no review took place for Johnson at the committee meeting this November. Instead, trustees met for almost two hours in executive session before briefly discussing other personnel actions.

Students received the official notification of her resigning in an e-mail Monday evening containing a letter from Johnson, which a source told The Ohio Star was very vague.

Members from the group known as Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State, which consists of parents of OSU students say they have had many prior issues with Johnson.

Johnson is a vocal sympathizer of the Black Lives matter Movement, a proponent of mandated vaccinations and masking, and gun control legislation. She is also an advocate for the LGBTQ movement and is married to a woman. She has made it clear that her top priorities are COVID surveillance, harvesting biological data at the expense of the students and their rights, and fighting racism.

A source told The Star, that the parent leaders of Buckeye for a Safe Ohio State tried to meet with Johnson in the past to address her left-leaning agenda but she refused.

OH-IO created a petition in 2020 to reveal evidence of Johnson’s poor leadership and to remove her as president. 107 individuals have signed the petition to date.

“There is substantial evidence of President Johnson’s poor leadership practices, and an overall inability to create a safe and positive learning environment on and around The Ohio State campus for the students and staff,” the petition said.

According to the petition, Johnson prioritized random tests for the students attending the university for COVID-19, which has a 99.9% survival rate in college-age people. She also indicates fighting racism as a priority. Yet, she has done nothing proactively towards fighting crime or racism. While she could have used the assault by two individuals against 3 students on Lane Avenue (possible hate crimes) to make a stance, It has virtually been covered up. She also has remained virtually silent regarding the senseless murder of Chase Meola that occurred on 10/11/2020.

“The focus needs to be on our student’s education and mental well-being. Not on excessive testing and policies not based on data that show our college students are not high-risk. Her priorities are not with the students but with politics and her own personal beliefs,” petition signer Cynthia Hoover said.

Ohio State’s Board of Trustees will begin searching for the university’s 17th president. The university said it will share more information about the search and how the community can participate in early 2023. Johnson’s last day as the university’s 16th president is expected to be at the end of the academic year shortly after spring commencement, which is scheduled for May 7.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Kristina Johnson” and “Ohio State University” by Ohio State University.

 

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