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Utah State University President Noelle Cockett announces resignation

Nov 22, 2022, 12:21 PM
Noelle Cockett resigns from USU...
After six years of leading USU, President Noelle Cockett announced that she will step down from her position on July 1. (Utah State University)
(Utah State University)

LOGAN, Utah — After six years of leading Utah State University, Noelle Cockett on Tuesday announced that she will step down from her position as USU’s 16th president on July 1, 2023.

Cockett announced her decision through a letter to the campus community, in which she thanked USU for the chance to lead and expressed her appreciation for the hard work of employees and supporters according to KSL.com

By stepping down in July, USU will be able to “conduct a national search for its next president,” Cockett said. “It is my great honor to know this transition to a new leader is occurring at a time when USU is solidly on its trajectory to greatness, which will ensure that the pool of applicants will be deep.”

A release from the university highlighted a list of notable accomplishments that came during Cockett’s tenure, including:

  • Becoming just one of 146 research universities to earn the R1 Carnegie classificationfor excellence in research.
  • Obtaining state funding and approvalfor Utah’s only college of veterinary medicine.
  • Opening a new campus in Moab that serves as the first net-zero energy facility in USU’s campus system.
  • A record-breaking $110 million fundraising year.
  • Increasing student completion of certificates and degrees by 16%, a growth of more than 3% per year.
  • Initiating the university’s first multi-year strategic plan.

Additionally, in the fall of 2022, USU celebrated its largest first-year class and a 16% increase in first-generation, first-year students.

“The decades I have been at USU have convinced me that all of our amazing institutional accomplishments have been possible because of the hard work and commitment of each one of you and those who preceded you as university faculty, staff and supporters,” Cockett said in her letter.

Serving as the first female president in the university’s history, Cockett’s time at the helm didn’t come without controversy.

In 2017, the Department of Justice launched an investigation based on allegations that Utah State University failed to respond to numerous reports of serious sexual assaults.

USU student says the school mishandled her report of rape after it promised to do better

It found that USU failed to comply with federal sex discrimination laws. In an agreement with the school made public in 2020, USU agreed to ensure better response to reports of sexual assault and harassment.

Last December, Earl Morris, the chief of police at Utah State University, resigned from the job just days after comments he made to the university’s football team on sexual assault were made public. Morris on recordings can be heard telling football players that they live in a “Mormon community” and women may regret having sex after the fact, which could lead to reports of sexual assault.

USU called Morris’ comments to student athletes “reprehensible and unacceptable.”

USU reorganizes Public Safety Department 

In October, a former USU football player filed a complaint in federal court alleging retaliation by teammates and coaches after he made and distributed recordings of team meetings. The recordings “highlighted the problematic manner in which USU handles conversations about sexual harassment and assault,” according to court documents

The Utah Board of Higher Education has influence over the appointment of presidents within the Utah System of Higher Education and it will begin a national search for USU’s 17th president immediately and will provide more information when it is available, according to a statement from the university.

“On behalf of the Utah Board of Higher Education, I would like to thank President Noelle Cockett for her years of valuable service at Utah State University,” Lisa Michele Church, board of higher education chairwoman, said in the statement.

Cockett will continue as a tenured member of the USU faculty after her presidency comes to a close.

“President Cockett has been a tremendous leader, both as president and in her other administrative roles,” Kent Alder, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, said in a prepared statement. “Noelle’s dedication to the Aggie family and USU’s land-grant mission comes across loud and clear in everything she does. She has positioned Utah State University to take on even greater challenges in the years ahead. The board of trustees is very grateful for her service to the campus community.”

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Utah State University President Noelle Cockett announces resignation