Ask and ye shall not look foolish
Some people read a lot into the fact that the letter in which Professor Mirecki stepped aside as department chair was on stationery from the Dean's office rather than the Religious Studies department.
Rather than looking like an ass and trying to guess all these things, I just went and asked the KU public relations people:
Professor Mirecki met with the dean to discuss the department’s recommendation that he resign from his administrative duties. As a result of that discussion, Professor Mirecki concluded it was appropriate to submit his resignation. A brief, signed letter is required for records, so he wrote the letter himself at the dean’s office (in a building away from his departmental office in Smith Hall) on a computer there, and it was printed on available stationery.Ta-da!
We were aware the letter was not on religious studies’ letterhead and discussed that. But having it reprinted and re-signed on departmental letterhead for show seemed manipulative.
The departmental faculty recommendation, made Monday and which Professor Mirecki mentions in his letter, had set the resignation in motion.
This is roughly what I suspected.
Update: Oh, you skeptics! Here's what I'm guessing happened, and what I figured beforehand.
Mirecki is told by his colleagues that his ability to lead has been diminished by the events of the previous week. He goes to the Dean and offers a verbal resignation. The Dean explains that they need a written letter for the records. Type-ity type.
Why didn't he come with it in hand? Well, he probably didn't know the procedure for resigning from a chairmanship. The chairmanship is an odd position.
In some departments, the chairmanship rotates every few years, and the chairman is rarely seen as some sort of grand poobah. He's just a dude who has all the usual responsibilities (teaching, research, mentorship) plus a boatload of administrative hassles. Anyone who can get out of it, usually does. It's hard work and needs doing, and I guess some people take to it. Others stay as far away as possible.
Resigning from it isn't so much like quitting a job as it is like deciding to teach a different class or undertake a new research project, at least in personal terms. The university clearly treats it differently. The brevity of the letter was what first made me think this. It doesn't look like a carefully drafted document, it looks like a quick note to toss in a folder.
Or maybe Jesus did it. More evidence here.