Updated: Decision on Kilgore isn't final

Updated: Decision on Kilgore isn't final

In letter to academic freedom association, Urbana chancellor explains plans for Kilgore review

URBANA — In a letter sent to the American Association of University Professors,  which has raised concerns about the University of Illinois not renewing James Kilgore's employment contract, Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise said she was still reviewing his potential for future employment.

"Given the recent controversy over Dr. Kilgore’s appointment, the provost is charging a committee to review the processes involved in hiring employees, including academic hourly staff and visiting lecturers. The committee will involve campus faculty leaders as well as administrative staff. Additionally, the committee will be asked to provide a recommendation specifically regarding Mr. Kilgore’s future employability at the University of Illinois," Wise wrote to Anita Levy, associate secretary of the American Association of University Professors.

"Once we receive the recommendations from the committee, the provost and I will consult with campus and university administrators. If the outcome of the process is not in Mr. Kilgore’s favor, internal grievance processes will be made available to him," Wise wrote. She added that the university shares the organization's commitment to values of academic freedom and shared governance.

Provost Ilesanmi Adesida, whose office oversees hiring of academics on campus, said Monday he plans to assemble a committee "with strong faculty participation" to review not only Kilgore's case, but also general policies and procedures about how the campus hires visiting, nontenured academics like Kilgore.

Kilgore, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, has worked for the UI in recent years in a variety of jobs, such as a grant writer and most recently helping to teach an arts and creativity class. His wife, Teresa Barnes, is a tenured history professor at the UI.

Kilgore had been preparing to teach courses in Global Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for the next school year when he reportedly was told his contract would not be renewed. In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Kilgore said no reasons were given and he blamed outside political interference sparked by News-Gazette columnist Jim Dey's articles published earlier this year about his past.

The columns detailed Kilgore's association with the radical group SLA in the 1970s, including a 1975 bank robbery during which a bank customer was killed. (Kilgore was one of the armed robbers, but did not shoot the victim). After the robbery, Kilgore fled to Africa, where he remained until his extradition to the U.S. in 2002.

He served six years in a California prison before joining his wife in Champaign, where he has been active in social justice groups.

"Personnel matters are usually not for public discussion but in this case one thing I'd like to note is that no final decision has been made in that particular case," Adesida said Monday.

The new committee, which he will appoint, is expected to review Kilgore's case "on its own merit" and conduct a review of how departments and other academic units hire lecturers, instructors and academic staff. Such policies exist, he said, but they can vary by department.

"It's just wise for the campus to have processes, procedures, policies that we use to hire a broad range of staff, faculty," and in every case there should be access to grievance procedures, he said.

UI computer science Professor Roy Campbell, who chairs the Academic Senate — a quasi-legislative body of Urbana faculty, students and staff that advises administration — called it a needed review.

"I'm very interested in making sure all of the different issues are discussed and resolved, and all the discussions follow the appropriate procedures and polices that we've got," he said. "It's important that the report or review is done in a manner that reflects the university's values."

Last week, Kilgore's supporters circulated a petition on campus — more than 250 people have signed it so far — that called the nonrenewal of his contract "a blow to academic freedom and employment equity" and urged for the decision to be reversed.

The American Association of University Professors, the national group that defends academic freedom cases, sent a letter to Chancellor Phyllis Wise outlining concerns about Kilgore's non-reappointment. AAUP associate secretary Anita Levy said the organization questioned "whether media reports highlighting Dr. Kilgore's felony conviction and political activities may have provoked an improperly political response to an academic decision."

On Monday afternoon, members of the Senate Executive Committee met behind closed doors to discuss a proposed resolution that mentions Kilgore's case, but does not name him. Ultimately, the group decided it would not present the document to the full senate next month because it revolved around a personnel matter, Campbell said.

The document essentially reaffirmed the senate's commitment to principles of academic freedom, fair employment and an academic unit's autonomy over curriculum and evaluation of staff to teach those courses.

"In the view of many faculty and academic staff on campus, this case raises potentially grave concerns about principles of academic freedom and fairness in the appointment and reappointment of instructional faculty at the university," the resolution stated.

Here is the text of Phyllis Wise's letter to the American Association of University Professors.

Dear Secretary Levy:

I am responding to your message regarding James Kilgore.

This is a personnel matter, and in accordance with university practice, it would be inappropriate for me to speak to you about it with any specificity. However, I can tell you that Dr. Kilgore is on a short-term contract and such contracts are reviewed on a regular basis. We are still reviewing his potential for future employment.

Given the recent controversy over Dr. Kilgore’s appointment, the provost is charging a committee to review the processes involved in hiring employees, including academic hourly staff and visiting lecturers. The committee will involve campus faculty leaders as well as administrative staff. Additionally, the committee will be asked to provide a recommendation specifically regarding Mr. Kilgore’s future employability at the University of Illinois. Once we receive the recommendations from the committee, the provost and I will consult with campus and university administrators. If the outcome of the process is not in Mr. Kilgore’s favor, internal grievance processes will be made available to him.

I can assure you that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shares your commitment to values of academic freedom and shared governance.


Phyllis Wise


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rsp wrote on April 29, 2014 at 10:04 am

I'm curious in whose name are his teaching credentials. Are they valid? That should be the place to start...if not then he should not be elligible to teach. Otherwise there isn't any integrity to what is taught. It doesn't matter how sorry someone is about the past or how much people say they have changed. If the foundation is based upon a lie what is built upon it cannot stand.

fogiman wrote on April 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm

He had paid his dues to society. He has the right to be forgiven and start from scratch. How about a little bit of Christian forgiveness? Or just basic decency instead of this witch hunt.

bluegrass wrote on April 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm

The term "witch hunt" isn't applicable to this situation.  

rsp wrote on April 29, 2014 at 5:04 pm

What did I say that was indecent? I'm not the one that was using the name of a dead child. That is indecent. I just want to know if his teaching credentials are valid or is everyone just looking the other way. It's a simple question. Part of Christian forgiveness is making things right. You know, restitution. Restorative justice. Or is it just us?

Skepticity wrote on April 29, 2014 at 6:04 pm

He was a member of SLA and believed in the violent overthrow of the government.  To fund the activies of his revolutionary group he was part of an armed robbery in 1975 during which a murder took place.  He fled the country after the crime, and attended school where he used false identity to avoid the legal consequences of his actions.  He was finally located and extradited in 2002, 27 years after his crime, and was sentenced to 6 years.  He was granted parole, and moved to work at U of I. 

Has he demonstrated that he has changed his views on the overthrow of the government? 

Have his current activities shown a change of ideology, or has he located and associated with others who believe that the government should be overthrown?  Does he still operate out of the same belief system that prompted him to commit his crimes?

Has he served his debt to society to the extent that he should be entrusted with educating others?

I don't think that you can just erase his past and give him a clean slate to educate/indoctrinate youth. 

I have the same opinion about Ayers, too. 

fogiman wrote on April 29, 2014 at 9:04 pm

I have no clue what Mr. Kilgore beliefs are, and neither do I care - this is the US, not 1984 with a thought police. The questoin is whether he had in any way acted or said anything  (after he was released from prison) in a way that confirm any of the wild innuendos implied by the various comments trying to justify for the university to get rid of him. I think the answer is NO, at least as far as any evidence I had seen so far.

As for his academic credentials - I have no clue - I assume the committee would look into that.

As for as the question if he had rebailitated himself enough to educate our children, let me point out that he was scheduled to teach courses on Global Studies. If people think that the "children" can be corrupted by taking one course in Global Studies then I think they are underestimating how bright UIUC students are.

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 29, 2014 at 1:04 pm

My objection is not toward Kilgore's past; but the flaunted nepotism by the university, and the academic unit.  A person of controversy was given a job as part of a deal to recruit his spouse.  Now, the same academics defend their choice based on nepotism as "academic freedom".  Kilgore is only an isolated incident.  The old time nepotism of the trades on campus ended; but the academic nepotism of hiring part time, or permanent employment family members continued.  The defense of Kilgore by the academic unit, and the "shared governance" of the university seems hypocritical when it involves flaunted nepotism.  It only adds to the public's view of state paid academics.

fogiman wrote on April 29, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Your argument is good, except that he is being paid relatively little for a lot of work. It is hard to argue for nepotism, where the university need somebody to do the work, the job does not pay that well, and there is no glut of people that can do the job.

Also, the university usually does such things only for married couples, and the right way to think about it, is that the university is considering both people as a single combined unit. Usually, if the university refuses to hire both people, than both of them would leave, or not come. So it is usually a double hiring decision made in the same time.

bluegrass wrote on April 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm

So what you're saying is, as long as a convicted felon is married to someone that the university wants to hire, it's okay to hire said felon with the person you want as long as the university really really wants the spouse, and they don't pay the convicted felon very much money, and as long as someone looks at the credentials of the felon, and the convicted felon is teaching something innocuous like global studies.    

Before, I felt as though the situation was a little foggy..... but now I see as clear as day.  

UrbanaJake wrote on April 29, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Changed his mind about overthrowing the government?  No, he says today he is the victim of prisons because of his "political crimes." He hates America and its people, but loves the tax dollars.

The guy has third-rate academic credentials...a main-in doctorate in 18 months says the San Francisco Chronicle. What a liar extreme.

Is that why he forged a passsport application in 1994?  Google: James Killgore and indictment. Conviceted in 2003.

He writes that people with tatoos were in prison, and he hated them as an inmate. What?

Glad to see Illinois is importing unpentant terrorists and making them a teacher.  Wonder how SLA-rape and kidpam victim Patty Hearst feels?

Kilgore, don't kill any more!

And no to rape supporters!


Cutty wrote on April 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm

This situation has now come to national attention through the Chronicle of Higher Education.  I took the notice to review Jim Dey's writings and other background on this case. As someone born and raised in Champaign, someone who loves the UofI, an academic myself, and a liberal, I find the division of opinion on this along contemporary left-right political lines to be very sad. We can do better. 

This being said, I really don't get why this fellow is retained.  There is no real repentence for his heinous crimes. Even during those radical heydays, the SLA was universally regarded as an insane, evil entity, and he supported it heart and soul. He was arrested and imprisoned not because he saw the light, but because he was discovered in hiding.  That he is paid little is no excuse at all for his being paid anything.  Seriously, you think there are no non-convicts or no legit credential holders to take his place? 

I support the removal of this blight on the University of Illinois's reputation and standards.  


bluegrass wrote on April 30, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I'm not sure how the opinion division is split along left-right political lines.  It seems like most think he should be out.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 30, 2014 at 1:04 pm

bluegrass; we are miles apart politically; but I want him out because of the hypocritical nepotism in a state university.  It blocks qualified applicants from employment.  Most of the time, there is not even the charade of interviews.  Suddenly, they are there whether needed, or not.  I am bothered though about the arrogance being exhibited by the Kilgore supporters.  This is not an "academic freedom" violation unless nepotism is an academic freedom.  The U of I remains a State of Illinois university.  If it were to become a private university, nepotism could flourish; and state money could be ultilized on the state's basic needs.

Dorien de Lusignan wrote on April 30, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I should think you, Univ of Ill., ought to release Kilgore from his position at U of I. It is an embarrassment to have such a person teaching at a fine university. If the university's goal is to become one of those so called "Hip", "Cool" and radical style universities then by all means keep this has been character on the staff. By the way, you will also be condoning not only a felon but a murderer to boot. Look back at the SLA activities and see if any of them can be viewed as in any way redeeming for America. The SLA was a bunch of self centered thugs who wanted money and comfort for themselves without working for it. This man belongs elsewhere, not at University of Illinois. Sincerely and In Christ, Dorien de Lusignan

UrbanaJake wrote on April 30, 2014 at 6:04 pm



The above is a link to Kilgore's 1994 federal indictment for federal U.S. passport fraud. He pled guilty in 2003.

Was James Kilgore at war with the United States when he committed this 1994 felony? Is this another of his "political crimes,"  should we look the other way as Patricia Hearst goes on CNN and says the SLA gang-raped her and drugged her?

Why did Kilgore live in majority white Clarmont, South Africa when 90 percent of South Africa is Black?

Who is the real Jim Kilgore? Press reports on the Internet say his family still in 2014 calls him by the dead baby's name he stole...the FBI says he entered the U.S twice in the 1990s as a wanted fugitive...why? what was he doing?

Read up on the SLA and James Kilgore's indictments and convictions. Chilling what this man did. Historians say the SLA got started at the Berekeley, Calif. library where one of its members worked in 1972.

Why did Jim Kilgore apply for a fake passport as a wealthy South African professor? He was convicted of this too. Not an honest man.