President Robert Zimmer is dating a faculty member after separating from his wife and moving out of the President’s house in September. Zimmer’s wife, Terese, is a director at the Urban Education Institute and will continue to live in the president’s house in Zimmer’s absence.
Zimmer notified administrators and trustees about his relationship, University spokesman Steve Kloehn said, to prevent even the appearance of impropriety. “The President has worked with the University leadership to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest. It’s something that all the parties who might be involved in any way have worked out,” Kloehn said.
Board of Trustees President Andrew Alper (A.B. ’80, M.B.A ’81) said the relationship shouldn’t have any bearing on Zimmer’s ability as an administrator. “I see this as a personal matter, not an issue of University governance,” Alper said in a released statement.
Crain’s Chicago Business connected Classics professor Shadi Bartsch with Zimmer in an article Friday. Jonathan Hall, chair of the Classics department, did not respond to questions about Bartsch’s alleged relationship with Zimmer, but said in an e-mail that he was “satisfied that University policy has been complied with.”
Zimmer and Bartsch did not return calls for comment.
Zimmer’s family will continue to live at the President’s house on 59th Street and University Avenue, and pay for any costs “that arise” out of personal funds, Kloehn said. Zimmer and his family are discussing living arrangements, in consultation with the Board of Trustees. Presidential business and University receptions will continue to be held at the house in the interim.
Terese Zimmer is director of Strategic Initiatives at the U of C’s Urban Education Institute, and “there is no reason to believe that will change,” Kloehn said.
According to General Counsel Beth Harris (A.B. ’74), Zimmer and Provost Thomas Rosenbaum have come to an “understanding” about potential conflicts of interest. “The president and the provost have made extra provisions to make sure that the president doesn’t get brought into a situation in which there would be decision-making involved,” Harris said.
She said it is not uncommon for a relationship to develop between faculty members or faculty and their supervisors at a university. However, she stressed that because the president is not the professor’s direct superior, there are few circumstances in which a conflict would arise.
Alper said Zimmer handled the situation professionally. “President Zimmer has been forthcoming with me and the board regarding his family situation. The president has gone out of his way to ensure that there is no conflict of interest, or appearance of a conflict, stemming from his personal life. I am satisfied that his actions are in accord with the policies of the University,” Alper said. “President Zimmer has my full support.”