Community reacts to Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson's resignation

Ohio State President Kristina Johnson gives the State of the University address in April at OSU's Wexner Center for the Arts. She announced Monday that she would be stepping down from the position.
Ohio State President Kristina Johnson gives the State of the University address in April at OSU's Wexner Center for the Arts. She announced Monday that she would be stepping down from the position.

Editor's note: Quotes erroneously attributed to Lewis Von Thaer and James Klingbeil, members of the Ohio State University board of trustees, have been removed from this story.

Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson announced Monday that she would be stepping down from her position as the university's 16th president, a little over two years into her five-year contract.

This came hours after The Dispatch broke the story of her resignation, where sources inside the administration said that the board of trustees asked Johnson, 65, to resign following an outside consultant review into concerns about her raised by staff.

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While her tenure with the university was the second-shortest in school history — with her last day scheduled after May 7, Ohio State's spring commencement — her resignation has made waves across not just the university community, but also local leaders.

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Here's what people had to say about Johnson's resignation.

Gov. Mike DeWine

“President Johnson and I have had a very good working relationship since she became president of the Ohio State University," said Gov. Mike DeWine. "We’ve worked on a number of things that benefit not just Ohio State but the entire state.”

“We need to look to the future and the future is that the Board of Trustees has to do the most important thing any board of trustee does and that is to pick a president," DeWine said. "Getting the right person to head Ohio State University is very important.”

DeWine said he doesn't have a candidate in mind.

"It needs to be someone who understands the importance of Ohio State. ... It’s very, very, very important," DeWine said.

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther

“I am grateful for President Johnson’s service and significant contributions during her tenure at The Ohio State University. I respect her decision to resign and wish her well,” Ginther said in a statement.

More:Here are five things to know about outgoing Ohio State President Kristina Johnson

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith

Smith thanked Johnson for her support of the Department of Athletics and Business Advancement.

“She truly understands what we do and appreciated it. Her commitment to what we do has always been sincere and exceptional," Smith said. "We wish President Johnson all the best and look forward to continuing working with her toward the end of the academic year.”

More:The short tenure of Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson

University Senate secretary Ben Givens

Givens said they are "in shock" over Johnson's decision. He added that they were excited for many of the programs that Johnson started, but are now concerned that her resignation may lead them to "not all come to fruition."

"(Johnson) is a great advocate of shared governance, and is always willing to consider the many voices represented on campus. President Johnson’s focus on bolstering faculty and enhancing research will have a lasting positive impact on the institution," Givens said. "We’re just starting to see the benefits of this focus, and are concerned that going forward it will not receive the attention it needs to truly elevate the profile of the university."

University Senate Faculty Council Chair Caroline Clark

Clark said she was "stunned by this decision," and that she felt that Johnson had been "one of our best university leaders in recent times."

"She has initiated significant initiatives that promise to further the prominence of our university, and her leadership and voice have been instrumental in guiding us through some of the most challenging times that higher education has ever faced," Clark said. "I’ve been particularly impressed by her active engagement in shared governance and her willingness to engage with a broad constituency of students, staff and faculty. Given the extraordinary demands of her position, this is remarkable. I do worry about losing her leadership, particularly around recruiting and supporting the best faculty and enhancing research and development here at OSU."

Clark added that she would love to see Johnson stay "and continue leading us on this positive trajectory."

More:Here's a quick look at Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson's career

Undergraduate Student Government

Ohio State's Undergraduate Student Government released a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying that they were surprised by the announcement.

"While we are surprised by the announcement, we are steadfastly committed to ensuring all levels of the University center student needs. We look forward to working with President Johnson and university administrators throughout the rest of her term to continue pursuing a campus environment of scholarship, citizenship, and equity," the statement read. "As the Board of Trustees shares more information and begins the search for the 17th President, the Undergraduate Student Government will advocate to ensure student presence within their efforts."

Stonewall Columbus Executive Director Densil Porteous

Porteous said there are fewer than 40 college presidents in the U.S. who identify as LGBTQ+ — including Johnson — according to the national organization LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education.

"We are thankful for President Johnson’s visibility as an out and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community; we acknowledge the difficult role of being the President of The Ohio State University and the intersectional moment of personal identity as the first openly LGBTQ+ individual to hold that role," Porteous said. "The Stonewall organization looks forward to giving any assistance as President Johnson transitions away from the University and consideration for a new leader is taken at the institution."

What students are saying

Abigail Hersman, 19, and her friend Nathan Malcolm, 21, were both surprised to hear the news about Johnson’s resignation, finding out about it through Instagram.

The two of them were sitting at a table inside Ohio Union Tuesday afternoon studying.

“I was shocked,” Hersman said. “I didn’t know if it was a joke.”

The sophomore and junior said they thought Johnson did well during her two years at the university, specifically when it came to leading Ohio State during the early days of the pandemic.

“She had a full plate, but she did a good job under the circumstances,” Malcom said.

Hersman also liked that Johnson was active around campus and came out to university events, such as a philanthropy event for her sorority Zeta Tau Alpha.

“It’s nerve-racking to see who the new president will be and which direction they will go in,” she said.

Fellow student Kyal Massie, 23, also didn’t believe the news was real at first when she saw it on Instagram. The fifth-year student said while she saw Johnson engaging with students on campus, there was not much known about her.

“It’s common not to know anything about her,” she said. “I’ve never met her or seen her.”

However, Massie said Johnson took the safety of students seriously, mentioning when more street lights were installed around campus.

“She’s definitely taking measures for our safety,” she said.

Ohio Department of Higher Education

"We thank President Johnson for her leadership and are confident the Board of Trustees will do a thorough search for the next leader of The Ohio State University," said spokesperson Jeff Robinson.

Inter-University Council of Ohio

President and CEO of the Inter-University Council of Ohio Bruce Johnson said it’s not unusual for a university president to step down mid-contract.

“She’s been successful,” he said. “She’s been highly energetic. I think she’s been a good leader. I think she’s been very thoughtful in the direction she is trying to take the university.”

Dispatch reporters Danae King and Micah Walker contributed to this article.



This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Kristina Johnson resignation at Ohio State reactions