The rumor mill’s been in overdrive since Gretchen M. Bataille abruptly resigned her position as president of the University of North Texas on Feb. 10. In an interview this afternoon, Bataille, the first female president in UNT’s history, remained mostly circumspect about her reasons for stepping down. But she implied that the resignation, which takes effect Feb. 28, had little or nothing to do with moving the university system offices to downtown Dallas, as some have speculated.
FrontBurner: Did you resign because of a health issue?
No, it was not a health issue. I chose to resign when I [determined it was] in the best interest of the university to do so.
Did you leave voluntarily, or were you forced out?
Well, I don’t know how to answer that. I wrote [a prepared statement on Feb. 10], and then I resigned.
Some have speculated that the university regents were disappointed by your efforts regarding research support and fundraising.
We increased our research funding and expenditures 60 percent over the last two years. Perhaps 60 percent wasn’t enough, but I think it’s pretty good. Not that many universities increase 60 percent in two years!
There was also speculation that you clashed with Chancellor Lee Jackson over moving the system’s offices from Denton to downtown Dallas.
I never said anything about that. The city council in Denton and the chamber of commerce did. The system office didn’t have that many people here [in Denton] anymore, and several of them and the chancellor were in Dallas already. I had no opinion on that whatsoever.
Some also contend that, like former Texas A&M President Elsa A. Murano, you were the victim of a “good ‘ol boy” system that couldn’t deal with a dynamic female president.
I think people can draw their own conclusions. People leave positions all the time for a variety of reasons.
Will you ever talk in detail about what happened?
Not in the foreseeable future.
Is that a legal decision you’ve made?
I just believe in taking the high road.
What will you do now?
I’m a tenured facilty member and have a research agreement for a year, so I’ll be sticking around for that–some research project involving higher-education policy. I’m not looking for another job.
Many UNT students and others have been very hard-hit by your decision and have rallied to your side. What do you say to them?
That’s been the hardest part. Truly. A lot of them have sent e-mails, voicemails, text messages, Valentine cards, even gifts. I would tell them to support the system, and to keep believing in what the university can become.