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U. of Utah President to Step Down Amid Cancer-Institute Controversy

Updated (5/2/2017, 12:13 p.m.) with news of a memorandum central to the dispute.

David W. Pershing, president of the University of Utah, said on Monday that he planned to step down, making him apparently the latest casualty of a controversy that erupted two weeks ago, when the head of the university’s Huntsman Cancer Institute was abruptly removed.

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Mr. Pershing said he had planned to step down following the 2017-18 academic year, and to announce his intentions in August. Monday’s announcement merely moved up that plan by three months, he said.

Mr. Pershing and Vivian S. Lee, the university’s senior vice president for medical enterprises, gave no reason for their apparent dismissal, on April 17, of Mary Beckerle as director and chief executive of the cancer institute. But the news caused an uproar on the campus, drawing criticism even from the Huntsmans, the benefactors who have helped create and foster the center. And within a week, Mr. Pershing announced that Dr. Beckerle had been reinstated.

Dr. Lee resigned on Friday as an administrator, but she kept her faculty post.

The Deseret News reports that the controversy stemmed from a power play detailed in a seven-page memorandum in which total control of the university’s cancer program would be given to the director of the institute, Dr. Beckerle. The document, which the News published with its article, was pushed by the Huntsmans but resisted by Mr. Pershing, Dr. Lee, and the chairman of the university’s board.

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