UI asks prof to pay for postage meter use

URBANA – A University of Illinois professor used a UI postage meter to send letters to universities asking them not to schedule sports competitions with the UI or other schools using American Indian mascots.

Stephen Kaufman, a UI professor of cell and molecular biology and vocal opponent of Chief Illiniwek, sent the letters – on UI letterhead – earlier this month to presidents, chancellors and athletic directors at more than 300 NCAA Division I schools. The letters were also signed by 90 people, many of them faculty members at the UI and the University of North Dakota.

The use of a UI postage meter and stationary violates university policy, according to an Oct. 14 letter to Kaufman from University Counsel Tom Bearrows. The UI's Business and Financial Policies and Procedures prohibits use of university assets for nonuniversity purposes.

Bearrows' letter indicates the UI received a copy of Kaufman's letter and the envelope in which it was sent from one of the recipients. It also states at least one recipient has asked if the letter is an official communication of the university.

UI letterhead may be used by faculty for identification purposes, but the faculty member must indicate it is being used for that purpose only.

Bearrows asked Kaufman for reimbursement for the postage in the amount of $270.

"We acknowledge and support your ability to express your views consistent with the principles of accuracy, forthrightness and dignity," Bearrows wrote to Kaufman. "You may not, however, use university assets for private purposes."

But Kaufman said his letter regarding the UI's symbol is university business.

"I don't understand why it's inappropriate," Kaufman said. "It's aimed to help the University of Illinois by helping it conform to its own nondiscrimination principles. It's helping it conform to the NCAA nondiscrimination principles. The intent of that letter is certainly in the interests of the University of Illinois, whether other people see it that way or not.

"I believe everything I've done on the issue is in the interest of the university," he added.

Kaufman said he hasn't decided how to respond to Bearrows' request for reimbursement.

He said he hasn't yet reviewed the university policy sections Bearrows cited in his letter.

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