Transcript of James Kilgore's statement to UI trustees

Transcript of James Kilgore's statement to UI trustees

Here is the complete statement by James Kilgore to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees at its meeting May 14, 2014, in Springfield.

Chairman Kennedy, Members of the Board of Trustees, President Easter, Chancellor Wise, colleagues and friends:

Today I want to speak about adjuncts — or specialized faculty as we are now called. I begin with remarks about Communication 25, recently sent to all faculty by Provost Adesida. A remarkable step forward, this document recognizes the critical role of specialized faculty and offers a structure for standardizing job titles. Further, it presents proposals for salary regularization and opportunities for specialized faculty to gain multiyear contracts, access to promotion and rewards for research. All of these are most welcome.

Unfortunately, Communication 25 fails to address one of the fundamental insecurities faced by the hundreds of specialized faculty at the U of I: the lack of a transparent review process for renewal of contracts. Without this, inappropriate factors such as personal differences with a department chair may result in non-renewal. More importantly, lack of transparency opens the door to abuses of academic freedom where political views, religious or sexual preferences, immigration status, or a host of other criteria can enter into the evaluation of an academic employee's performance, where they have no rightful place.

A second important issue not addressed in Communication 25 is the question of felony convictions. Today 15 million people in the United States have felony convictions, prompting debates about human rights and employment equity for those with a criminal background. Attorney General Eric Holder has highlighted the right of those with felony convictions to vote. The Federal Equal Opportunity Commission has discouraged broad exclusions from employment on the basis of criminal background and instead proposed an "individualized assessment," which offers a person the opportunity to explain why they deserve a second chance. Such a measure would be a welcome addition to the University of Illinois' employment policy.

But what is also needed is a change of mindset, an acceptance that among us there are people who have been found guilty of crimes but who have moved beyond those low points of their life through a process that some call redemption.

Why is this important for specialized faculty? Because many people with felony convictions want to give back to their communities and one of the best ways to do this is to teach young people how to avoid a destructive path. Education is a means for those with a criminal record to demonstrate the potential to move beyond a person's most destructive criminal act, to show that we must not freeze people in history but allow them space to move forward, to transform.

Two examples illustrate this. The first is an organization — Convict Criminologists — comprised of formerly incarcerated individuals with Ph.D.s who have constituted themselves as a school of thought in criminology. They argue that "convict scholars," as they call themselves, "are able to ... merge their past with their present and provide a provocative approach to the academic study of their field." The group has published journal articles and books and produced outstanding scholars like the late John Irwin and Professor Stephen Richards.

The second example comes from my own life. As a young man I committed acts of which I stand ashamed, acts which were not only illegal, but utterly destructive to innocent members of the community and damaging to my family, loved ones and all those who campaigned for social justice and peace. For more than three decades I have attempted to move beyond those acts, to chart a different road, working through nonviolent means as an educator in the cause of social justice. I, like the "convict criminologists" and many people who have traveled errant pathways, have learned lessons which are important for young people to know. Who better to tell someone how to avoid a destructive path than someone who has walked that path? And what better place for young people to learn these lessons than in the most esteemed universities in the land, like the University of Illinois?

So, in conclusion, I suggest a hiring policy for specialized faculty, indeed all faculty, that fully recognizes the richness of the experience of those who have fallen, picked themselves up and found their way back toward success and intellectual inquiry. They have a wealth of knowledge to offer the academy, a wealth that a great university should not choose to do without.

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fredtheduck wrote on May 15, 2014 at 9:05 am

Wow, you could almost believe that the poor guy was caught shoplifting, instead of pleading guilty to second degree murder.  He purposely attempts to cloak his crimes in the guise of being put upon for his politics when he says:

"...lack of transparency opens the door to abuses of academic freedom where political views, religious or sexual preferences, immigration status, or a host of other criteria can enter into the evaluation of an academic employee's performance, where they have no rightful place..."

Or maybe he means that the "host of other criteria" is what applies to him - would that include murder?  Sort of hard to say, right?  It's only at the end when he (thankfully) lets it drop that he may have actually done something wrong...not that he actually goes into any detail - probably just a shoplifting conviction, right?  He's just like Winona Rider, only not as cute.

Of course, the real problem is this:

"...working through nonviolent means as an educator in the cause of social justice..."

Wait.  I hope that you are not teaching literature, Mr. Kilgore, or else you would instantly catch the pregnant irony of being a convicted murderer on the run for so many years and using the word "justice" - in ANY context.

Which brings us to that social justice thing.  Mr. Kilgore sounds like a rather weak scholar (has he published anything?  what are his bona fides?), teaching "social justice," which is again, a rather audacious undertaking for a convicted murderer.  And do we really need more teaching of social justice - what, because there aren't enough doing that already at the university?  Aren't there other second-rate scholars we can hire that will teach the same material?  It seems that there are more humanities and social science PhD's interested in social justice topics than there are jobs - why not be rid of Mr. Kilgore and hire one of them?  Or even better yet, how about hiring someone that actually challenges the ossified, and sometimes intellectually lazy notions about social know, scholarship. Oh, I know.  It's a hilarious idea that I throw out there just for laughs - no one like that is going to get by a faculty hiring committee.  Right now we have liberals, progressives, Marxists...heck, we even have a few anarcho-syndicalists!  How's THAT for intellectual diversity?  And when did every last non-tenured professor get tenure-in-effect by saying the words "academic freedom" over and over?  Why should actual scholars work for years, research, publish, and eventually get tenure, while this charlatan just waltzes and gets de facto tenure on the cheap?

The UI system is facing its second incident of keeping former terrorists on the payroll in the past few years - first Bill Ayers, now this.  But wait, you say.  That was the 1970s...that was what people did...they wore cool bell-bottoms and had awesome oversized sunglasses.  Well, baloney.  Actual people died because of these people, and all of their talk about social justice or the vigorous defence mounted by their hipster Marxist amen corner won't wash the stink of murder off of them.  Enough of the Weather Underground / SLA / Black Panthers (I'm assuming we have one of those on staff) / every nutjob bomb thrower from 1972 circus.  Stop embarrassing everyone with your poor hiring.  Put the clowns into their clown car and send them off to somewhere else (Oberlin?) where they can happily grow old, talking about "offing that pig in the bank," and be surrounded by simpletons who actually think that they are good scholars and have important things to say.