UC-IMC’s Own Aaron Ammons Receives Pardon

Aaron Ammons SEIUOn Monday night, January 12, 2015, Aaron Ammons sat in the front row of the audience at the Urbana city council meeting. The purchase of Tasers for police was being discussed. He got a call and stepped out of the room. He came back and sat back down. During public input on the topic, Aaron spoke of his opposition to Tasers, which he and his group CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, has fought for a decade. He also announced that he had just received a pardon from outgoing Governor Quinn.

In the early 1990s, Aaron took a plea bargain to a felony drug offense. This felony, what he calls the modern day “scarlet letter,” has followed him ever since. Today, Aaron is not afraid to talk about his past in the underground drug economy. He performs poetry about his time on the streets at SPEAK Café, which he founded and MCs. He also started the group Citizens With Conviction, made up of those with felony records. In Spring 2014, they successfully won a “Ban the Box” initiative in Urbana, eliminating the question about felony history on job applications. Congratulations to Aaron!

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How Public & Private Work Together Today: A UIUC/Carle Medical School?

University of Illinois (UIUC) Chancellor Phyllis Wise, already at the center of the Steven Salaita affair, is proposing that UIUC and Carle partner to build a medical school. A public university pursuing a large-scale project with the private sector is again all about the neo-liberal corporatization of the university. An already large, expanding corporation selling health has everything to do with the American for-profit healthcare system.

For some, Wise’s plan is a game-changer of limitless opportunities with nothing but upsides. For others, “the devil is in the details” of a tiny number of individuals engaging in largely out-of-the-public-eye discussions, possible conflicts of interest, and unethical dealings that, nonetheless, will impact the public at large.

From Front Story to Back Story

The UIUC/Carle proposal is clearing administrative and political hurdles on its way to becoming a reality, if its backers have their way. With Chancellor Wise in the lead, UIUC is spearheading the project slated to open in fall 2017 with an initial 25 students that would meld bioengineering, biomedical, and related UIUC strengths, with a research-based medical school. Carle is to provide $100 million, and UIUC would seek donors for $135 million.

Andrew econ adv grp2

According to an October 2014 publicly released business plan, classes would be held initially in upgraded buildings at Carle or on campus, whereas an earlier plan called for a new $100 million facility. Meeting since at least last February, and likely earlier, an Economic Development Advisory Group convened by Chancellor Wise that includes Provost Ilesanmi Adesida, Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement and UI Foundation Senior Vice President Dan Peterson, UI Research Park developer Peter Fox, UI Research Park administrator Laura Frerichs, Carle President and CEO James Leonard, Busey Corporation board chair Gregory Lykins, and local businessman Richard Stephens, has led to speculation that the medical school would be sited in the UI Research Park. A February 2014 letter from the Fox Development Corporation CEO to the Research Park director states that it “is very supportive of the proposed Carle [redacted] Facility in the Research Park,” but the October 2014 business plan skirts the issue, saying a new facility is yet “to be determined.”

Carle in Resch Pk Feb 2014

So far, a succession of institutional bodies have signed off on the proposal, including the University Senates Conference, and the UIUC Academic Senate, with the UI Board of Trustees (BOT) still to go. Meanwhile, the project has garnered enthusiastic approbation on and off-campus, including from the local business booster community, speaking primarily through its mouthpiece, the News-Gazette. Chancellor Wise: “Without a college of medicine, we are less competitive…We think this is a defining moment.” Local entrepreneur, I-Hotel owner, and Jimmy John’s multiple-franchise-lessee Peter Fox: “I think [the idea] is the salvation of the community.” Carle CEO Leonard is “absolutely committed.” News-Gazette publisher John Foreman: a UI-Carle medical school is “a dream worth living.”

With everybody who is anybody apparently on board, what is there not to like? The University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) does not like the plan. It proposes “a competing vision” that would partner with UIUC to offer expanded engineering-centered doctor training through the existing UIC medical school, whereas Wise’s plan would create “conflicting, competing entities.” UIUC has bluntly said “no” to UIC’s alternative plan.

Provena Presence Hospital does not like still more competition from rather than cooperation with Carle, which it says is trying to “drive [it] out of business.” Last summer Carle wanted to add 48 medical/surgical beds, but Provena objected, arguing that the state itself had determined that there was already an excess of beds in the region. At first the state rejected Carle’s request, but after Carle lobbied, with help from the Chancellor’s office, it was approved.

Residents in Urbana do not like the fact that Carle’s property tax-exempt status, effective 2012, has resulted in plummeting city revenues and a 10 percent spike in 2013 individual property tax bills. Pushing back, Urbana-ites have formed Concerned Citizens of Urbana (CCU), which has created a website, organized community meetings, and dotted Urbana with lawn signs. As part of her meetings with area stakeholders, including Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, Chancellor Wise has raised the possibility that “there will be a ring of businesses associated with biotech” surrounding the new medical school. If so, Urbana wants the school sited in the city so as to receive any additional tax revenue.

Dr. Andrew Scheinman does not like the Chancellor’s office lobbying in favor of Carle’s bed expansion. An Urbana native, UIUC grad and local patent attorney, Scheinman has galvanized residents into action through CCU. He argues that it is unethical for UIUC to involve itself in Carle’s bed expansion, and that Carle supplied talking points to and paid the Chancellor’s office to lobby on its behalf. He has filed complaints alleging unethical conduct with the University Ethics Officer plus Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.

Carle enjoys a reputation as a center for medical research, although not everyone agrees. In 2009, Carle’s Leonard fired then-recently-hired Vice President for Research Dr. Suzanne Stratton, who had accused a Carle cancer researcher of systematic ethical violations in a story that made the New York Times. Wise herself has published research in medicine that has been called into question. Numerous stories have appeared in, among other places, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Retraction Watch, and Electronic Intifada, that report on Wise’s “self-plagiarism,” the practice of publishing research results more than once. On a number of occasions between 1990 and 2006, Wise allegedly republished entirely, or in only very slightly altered form, previously published work. In at least one instance, she admitted as much. “The author wishes to correct a number of serious errors in the writing of her [Neuroscience 2006] publication,… the paper is written in a way that misleads the readers to think that it is an original article. The author wishes to correct that impression with the following changes in the text of the published paper…” Such self-plagiarism can occur in all academic fields, given the pressure to “publish or perish.” It is especially pernicious, however, in fields such as medical research where an artificially inflated number of article citations could have real-life consequences for prescribing drugs, establishing medical procedures, and the like. Both the Stratton case and Wise’s self-plagiarism revolve around medical research ethics.

Wise retraction

“Super Surprising”

The other side of the coin of Wise lobbying for a medical school is her simultaneous campaign, along with President Robert Easter and the UI Board of Trustees (BOT), against appointing Professor Steven Salaita to a tenured position. The anti-Salaita people are literally falling over themselves to line up behind the Chancellor’s initiative, while pro-Salaita folks are either not involved, or not consulted. Moreover, Wise began pushing her proposal last spring around the time that the Provost, seconded by other high administration officials, refused to reappoint another faculty member, adjunct professor James Kilgore, whom they also anathematized. The same anti-Kilgore individuals then are anti-Salaita now. Having ratified Wise’s decision not to appoint Salaita at their September meeting, the BOT, in a surprise decision at their November meeting, voted to allow Kilgore to be reappointed. Clearly, the BOT is deeply divided. After four hours in executive session engaged in what they themselves termed a “robust debate that represented a wide range of divergent viewpoints,” they failed to reach a consensus. In fact, it is not too much to say that the BOT is in disarray, at war with itself. The implications for the Salaita affair are not lost, moreover, on Kilgore supporters. “In light of the recent abrogation of academic freedom in the de-hiring of Professor Stephen Salaita… this [paving the way for rehiring Kilgore] is a very small step forward… We must continue to back his [Salaita’s] cause.”

Wise is at the center of both the Salaita affair and the medical school plan. Clearly, she sees the medical school as her signature achievement. Wise appears caught off-guard by continued faculty and student opposition over Salaita that has forced her into damage control mode. Certainly, BOT Chair Chris Kennedy was caught off-guard, saying that the response the university had received was “super surprising.” Were the reputation of Wise – not to mention that of the university – continue to suffer due to the ongoing Salaita affair, then her standing to lead the medical school plan would suffer by association.

Lifting All Boats, Or A Tub Sitting On Its Bottom?

The more we learn about the medical school proposal and how Wise is handling it, the more questions arise. Where does working for the common good leave off, and conflict of interest begin? When she was University of Washington provost, Wise was criticized for simultaneously sitting on the Nike board. Now at UIUC, and still on the Nike board, she was paid $290,000 in 2013 alone. Since the beginning of 2014 she also sits on the Busey Corporation board. She leads simultaneously the aforementioned Economic Development Advisory Group that also includes the Busey Corporation board chair, which appears to be a conflict of interest. Wise gave a keynote at a Republican Congressman Rodney Davis event held last July in the midst of his 2014 reelection campaign. Governor-elect Bruce Rauner has named her to his transition team. The machers, big shots, make out, and seem fine with it. Their politics and worldview nestle with their agendas like Russian dolls.

Rodney Davis

How did we get here? The short answer is short. It is all about the neo-liberal corporatization of UIUC at a time when state budget support has fallen to an execrable 12 percent. It is all about a corporation selling health as part of the American for-profit healthcare system in the era of Obamacare.

These are national issues, reproduced locally. And locally, the Champaign/Urbana elite, like all-too-many others elsewhere at other times, acts as though what is best for them is best for everyone. They do not notice, or do not care, that their socioeconomic calculus leaves out somewhere between Mitt Romney’s 47 and Occupy’s 99 percent of the population. However you calculate it, this amounts to a disproportionately high number of the lower classes, women, and minorities.

This is not new. The history of American philanthropy is the history of trickle-down, paternalistic largesse. An online comment in the News-Gazette gets it right. “There is a consistent push by the ‘movers and shakers’ in C-U’s economic development plans that local residents and particularly those that are mid-to-low incomes [sic] can,… for the foreseeable future, well,….uh,…just leave, and make way for out-of-town people who are wealthier. Thanks. Here is a map to Rantoul or Tolono if you need re-locating options.” In contrast to UI-Chicago’s larger, more inclusive medical school student body, UIUC’s would be smaller, and tuition would cost at least 20 percent more. The October 2014 business plan projects annual tuition at Urbana ranging from $45,000 for in-state students (UIC $35,442), to $60,000 for out-of-state residents (UIC $72,442), and $75,000 for international students (plus $9,000 in fees). The new college of medicine dean would make $500,000, top administrators between $100,000 and $250,000, and 75 new faculty between $140,000 and $270,000, not to mention 40 to 50 new Carle physicians.

Carle is largely tax-exempt, largely because of their “contribution” – read: “lobbying” –rewriting the 2012 state law concerning charity contributions. Yet they cannot cough up from their $1.8 billion in assets a voluntary “charitable contribution” to Urbana, otherwise known as payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). Instead of making up anything close to the $5.8 million Urbana lost in 2013 tax revenue, Carle has voluntarily cut checks for $100,800, based on their own calculation of their fire and police costs.

Locally, it is mostly Republicans who stand to profit from the medical school project, but these are not Democratic vs. Republican, or even conservative vs. liberal issues. Look at Barack Obama, his former chief of staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago schools chief and current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and their neo-liberal ilk. In this country in 2014 it is “radical” to be a post-1945 European social democrat. “Radical,” not radical, because in the late 1940s Europeans creating single-payer health-care systems and the rest of the then-new welfare state were not radicals, but liberals. Similarly, European universities charge students even today a fraction of what both public, as well as private, U.S. colleges do. The difference between then and now is a measure of how much we have eviscerated the state, and undermined its legitimacy in pursuit of the chimera of the “job creator,” “free market.”

Are there other ways of doing business? Of running a university? Of course. And they are not theoretical, but empirically tried-and-true ones. For the last 65 years, European and Canadian social democracies have been delivering, despite scattered objections and cutbacks, the overwhelmingly popular social goods of single-payer health insurance, and largely state-subsidized university education.

November 14

This is the first of two articles.

2014 10 30 fur ball FullSizeRender

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


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American Exceptionalism and Our Newest War

Once upon a time, when I was a child growing up in 1950s America, I truly believed in American Exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is a virtuous country and unique among nations because of our revolutionary history, experimental democracy, and personal liberty. For many, American Exceptionalism implies superiority to other nations and therefore a special role to play in world history through interventions in other countries. America is then seen as “the indispensable nation” on the world stage. Neoconservatives like Dick Cheney believe that the United States has the right to promote our national interest even when that requires military force and even when we are breaking international laws.

The United States emerged from World War II as the most powerful nation on earth because of our abundant natural resources, strong economy, and military superiority. With that power came “an outsized confidence in the efficacy of American power as an instrument to reshape the global order” according to political scientist Andrew Bacevich.

Since World War II, although we have had no declared wars, we have frequently conducted military and other interventions all over the world, some of which were against international law and/or our own Constitution or other laws. These have included major wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, as well as U.S.-backed coups of democratically elected governments ranging from Iran in 1953 to Chile in 1973 to, arguably, Ukraine this year. The United States has gotten away with illegal actions in other countries because of our economic and military might, and because, as a member of the Security Council, we have been able to block any sanctions from the United Nations.

Virtually all of our meddling has resulted in “blowback”, or unintended consequences. John Mearsheimer points out that because we have the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean “moats” to protect us, as well as nuclear weapons, “turning the world into one big battlefield” has not resulted in significant strategic costs for us “precisely because the United States is such an extraordinarily secure country. It can pursue foolish policies and still remain the most powerful state on the planet….. The pursuit of global domination, however, has other costs that are far more daunting. The economic costs are huge—especially the wars—and there are significant human costs as well. After all, thousands of Americans have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, and many more have suffered egregious injuries that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Probably the most serious cost of Washington’s interventionist policies is the growth of a national-security state that threatens to undermine the liberal-democratic values that lie at the heart of the American political system.”

Since 1980, the United States has invaded, occupied, and/or bombed fourteen countries in the Islamic world. Barack Obama has cited security and/or moral imperatives for bombing seven largely-Muslim countries (Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan,Yemen, Somalia, and now Syria). The results so far have been thousands of civilian casualties, the global expansion of terrorism, and increased terrorist organization recruitment.

President Obama said as recently as August that there was no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that we could not trust “moderate” opposition to the Assad regime, yet by September his strategy for dealing with ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, depended on both. Obama’s stated aim for the first bombings against ISIS was to save the Yazidis, the minority religious sect that had been trapped on a mountaintop by ISIS, but this was window-dressing. This was not ISIS’ first foray into genocide. It was, however, the first time ISIS was threatening the oil-rich Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The real reason for the bombing campaign was to save the Kurdish forces defending Erbil, where there is an estimated trillion dollar international oil industry presence. As usual, our Middle East meddling is far more concerned with oil than with people. The “collateral damage” to civilian populations of our bombing is likely to result in many casualties. Already there are reports of dozens of civilian deaths from our military campaign, and this is after only a few weeks of bombings that are planned to go on for years.

Some people here support the bombing for genuinely humanitarian reasons. They point out that ISIS is carrying out genocide, rape, torture, slavery, and other cruel and evil acts. But these concerns are not really those of the Administration. ISIS was doing the same things for months before Obama decided to intervene, when the Kurds in Erbil were on the verge of collapse. As George Monbiot has put it, “Whenever our armed forces have bombed or invaded Muslim nations, they have made life worse for those who live there. The regions in which our governments have intervened most are those which suffer most from terrorism and war.” The overall results of this new military campaign are likely to have similarly negative consequences for the people of Iraq and Syria.

Now that the Free Syrian Army is on the run and the Republicans will soon take control of the Senate, there will be more pressure on the president to escalate the war to include American “boots on the ground”, which will further exacerbate the harm we are causing. Obama has already ordered 1500 more troops into the war zone. So far, the United States strategy is failing badly.

U.S. Air strikes on Kobani (Guardian)

U.S. Air strikes on Kobani (Guardian)

Phyllis Bennis notes that our military strikes “are making real solutions impossible.” She claims that “weakening ISIS requires eroding the support it relies on from tribal leaders, military figures, and ordinary Iraqi Sunnis.” Joshua Landis also thinks our current war will fail,and suggests an alternative. Bennis’s and Landis’s proposals for nonmilitary political solutions would take a long time to effect change, but Obama’s strategy will take “years.” Why go on with our current destructive strategy, which is likely to bring even more misery to the people we are supposedly trying to save from ISIS?

Do two severed American heads justify the carnage we are visiting on Iraq and Syria? After the intense media coverage of the beheadings, the late September polls showed that 73% of previously “war-weary” Americans approved of bombing ISIS, even though only 51% thought it might actually work.

​What are the moral implications of a people that approves of bombing other countries even though they are not confident that it will help? Like “the white man’s burden,” belief in American Exceptionalism seems to carry with it willful blindness to the harm we cause to anyone but ourselves. “The dead” from our misadventures means American deaths. Our mainstream media often don’t even report on those nameless hundreds of thousands who are killed, maimed, displaced, or disease-ridden because of U.S. foreign policy decisions. Members of wedding parties and children are just “collateral damage”, while our government assures us that all males over 13 who are killed are “enemy combatants”. The only thing that counts is how many targeted enemies we’ve taken out.

And this is all to no avail–in fact, it is counterproductive, since every military strike results in escalating recruitment for our enemies, ISIS is continuing to grab more territory despite our bombing campaign, and our military actions will further destabilize the entire region. Peter Van Buren puts it succinctly: “Washington’s post-9/11 fantasy has always been that military power—whether at the level of full-scale invasions or ‘surgical’ drone strikes—can change the geopolitical landscape in predictable ways. In fact, the only certainty is more death. Everything else, as the last 13 years have made clear, is up for grabs, and in ways Washington is guaranteed not to expect.”

I remember feeling quite moved during President Obama’s eulogy for the innocent children who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School—until I remembered mid-speech that he had ordered drone strikes that killed scores more innocent children in other countries than those gunned down here, in our exceptional America.

Susan Shoemaker lived in central Illinois for most of her life before moving elsewhere to work as a college professor. When she retired she came home to Champaign-Urbana.

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Important Questions Related to the Steven Salaita Case at the U of I

For university faculty, when, if ever, is speech that includes what may be perceived as vulgar, discourteous or uncivil language protected from putative action by university administrators and/or boards of trustees? Is speech which uses such language, even swear words, acceptable as a way of expressing extreme feelings of anger, outrage or injustice about the behavior of others; of getting the attention of an otherwise complacent audience, especially when more refined or orthodox language has repeatedly fallen on deaf ears; or, more specifically, of arousing a strong response from a particular audience that one is attempting to reach (e.g., fellow citizens who need to “wake up and take action”)?

Should different standards be applied in evaluating faculty speech which occurs in academic settings (classrooms, professional meetings, publications) from speech expressing one’s personal thoughts or feelings through less formal social media channels? Given the fact that a faculty member’s tweets may be read by others, including one’s students and colleagues at the university and even alums and financial donors, must one always be careful not to offend others through what may be perceived as inappropriate language, or would such sanitized speech often seriously limit its forcefulness and impact?

Application to the Treatment of Salaita

How should all of these questions be answered as they apply to Steven Salaita, the faculty member offered a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, whose formal appointment was blocked by the chancellor and board of trustees after major donors and others raised concerns about his angry tweets against the Israeli government and its prime minister in response to their treatment of Palestinians in Gaza in June-July 2014? Should his Twitter speech have been protected from putative action? Was his denial of employment an infraction of both his freedom of speech and his academic freedom as well as of established university personnel policies and procedures?

Because Salaita’s credentials and past academic performance were reviewed by departmental faculty, the relevant dean, and the provost at UIUC before being forwarded with a recommendation for hire to the chancellor and board of trustees, his substantive views on colonialism and the occupation of Palestine by Israel were known by those involved in the hire—or at least were available for their scrutiny. Also known was Salaita’s background as a Palestinian American with family and friends in Palestine.

Among the claims made by Salaita’s critics is that some of his Twitter posts were “anti-Semitic.” A careful reading of the posts, however, will show that they did not criticize Jews in general or Judaism, but the actions of the Israeli government and its prime minister. Significant numbers of Jews living both inside and outside of Israel oppose the occupation of Palestine and the harsh actions of the Israeli government toward Palestinian civilians over many decades.

Were Salaita to be employed at UIUC, would his angry tweets intimidate Jewish and other students on the UIUC campus and undermine his ability to communicate openly, rationally and respectfully with them in the future? Judging from his positive teaching evaluations elsewhere and from comments by students which highlighted his openness, approachability and willingness to listen to and respect diverse points of view, this does not appear to be the case. Should not UIUC students be exposed to viewpoints other than their own? Should not universities, good ones at least, be places where a broad range of perspectives on important public issues of the day are expressed and debated face-to-face and through multiple media outlets? Steven Salaita thinks so. In addressing students and others at the University YMCA on the UIUC campus in September, Salaita said, “Universities are meant to be cauldrons of critical thinking. They are meant to foster creative inquiry and, when at their best, challenge political, economic or social orthodoxy.”


From my perspective, Salaita’s angry Twitter speech can be understood and accepted as a response to the grossly inhumane actions of Israel in Gaza that he was protesting, actions criticized by human rights organizations, the United Nations, and governments around the world. In fact, at one level, it reveals a truly human side to Steven Salaita: Who would not have responded in a similar manner if they had comparable historical knowledge of Israeli-Palestinian relations as well as familial and other personal connections to Palestine?

I prefer to judge Salaita’s probable future performance as a tenured teacher and scholar at UIUC on the basis of his demonstrated record which is outstanding. The chancellor and board of trustees have acted inappropriately and violated both Salaita’s rights and the University’s own personnel policies and procedures. As a result, they should either reverse their decision or be prepared to have the American courts do so in the future at great cost to the University’s reputation as a top tier academic institution.

Gary Storm is Professor Emeritus and former Dean of Human Services and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

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A View on Bulldog Coal Mine from the Appalachian Mountains

“Support coal or sit in the dark.” That phrase is familiar in the coal-burdened areas of Central Appalachia, but now some who supported coal are finding themselves out of work, abandoned by coal—many too injured by coal mining to work elsewhere—surrounded by a crumbling state infrastructure and declining population. The reality is that coal production is shifting from Appalachia to the Illinois Basin and farther west, and while some in central and southern Illinois are excited at the prospect of new jobs—even if temporary and dangerous—there’s a reason the late Mountain Keeper Larry Gibson said “Coal keeps West Virginia poor.”

Locally, Hallador Energy subsidiary Sunrise Coal, LLC, is seeking a permit for its Bulldog Mine site 30 minutes southeast of Urbana, near Homer and Allerton. Hallador Energy claims the Bulldog Mine will employ 300 people at $18 to $24 per hour, or approximately $36,000 to $48,000 per year, implying these jobs will be local jobs. They don’t mention the advertisements running in Appalachia encouraging laid off miners to move to the mines in Illinois. It’s more likely that Hallador will hire experienced miners from far away, instead of training new miners. The coal companies here are not above making the same hollow promises as coal companies in Appalachia.

I moved to Illinois last January after spending the better part of five years working with people in West Virginia and across Appalachia to stop strip mining, often referred to as mountaintop removal. It’s nice to live somewhere that has good water, no elevated levels of cancer and birth defects, and where a Friends of Coal sticker is not similar to a Little Red Book. The coal industry is always full of promises, PR events and campaign contributions, but they’re short on living up to those promises or rosy PR pictures. People living in Champaign and Vermillion counties should work together to prevent a coal relapse here, now.

My friend’s dad worked decades for the coal industry, giving them his best years. After the industry all but got rid of the union, and when they were done with my friend’s dad, they quickly dropped him without a pension. Now he’s too injured from coal mining to work, but has been agonizing through months of tests and waiting for doctors to be available to prove that he’s disabled.

A common defense of coal industry supporters is that coal mining is highly regulated, including surprise inspections by the federal government. However, in places like West Virginia, where there’s been more attention focused on the coal industry in recent years, coal  mine managements are being convicted of illegally warning mine site workers that inspectors were on their way so the miners could quickly get everything into compliance for the brief inspection visit. Private labs like Appalachian Labs, who routinely test water quality for the mine companies, have come under recent scrutiny for substituting the samples with clean water—water monitoring is a “self-regulating” process. Community and environmental groups in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia have petitioned the federal government to take back state oversight and enforcement of some federal mining and environmental laws, because those states don’t effectively enforce the laws. Without effective enforcement and oversight, regulations and inspections are meaningless, and Illinois could be guilty of the same thing.

Citizens Opposing Pollution, an advocacy group in Clinton County, Ill., filed a petition in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on October 15, 2014, asking the federal government to revoke the Illinois mining program. The Writ of Mandamus, in Citizens Opposing Pollution v. Sally Jewel, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, asserts that Illinois’ ineffective oversight and enforcement of coal refuse facilities has caused the Pearl Sand Aquifer to be polluted beyond suitability as a drinking water source.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is currently reviewing the Bulldog mining permit, and held an informal conference about the permit in Georgetown, Ill., on Oct. 7. At that hearing, a geologist who worked with coal during his career testified that Hallador’s responses in the permit application made no sense with regard to the mine or the permit, made no mention of critical geologic formations like a drinking water aquifer, and showed no regard for Oakwood’s drinking water intake just downstream. For every mention I saw of exploratory bore holes in Hallador’s application the company said each collapsed, which indicates a higher probability of subsidence than the company admits in their permit application.

One resident I spoke with who lives above the proposed underground portion of the Bulldog Mine described how Hallador has been getting some of their mineral leases signed by landowners. The resident said Hallador sent young attractive women to persuade men to sign a lease, and sent intimidating men to persuade women to sign. Hallador’s actions and permit responses do not inspire confidence in their ability or willingness to follow the law and run a clean, safe operation, let alone be honest with regulators, inspectors, neighbors or the public.

Many of the area’s residents who spoke in favor of the Bulldog Mine at the informal conference made the case that the watershed is already stressed from agricultural runoff, urban waste, pre-law mining and other sources, so the addition of a coal mine should be no big deal. However, these are reasons why we need to continue to clean up and safeguard the watershed from future potential harm, as mining pollution can render local water supplies unfit to drink.

I lived in Charleston, W.V., in January 2014 when Freedom Industries spilled Crude MCHM (4-methylcyclohexane methanol) just a mile upstream of the sole drinking water intake for 300,000 people in nine counties. Many in the surrounding counties receive water from the Charleston water plant because their nearby sources became too polluted by coal and gas extraction to be suitable for even treated drinking water. Crude MCHM is used in processing coal, an activity planned to take place at the Bulldog Mine literally on top of the drinking water aquifer that Hallador failed to mention in their permit application. It seems unimaginable to go weeks in the U.S. without water for drinking, bathing, cooking, or cleaning—but it happened, and that situation should not be repeated in Illinois.

Proponents of Bulldog and of coal claim that we need to mine more coal because the U.S. and Illinois need this “cheap” energy source. However, this rhetoric ignores the fact that coal is an international commodity that’s sold to the highest bidder. Not only does the U.S. ship coal to at least Asia, South America and Europe, the U.S. no longer needs to burn coal at its current pace. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal as a percentage of national electricity generation has decreased from nearly half the U.S. electricity supply in 2007 to 37.5 percent in 2012, the last year of available data.

The coal industry has made a name for itself in deception, extortion, blackmail, corruption and subversion of regulatory processes. Any short-term local economic benefit will be negated by long-term negative impacts on the environment and other economic activities like farming, as the coal industry goes after the high-hanging fruit. Champaign and Vermillion country residents should work with StandUpToCoal.org to convince the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to deny the Bulldog Mine permit.

csuggs-head-shotCharles Suggs is an environmental justice activist who spent much of the last six years living in southern West Virginia. He has campaigned against dirty resource extraction, volunteering primarily in Appalachia with organizations including Mountain Justice (http://mountainjustice.org) and RAMPS (http://rampscampaign.org). Currently Charles is a web developer and gardener living in Urbana with his fiancé, and their cat Rebar.


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Political Soccer: A Global Phenomenon—Except Here

This summer’s soccer World Cup—always the most-watched sporting event on the planet—in Brazil was accompanied by enormous demonstrations, at times violently repressed. Citizens protested the diversion of vast resources from urgent social needs to the building of hugely expensive stadiums, stadium-specific transportation systems and other amenities, and massive security measures, to meet the requirements of FIFA, the world governing body that runs the tournament. While this connection between sports and politics seems an unfamiliar stretch in view of the American landscape, the use of sporting events as venues for political expression is not completely alien to us: recent years have seen demonstrations outside big games against domestic violence and sweatshop abuse in the production of sports gear, among other issues. And the (ab)use of Native American-related monikers for team names and mascots, familiar to us locally in the Chief Illiniwek controversy, has been protested in front of the stadium homes of the Washington, D.C. football and Cleveland baseball teams.

But beyond our shores, and above all in the case of soccer, the games become not just an occasion for political expression, but something political in and of themselves. People’s identities are bound up with a team, passed on through generations—as sometimes happens here—but a team that is rooted in a city district, a class or religious/ethnic configuration, even a certain occupation. Fans of the opposing side become not just enemies in sport—bad enough when sports are taken seriously—but alien others, obstacles to an ideal society, to be eliminated.

Matches between national soccer teams, especially for qualification for the World Cup and other international tournaments, are the most recognizable magnets for conflicts based on (in this case, national) identity. Indeed, there are numerous examples of national sides becoming surrogates for struggles involving both symbolic and real social and economic issues. The most famous is the 1969 “Soccer War” between El Salvador and Honduras. A World Cup qualifying match spawned conflicts between fans and harassment of players, which culminated in a four-day war involving mutual air strikes and thousands of dead and wounded. A territorial dispute and tensions over the many migrant laborers from overcrowded El Salvador to more spacious Honduras constituted the powder that was primed to explode.

More recently, in November 2008, Slovakian police beat up Hungarian fans, who were provocatively chanting anti-Slovak and pro-Hungarian-expansionist slogans, at a Slovakian league game in a largely ethnic Hungarian town near the border between the two countries. Coming in the midst of heightened tensions over the substantial Hungarian ethnic minority in Slovakia, the incident led to demonstrations, flag-burnings and a diplomatic crisis. In 2009, a World Cup qualification match between Egypt and Algeria, followed by a tiebreaker match in Sudan between the same teams, spawned violence against both countries’ fans, as well as diplomatic tensions (here, too, longstanding grievances at the governmental level and resentments at the individual level played a role). And just weeks ago, a qualifying match for the Euro 2016 tournament between Serbia and Albania was abandoned after a drone bearing a flag representing greater Albania (a dream of Albanian nationalists, which would incorporate the disputed Kosovo and parts of Serbia proper) flew into the stadium, was grabbed by Serbian players, and defended by Albanian players, leading to a brawl.

The last few years have seen increasing media coverage of nationalist extremists, neo-Nazis and racists—in evidence in both the Slovakian and Serbian events—in and around European soccer stadiums. The Western press has largely painted this as an “Eastern European disease,” as in the BBC documentary about the last European championships, hosted jointly by Poland and Ukraine, entitled Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate. The documentary highlights the abuse from the stands of black and brown players on the various national sides, and of fans. But Western European countries, especially England, Germany and Italy, have long had their share of skinheads, fascists and racists in the various “ultra” fan clubs, and among the hooligans that have dogged the sport, becoming a major social issue in the 1980s and ‘90s. Black Italian star Mario Balotelli has been subject to racist abuse, such as monkey calls and bananas thrown from the stands, in both Italy and Spain.

But it is at the level of club football, where clubs have become entwined with the identities of certain cities, districts of cities, ethnic communities, classes and even political positions, that the connection between soccer and politics becomes most visceral and intense. A textbook case is the storied rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, the two dominant teams in Scottish soccer. Celtic supporters tend to be Irish Catholic immigrants, and Rangers supporters Protestants, many of them with ties to Loyalists (supporters of British rule) in Northern Ireland. In Spain, Real Madrid has traditionally represented the cultural and political dominance of the central government, especially during the long dictatorship of Francisco Franco. FC Barcelona has from its founding in 1899 symbolized Catalan independence and resistance to the center; Atletico Bilbao has fulfilled a similar role for Basques. Although “Barca,” now one of the richest clubs in the world, celebrates that history of resistance at its lavish stadiumside museum, many argue that Franco propped up the club and the rivalry as a “safety valve,” to divert potential political opposition into passion for the team.

The political commitment of club supporters can lead to extra-local violence. In the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s, the most brutal Serbian paramilitary commander, nicknamed Arkan, got his start as leader of the “Ultras” of Red Star Belgrade, and recruited his henchmen from the fan group. They “trained” at clashes at matches between Red Star and the Croatian team Dinamo Zagreb for the ethnic cleansing they would later execute against Croatians and Bosnian Muslims. But more positive roles are also possible: during the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt, the “ultras . . played a more significant role than any political group,” according to a prominent Egyptian blogger. Most active in defending the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square were the fans of the foremost Egyptian club Al Ahly, founded in 1907 explicitly as a center for anti-colonial resistance. Tragically, less than a year after the victory over the dictator Mubarak, Al Ahly’s fans were brutally attacked by fans of another team, El Masry, at a game in Port Said, with dozens killed and hundreds injured, as police idly stood by.

Less noted by history are the activities of local groups such as the Carsi of Besiktas (one of the three big teams in Istanbul, Turkey), who employ the “Anarchist A” and Che Guevara among their imagery, carry out left-wing social activities (including bolstering the extraordinary 2013 anti-government demonstrations), identify as anti-racist, anti-sexist (certainly unique in the macho world of men’s soccer) and ecologist, and responded to racist harassment of their team’s players with banners reading “We are all Black.” If, as claimed by soccer writer Phil Ball in his book on the Spanish game, “eleven men in shorts are the sword of the neighborhood, the city, or the nation,” the hundreds or thousands in fan clubs are the cannon fodder, too often for ill but sometimes for good. Here in the US, we may be glad that our sports violence is, for the most part, restricted to celebratory riots after championships (aside from the violence on the field, court or rink). But our culture that tends to divide sports and politics also makes us poorer, in both realms.

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Academic Freedom and the Board of Trustees at the U of I: A Historical Perspective

At the panel on academic freedom and free speech across disciplines held in the Beckman Institute on Monday, September 29, one of the panelists, Professor Colleen Murphy, said that the project now must be to make sure that the way in which Professor Salaita was treated by the university never happens again. That is certainly a worthy goal, but it should not be inferred that, prior to Salaita’s treatment, academic freedom, free speech, and due process procedures have been relentlessly followed in the treatment of faculty and students who have espoused dissenting or unpopular views.

My association with this university has spanned well over half a century, first as an undergraduate graduating in 1960, then as a faculty member from 1965 until my retirement in 2000. I continued to teach and serve in the Senate for several years after my retirement. When I was a student here state law prohibited those who were Communists or members of organizations deemed by the US Attorney General to be subversive from teaching or working at the U of I (the Broyles Bill of the mid-1950s), or even just speaking on campus (the Clabaugh Act of 1947).

Prior to my arrival on campus, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, some old guard faculty members in the College of Commerce and Business Administration tried to keep Keynesians (seen as Pink if not Red) from being hired by the Economics Department. At that time—and continuing until 1994—the Board of Trustees was elected on political party lists. Some conservative Republican members of the Board, especially Board President Park Livingston and football star Red Grange, openly supported the effort to keep Keynesians out, as did area Republican state senators E.R. Peters and Charles Clabaugh, the author of the 1947 Act preventing Communists from speaking on campus. The Republican-supporting News-Gazette enthusiastically cheered them on. Largely for his openness to recruiting Keynesians, Howard Bowen, the dean of the college, was forced out of his post in 1950. That was followed by the 1953 Trustees’ ouster of President Stoddard, partly due to his stance on the Keynesian controversy.

During my last academic year as an undergraduate Professor Leo Koch was summarily fired by President David Dodds Henry. The offense committed by this biologist in the Division of General Studies was that he responded to a letter in the Daily Illini that condemned necking and “petting” at fraternity and sorority parties. Koch’s responding letter argued that if consensual sex were not so stigmatized there would not be this kind of
public expression of sexual desire. A far right-wing reverend who had a daughter at the U of I organized a campaign among parents and state legislators portraying Koch as part of a communist conspiracy to demoralize American youth. His summary firing by President Henry earned the U of I a place on the AAUP’s list of offenders of academic freedom, where it remained for several years.

In the 1960s and ’70s, there were restrictions on where students and faculty could express
themselves. For a while, there was a designated “free speech” area on the southeast corner of the Illini Union patio. Students were sometimes arrested for holding dissenting signs (e.g., against CIA recruiting) inside the Union building. In July 1970, fifteen faculty members in the Department of Political Science issued a statement referring to the Nixon Administration as a “criminal regime.” This followed the killing of student protestors by the National Guard at Kent State University and the US military incursion into Cambodia. The Chicago Tribune called the fifteen professors (I was one of them) “academic vipers” and editorialized that the university did not deserve public tax money if it had professors like us. The Trustees instructed Chancellor Jack Peltason to tell us that if we did not retract the statement we would be fired. Two faculty members took their names off, but the remaining 13 issued a new statement explaining in greater depth the rationale for our statement. (The text is in Summer Daily Illini, July 30, 1970, p. 5.) Chancellor Peltason talked the trustees out of firing us, but they did censure us. We rejected the censure and took it to the Academic Freedom Committee of the American Political Science Association. The committee ruled that the trustees had violated our academic freedom, but the trustees never withdrew the censure.

As already noted, after 1994 a change was made in the selection of Trustees. The nonstudent Trustees have since been appointed by the governor. While administrators had sometimes issued questionable rules, such as on what content can be communicated on university computers, and while the University Police did prevent distribution of leaflets on political and social issues to football fans in university parking lots, I am not aware of any intrusion of the Trustees into academic freedom issues until Chair Kennedy convinced the Board to deny UIC Professor William Ayers emeritus status upon his retirement, in 2010. So far as I am aware, this was unheard of even during the Red Scare of the 1950s. That denial was followed by the Trustees’ intrusion into the employment of James Kilgore, whose reappointment had gone through all of the proper unit and college channels. When Kilgore sought an explanation for this cancellation from Vice-Chancellor and Provost Adesida, he was met with a stony refusal to give any reason. But it was clear that either the entire Board, or Chair Kennedy himself, was involved. And now, following right on the footsteps of the Kilgore situation, we have the open intrusion of Chair Kennedy and his Board (minus one) in overturning the decision to hire Professor Salaita, an appointment that had gone through all of the proper academic procedures. Academic freedom, freedom of expression, shared governance, and due process are left in tatters.

“Never again”? I will accept the explanation that it was uttered as an aspiration. But the history of this institution shows that we can never assume that structural modifications will guarantee respect for the fundamental values off the university. Appointing rather than electing Trustees was indeed a good idea to address certain problems. “Shared Governance “ is also a good idea, but it can also elide into the development of an administrator/faculty elite that becomes so tight interpersonally that the necessary critical stance required to protect those values is seen as being hurtful, rude, or “uncivil.” This is why organizations that maintain that critical stance, like the CFA and the AAUP, are so terribly important, not just to the faculty, but to the integrity of the university as a whole.

This article is a slight variation of an article that first appeared on the website (cfaillinois.org)of the Campus Faculty Association (CFA) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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The Red-hunt Did Not Skip Urbana

By Chandler Davis

Chandler Davis Snapshot_2010-09-22_17-55-39-1

Chandler Davis had to ply his trade in Canada, turning
emeritus at the University of Toronto in 1992 after thirty
years in the tenured ranks.  Nevertheless he was not forgottenby US colleagues, and was even elected Vice-President of the American Mathematical Society in 1991.

Without being a historian, anyone old enough to remember the notorious Red-hunt of 1947-1960 may feel some déjà vu seeing the frenzy with which criticism of Israel is savaged today. The Illinois campus is trying to come to terms with the shabby way your top administration (and in the wings a few donors accustomed to getting their way) have treated Prof. Steven Salaita. Several of you have been reminded of the Red-hunt. It takes me back…..

In 1950, I was a fresh Ph.D. hoping to break into the faculty ranks — preferably without selling my soul. All my fellow left-wingers in the universities knew they might come under attack. My professor and mentor Dirk J. Struik at MIT had already been attacked in the press as a communist (he was to spend 1951-55 under indictment for conspiracy to overthrow….., and suspended but not fired from his professorship). His daughter (and my friend) Ruth Rebekka Struik was a graduate student and assistant at the University of Illinois. That very year, 1950, she was told her support would not be renewed. A coincidence, do you suppose? We all took it as just part of the pattern. She took refuge in Canada for a few years, and returned to a successful career in the US; she is now emerita at the University of Colorado.

Hundreds of us were targets of political attack, whether public as in Dirk’s case or tacit. We compared notes, sub rosa. Thus my friend Ray Ginger, the American historian, told me he had had to leave his Harvard job, and it was his choice whether to protest. His school knew that if he uttered a public complaint he would be consigning himself to the blacklist, and Ray elected to keep it quiet; and indeed, after a few years in limbo he was able to get academic employment again.

Investigating committees held sensationalized hearings into “subversion.” Witnesses were asked about their association with the Communist Party and other organizations; if they answered any such question they were deemed to have waived their right under the Fifth Amendment to remain silent, and thus became liable to prosecution if they refused to answer any other questions — including names of their associates. This became a terribly familiar routine, whether by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), by other Congressional bodies such as the Jenner Committee, or by their emulators in some states: a Massachusetts committee took part in the harassment of Dirk Struik, and Illinois had been threatened with getting such a committee by Senator Paul Broyles repeatedly since 1947.

Norman Cazden, ca. 1970

Norman Cazden, ca. 1970

At Harvard, Cazden worked with, among others, Walter Piston and Aaron Copland. His Ph.D. dissertation, Musical Consonance and Dissonance, ran over 900 pages. From 1945 to 1960 he was musical director of Camp Woodland, a center influenced by John Dewey’s “Progressive Education” model, and located in the Catskills. Cazden was interviewed for, and mentioned in, Victor Navasky’s book about the blacklist in academia, Naming Names. This year is the centenary of his birth; for more information, see the website http://www.normancazden.com/biography/

In 1953, Norman Cazden was a faculty member at UIUC in music. Norman was a Harvard Ph.D. in musicology (whose thesis I enjoyed reading, by the way), but he was much more: he taught music, conducted concerts and accompanied performers, and ran a regular program on music on the campus radio; one of his many compositions was performed in this period by an orchestra in Springfield. He was also associated with individuals and causes of the sort that were under attack in those days; why, he had been for years director of music at Camp Woodland: very suspicious! His wife, Courtney Borden Cazden, went to Springfield as part of the successful campaign to stop the Broyles Bill. (The campus opposition to Broyles’s perennial subversive-hunting campaign was powerful through 1953, but fell short in 1955.) Norman and Courtney took part also in protests of the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as “atomic spies,” and in mourning their execution in 1953.

Norman Cazden (left) and Camp Woodland musical director Herbert Haufrecht, Catskill Mountains

Norman Cazden (left) and Camp Woodland musical director Herbert Haufrecht, Catskill Mountains

In short, it was not surprising that HUAC came nosing around about Norman. Their inquiries at the University presumably were the reason why the promotion and tenure he had been orally promised for 1953 did not come through. In 1954, he was called to the stand, and it was not surprising that he declined to answer, on the basis of his Fifth Amendment rights. Norman and Courtney by this time had quietly left Illinois; Norman continued giving private lessons, teaching at Camp Woodland, and performing and composing. After some years he was able to escape the banishment. At the time of his too-early death in 1980 he was a much-loved professor at the University of Maine. Courtney is still with us, she is emerita at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

My wife and I first met the Cazdens, if I remember right, when Norman and I were in the same hot water. I don’t know which mutual friend put us in touch. I was a tenure-track faculty member at the University of Michigan, and was subpoenaed in 1953 to testify before HUAC. Whether I would rather have tried to make myself inconspicuous for a while, as my friends Ray Ginger and Norman Cazden did, I don’t know; the option wasn’t offered me, HUAC wanted to expose my evil deeds with full publicity, and in May 1954 they did. The story ends happily for me as well, ultimately, but I was obliged to emigrate. I am now emeritus at the University of Toronto, no cause for complaint.

Only for HUAC does the story not end happily. Just as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s omnipotence had been punctured in 1954, the apparently unstoppable HUAC had hardly any clout after 1960.

Yes, I think there is more than superficial resemblance between the dogging of left-wingers in those days sixty years back and the attacks on academics like Joseph Massad, Norman Finkelstein, and Steven Salaita today. The Red-hunters never called us terrorists or anti-Semites or (gasp!) uncivil, but they called us subversive and disloyal in the same fevered, evidence-free way, and they did their very best to expel us from the community. There’s nothing for it but to stand up to them.


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The People’s Struggle in El Salvador Continues

For twenty-two years I have been part of a local group engaged in a sister relationship with five impoverished settlements in the mountains of eastern El Salvador. The five settlements are called Calavera. Our local group is called Friends of Calavera. During the twelve-year civil war (1980-1992), this mountain area was in a war zone.

Beginning in 1992, our group has sent delegations each year to visit these settlements. We are welcomed by the people, they share their homes and tortillas with us, and we listen to their stories. Stories of incredible suffering and courage in a centuries-old struggle for justice. Stories that remind me of the long struggle for civil rights in the United States, where the people refused to give in to official lies and brutality. Stories that announce, “Si se puede” (“Yes we can”). Stories of hope in the face of unjust power. A Jesuit who taught at the University of Central America told me once, “El Salvador exports more hope than coffee.”

The Christian Base Communities

On October 16th a visitor from El Salvador gave a presentation at the Friends Meeting House in Urbana that told about today’s Salvadoran reality. And about a small organization’s work in the face of that reality.

The visitor was José Gomez, a coordinator of many community projects for CEBES, the Christian Base Communities in El Salvador. He has been our guide to our sister communities for the past dozen years. On a five-week tour that began in late September, José has been visiting the several dozen sister communities across the United States that are associated with CEBES. Accompanying him to coordinate the trip and translate for him was Laurel Marshall, who has been a North American volunteer at CEBES for the past three years.

For centuries there has been a restless agitation for justice in poor communities throughout Latin American. Midway through the past century they began to organize and act to dismantle official systems of oppression. Many of these efforts were rooted in a faith that God sides with the poor and the powerless. That vision of a God who accompanies them in their struggle for a better life is called liberation theology. Some Churches joined in their struggle with a policy called the fundamental option for the poor.

The Christian Base Communities developed from these restless roots. Despite only wanting a democratic voice, access to land, education, health care, and other basic services, those engaged in the struggle were labeled “communists.” Nonetheless, the communities continued to organize and demand access to their basic human rights.

José gave a summary of the people’s long struggle for justice in El Salvador, beginning with the mid-1970’s. By the early 1980’s hundreds of thousands of members of popular organizations filled the city streets, calling for official reforms, particularly land reform. The government’s response was brutal.

In the twelve years of the government’s war against the people (1980-1992), over 75,000 civilians were killed by death squads and military action. Refugees scattered throughout Central America and to the United States. During this period, the U.S. gave over five billion dollars in military aid to the Salvadoran government’s war against their people.

A U.N.-brokered peace accord was initiated in 1992. In the wake of peace, the Christian Base Community in El Salvador formed a central office, called CEBES, to act as a network of all the Christian communities throughout the country. In spite of its name, these communities are not officially Christian, inviting people of all faiths committed to serve the excluded.

CEBES is not only focused on pastoral accompaniment and opposing the root causes of poverty and injustice. It also recognizes and responds when the basic needs of the poor are not being met. José gave a current example of this when he told about a serious drought that occurred in the whole region of Calavera early this summer. As a result, the campesinos have completely lost their crop of corn and beans. This situation can mean starvation because they depend on those crops to feed their families. CEBES has given them the seeds to plant for their next crop which should be ready by the end of next month, and is now providing them with the food they need till the harvest.

In solidarity with the poor, CEBES searches for self-reliant solutions for their basic needs. Project ideas come from the desires of the communities themselves through their elected leaders. I have observed that Salvadorans have a knack for organization. Their ability to organize collective efforts probably came out of the war years when their survival demanded that they work together.

Fighting Against Poverty and for Social Justice

Though the war ended in 1992, most of the Salvadoran people have not risen from poverty. For the poor there are few job opportunities besides the maquiladoras (sweatshops), which at 12 to 14 hour days seven days a week, do not pay enough to provide for their families.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has had devastating effects on the poor because some basic public services are left to unpredictable shifts in market prices, and can become financially unfeasible. One Central American leader has called CAFTA, “a weapon of mass destruction.” CEBES does not oppose trade, but can only agree to fair-trade practices that will lift the poor out of poverty.

CEBES has a number of projects in the five settlements that the Friends of Calavera have been able to participate in. We have financially supported a nutrition program supervised by a physician that has provided nutritional meals, anti-parasitical drugs and vitamins to children and the elderly suffering from malnutrition in our sister communities. CEBES has used our donations to repair the roofs of some homes, part of a Habitat-type of program. We have provided funding for CEBES’ efforts to revive their schools that had been wiped out during the war. We have been offering financial support for their scholarship program, which helps students to go to high school in a nearby town. CEBES has been a key partner in programs that has helped the people rebuild their settlements destroyed by the war.

CEBES has been providing innovative programs like solar panels and rainwater collection tanks. We’ve seen these at the schools. CEBES’ programs are helping improve methods for raising chickens, goats and rabbits. The organization has been providing micro credit loans to poor farmers and artisan crafters. CEBES has been advocating alongside communities through protests, marches, and meetings for basic services and rights.

José encouraged his listeners to consider participating in their sister relationship program with Salvadoran communities. I know that this has helped our mountain settlements, and that it has also provided rich blessings to our delegations. I enthusiastically endorse the work of CEBES.

There is a very old bench that the Urbana Friends Meeting House acquired from another Friends House in western New York State. It was used in the Quaker House when Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist, worshipped there about one hundred and fifty years ago. He was a great liberation theologian whose life and work was dedicated to freeing slaves. In his dedication to the struggle for justice, José deserves a place on that bench alongside Frederick. There’s room for us to join them.

Tom Royer is a resident of Urbana who was the Pastor of St. Mary Church (1973-2011). He is a member of local group, “Friends of Calavera,” that has had a sister relationship with five settlements in the mountains of El Salvador for twenty-five years.

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UIUC Report on Hiring of James Kilgore

James press confOn Monday, November 10, the Friends of James Kilgore held a press conference outside the Henry Adminstration building on the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus. They encouraged the Board of Trustees, meeting this Thursday, to reinstate Dr. Kilgore.

After a right-wing attack in the local newspaper, Kilgore was fired this last Spring. He is not allowed to teach or work at the University of Illinois.

A story at Inside Higher Education was published today with news of a final report regarding Kilgore’s hiring, as well as an interview with him responding. We are also publishing a copy of the report from the committee appointed by Provost Ilesanmi Adesida  and chaired by Professor Matthew Wheeler.

You can read the report here: Adesida Committee-Hiring Process Review — May 2014(6)

We are also including the statement by William Sullivan [pictured above], a UIUC professor in Landscape Architecture and member of the Friends of James Kilgore. You can read it here: Bill Sullivan statement

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