Easter, Kennedy condemn online remarks about Wise

Easter, Kennedy condemn online remarks about Wise

URBANA — University of Illinois President Robert Easter and Board Chairman Christopher Kennedy today condemned the hateful remarks uttered earlier this week by some students who disagreed with the chancellor's decision to hold classes on Monday.

Chancellor Phyllis Wise's decision to hold classes in Urbana on Monday amid wind chill advisories and forecasts for freezing temperatures prompted angry responses on social media; some of those messages were overtly racist and sexist.

Weigh in with a Letter to the Editor here

Ask columnist Tom Kacich about it here

The "actions and words" of some UI students brought disgrace to the university and their comments put the UI in the national spotlight "for the worst possible reasons," said the two UI officials in a joint statement.

Kennedy and Easter's statement follows one issued Tuesday by the student body president and other campus units.

Here is the statement in its entirety:

"This is a time for reflection. Actions and words of some of the members of the University of Illinois have brought disgrace to the institution. The response to an operational decision that kept the Urbana campus open during this week's cold wave has brought unflattering and unwelcome attention to the University of Illinois. Thoughtless, mean-spirited, racist, and sexist comments by a handful in our community have put our University in the national spotlight for the worst possible reasons.

Some might argue that the broad support that poured in after those hateful remarks were posted shows that online communication is self-policing and therefore no more needs to be said.

But as an institution of higher education, we have the opportunity — and the obligation — to use this unfortunate series of events as a "teachable" moment. No one is entitled to go to the University of Illinois. Every student should think of it as a privilege. The reason students are admitted is because we think they have the potential to contribute to our efforts to mold citizens for our state and our country. We live in a multicultural democracy, and our first objective is not simply to produce great engineers, thoughtful philosophers, or great artists, but rather citizens for our country. We have failed in that effort if we produce students who think that the strongest form of argument is a personal attack.

We embrace an open dialogue; in fact, we created structures to support it — faculty senates, student governments, and public comment periods at every board of trustees meeting. The university is about dialogue and discourse. At the university, the ability to question and disagree with decisions is an accepted right. However, the quality of that discourse is diminished by personal attacks, sexist statements, or racist comments. These have no place in our community.

Civil discourse may be defined in many different ways, but we paraphrase the 17th century philosopher John Locke in saying that it means communicating thoughts and ideas by words which support the common good. Our expectation for our University community is that we all engage in civil discourse in our treatment of others.

It is not only what is right. It is what the world expects of the University of Illinois."

Christopher G. Kennedy

Chairman, University of Illinois Board of Trustees

Robert A. Easter

President, University of Illinois

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sneezingdog wrote on January 29, 2014 at 2:01 pm
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Great letter! Thank you. It certainly is a teachable moment. Question, though: is the teaching all in the letter, or will a discussion taken place in some public forum; and are teaching satff being urged to set aside some time in class to disucuss?

ialdabaoth wrote on January 29, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Based on how professional ethics are taught to engineering students (a single one-hour seminar), this letter is probably the sum of this moment's teaching.

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 29, 2014 at 3:01 pm

The University has a high standard and the expectation is students should conduct themselves with the ethics and integrity of B. Joseph White, Richard Herman, Michael Hogan, Lisa Troyer, Robert Rumbelow, Paul Pless and Bill Ayers.

sweet caroline wrote on January 29, 2014 at 3:01 pm

That's really funny, BullDogMojo!  You and I don't often agree on things, but you are right-on in this instance! 

sneezingdog wrote on January 29, 2014 at 4:01 pm
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I don't get he anlaogy. Take Robert Rumbelow. He was prosecuted, pled guilty to felony theft and had to repay the vaue of the property stolen. So what are the points of comparison to the situation at hand?

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 29, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Ethics, and integrity prevent theft, and dishonesty supposedly.  They sound good, and are idealistic.  They do not exist after graduation in Illinois.  The more the top dogs involved with the U of I preach, the more hypocrisy spews out.  Sure, the few nasty comments were out of place.  However, the holy than thou response to the comments from the elite makes those who know the university first hand want to gag.  

ialdabaoth wrote on January 29, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I really appreciate the sentiment behind letter from the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the President.
However, I was disturbed by their argument that "no one is entitled to go to the University of Illinois. Every student should think of it as a privilege". The university has a duty to the people of the state of Illinois to provide a meaningful education for all. The Morrill Land-Grant Act itself even mentions that the university is obliged "to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life."

That said, it does not really surprise me, given how Kennedy and Easter seem to treat the university as an ivory tower for the sole enrichment of the elite, that they believe the education of our state's youth is optional and up to their discretion.

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 30, 2014 at 8:01 am

I found that "No one is entitled" remark pretty out of line also

LocalTownie wrote on January 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I couldn't agree more, last time I checked the University of Illinois is a state institution and not private.

Orbiter wrote on January 29, 2014 at 10:01 pm

I object to the NG using the term "blast" in the headline. The letter by Easter and Kennedy was thoughtful and well composed. To characterize it as "blasting" the online remarks is sensationalizing the story, and suggests their response was irrational and emotional, which it was not.

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 30, 2014 at 8:01 am

and now the statsticians and data analytics crowd --> weigh in


Danno wrote on January 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Interesting link, Bulldogmojo.