University VP Karen Himle to resign

Himle will remain as a consultant until the end of Bruininks’ term.

Conor Shine

After a semester marked with controversy over the âÄúTroubled WatersâÄù documentary, Karen Himle, University of Minnesota vice president for University Relations, will step down Jan. 10.
Himle, 54, is resigning to âÄúclear the runwaysâÄù for the next University president, Eric Kaler, to assess and select his relations staff, she said.
She had planned to stay only about four years when she was hired, President Bob Bruininks announced Friday. Bruininks approached Himle about the position in 2006, when she was working in the private sector, an arena she intends to return to.
ItâÄôs important for the next leader to choose his own team, Himle said, particularly her position, which becomes âÄúan alternative face for the president.âÄù
This fall Himle was at the center of the Mississippi River documentary delay. Himle called Twin Cities Public Television to push back the filmâÄôs premiere without consulting the filmâÄôs producers, prompting accusations of censorship and infringement on academic freedom.
The University later reinstated the filmâÄôs airing following criticism from faculty and outside advocacy groups, many of whom called for HimleâÄôs resignation in the wake of the incident.
Environmental advocacy group the Land Stewardship Project campaigned for Himle to step down, and in a Friday statement called the decision âÄúan important step toward accountability at the University.âÄù
When asked whether âÄúTroubled WatersâÄù had any bearing on her decision to leave, Himle emphasized, âÄúNo, no, no, no,âÄù but said she reflected on the incident before making the decision, âÄúbecause I thought, well, here we go again.âÄù
An internal review of the âÄúTroubled WatersâÄù release âÄúcaptured all of the nuances of the muddy water period,âÄù she said, and could lead to changes in the system.
âÄúItâÄôs called continuous improvement: What can we learn from it to make sure that whatever happened here perhaps doesnâÄôt happen again?âÄù Himle said.
Bruininks said the âÄúTroubled WatersâÄù issue is âÄúmostly finishedâÄù and will be reviewed by the University Senate Academic Freedom and Tenure committee to see if any further policy changes are needed.
Despite the complications, Himle said she loved her time at the University and would consider returning to the school.
Himle will continue working as a consultant on a communications and administrative efficiency project at the University until June 30 âÄî BruininksâÄô last day as president. She will receive a standard severance package but no extra pay for her consulting work, Bruininks said.
As head of University Relations, Himle was responsible for managing the UniversityâÄôs relationship with the public through marketing, public opinion surveys and reaching out to nonprofits and businesses.
Bruininks recognized Himle at the Board of Regents meeting Friday and praised her for strengthening the UniversityâÄôs brand and reputation.
âÄúReminding the citizens of the state why [the University is] really an important asset now and in the future is a big part of what she did,âÄù he said.
Himle is the first member of BruininksâÄô senior administrative team to leave the University in advance of the presidential transition. The administration could see further shake-ups  in the coming months. Vice President for Human Resources Carol Carrier plans to step down June 1, and many administrators could move on as incoming President Kaler prepares to take office.
âÄúIâÄôm trying … to keep most if not all these positions open so [Kaler] will have an opportunity to reorganize his administration and to hire the people that he wants to work with,âÄù Bruininks said.