[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.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
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 Kennedy, son 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?
CHAPTER 1: PERSONAL EMAIL TREASURE TROVE
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.
CHAPTER 2: CHRIS KENNEDY
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.
CHAPTER 3: CONNECTING THE DOTS — KILGORE, COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, SALAITA
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.
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?
CHAPTER 4: SPIN TRUMPS FACTS
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.
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.
CHAPTER 5: PHYLLIS WISE
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.
CHAPTER 6: “WITH LAWYER FRIENDS LIKE THESE…”
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.
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.”
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.
CHAPTER 7: FELLOW TRAVELERS NICK BURBULES & JOYCE TOLLIVER
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).
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.”
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.
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?
CHAPTER 8: INSTITUTIONAL CULTURE LACKING VALUES
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.
CHAPTER 9: TOWN VS GOWN
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.
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.
CHAPTER 10: “WHAT PART OF ‘WRONGDOING’ DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?”
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.
CHAPTER 11: THE WORLD BEYOND UIUC
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.
CHAPTER 12: MOVING ON: REARRANGING DECK CHAIRS OR REAL CHANGE?
“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