Thank You, Mr. Walton

Bill WaltonOn June 23rd, longtime homeless man Bill Walton passed away at age 69. He spent many of his last days on the steps on the Independent Media Center.

Upon thinking of the passing of Bill this week, one of Bill’s great contributions to our community was that he stood patiently in all kinds of weather to be a reality check. Bill’s daily presence was a constant reminder that there are those in this world who are less fortunate than most of us. From day one in front of Busey Bank in the 80’s, it seemed Bill needed help. Or it always looked that way.

The sight of Bill either opened up your mind to the idea of compassion, or offended your work-ethic sensibilities. Either way, you were grateful for your own situation. Living on the sidewalk day after day had to be sometimes miserable.

Looking at Bill, your priorities were challenged. Questions about your government, the effects of war, the economy, homeless people, what Jesus said about the poor, property rights, welfare, poverty, unemployment, your sense of decency, healthcare, and mental illness were inspired by his chaotic sight, day after day.

Bill could alter your sense of reality. Not everybody was having a nice day. Bill forced you to decide how you would react to that.

There were many days Bill seemed in mental anguish about something. We have to admit, hardly any of us took the time to find out. Bill, often favoring a military jacket, could be intimidating at first. It was a relief to discover, if you took the time, Bill was a nice man.

Most of us assessed Bill’s plight as a financial one. Turns out, money was not Bill’s problem.

So why did he sit outside all that time? We can throw some psychology-sounding labels at him and blame his faulty brain that caused his vigil. Sounds reasonable to us and less incriminating.

Anyone who ever interacted with Bill Walton can honestly say, Bill was always polite, cogent, and as patient as anyone could be under the extraordinary circumstances of being outside all hours. His only vice seemed to be chain smoking.

And yet, he did it. He stood or sat in the most prominent places in town in front of everybody and didn’t give a damn what you thought about it or what he looked like; and at the same time, he somehow tolerated doing nothing all day.

A sign of mental illness perhaps?

Bill’s behavior was fairly mild mannered, fairly consistent. Bill graduated from high school, played in the high school band, joined the Army, and went to the University of Montana to study Biology. Like most children and young adults he loved his parents, his siblings, and had friends. This was a very capable person who, for unknown reasons, completely dropped out, and sat waiting and not much else.

And just about all of us walked around it and let it be.

This article originally appeared at Smile Politely and is reprinted with permission.


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Culture, Liberation, and #BlackLivesMatter

During the early 70s, Amilcar Cabral wrote extensively on the theme of liberation and the collective persona of subjugated people expressed as culture. His libratory praxis offered a context to dialectically engage notions of freedom and strategies for its attainment. Forty years later, Cabral’s ruminations hold relevance for contemporary social movements.

As of the end of June, police had killed 542 U.S. citizens. Blacks were twice as likely as whites to be killed; the majority were unarmed. In June, 9 church members were massacred by a young white supremacist and a month later, a young Black woman died suspiciously in a Texas jail. The violence of policing and policies creates precarious living situations, trickling down into communities and homes. Resource scarcity, high unemployment, failing schools, vanishing social safety nets, and the criminalization of poverty eventuating in high incarceration rates imperil Black lives.

In 2013, the murder of an unarmed, 17 year-old Black male by a neighborhood watchman who was later acquitted catalyzed a new social movement, #BlackLivesMatter. The act and its aftermath were reminders of colonial laws codifying race, place, and freedom and Missouri Chief Justice Taney’s declaration that U.S. Blacks had no rights whites were bound to respect.

Two years on, Blacks and their allies across the globe are attempting to reaffirm that #BlackLivesMatter. In a July 7 article, Benjamin Woods, doctoral candidate at Howard University, suggested there were six lessons #BlackLivesMatter could learn from Cabral. Although all six have merit, I’ll focus on two ideas: Culture and Ideology and Returning to the Source.

Cabral suggested that as long as a segment of a group maintained its culture, total domination couldn’t be assured. American culture is heteropatriarchal, based on the logic of white supremacy and monopoly capitalism, characterized by individualism, rationality, competition, and consumerism. Despite the system of slavery, people of African descent brought with them and retained ancestral memories evidenced in family structures, spiritual traditions, aesthetic practices, and worldviews that centered collectivism and spirituality. Subjugation of Africans by Europeans resulted in a clash of cultures. Developing in such adverse conditions, African American culture is one of resistance as well as selective and forced assimilation. It can be imagined that an authentic African American culture is what is left when the artifacts of European cultural hegemony are stripped away. An exploration of the Gullah-Geechee people, a semi-maroon group found along the southeastern seaboard, might offer meaningful insights into how a “return to the source” for Black America would look.

Cabral cautioned that a return to the source didn’t mean an uncritical acceptance of (African) traditions or cultural determinism, but rather the rejection of the idea that European culture was superior to Black culture. Woods suggested that re-Africanization was necessary in the current moment of #BlackLivesMatter as was the case in the 60s and 70s when African Americans exercised resistance by reclaiming cultural identities and weaponizing protest art in liberatory struggle.

A “return to the source” required the Black petit-bourgeoisie to commit “class suicide” and act in solidarity with the masses. Recently, Cornel West charged that the Black elite or the “lumpen-bourgeoisie” often acted indifferent to the suffering masses of Blacks and even antithetical to their plight. A recent Gallup poll found that 52% of Blacks thought police treated minorities fairly, with some even calling for increased policing. Given the diversity within African America, one can question if there is a collective Black culture and agreed upon notions of freedom.

Art, education, and politics are elements of culture, as are language and spirituality. Activist-artists, activist-scholars, and people of faith are mobilizing the masses for radical social change using their platforms to raise critical consciousness and putting their bodies on the front line. Hip hop artists are reclaiming the tradition of the Djeli/Griot. Singer Janelle Monae gave BLM an anthem, “Hell You Talmbout,” calling the names of those murdered by policing forces. The religious community is invoking spirit and burning sage. Erykah Badu produced a free mixed tape for healing the Chronic Traumatic Stress Syndrome caused by near daily outrages against Black life. Scholars are theorizing, painters are painting, writers are writing, conscious Black women are rejecting the white aesthetic and wearing their race in their hair and styles of adornment. Our symbols, images, iconography, and stories are galvanizing a new generation in the fight to reclaim Black dignity.

Despite intragroup divisions, I’m convinced that culture still serves as a launching space for libratory struggle. Yesterday, I was approached by a young man, 18 years old, drawn by the Sankofa bird tattoo on my shoulder. He liked its meaning: “Go back and fetch what has been lost.” He shared with me his quest for cultural knowledge and identity as a means to uplift those who come behind him and to engage in dialog with people like me. He gave me hope.

Amira Davis





Amira Davis is a mother, grandmother, activist-artist, and independent scholar. Her interests are Black women’s gender theories and popular education.

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This Black Life Matters

Michael Brown was killed a year ago. They used to say, “It’s been a long, hot summer” but it’s been another long, hot, horror-filled year in the US; every single day another Michael Brown.

This is someone I know.

In high school, Kadeem was a force in the middle of the soccer field. He owned his space. If you came at him with the ball, you would lose it, and he would streak away from you with it. Medium height, fast feet, big smile, a fierce light of concentration in his eyes.

Kadeem was determined to play after graduation. That’s all he wanted. His family of musicians, teachers, activists, sighed. Kadeem just wanted to play. Anywhere, for anybody; maybe one day in Europe where the feet are faster and the balls bounce higher. He tried out for the biggest local professional club, in Chicago, and was put on their development team – a feat in itself. That didn’t quite work out and the next thing we heard, he was playing at a junior college in Boston.

Then we heard he was back in town.

Kadeem had a friend whose family had moved here from Egypt, that he’d grown up with. They went to mosque together. The friend graduated from our local university, and got a good job in Chicago. He rented a car to drive up to the city to look at apartments in parts of town where the rents wouldn’t be quite so high. Since he was about to get a good job with a good salary, he rented a nice sporty car. He asked Kadeem to come with him, so they could have a summer’s drive, a fun day in the city, looking at a promising future.

The road to Chicago from here is a straight shot north. The road bends neither east nor west, running straight through mile after mile of cornfields and soybean fields, and through little towns where people talk about corn and soybeans. Then you finally get to Chicago, passing its big skyline off to the right, on the way to Waukegan, now a lakeside suburb that used to be an industrial town. In the long hot summer of 1966, the anger in its African-American community boiled over, as it did in Watts, Cleveland, Omaha, Dayton, Benton Harbor, Milwaukee, Brooklyn. In 1966, the mayor of Waukegan had declared that rioting folks were “scum, hoodlums, bums and animals.” Forty-nine years later, Kadeem and his friend stopped to fill up the sporty car’s tank. Kadeem was at the wheel. A white man wearing a police uniform and a gun, driving an ordinary truck, came over to them. He showed no ID.

He said Kadeem had put on his indicators on too slowly when he changed lanes. He looked at Kadeem, fast feet, big smile, concentration in his eyes and said, “You look like a drug dealer to me.”

“No,” said Kadeem, “I’m not.”

“You look like a drug dealer. Where did you get this car? If I look in the car, will I find cocaine?”

“No,” said Kadeem, “You won’t find anything.”

“But you sure look like a drug dealer.”

The guy frisked Kadeem. Then he rummaged through the car. He didn’t find any drugs – of course, since there weren’t any. Kadeem had been taught, drilled over and over by the musicians, the teachers and the activists: stay cool, don’t challenge them, don’t even think about losing your temper, don’t talk back to them.

And finally the guy let Kadeem and his friend go on their way. The Egyptian friend had never quite believed the stories that African-Americans get stopped for “driving while black.” But he believes them now. All the joy went out of their day. Kadeem said, “He made me feel like nothing.”

Kadeem has had eight or nine traffic stops in our town. He’s got a big smile, fast feet, and a fierce light of concentration in his eyes. He’s found a coach in Canada who believes in him. Canada, light of the north star. Kadeem’s life matters. After 350 years, after this long hot mortally wounded year, we have to wonder: for how much longer?

This article was originally published online at ThoughtLeader and is reprinted with permission.

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University at War with Itself

[T]he chancellor who hired the professor, then fired the professor by claiming he had never been hired in the first place; who resigned in the wake of an ethics scandal over her use of a personal email account (and destruction of emails) in order to hide evidence related to pending litigation over the firing of the professor; whose resignation was rejected by the UI Board of Trustees so that they could formally fire her instead (and thereby avoid paying her a $400,000 bonus previously agreed upon), is now resubmitting her resignation to UIUC and consulting with lawyers in order to consider her legal options and to protect her reputation from the very university that, under her leadership, systematically destroyed the reputation of the professor she fired by claiming he had never been hired in the first place. 

How do you spell “irony”? The whole sad, sorry, Salaita saga has “more irony than a Brecht play.”

Salaita is hired but then is told, no, you’re not really hired, so that he can be fired. Wise is forced to resign, but then is told, no, you’re not really resigned, so that she can be fired.

Wise complains that not only is she the victim of a university administration that puts politics above principles and reneges on its contracts with its employees—all true, by the way—but that such actions are also “unprecedented.”

What is going on? There are so many characters, and so few acted honorably, that you need a racing form to keep track.


Ali Abunimah, co-founder of blog Electronic Intifada. For all her service to power, Wise is learning the hard way that when you’re no longer needed, you can be discarded and scapegoated.” “The ‘electronic intifida’ [sic] certainly isn’t worth responding to” (p. 219). He is “the reporter who attempted to ambush the Board chair [Chris Kennedy], as well the president [Robert Easter] after the September [11, 2014] meeting” (p. 219).

Ilesanmi Adesida, resigned as provost August 24, 2015.  “We have run into a buzz saw again! [Kilgore, then Salaita]” (p. 8).

Tim Bearrows, head of UI Office of Legal Counsel. Signed April 22, 2014 massmail rationalizing “civility” as a hiring guideline.

Nick Burbules, Gutsgell Professor in Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership department. With Joyce Tolliver, responsible for “No Faculty Union” blog.

Roy Campbell, computer science professor, and chair of Academic Senate 2014-2015. He is “unsure of why Adesida resigned.” Anti-Salaita.

Susan Davis, UIUC communications professor and Campus Faculty Association (CFA) officer. Pro-Salaita.

Jim Dey, News-Gazette opinions editor, and columnist. Kicked off controversy concerning reappointment of James Kilgore, editorializes against Salaita constantly.

Kim Graber, Vice-Chair, Academic Senate Executive Committee, 2015-2016. On resignation of Adesida, “I’m hoping this is the end of it for a while.” Anti-Salaita.

Chris Kennedyson of Ethel and Bobby Kennedy. Former owner of Merchandise Mart, Chicago. President, UI Board of Trustees, 2012-2014.

James Kilgore, UIUC untenured academic professional in several departments, 2009-present. Writer and political activist, prison reform, labor and social movements in Australia, South Africa, and Champaign-Urbana. Political radical 1970s, and member Symbionese Liberation Army. Convicted of second-degree murder, imprisoned 2002-2009.

Michael LeRoy, Law, and Labor & Industrial Relations professor. Anti-Salaita.

Scott Rice, UIUC campus legal counsel. Ali Abunimah: “Did Scott Rice use a personal email address to conduct university business?”

Corey Robin, Brooklyn College political science professor and influential blogger. Pro-Salaita.

Steven Salaita. “(Expletive) you, #Israel. And while I’m at it, (expletive) you, too, PA, Sisi, Arab monarchs, Obama, UK, EU, Canada, US Senate, corporate media, and ISIS” (July 20, 2014).  “I refuse to conceptualize #Israel/#Palestine as Jewish-Arab acrimony. I am in solidarity with many Jews and in disagreement with many Arabs” (July 27, 2014).

Andrew Scheinman, patent attorney and indefatigable local FOIA-flyer, who has almost single-handedly found nuggets in mountains of incriminating emails regarding Carle hospital and UI college of medicine, and more recently Salaita case. Wise: he is “clearly crazy and doesn’t have real work to do” (COM, p. 210).

Joyce Tolliver, associate professor of Spanish literature. “Process is our friend” (p. 236). With Nick Burbules, responsible for “No Faculty Union” blog.

Robert Warrior, head, UIUC Native American Studies department.

Barbara Wilson, appointed interim chancellor to succeed Wise. “The anger, anxiety, and lack of trust we are experiencing is profound.”

Phyllis Wise, named UIUC chancellor 2011, resigned August 6, and again August 13, 2015. “This place is so messed up” (p. 60).


Oct. 9, 2013: Prof. Steven Salaita accepts tenured position working on “comparative indigeneity” in Department of Native American Studies to begin fall 2014.

Feb. 9, 2014: News-Gazette’s Jim Dey publishes 4,200 word editorial column on page 1 critical of Kilgore

Jul. 21: First Salaita tweets appear on front page of News-Gazette critical of Israel’s  war on Gaza.

Jul. 21-22: UIUC spokesperson issues statement supportive of Salaita. In separate email, Wise also states her support of Salaita.

Jul. 24: Wise and UI Board of Trustees (BOT), chaired by Chris Kennedy, discuss Salaita in executive session

Aug. 1: In email, Wise “unhires” Salaita.

Aug. 22: Two university massmails sent out within one hour, one from Wise and one signed by 24 UI higher ups, including UI president, BOT members, other two UI campus chancellors, and UI head of Legal Counsel,  rationalizing their actions with spurious notion of “civility”

Aug. 26: provost’s faculty hiring committee concludes Kilgore’s appointment process was proper, and recommends his reappointment

Sep. 11: BOT votes not to appoint Salaita.

September-October: Over 15 UIUC departments and units vote no confidence in chancellor, UI president and Board of Trustees. International academic boycott supported by over 5,000. Numerous national academic disciplinary organizations protest, along with American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Nov. 13: rancorous BOT discussion of Kilgore report cannot agree on why Kilgore should not be reappointed. Wise reappoints him, effective spring 2015.

Dec. 14: campus Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) report released, which recommends that then-LAS dean Barbara Wilson appoint a faculty committee to review Salaita case.

Jan. 6, 2015: so-called “gang of 5” past and present Academic Senate officers, with no official standing and acting as individuals, criticize CAFT report in support of administration.

Feb. 9: After extensive debate, Senate accepts CAFT report. Wise administration  rejects it.

Feb. 13: judge rejects UI’s request to dismiss Salaita’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit as “unduly burdensome,” and orders UIUC to disclose emails.

Mar. 12: BOT approves Wise’s Carle-Illinois College of Medicine

Apr. 28: AAUP draft censure report

Jun. 13: AAUP annual meeting formally votes to censure UI.

Aug. 6: federal judge denies UI’s request to dismiss Salaita’s lawsuit, allowing the suit to proceed, in a blistering opinion. “If the court accept the university’s argument, the entire American academic hiring process as it now operates would cease to exist.”

Aug. 6: Wise resigns, effective in one week, in an exit deal hammered out between her and President Thomas Killeen, and in light of an internal ethics investigation. In exchange for her resignation, she is to receive a newly negotiated $400,000 retention bonus, aka “golden parachute.”

Aug. 7: UI announces that Wise had used personal email to conduct university business in order to avoid disclosures through FOIA. It voluntarily releases 1,100 pages of emails, dating back to 2014, to avoid legal challenges.

Aug. 12: With no state budget, and after insisting state legislators forgo a pay raise, Governor Bruce Rauner pressures BOT to reject Wise’s resignation deal with its $400,000 golden parachute. BOT does so, and starts dismissal proceedings against her. Killeen names LAS dean Barbara Wilson interim chancellor.

Aug. 13: Wise calls UI’s and BOT’s bluff, threatens to sue, and resigns a second time. A lawsuit could have blown everything wide open, among other things, fingering former BOT president Chris Kennedy as the leader in firing Salaita, rather than Wise.

Aug. 14: the university and BOT back down, and accept Wise’s second resignation, dodging thereby the bullet of more revelations, at least for the time being.

Aug. 23: Forty-one department and unit heads write open letter to Killeen and Wilson urging them to use their influence to have BOT rescind its Salaita at its upcoming September meeting.

Aug. 24: Adesida resigns as provost effective in one week to return to engineering faculty.

What do we learn about UIUC, especially the administration, from these recent events? In particular, what do we learn from the emails released August 7 concerning the reappointment of academic professional James Kilgore and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, in addition to the Salaita affair?


The emails generally reveal little that we did not already know, or had not suspected. Yet they show in unprecedented, behind-the-scenes detail how shabby, petty, and self-serving were the inner workings, thoughts, and strategizing of the Wise administration.

In what follows, I draw on the three batches of personal emails released August 7, which can be found here. UI describes the actions it took here. Full disclosure: I am one of the eight who collectively filed 10 FOIAs in 2014 that UI had not fully responded to before August 7, 2015. For emails concerning Salaita, I cite the page number. For the others I state whether it concerns the College of Medicine (COM) or Kilgore, and
give the page number.


The one bombshell revelation concerns Chris Kennedy’s key role in virtually strong-arming Wise into firing Salaita. Some people had independently arrived at this conclusion previously.  Now we know that on December 14, 2014 Wise complained bitterly about her treatment and threatened to set “the record straight” (p. 244). The “draft from CAFT” is the draft Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure report on Salaita. “Edelman” is the public relations firm employed by UI. “Scott” is Scott Rice, UIUC campus legal counsel.


I will give you a copy of the draft from CAFT. What angers me about this report is that they believe that I made the decision and that the BOT followed my recommendation. That is just plain not true. I have been carrying the water since Edelman said that we have to stay as one voice. I don’t think I can do that any longer. I am going to talk with Scott about setting the record straight.

I have just about lost my patience with all of this.


Along with Wise, Kennedy is arguably the most guilty party in getting rid of Salaita. Yet when Wise was negotiating whether  she would receive a $400,000 golden parachute for stepping down, Kennedy said,

I wouldn’t give someone $400,000 to leave peaceably if they (did what she did). My belief is that those [personal] emails will reveal behavior that should be investigated.

Talk about calling the kettle black. Kennedy is just lucky that Wise, in calling Killeen’s and the BOT’s bluff, by threatening to file a lawsuit when they initiated dismissal proceedings against her, that they accepted her second re-resignation within a matter of hours. This removed her threatened lawsuit, a lawsuit that almost certainly would have revealed much that neither Kennedy, nor UI, wanted the public to see.

Salaita was not the first time Kennedy had intervened politically. He led the BOT in 2010 to deny emeritus status, a largely symbolic designation, to former political radical and UI Chicago Prof. Bill Ayers upon his retirement.

Same with convicted Symbionese Liberation Army member and UIUC academic professional James Kilgore. After Ayers, Kennedy wrote in a February 10, 2014 email that he felt “blindsided” by the controversy over what had been previously Kilgore’s routine annual reappointment as an untenured academic professional (Kilgore, p. 4).

Given the enormous attention that the [retiring UI Chicago professor Bill] Ayers vote [to not grant emeritus status] received, it’s incredible to me that no one informed the rest of the board or me that the University was home to another such ex-terrorist. It’s clear that our PR department was aware of it. I’m amazed that no one shared this information with me. The story in yesterday’s paper totally blindsided me…

The story Kennedy refers to is Jim Dey’s front page  4,000-word column the previous day in the local News-Gazette that initiated an uproar over Kilgore. Even Wise wrote, in regards to Kennedy’s comments above, “Wow. I hope he has calmed down some” (Kilgore, p. 4).

In all these cases, Kennedy acted improperly, abusing his position as BOT chair to make politically-motivated, and unprofessional, decisions.


A clear connection existed for the Wise administration between Kilgore, the College of Medicine plan, and Salaita. This also comes as news to almost everyone.

In more than 1,000 pages of previously private emails about the Salaita case, the James Kilgore case, and the (successful) efforts to create a new College of Medicine at UIUC, a startling picture emerges that these three cases are actually intertwined. You can’t understand what happened to Salaita without seeing the other two events.

How the administration reacted to Kilgore’s routine academic reappointment between February and November 2014 constitutes a dress rehearsal for how they responded to the even bigger, more damaging Salaita affair that began July 2014. Already during spring 2014 Kennedy strongly opposed Wise’s medical school plan. On March 18, 2014 Wise emailed a 10-point summary of her meeting that day with Kennedy (College of Medicine, pp 18-19).

He started out saying: “I want to be super supportive.” But the rest of the conversation was a litany of why we won’t be able to get this done.
1. He doesn’t think we have a real strategic plan…
2. I did not tell him which Board members I had spoken with, but I suspect he knows. He said that talking with individual trustees was the worst kind of governance…
3. He said that 80% of the population was in Chicagoland and that if they did not like this plan, they would kill it..

The following day March 19, she emailed Rick Stephens, owner of Hobby Lobby and member of the UI Research Park Economic Development Advisory Group (EDAG) (College of Medicine, p. 23),

I did not tell him [Kennedy] about all the people we have already met with because I didn’t want him to think that he was the last person to know. But I think we have many of the bases covered…I have the quiet support of UIC [UI Chicago] leadership, but they will never say this out loud.

The following week, Kennedy emailed Easter, who in turn gave Wise a copy, telling her, as she wrote to Adesida, that “CK [Chris Kennedy] was not mad. You sure could not tell it from the email,” which she found “a bit intimidating.” Apparently, Kennedy had written to Easter “to refer a case of personnel management to Tom Bearrows [head of UI Legal Counsel].” Adesida responded to Wise March 24, “I wonder how many of the BOT members know about this threat!” Apparently “he [Kennedy] is scared that you will
succeed – or he wouldn’t be calling for the personnel committee to reign you in” (College of Medicine, pp. 45-6).

Despite Wise caving to Kennedy’s pressure to fire Salaita at the July 24, 2014 BOT meeting, he was against Wise’s COM – and he wasn’t the only one. In an email exchange with Adesida July 31, with the subject line “Mischief of Don Chambers [physiology and biochemistry professor in UI College of Medicine, University Senates Conference chair],” Wise wrote (College of Medicine, p. 253),

he [Chambers] believes that I am evil and that Dimitri [Azar, Dean of UI College of Medicine] will save all of us. I am sure he is talking with CK [Chris Kennedy]. He plans on using his platform at the USC [University Senates Conference] to veto our COM… I never thought it would get this ugly.

Adesida responds,

We will need to unbutton our fighting gloves also. They are fighting for the future of UIC [UI Chicago]; we are fighting got [sic] the future of UIUC. Trying to constrain one for the other is no use! It will really hamper the growth and eminence of COE [UIUC College of Engineering] and UIUC. We need to line up our Senate members to get in the ring if Don decides to unbare his fangs as the USC Chair!

Once news of Salaita hit, Wise knew that Kennedy’s opposition to both Salaita and the medical school could tank her medical school plan unless she could separate it from the Salaita controversy. In the end, it was only Republican Bruce Rauner’s victory in November 2014 over Democratic Governor Quinn, that led Kennedy to resign from the BOT, effectively removing his opposition to her COM.

Since Wise’s resignation as chancellor August 13, most commentators have highlighted Kennedy’s opposition to her COM idea. Uncomfortable thought: What they forget is that throughout 2014 Wise was battling entrenched Chicago interests for an Urbana COM, interests she won out over when the COM was approved by the BOT in May 2015. With Wise out, the key question now is: will her COM plan be pursued to fruition, connected as it has always been to her culpable actions regarding, first, Kilgore, and then Salaita?


The administration’s actions were not based on high political and moral principles. Quite the contrary. They evidence moral myopia and turpitude. They are self-serving, narrowly-framed, tendentious rationalizations masking wrongdoing.

First, administrators proved stunningly ignorant about First Amendment-protected free speech, academic freedom and American Association of University Professors (AAUP) guidelines. Salaita’s October 2013 offer letter included six pages on academic freedom guidelines, yet nearly a year later on August 15, 2014 then-Provost Adesida writes that he will “have to check whether it has become a matter of routine that we send all the accompanying information” (p. 74). And at the September 22, 2014 Academic Senate meeting – two months after they had decided to fire Salaita, and 11 days after the BOT had voted to do so on September 11 — it became clear from their responses during q and a that neither President Easter nor Wise knew what academic freedom is or what was in those guidelines. That they aim to protect not comfortable speech but uncomfortable speech – speech which we disagree with – completely escapes Salaita’s detractors.

Instead, the administration framed the issue in terms of a made-up notion of “civility” that trumped academic freedom and due process. The can of “civility” worms was opened a few days later in an email to Sharon Reynolds, associate director of Academic Human Resources (pp. 118-9). Writing as a search committee member, the unidentified writer poses seven questions on how to apply the new “civility” standard to job applicants.

2015 09 01 Reynolds hiring questions 2014 08 31b

Even on the rare occasions when administrators indirectly acknowledged that lacking proper consultation, Salaita’s due process had been violated, the necessity to eliminate Salaita as a member of the university community overrode such considerations.

Second, Salaita’s critics termed his tweets anti-semitic, but no one has ever demonstrated it. As English department head Michael Rothberg, a Salaita supporter, states,

I strongly believe that neither Professor Salaita himself nor the tweets that are at issue are antisemitic… Indeed, Professor Salaita has stated repeatedly in numerous tweets and writings that have not been cited by his detractors that he opposes antisemitism and racism of all kinds. I… observe that nobody has brought a single piece of evidence to bear that would contradict Professor Salaita’s explicit personal opposition to antisemitism.

Antisemitism is racism directed against all Jews qua Jews. Salaita tweeted against Zionists, and Israeli Jews, including individual Israelis, but not against all Jews as a group. Rothberg cogently observes that

The tweets that have been reproduced again and again in reports on this case are not expressions of antisemitism but criticism of how charges of antisemitism are used to excuse otherwise inexcusable actions.


At the center of everything was Wise. Instead of a woman for all seasons, Wise’s is a portrait in cowardice.

“She is honorable in her dealings with everybody and ethical down to the bone” — Richard Meisinger, Wise’s partner of 13 years

As individuals, we all act within certain structural constraints. Yet we still exercise a modicum of agency. On July 24, 2014, no doubt under intense pressure from Kennedy and the BOT, Wise could have said no to the BOT’s insistence in executive decision to get rid of Salaita. Wise, and campus spokesperson Robin Kaler, had issued statements in support of Salaita July 21-22. Going into the July 24 meeting, she was working with others who were feeding her talking points on how to deal with Salaita, points she intended to communicate to the BOT (p. 2).

1. You are appalled by Mr. Salaita’s behavior (unprofessional, uncivil).
2. You have instructed Robert [Warrior, head of Native American Studies] to contact him now and communicate your dissatisfaction.

At 7:25 am Wise writes to Kaler,

“I need to find out what goes on in the executive session today. We can continue planning.”

At 12:32 pm, Kaler emails,

“Any news you can share?”

At 1:55 pm, Wise responds,

“Too complicated to do in email. But they will be considering carefully whether to approve in September. Definitely not a given” (p. 13).

Clearly, Wise went into the BOT meeting upset but planning for Salaita’s impending arrival, and came out of the meeting ready to nix his hire altogether.

Hers would have been a profile in courage, but instead she caved. Granted, Wise may have felt she needed Kennedy’s support for her medical school plan, and that throwing Salaita under the bus was a price worth paying. The point is that she caved. A direct line runs from July 24, 2014 to her resignation August 13, 2015. The July meeting led to the August firing led to the September BOT vote not to hire.

As Electronic Intifada blogger Ali Abunimah writes,

I watched Wise at the 11 September 2014 university board meeting coldly ask trustees to reject Salaita’s appointment, already knowing – as the secret emails indicate – that they were likely breaching his contract.

And she was moreover willing to use her complicity in that infamous act to advance her own interests, particularly the controversial college of medicine initiative funded by private and corporate donors.

The August 7, 2015 personal email release shed a bright light on Wise’s announced resignation one day earlier on August 6. It plainly shows that she used personal email to avoid FOIA disclosure. As early as March 19, 2014, she wrote,

“I may be getting paranoid, but since someone has FOled [sic] all of the emails that [UI Research Park director] Laura Frerichs has exchanged between herself and the internal and external advisory board members with regards to the COM [College of Medicine], I am using my personal email and sending it to [redacted] personal email” (COM, p. 16).

On September 18, 2014, Wise wrote Michael LeRoy that Robin Kaler

“has warned me and others not to use email since we are now in litigation phase. We are doing virtually nothing over our Illinois email addresses. I am even being careful with this email address and deleting after sending” (p. 192).

The very next day, a legal hold was put on everyone’s communications regarding Salaita, as I discuss in the next section below.

In fact, it has been argued that “Wise was likely advised of possible or likely litigation as early as 25 July 2014,” one day after the fateful BOT meeting, and not to destroy evidence. Although she, and other administrators, were warned more than once not to use personal emails for university business, she apparently could not desist from doing so.

In much the same way, she has been a serial self-plagiarizer, republishing her own published research, not once but numerous times over a 20-year period (pp. 216-22). This is another area in which the administration engaged in damage control. Ignoring, disparaging the critics. “A minor blog called ‘Retraction Watch‘” (p. 219). Attacking the messenger rather than addressing the issue. “The timing of this accusation, the people
driving the social media conversation and the comments being made all seem to indicate a smear campaign” (p. 218).

Having used her personal email to say that she was using it in order to expressly avoid FOIA disclosure, Wise then said, in addition, that she was deleting the email after sending it. As one commenter puts it,

It is like with a burglar. Of course he could just raid a house, sell the loot on the black market and never get caught. But if he decides to write a whole essay about his plans on facebook, then posts selfies while in action robbing the house and finally puts the loot up on facebook to sell it, all under his authentic account, open for public viewing… I mean, you cannot really blame the police for using that evidence against that burglar, can you?

Or, in the inimitable words of Andrew Scheinman,

The saddest thing, it’s as if UIUC went out and bred the dogs they then walked to get the stuff they put in a giant bag and set on fire in order to step in.

Wise was not the only person to use personal email to conduct university business. But with her never-apologize attitude, she stated unapologetically when she re-resigned on August 13, 2015,

In the past week, the news media has reported that I and other campus personnel used personal email accounts to communicate about university business; some reports suggested I did so with illegal intentions or personal motivations. This is simply false. I acted at all times in what I believed to be the best interests of the University. In fact, many of these same communications included campus counsel, board members, and other campus leaders.

Among other people, “campus counsel” would include Scott Rice, “board members” would number Chris Kennedy, and “campus leaders” would refer to Nick Burbules, Michael LeRoy, and Joyce Tolliver.

Wise’s supporters defend her by saying that she has been thrown under the bus. This is certainly true. But there are so many villains in this piece that there is more than enough blame to go around. Others deeply involved are also culpable, but have so far dodged the bullet of further investigations or sanctions. As Scheinman colorfully expressed it, Wise is

being thrown under the bus as a way of preventing the flipping over of the rock on the rats-nest of enablement that surrounded her.

It is not about piling on Wise. It is not about Schadenfreude, of feeling pleasure at seeing someone high brought low. To those critics of Wise’s critics, Brooklyn College political science professor and blogger Corey Robin puts it in perspective,

…we academics are optimists of the intellect and pessimists of the will. But in this case we seem to lack a will to power AND a will to knowledge. This is a moment to press on, to demand more, to expose more. It is not the time to express concern for someone who, whatever happens, will still return to a tenured position on the faculty where she earns $300,000 a year. Steven Salaita should have been so lucky.

Wise was making $549,000 as chancellor. When — if — she returns to teaching, she will make $300,000, after a full-year paid sabbatical. Plus, she makes about $300,000 as a Nike board member, and an unknown amount as a Robert K. Johnson Foundation and Busey Bank Corporation board member. Not to mention partner Meisinger’s $200,000 as a UI “senior policy analyst.”

The mother of all ironies is that firing Salaita was not only a self-inflicted injury, but that it was likely not even her fault. If she had carried through on her plan to deal with him once he arrived on campus, it is likely that today most people would not even know or care who he is. Same with Kilgore. Since going back to work spring 2015, little has been heard about him, except for Jim Dey’s continuing, personal vendetta in the News-Gazette. He is doing his job, living his life, pursuing prison reform,  and has just published his fourth book, Understanding Mass Incarceration. The same very likely would have been the case with Salaita, whose Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom will be published in October.


Corollary to Wise’s moral failings and wrongdoing is the abject failure of the lawyers. Outside firms have already been paid nearly $1 million cite to defend against Salaita. So far, they are 0-2 in court. UI’s Office of Legal Counsel has done no better. On August 22, 2014, UI Legal Counsel head Thomas Bearrows signed the massmail by Easter and Kennedy cited above invoking “civility” to rationalize Salaita’s firing.

Did he not know that Salaita’s firing by Wise August 1 violated UI Statutes regarding academic freedom and due process? Did he not know that Salaita’s summary dismissal was exactly why UIUC had been censured by the AAUP from 1963 to 1967 for summary dismissal in the infamous Leo Koch case? Did he not know that the attempt to replace academic freedom with the invented category of “civility” did not pass the legal and AAUP smell test? If he did not know these things, he should be fired for incompetence. If he did know, he is guilty of malfeasance.

In its August 7, 2015 release of personal emails, UI stated that “it first became aware of personal emails” last April that people were using to conduct university business. But this is disingenuous, if not a downright lie. Scheinman showed that Scott Rice, campus Legal Counsel, must have known December 16, 2014, because Wise emailed him from hers. Moreover, he noticed that Rice’s name appears more frequently after July 25, suggesting that “Wise was likely advised of possible or likely litigation as early as 25 July 2014.”

Although Wise had been using her personal email since at least March 19, 2014, it appears no one blew the whistle (COM, p. 16). Then on September 19, 2014, Perkins Coie, the outside legal firm representing the university against Salaita, issued a legal hold, which expressly required everyone involved to keep, and not destroy, their messages.

2015 09 03 legal hold 2014 09 19

So, rather than knowing about personal emails, the problem is that no one reported it. Regarding Scott Rice, Scheinman pointedly asked him, “since 1) you KNEW or SHOULD HAVE KNOWN as of at least 12/16/14 that Wise was using her personal account for sensitive university business, yet 2) you apparently did NOTHING to stop that behavior.”

2015 09 06 Andrew to Rice 2015 08 12

Again, the legal issues involved are not rocket science. Any first-year law student could have told Rice that failure to release personal emails or deleting (“spoliation”) such communications make the university legally culpable, that any lawyer not so informing is guilty of malfeasance, not to mention that the annual ethics training required of every other university employee states that they had an ethical obligation to report such wrongdoing. As with Bearrows, if despite the documentary record Scott Rice somehow did not know about personal email use before April 2015, he should be dismissed for incompetence. If he did, he should be fired for malfeasance.

UI legal counsel no doubt would claim that their warnings fell on a deaf administration. That, however, does not explain the time lag between July 25, 2014, if not March 2014, and April 2015 when a long overdue investigation began. UI’s claim they did not know before April 2015 simply does not hold up. What happened was that UI tacitly recognized the potential legal problems should they continue to withhold emails, and in a clear CYA move, voluntarily released all of them August 7, 2015 — one day after Wise resigned August 6.


Wise, Kennedy, and the lawyers are not the only culpable parties. The chief complaint against Wise’s failure to follow due process was that she did not consult faculty. But she did consult some faculty, in particular, education professor Nick Burbules and Spanish literature professor Joyce Tolliver.

Burbules clearly emerges as a wannabe éminence grise. Nick, along with his trusty sidekick Joyce, were consulted early, continuously, and at length, more than anyone else except for the provost and another individual connected with the COM initiative. Wise communicated from her personal account with Nick 59 times, and with Joyce 56. They fed Wise and others talking points, backgrounders, and draft memos. They opined about news coverage. They strategized about damage control, whom to blow off and what to respond to others.

Burbules in particular was the would-be power behind the throne. Together with Tolliver, they appear at times to be running the show. More than one person has argued that Wise was an “intellectual lightweight.” Adesida writes them July 24, “I want to begin to seek your wise counsel” (p. 8). The two of them were present at the creation of the “civility” nonsense, apparently believing, with Karl Rove, that “we create our own reality.” The narrative of the ever-widening, deepening scandal in the emails is that things were always just now improving. August 27: “The tide was turning” (p. 102). September 18:  the faculty is “quieting down” (Michael LeRoy, p. 194). October 20:  “We really do need to move forward” (p. 225).

But, like Rove found about Iraq, real reality kept intruding on their fantasy “reality.” The number of departments voting no confidence increased, the international academic boycott grew, Adesida’s own committee recommended Kilgore’s reappointment, over their objections the Academic Senate voted to accept the CAFT report, its recommendations for resolving the Salaita affair, and sent it to Wise who round-filed it.

“There are going to be people who will be obsequious to insinuate themselves into circles of power” — CAFT chair David O’Brien

Corey Robin nails Nick and people like him.

Burbules reminds one of nothing so much as those hapless Cold War intellectuals who thought they were taming and influencing the American state—only to discover, after it was too late, that it was it that was taming and influencing them. Christopher Lasch aptly characterized the farce of these buffoons more than a half-century ago:

“In our time intellectuals are fascinated by conspiracy and intrigue, even as they celebrate the ‘free marketplace of ideas’…They long to be on the inside of things; they want to share the secrets ordinary people are not permitted to hear.”

What drives these courtiers of knowledge “into the service of the men in power,” Lasch concluded, is “a haunting suspicion that history belongs to men of action and that men of ideas are powerless in a world that has no use for philosophy.”

This rings true to me. Nick comes across as amiable, collegial, forthcoming. In fact, he has lied to my face. In the name of his “academic-freedom-as-“civility,” he has done everything to suppress Salaita’s academic freedom. Simultaneously presenting himself as the staunchest of supporters of “shared” faculty governance, he and Tolliver, along with their ever-willing co-conspirators including Michael LeRoy, Roy Campbell, and Kay Graber, behind the scenes did everything they could to undermine it. Burbules wrote Wise (p. 236),

“As Joyce likes to say, ‘process is our friend.'”

This refers to how they gamed the Academic Senate, it refers to their chicanery that ranged from parliamentary stalling tactics, amending resolutions endlessly, to running out the meeting clock, and the like.

Make no mistake how Phyllis Wise felt about faculty who dared to disagree with her. After she was sharply criticized by faculty from the floor at a September 2014 Academic Senate meeting, she wrote Carle senior executive Stephanie Beever, whom Wise was courting for a $100 million contribution to the COM (COM, p. 400).

“I had been thinking about writing to you to apologize for the faculty who embarrassed the university by their speech and their behavior. I am glad that you know me better than to believe some of the things I was accused of.”

This is bass ackwards. It is she who embarrassed the university, and worse, by her speech and her actions.

Burbules and Tolliver have the same low opinion of their pro-Salaita faculty colleagues as Wise did. Nick complains about those faculty who use the Senate (p. 277)

“for totally symbolic votes solely for the purpose of being able to whine about the autocratic administration.”

Joyce decries those in the Senate who seem (p. 278)

“to be falling in love with symbolic and procedurally dubious ‘resolutions’ (aka, crying tantrums).”

If being professional means sometimes voting against your own personal interest, neither were. The emails are replete with catty, ad hominem, personal, disparaging comments.

For all of them, it was all about unswerving loyalty, seemingly none of it about right and wrong.

Both Nick and Joyce also have been dead set against faculty unionization. Burbules, seconded again by Tolliver, was the anti-union gift to the administration that kept on giving. There are union members in Nick’s family, he reports. Tolliver was a member, and even president, of CFA before resigning in 2010, when, she says, she realized they were going to try and form a union, which is what I thought unions did. Both of them have said to me individually that they support a Non-Tenure-Track faculty union, but not, of course, publicly. Uncomfortable thought: one of if not the key reason for the failure of tenure-track faculty unionization last year is their dogged “No Faculty Union” efforts. This dovetailed, of course, with their anti-Salaita position. For Burbules and Tolliver, CFA’s support of Salaita brings into question their “loyalties” (August 16, 2014), their “bad faith” (October 5).

20115 08 21 Burbules 4

Nick and Joyce were joined later by others, including Michael LeRoy from Law and Labor & Industrial Relations, in their anti-Salaita crusade. All three played a dishonest, duplicitous, deceptive, double game behind the scenes. Perhaps worst of all, they act as though they do not get it.

As with Scott Rice discussed above, Andrew Scheinman asked LeRoy — who has a law degree — regarding a September 18, 2014 email he received from Wise sent on her personal account, “whether, as a licensed attorney, you had an ethical obligation to inform Wise that spoliation (destruction) of evidence including emails sent while under litigation might be a crime? And also of course whether you did so.”

2015 09 06 Andrew to Leroy 2015 08 13

Leroy was Chair of the UIUC campus Task Force on Academic Integrity, 2010-2012.

As for Tolliver, she puts as positive a spin on her double game as she can. “[i]ndividual conversations should never replace formal consultation with elected faculty representatives… I have defended this principle actively and have tried my best to enact it.” And failed, she might add. When the university released the personal emails August 7 en masse, a friend emailed her to say that her name turned up repeatedly. She was reportedly very upset that her emails had been released without her authorization. You cannot make up this stuff.

Burbules, however, takes the cake. He has been called on his double-dealings at least three times, and three times he has shamelessly feigned innocence. Vicente Diaz, who left Native American Studies at Illinois this fall for the University of Minnesota, directly addresses Nick,

We learn when growing up that when caught doing wrong, wittingly or not, that we ought to pause, reflect and learn from our errors. But to continue to defend your actions as virtuous when the evidence shows otherwise, that’s just, well, that’s your MO it seems.

These actions come from a faculty member who specializes in academic ethics, but refuses responsibility for his unethical actions.

2015 08 21 Nick4

Communications Professor and CFA officer Susan Davis puts the key questions to Burbules and Tolliver,

when you saw what the FOIA requests from Ali Abunimah and Andrew Scheinman and Steve Salaita’s lawyers produced — the official U of I email record only — and you knew that this was incomplete because there was a personal email record (because you were part of it) what did you do? Did you alert someone that the FOIA response was non-responsive and incomplete? If not –why not?

Did you ever remind Chancellor Wise that deleting official emails was a very very bad idea? If not, why not?

Did you place a phone call to the ethics office, when you knew an investigation was underway? When? and if not, why not? If you are going to be ethical university leaders, you need to answer these questions.

It would seem that all three are ethically-challenged.

After the personal email release, the Academic Senate Executive Committee (SEC) discussed whether an ad hoc committee should look into possible violations of Senate guidelines. “Burbules had little comments during the meeting, but urged the [proposed] committee to focus on senate policies and procedures rather than ethics, which he said is outside the senate’s purview.”

For such prima facie professional misconduct, the only question is: will the Academic Senate will take action?


All these actors supported and defended UI’s institutional culture. Wise – and others – still contend that they were “serving the best interests of the university.” In fact, unquestioned loyalty is their preeminent value. Freedom of speech and academic freedom come in a distant second, at best.

Their main preoccupation seems to concern institutional honor and dishonor, social purity and pollution, good versus bad publicity. It is about who is loyal and who is not, about who is in and who is out. It is about getting rid of the individual dirt of dissidence.

UI’s institutional culture rewards loyalty, even when performance does not merit it. In the  first place, poor administrators are not fired, and they do not fade away. They are moved laterally. They make the same salary, but are parked places where they wreak less damage. Second, and if reassignment is not an option, they are “mentored.” “Mentoring” is administration-speak for making the best of a bad appointment. When it is realized that the wrong person was chosen for a position, an informal “mentor” is designated to advise, guide, bring along the incompetent. UIUC is a place where administrators can fall upward. A department head lacking leadership skills falls upward to college dean, from there falls upward to campus provost.

Corollary is the inability to distinguish between constructive criticism, and criticism per se. Like Burbules, et. al., UI’s institutional culture is about never admitting wrongdoing. That the academic units that voted no confidence were right. That the CFA union folks were right.

UI’s consistent, long-standing anti-union stance is all about power. The administration has the power, and they do not want to share it, do not want any other stakeholders at the table. Among themselves, administrators say that “unionization is the failure of administration.” That is, the administration has failed to fool employees into voting against their own self-interest.

“Shared faculty governance” is all about power-sharing, which is why the administration is against it. If the faculty, via the Academic Senate, votes for something the administration wants, they gladly bill it as vindication of shred governance. But if they do not agree with a Senate vote, they ignore it, since the Senate is advisory only. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Until very recently, University Administration — based at Urbana but separate from the three campuses —  determined its own number of positions and salaries.  No body exercized the sort of budget oversight that every other unit is subject to.

You go along to get along. It all comes down to institutional loyalty. It is a classic case of lineage segmentation: “My brothers and I against my cousins, my cousins and I against the world.”

Theoretically, the values UI stands for are those enshrined in its four-fold mission statement: teaching, research, public service, and economic development. (“Economic development” was added 10 years ago.)

Practically-speaking, on a day-to-day basis, UI institutional culture stands not so much for something, as it stands against. Against those who do not agree with them, against those who are not one of them. This is reminiscent of nothing so much as the local community’s continued loyalty to Chief Illiniwek, as I discuss below. In both cases, there is no there there.

The Salaita and Kilgore controversies are instances when it required the university of faculty and students to save the university from the administration. Those administrators and fellow traveling faculty, who claimed to “serve the best interests of the university,” are precisely those whose actions have damaged the university the most.


Those on campus – the “gown” — (that have presented Salaita, and Kilgore, and the COM) have been powerfully aided and abetted by the “town.” Especially by the Champaign-Urbana business booster Republican elite, including their unofficial mouthpiece, the News-Gazette. And in particular by the paper’s mouthpiece, columnist and opinions editor Jim Dey. Dey has produced in the last 18 months since February 2014 a steady stream of over-the-top, ad hominem attack columns that make late nineteenth and early twentieth century muckraking “yellow journalism” look positively tame by comparison.

What makes Jimmy run? Mr. Dey’s obsessive personal vendetta against Kilgore, and Salaita, to ostracize and exorcise them from supposedly polite Champaign-Urbana society speaks volumes about the kind of person he is, the values of the paper he writes for, not to mention the responses, in classic Pavlovian stimulus-response, their red meat elicits from their letter writers. Mr. Dey seems personally offended that despite his best efforts to destroy Kilgore and Salaita, he has so far failed.

President John Foreman aids and abets when he does not decree from on high the editorial line. The initial string of orchestrated attacks against Kilgore on three successive Sundays in February 2014 began with Dey’s February 9 4,200 word page 1 column masquerading as a news story, followed by Foreman’s nasty follow-up column February 16, and a “guest commentary” February 23 by a local businessman who clearly stood to profit from building a new jail that Kilgore and others opposed. Foreman roused himself most recently to lament Wise’s departure.

Yet not even Foreman’s curmudgeonly screeds sink to the depths of vitriolic nastiness that Dey achieves. The latter’s culpability ranges him among those named above that have the most to answer for in the Salaita controversy.

Dey’s anti-Kilgore opus certainly had the desired effect on Chris Kennedy. One day after it appeared, Kennedy reacted at length in a message to then-UI president Easter that reads more like an APB than the usual email (Kilgore, pp. 4-5).

Offensive to Tax Payers

I think the story will be offensive to tax payers. Over 30% of our total budget comes from state taxes… As such, I think we need to be sensitive to tax payers. I think they are going to be offended by the notion that their taxes are going to support the lifestyle and career of a fellow who tried to overthrow the U.S. government and targeted police officers and innocent victims for killings.

If someone breaks the law and serves his sentence, he should be able to move forward with his life. Our country should be a land with second chances and redemption. Having said this, I am still uncomfortable with the notion that, that second chance should come from public support… I don’t think we need to necessarily provide lifetime employment. It’s not as though we have a monopoly on higher ed; there are plenty of other institutions in our state.

Obligation to Meet Norms of Society

I think the University, as the state’s public university, needs to, in many ways, reflect the values of the state. If we become too cavalier in our attitude about this, then the people of the state and their representatives will respond…

Let us leave aside Kennedy’s view that while he is ok with “second chances,” he is “uncomfortable with the notion that, that second chance should come from public support.” Key here is Kennedy’s argument, which others off-campus would agree with, that UI should “reflect the values of the state.” For him, the state’s taxpayers are the final arbiter, judge, and conscience of UI. The university should reflect their values.

This argument is dead wrong. It assumes implicitly that the “town” — Champaign/Urbana, the region, the state — is normative. But it is not. Champaign/Urbana is not representative. It may be even “liberal” compared to the rest of east central Illinois, but there is no reason why it should be held up as the ideal against which the university should measure itself. In its deeply conservative political culture, moreover, the “town” is dominated by a socioeconomic elite that routinely, and historically, substitutes its own political, and especially economic, self-interest for the best interests of all members of the community.

Think about it. In the “push-journalism” — analogous to “push-polling” — practiced by the News-Gazette, the oft-repeated mantra during the Salaita affair has been “free speech has consequences.” Yes, they say, you are free to say whatever you want. But as a consequence you may lose your job. This refrain negates free speech entirely, because the “consequences” of freedom of speech trump… freedom of speech.

Same thing with “civility.” We uphold academic freedom and free speech, their argument runs, just so long as you are civil and respectful. When you tweet against the 2014 war in Gaza, you must be civil towards Netanyahu and the Israelis as they go about killing 500 Palestinian children and 1700 adult Palestinians. This is twisted. As English department head and Salaita-supporter Rothberg says, it is not the tweets that are obscene, it is tweeting civilly during a lopsided war on children and civilians that is obscene, obscene in the dictionary definition of the term: in violation of fundamental community standards.

Are these the values of the community, of the state that UI should mirror, the ideals it should aspire to? Not as far as I am concerned.

Or, consider another “community standard.” The Salaita affair has been imbricated with the not-yet-dead Chief Illiniwek controversy from the get-go. Salaita was offered a job in Native American Studies, a department established in 2007, the year the “Chief” was “retired,” after a decades-long movement going back to at least 1989. The town of “Chief” supporters has never understood that an admittedly “positive” Noble Savage stereotype is no less a racist stereotype than a “negative” stereotype like the Florida State “Seminoles.” They are equally stereotypes, caricatures that demean by distortion.

Chief Illiniwek is wholly made-up, stitched from buckskin. A fake Indian, performing a fake dance, it is an invented tradition. The town may identify with CI, but there is nothing to the “Chief” to identify with. A screen onto which the town has projected its hopes and dreams, an empty vessel into which the community has poured its aspirations and fantasies, there is no there there.

The “town” feels pretty much about the Chief like the “gown” of the administration feels about its institutional values. More than what they are for, both know who and what they are against. Loyalty to a racist mascot, loyalty to an errant institution. Same difference.

Yet “town” shakes its head at “gown” in disbelief.

• DoReMe

The administration of the U of I began unraveling back in the 90s over the THE CHIEF controversy. Administrators caved in to protester demands to maintain peace on campus without demanding concessions in return. Since, management of University business continued south having the aura of South Field with Category I, cooking law department records, gay rights advocacy, the Nowak debacle, etc.

UI, like academia in general, are filling high profile administrative positions to project social diversity at the expense of administrative competence and experience. In the private sector, stockholders would demand heads roll over management incompetence. In academia, however, dismissed administrators receive paid leave and a continued high salary for teaching courses that would be better served by TAs! THE CHIEF continues to Weep!

After Salaita was appointed Edward Said chair in American Studies at the American University in Beirut this academic year, more than one commenter said he had gone back to where he belonged. C/U, no less than UI, has a “minority” problem, a “diversity” problem. In the “town” of the News-Gazette, those who speak out about “diversity,” about “minorities” tend to be tarred with the label of “political correctness,” caricatured as such, and reflexively dismissed thereby. There is nothing there, move on.

Measure “gown” against “town” values? I do not think so.


Townie supporters of Wise and UI no more get it than do Burbules, Tolliver and their campus cohorts. They do not understand that Kilgore and Salaita have been wronged. They do not understand that wrongdoing is wrong.

Instead, they have doubled down, and tripled down, shamelessly.

Burbules: Wise “deserved a better fate.”

Burbules on Adesida stepping down,

“I didn’t and I don’t know of any specific issues of misconduct, or accusations of misconduct, that would justify this decision… I don’t think it’s deserved.”

A member of the knot of faculty supporting Wise and the administration to the hilt, kinesiology professor Kay Graber, who is vice chair of the campus’ Senate Executive Committee 2015-2016, called Wise’s resignation a “sad day,” and that Wise was put in a “lose-lose situation” in regard to hiring Salaita.

Chemistry graduate student Jadeesh Chandrasekar: “It’s not her fault.”

Just like gown, so, too, with the town.

The News-Gazette asked 10 UI grads,  “What’s most important to you in choosing her [Wise’s] successor?” Local businessman and UIUC Research Park developer Peter Fox:

“A proven leader with strong academic skills, someone who understands that job creation in the local community is essential for UIUC to attract and retain the best. Someone like Phyllis.”

Right-wing state senator Jim Oberweis:

“Above all, I hope we will have a new chancellor who will be less focused on being politically correct and who will fight to bring back the Chief, exciting and energizing our alums.”

1967 UIUC football MVP and financial adviser John Wright:

“The characteristics that I’d like to see in our new chancellor are intelligence, courage, loyalty, a strong desire to help all students grow, leadership and a passion for the Fighting Illini — the exact same characteristics that describe Phyllis Wise.”

Sandwich shop chain owner Jimmy John Liautaud:

“She’s about as good a leader as I’ve seen here in 20 years…. Imperfection is bliss, and we all err. It’s unfortunate that correctness has gotten in the way of success.”

Businessman and local Republican party head Habeeb Habeeb said:

“Many people I know are in a contemplative and reflective mood given all the recent events [exit of Wise]. Many of us are disappointed and disheartened.”

Finally, there is the anonymous online commenter,

Manscape wrote 18 min 14 sec ago

What’s wrong with the system? A new COM was approved – all those email [sic] proved is that she did a fantastic job navigating the process.

A “professor” who advocates for the deaths of Israelis was denied a position – she’s 2 for 2.

Engineering is still kicking butt. Sciences (physics, chemistry, etc…) are kicking butt. College of business is kicking butt. And let’s not kid ourselves – these are the only things that matter at the University. It seems she’s 3 for 3.

And to get to your favorite subject – the Research Park. That’s kicking MAJOR BUTT, without your help. 4 for 4.


Yes, the town and region off campus is not normative. But at the same time, UI is not all that different from colleges and universities elsewhere. In light of the recently released email trove August 7, more than one high-up administrator outside Illinois is no doubt right now saying to herself, “there but for the grace…”

While certainly not exactly like other schools, UI is also not exceptional in the challenges it faces. In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker busily slashes the University of Wisconsin budget and eliminates tenure safeguards. In North Carolina, it is sports scandal. At Penn State, sexual abuse. There are also systemic issues of politicization, especially of governing boards. Illinois is not the only state system that suffers from political interference. The Florida State Board of Trustees, for instance.

There is the even bigger, systemic problem of corporatization, seen elsewhere besides Illinois. Backers of Wise’s COM are backpedaling furiously to disengage her demise from her COM coming to fruition.

Imagine the university refusing to “cave in to oil, coal, and/or gas (or ‘fracking’) interests to avoid research, teaching, or publication that finds these things harmful, or which finds ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ as harmful consequences of the oxidation of oil, coal, or natural gas?” Imagine the university saying “no” to the Big Agriculture of Monsanto and ADM, and the Farm Bureau, and engaging in research and teaching on sustainable agriculture. Imagine. Forget it, it is just a song.

Nor is the “civility” scourge confined to Illinois. Lamentably, a number of university administrators have contracted the virus. At Ohio University. Northeastern University. Penn State. The most notorious is, however, Nicholas Dirks, University of Berkeley chancellor since 2012. (Full disclosure: Dirks contributed an excellent essay to a book I co-edited.) Last year on the 50th anniversary of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in 1964, Dirks had the gall to use the occasion to state that “we can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility.”

Before moving to Berkeley, Dirks was the vice-president for arts and sciences at Columbia University when in 2002 the anti-Palestinian The David Project attacked then-Assistant Professor Joseph Massad for alleged anti-Semitism and bullying students with pro-Israel views.

Dirks headed the faculty committee, appointed by the Columbia president, that concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated, and that there was no evidence of anti-Semitism. When he left Columbia for Berkeley in 2012, Dirks gave an interview, however, in which he stated the opposite of what he had stated in 2002. He attacked the Columbia Middle East studies department, saying it had been “very difficult” for

some students to find safe spaces in which to talk about Israel where they didn’t feel that the basic context in which they found themselves wasn’t hugely not just anti-Israel, but by implication, anti-Jewish, and anti-Semitic.

He also repudiated a 2002 petition calling for divestment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and other companies that sold Israel military hardware used against Palestinians.

“Truth is, I do not support divestment as a strategy for the university. I don’t support divestment with respect to Israel.”

Fourteen of his former Columbia colleagues, including Massad, fired back,

Our sense of outrage stems from Dirks’ denial of the fact that the very committee set up by then-Vice President Dirks found no evidence whatever for concerns about the climate for Jewish students let alone about the nature of instruction in our department. We feel affronted by the fact that the Chancellor’s defaming the department means that he now rejects the committee’s finding and seems instead to accept as true the false accusations leveled against us by an external hate group that has since been exposed and discredited.

When Salaita was fired by Illinois, Massad wrote an article on “civility,” linking his treatment earlier at Columbia to that of Salaita by Illinois, and still earlier to that of postcolonial critic and Columbia professor Edward Said. Salaita is the Edward Said professor of American Studies at AUB during 2015-2016.

Dirks takes the hypocrisy cake.


“It ain’t over until it’s over,” the Yogi said. There is surely more to come. But key is how UI responds. You can rearrange the deck chairs, that is, shuffle people and positions, revise job descriptions, appoint interim administrators, make these and other specific but limited changes. Or you can make fundamental, root-and-branch structural changes both in personnel and institutional culture. So far, UI is rearranging the deck chairs. For fundamental structural changes, look for the following:

–Settle the Salaita lawsuits. Yes, to settle them would be a “win” for him. Even better, reinstate him. Sure, the political flak will be heavy, at least for awhile — you think it is not now?  Also, rescind the faux “civility” guidelines. These two measures could well lift AAUP censure. As well as the votes of no confidence that are still on the record in over 15 UIUC departments and units.

–Stop stonewalling collective bargaining talks. Campus unions are not going away. Suck it up: they were right on Kilgore and Salaita. Engage in genuine power-sharing, and seat the stakeholders at the table. Start this fall by negotiating in good faith with the Non-Tenure Track faculty and AFSCME unions.

–Investigate Chris Kennedy’s role in firing Salaita. It is time that he was held to account for the damage to UI he has caused by his politicized meddling in the multiple cases of Ayers, Kilgore, and Salaita.

Censure by the Academic Senate Nick Burbules, Joyce Tolliver and other faculty revealed in the personal emails. They committed professional misconduct, and they should be held accountable. Leiter

Sanction Wise and other administrators who knowingly sent or received personal emails conducting university business to avoid FOIA disclosures. Wise is gone. Concerning the others, UI has done nothing.

This is not a pie-in-the-sky wish list. (Well, maybe it is if you are ethically-challenged.) Only these and similar measures amount to meaningful structural change. Otherwise, it is all about rearranging deck chairs over and over. About President Mike Hogan’s imperious overreach and his sidekick Lisa Troyer using her computer to impersonate a faculty member, following the law school scandal cheating to raise test scores, following the “Block I”  clout admissions scandal to give some applicants preferential treatment, following…

How President Killeen and interim Chancellor Wilson could end the continuing crisis was helpfully spelled out in an August 23 letter. From 41 UIUC executive officers of departments and units, the two were urged to “recommend to the Board of Trustees that they reverse their previous decision [in September 2014] and reinstate Dr. Salaita at the next board meeting in September [10, 2015].” This friendly advice was not heeded.

Admittedly, it would have required a fundamental change in how the university administration works — in its direction, policies, and ethics. Plus, it would take a resolute, not irresolute, UI leadership to overcome certain opposition from the BOT and outside political pressure. Could doing the right thing, after so many wrong things, actually have worked? Yes, definitely. But more likely later than sooner.

Meanwhile, note how the focus in all the recent news coverage has been almost exclusively on those at the top. What has mostly been lost sight of is that Salaita’s career is in tatters. That Kilgore and his family have had to endure months of attacks, loss of income, and job insecurity. Not to mention Dey’s gratuitous, vindictive attacks in the News-Gazette. It is more than time to move on.

September 11, 2015

Part one of two articles.


David Prochaska formerly taught colonialism and visual culture in the UI History Department

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Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition Local #6546: Why a Union?

A little over a year ago, a majority of the non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty on the UIUC campus authorized the formation of a union, the first certified faculty union on our campus. You might not know it, though, as our union, the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition, has seen quite a bit of push-back since its formation, and our profile has thus far remained fairly low.

The University administration immediately fought the certification of the NTT union, challenging the ruling of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB), losing, then appealing the ruling again in Appellate Court. Losing again, they appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which declined their appeal, leaving the union’s certification unchallenged. These losses, however, haven’t prompted much movement on the University’s part.

Or, you might not know about any of this because the last year or so at the University of Illinois has been dominated by the remaining fallout from the James Kilgore affair, the “unhiring” of Steven Salaita and its aftermath, the rise of the prospective College of Medicine, accusations of discrimination within our athletics program, withheld emails, and now the resignation-firing-resignation of Chancellor Phyllis Wise. Couple all of those events with the standoff between the University and the state over the school’s budget, and it’s been easy to overlook the ways that unions such as ours are treated on the UIUC campus.

NTT UIUC Square Color

Make no mistake, however, the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition (NTFC) has been fighting to improve and stabilize the working lives of the NTT faculty it represents. We have been in bargaining for nearly a year, and presented our administration counterparts with a full contract proposal in March of this year, including a responsible economic platform. To date, the administration has yet to return a full set of counter-proposals, and has not even begun to address economic issues such as salaries and raises at the bargaining table. This is not unusual, as such delays are typical of bargaining union contracts at the University of Illinois.

This pattern of problematic bargaining isn’t confined to our union. Our brothers and sisters in other unions on campus—including AFSCME and SEIU—face similar problems, including laughable wage programs, regressive plans to change benefits including health insurance, and deliberately slowed bargaining, which occupies the time of union members and is designed to diminish union support and interest.

And settling a fair contract, which should be the goal of both sides in contract negotiations seems to be a challenge at the University of Illinois. Graduate employees on the UIUC campus had to strike in 2009 to finalize a contract, and came close to strike during their next go-around. When the tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty on the Chicago campus unionized, they were forced to strike to win their first contract. And now that the tenure-track faculty on the Springfield campus have unionized, they may face a similar path. This seems to reveal a pattern of bargaining that privileges testing union resolve and challenging the choices of those who have decided to unionize over responsible or fair bargaining.

The Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition exists to help ease these anxieties, to stabilize the positions that our faculty members hold, and to fight for a fair contract for those we represent. The other forces on our campus—the distracting politics, the scandals, the administrative over-reach, the legal teams the school hires—will not get us there. Only fair contract negotiations at the bargaining table can get us there. And those negotiations require respect for the union our NTT faculty have chosen to form, and the issues they believe are worth fighting for. There may be progress for non-tenure-track faculty that comes from other sources, but only the union can fight for the core principle underlying it all, and without which nothing else of substance will occur: respect.

2015 08 18 Shawn Gilmore

Shawn Gilmore is a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and President of the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition (NTFC) Local #6546, a union representing nearly 500 non-tenure-track faculty at the University of Illinois, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

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Man Sentenced to Prison by Fired Former Judge Has Sentence Reduced

On August 13, Bidemi Ajobiewe, a Nigerian national who had been given six years in prison for an fatal accident on I-74 had his sentence reduced from six years in prison to 24 months of parole and time already served. Mr. Ajobiewe has spent six months in the county jail waiting for this reconsideration of his sentencing.

I have previously written two articles in the Public i about the exceedingly harsh sentences handed down by Judge Richard Klaus in the DUI court before he was recently dismissed from the court by superior judges. One of the cases I have dealt with in those articles is that of Mr. Ajobiewe.

The agreement that he accepted consisted of his pleading guilty to reckless homicide. He was driving a furniture delivery truck on I-74. The road was slick and his truck skidded on the ice, sending it into the oncoming lane. There was a head-on collision in which the other driver was killed. When he was tested after the crash, there were traces of marijuana in his system. He admitted that he had smoked marijuana, but that it was a week or more before the accident. It was on the basis of those marijuana traces, or metabolites, that Judge Klaus gave him the six years in prison. In the new plea agreement, Mr. Ajobiewe had to admit driving without a commercial driver’s license and too fast for road conditions. While these matters were not raised in this court session, it would seem to be significant that Mr. Ajobiewe comes from a country where there is no snow or ice, and that his employer should have seen to it that he had a commercial license before putting him behind the wheel of the truck.

There were two other factors worthy of note in this new court proceeding. The sister of the deceased driver gave an impact statement supportive of Mr. Ajobiewe. She said that while she had initially been very hurt and angry, she now realized that it was an accident; that he did not mean to harm anyone; and that he was just trying to make a living. She accepted his apology and forgave him, and said that she knew her deceased sister would forgive him and would want her to forgive him as well. She and Mrs. Ajobiewe were both crying and embraced each other as they left the courtroom. It was the most touching scene I have ever witnessed in a courtroom.

The second factor was that the marijuana traces were subjected to further lab testing and were found to be totally inactive. From that Judge Difanis drew the conclusion that they had nothing whatsoever to do with the accident. And he, in a admittedly uncharacteristic move after a proceeding’s conclusion, went on to comment from the bench that the present marijuana statutes do not make any sense and that the legislature will have to come to the realization that people like marijuana.

It should be noted that there have since been modifications in the law, which stipulate that there has to be a certain level of activity of the marijuana metabolites, or THC, before it can be assumed to be a factor in an accident. But they have not yet gone into effect.

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Police Lying

Burge victimDo Police Lie?

The answer is that some police officers do indeed lie. The major conditions under which police lie are three: to frame a suspect, to protect themselves or fellow officers from detection or punishment of misdeed, and to secure information or a confession when interrogating suspects. In Frazier v. Cupp (1969) the Supreme Court ruled that this third instance of lying is legal.  But it is especially problematic when officers falsely tell juveniles that if they just sign felony confessions they can go home to their families. The first two are obviously not legal.

What is the Frequency of Police Lying?

In the Wall Street Journal of February 1, 2009, Amir Efrati writes: “a survey of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in Chicago said that they thought that, on average, perjury by police occurs 20% of the time in which defendants claim evidence was illegally seized.” Michele Alexander, in a February 2, 2013 article in the International New York Times quotes Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police Commissioner: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.” Writing in the New York Times of May 15, 2015, David Goodman reports that in 2004 New York City Civilian Review Board “found 26 instances where they believed an officer gave a false statement to investigators, a total equal to the previous four years combined.” In the same article, the chair of the board stated that “It is more likely now than ever that the officers’ lack of truthfulness is going to be captured, documented, and that is a function of video.”

Indeed, we have seen this very recently in the April 2015 video showing North Charleton, South Carolina Officer Michael Slager dropping a taser next to the body of Walter Scott, undoubtedly so that he could justify the fatal shooting of Mr. Scott in the back by saying that Scott had grabbed the officer’s taser and was about to use it on him. We saw it again  in July in the video where University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing fatally shoots Samuel Dubose, an African American like Mr. Scott, and falsely claimed that he had been dragged by Mr. Dubose’s car.

There have been some cases in the past, when there were no monitoring cameras, that have more recently come to light. Perhaps the most notorious among them is the case of Jon Burge, the Chicago police commander who tortured confessions out of approximately 200 African Americans between 1972 and 1991. He was later convicted in federal court only of perjury as the Illinois statue of limitations had run out on aggravated assault or torture.  Also of note is the now retired New York Detective Louis Scarcella who has been scrutinized for repeatedly lying and physically coercing many confessions that led to long sentences for murder.  Another New York officer of note is Justin Volpe who sodomized Haitian Abner Louima with a broken broomstick in a Brooklyn police station. Officer Volpe received a 30-year sentence for the damaging of Louima’s internal organs, while three other police officers who were in the station and tired to cover-up the crime for Volpe were convicted of perjury. But such prosecutions and convictions are extremely rare.

Why Do Police Lie?

In Michelle Alexander’s 2013 article referred to above, she gives five reasons for police officers lying. The first is that they can do it because they know that judges (and I would add juries) will take their word over that of a defendant. The second is that such defendants are typically poor, uneducated, and members of a racial minority. The third is that there are federal drug programs that offer cash awards based upon numbers of arrests which can lead to lying or planting of drugs, as in the 1999 notorious case of Tulia, Texas where police framed 43 people, of whom 40 were black, on drug charges. The fourth is “get tough” philosophies and practices of policing, sometimes including arrest quotas, that put additional pressure on to show “productivity.” The fifth is that there is a human propensity to lie, especially if it will enhance one’s reputation or standing in a group.

I would add some other reasons.  The first is that some officers act out of anger, a desire to “stick it to”  someone whom the officer finds offensive.  A second is racial bigotry, where the officer is already predisposed to find the person offensive and deserving of harsh punishment. While we would hope that the object of “peace officers” would be to deescalate a situation, an officer who cannot control his or her temper or who is racially prejudiced is a menace to society and is more likely to lie to commit and try to cover up a misdeed. Third, there is the strong sense of fraternity among police officers, which makes them reluctant to inform on a fellow officer or to not back him or her up in a lie. Especially in larger urban areas, this sense of fraternity is often fortified by a sense that they are under attack by a critical outside world that does not appreciate the job they do, a job that sometimes requires them to not play by the rules. The institutional manifestation of that fraternity is the powerful Fraternal Order of the Police (FOP), which forcefully defends officers regardless of their actions. Writing in the New York Times on June 26, 2015, Law School Professor Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, argues that the FOP-backed “Police Officer’s Bills of Rights” in 14 states, including Illinois, offers police officers more rights protections than are offered to any other suspected citizen, or for that matter public employee, making holding police accountable much more difficult .

Finally, and most shocking to me, is that police have historically been taught that deviation from the rules and law is legitimate. In his 1995 book, Edge of the Knife, John Jay School of Criminal Justice Professor Paul Chevigny found that not only do police officers regularly lie when they charge civilians with whom they have had face-to-face encounters or chased in a car, but that in New York City such lying has actually been taught in the police academy as a way to “cover your ass.” He also shows that police departments have scant regard for the millions of dollars that larger cities have to pay out in civil suits to individuals and families who have been victimized by police violence and lying, and that the most violent officers have been rewarded rather than punished.

The Consequences of Police Lying

The most serious consequence is that innocent people go to prison or die without any accountability of officers who fabricate. Secondly, the entire system of justice is compromised. People, especially African American people and poor people who cannot afford high-powered lawyers and investigators, have no reason to believe that they are equal before the law. Because the police officer is an agent of the state, an officer’s lie is much more socially destructive than that of an individual’s. Yet individuals who lie to the police are the ones who are held criminally accountable, not the other way around.

Writing about police lying in the July 15, 2015 issue of The Police Chief, the professional review of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Attorney and Professor Elliot Spector concludes his article by saying that “the best way to encourage honesty is to have a clear code of conduct stating that officers who are untruthful will be subject to termination for a first offense and to implement this code standard in a consistent manner.” I would add that if the officers lie on arrest reports or other official papers, to investigators, or in courts, they should also be criminally prosecuted by special prosecutors who do not work with the departments in question on a day-to-day basis. And there should be no statutes of limitation on police lying or brutality. Without these measures, it is difficult to see how confidence that there is integrity and equality in U.S. law enforcement can be restored.



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First Class Justice vs. “the Cattle Call”

By a Courtwatcher

Courtwatch is a group of citizens who volunteer to attend criminal proceedings by request of the defendant or a family member of a jailed defendant. We are there as witnesses to criminal justice in Champaign County, to figure out how it actually works, and we are learning more about our local system all the time.

Recently, Courtwatch discovered that there are two separate courtroom procedures in Champaign County. One is for those who can scrape together the money for a private attorney and the other is for those who cannot. This takes place in the stage known as “pre-trial hearings.”

We thought we knew all about them. They are known among lawyers as “the cattle call.” It is occasionally hard to get in the courtroom because it is so full of people with cases, mostly people of color (maybe two thirds). While awaiting the judge, who is generally ten minutes late, we all are free to talk to each other or watch the lawyers across the Bar that separates us, talking to one another, a mix of business and social chat:

“Did you get the psychiatric evaluation back yet on our guy?

“Not yet. Heard you were in Florida. Did you enjoy yourself?”

The judge enters and we are all asked to rise and be silent. The business at hand is the roster of 30 to 50 people who have to have new dates for next month’s pre-trial hearings; a few of that number, two to five, will be declared “ready for trial,” and a more meaningful date set. Each time a new case file and name is declared from the Bench, that individual must stand up in the courtroom, unless s/he is in the jail, in which case the lawyer for the Defense says, “In custody, Your Honor.” When the judge sees no one stand up and hears no one say, “In custody,” the gavel comes down and the word from the judge is this:

“Warrant for the arrest of so-and-so. Bond forfeiture hearing will be (a date in the near future).” This means that whenever this person is served with the warrant, he goes directly to jail with an additional charge, “violation of bond.” This means also that whoever supplied the money to bail our guy out of jail in the first instance has lost all that money permanently (anywhere from $200 to upwards of $25,000, as ten percent of whatever bond amount was determined in arraignment court). The latest cattle call we attended there were six of these warrants issued.

This was what we thought we knew about the way it worked. Then came a day this Spring when three of us were seated on the front row of one of these pre-trial sessions and we heard this:

“Your Honor, my client was just released last night from the Residential Treatment Center and left for Chicago.”

Judge: “Well, why didn’t he come back from Chicago?”

Lawyer: “He didn’t have the money.”

Judge: “Okay. Well, how about May 13 then?”

Two cases later, the Prosecuting Attorney announced, “Your Honor, that person is out of the country at the present time.”

Judge: “Okay, how about May 13 for her?”

One courtwatcher turned to another and whispered, “Must be white people.” At that moment, one of them turned to look over his shoulder and whispered, “This whole courtroom is full of white people!” (This was a slight exaggeration because there was one pair of Black men, a lawyer and his client).

“How could that possibly be?” whispered the other one. They had been to countless pre-trials and the courtrooms seemed to be two-thirds to three quarters people of color. This was beyond random, and yet how could it be purposely designed?

As the court emptied out, including the judge, and one of the cases in custody, for whom we were watching, had not been called, a courtwatcher went up to the bailiff, to enquire about the missing case. The bailiff replied, “Well, does he have a private lawyer or a public defender? because this last session was all private lawyers.”

“And if he had a public defender?”

“Oh, the cattle call was at 9:00. You missed it.”

What a relief for us. We were not crazy after all.

So this whiteness was simply a side effect: Private lawyers cost money. Public defenders are free for the defendant.

Yet the solution to this puzzle, brought up other questions. Why had we courtwatchers never noticed this fact of court process – one pre-trial session for cases with public defenders and another for cases with private defense lawyers? Surely, it must be an innovation, so we began inquiries of a few attorneys.

The conversations went something like this – “is this a new separation into two types of pre-trials – private and public?”

Attorney: “Why No, it has been done that way since anyone can recall.”

Courtwatcher: “But why?”

“Well, it is merely for the convenience of the private lawyers so they don’t have to hang around in court for so long. Their time is valuable. The rosters are much shorter than they are in the public defenders pre-trials. That’s all.”

“But there is a difference in what the judges do in these two kinds of pre-trial sessions!”

“Really? Like what?”

“Like issuing warrants in the cattle calls and not at all in the private sessions. The lawyer can come up with the lamest excuse and it works.”

Attorney: “Oh, I did not know that.”

“So why would the judges do that?”

“I suppose it goes back to the judges and the lawyers wanting to encourage everyone to get paid lawyers. If the free legal help was as good as the paid legal help, there would be no incentive.”

“How deep does this preferential treatment go? Does it go to the plea deal offer where the State’s Attorney’s office would make better offers to private attorneys than to public defenders?”

“Some do and some don’t. Impossible to determine really.”

“So how come we never noticed a session that was all public defenders?”

“Because there are always a couple, to four or five private lawyers present because they are taking over cases from the public defenders. Some people have the public defender for months till they can get the money together from various sources to pay for a private attorney just in time for trial or plea, and often these defendants would be African-Americans.”

Thus, the puzzle of own perceptual blindness was somewhat explained, but what about the attorneys’ perception that this division is simply a matter of convenience for them, that their time is literally more valuable than the public defenders’ time since the latter are on salary. The judges are a puzzle too. Do their daily workaday habits obscure the pattern: their structured preference for/deference to the Green (paid lawyers) turns into a benefit for the White (clients)?

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Work Day: Lament for Darius Graves

Darius GravesThe below poem was written by Ryan Collins for the project Lament for the Dead (, an online community poetry project which marks the death of every person killed by police this summer, and every police officer who loses life in the line of duty, with a poem.

Darius Graves was killed by Champaign police in Rantoul, IL on August 4, 2015. He lived in Jackson, Tennessee. He was the 693rd person killed this year by police in the United States according to the Guardian.

“Work Day”

We wake up some mornings & never fell
Asleep. We sleep for days sometimes
Without a dream.

Summer sweats out all the salts
December makes us forget we need.

We need so much & more always
Needed from us. Do more
With less. More hours in a day.

Too many days without dreaming & how
To know if we’re asleep.

We have & half & have to give more
Than our hunger allows.

We hunger only for restful sleep,
Only to dream & wake up
Without fearing what the day will ask.

The day asks more than it needs, more
Than anyone we know can

Deliver. We try to sleep through lunch
But the hunger wakes us. We do

What we can & the day seems to care
Less how much of ourselves

We give. Smoke them if you have them,
The day says. Sleep when
You’re dead. We are awake & trying

To take more out of our dreams to give
Our waking lives. None of it is

Enough. More & more, the day says.
Do more with less. So many

Nights & no sleep, no dreams to steel
Ourselves, hungry at work.
Never enough. The day always more

Hungry than we can allow
Ourselves to be. No matter how much

We take from our dreams, the day
Waits outside the door,
Hungry to take away more than

Anyone can afford in
One life, more than we can suffer to give.

Ryan Collins is the author of A New American Field Guide & Song Book (H_NGM_N Books, 2015), and the curator of the SPECTRA Poetry reading Series in Rock Island, IL, where he lives.

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‘You Have a Choice’: Veterans Call On Drone Operators to Refuse Orders

Lazare, drones_4

Drone operators at Balad Camp Anaconda, Iraq, August 2007. (Photo: Air Force/public domain)

Dozens of U.S. military veterans released an open letter this week urging drone operators to “refuse to fly missions” or support them in any way—and letting them know that if they say “no” to surveillance and assassination orders, there is a whole community rooting for them.

“At least 6,000 peoples’ lives have been unjustly taken by United States drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, the Philippines, Libya and Syria,” states the letter, which was organized by the education and advocacy organization
“Those involved in United States drone operations who refuse to participate in drone missions will be acting within accordance of Principle IV of the Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Judgment of the Tribunal, The United Nations 1950,” states the letter. “So, yes, you do have a choice—and liability under the law. Choose the moral one. Choose the legal one.”

The letter’s 45 signatories include retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright, who stepped down from her State Department position in 2003 to protest the U.S.-led war on Iraq.
Numerous veterans of the so-called “War on Terror” also signed the letter, including Aaron Hughes, Iraq veteran and organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War. Hughes told Common Dreams that he backed the initiative because he thinks it is “extremely important for those who are flying those vehicles or doing logistics to know that there is a whole community out there that supports them in saying no.”

Nick Mottern, coordinator of, echoed this point in a press statement released this week: “The people signing this letter know that they are asking drone operators to take a heavy step, but we feel it is perfectly legitimate to advise military people to stop taking part in illegal activity that has killed thousands without due process, is terrorizing thousands more and is wracking their own ranks with moral injury and PTSD.”

Lazare, drones quote

The Air Force recently revealed that, due to “stressors” of the job, the military is losing drone pilots and being forced to cut back flights. And in a Government Accountability Office report released in April 2014, the agency warned that drone pilots are quitting far more quickly than they are being recruited.

In an article published this March in TomDispatch, writer Pratap Chatterjee asked, “Are pilots deserting Washington’s Remote-Control War?” He continued, “Could it be that the feeling is even shared by drone pilots themselves, that a sense of dishonor in fighting from behind a screen thousands of miles from harm’s way is having an unexpected impact of a kind psychologists have never before witnessed?”

Former drone operators, including Heather Linebaugh, have testified to the horrors inflicted by the remotely operated lethal weapons. This reality is confirmed by civilians and reporters, including the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks the high number of civilian drone killings in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Afghanistan.
“When our country unjustly inflicts violence on civilian populations it is our duty to resist,” Maggie Martin, Iraq veteran and organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, told Common Dreams. “Whether at home or abroad we have to take action to stand in solidarity with those facing state violence.”

This article is reprinted from Common Dreams June 19, 2015 by permission

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for Common Dreams and an independent journalist whose work has been featured in The Nation, Al Jazeera, TomDispatch, Yes! Magazine, and more. She is also an anti-militarist organizer interested in building people-powered global movements for justice and dignity.

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