Kennedy: We did the right thing

Kennedy: We did the right thing

CHAMPAIGN — Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Kennedy insisted Thursday that the University of Illinois respects academic freedom and offered no apologies for the decision to deny a faculty job to controversial professor Steven Salaita.

In a candid interview with The News-Gazette editorial board, Kennedy responded to faculty complaints that top UI officials violated Salaita's due process and the university's commitment to academic freedom and established faculty hiring procedures.

A letter with signatures from 330 faculty expressing grave concerns about the Salaita case was delivered to UI trustees and top administrators last week, and similar complaints have been lodged by national academic organizations and the American Association of University Professors.

"That's a huge issue: Did we violate the academic autonomy of a unit? Absolutely not," Kennedy said. "Did we violate someone's tenure? I don't know how we can violate someone's tenure if we never gave it to someone."

Salaita accepted the job last October but wasn't scheduled to start teaching until August, and like many academic appointments his job wasn't up for board approval until last week. It ran into trouble after he posted some profanity-laced tweets during Israel's war with Gaza in July, which Kennedy and others viewed as anti-Semitic.

Salaita has threatened legal action to regain his job, so the courts may end up deciding whether his constitutional right to free speech was violated or whether the UI broke its employment contract with him.

At the UI, like most universities, authority is vested in the board of trustees, and the board delegates authority to administrators and others, Kennedy said. But it has never fully delegated the authority to make hiring decisions regarding professors, he said.

"The notion that academic units are fully autonomous is just not true. It's not true at the University of Illinois, and it's not true at 900 of 1,000 other universities," he said.

Salaita's lawyers and other scholars say otherwise, contending that the board has limited authority over academic appointments.

A separate issue is whether top administrators and the board should have consulted more widely with faculty before rejecting Salaita, to comply with existing review procedures under the university's shared governance model. That concerns even faculty who may have supported the university's decision.

"I would squarely lay the blame for not doing that on Professor Salaita," Kennedy said. Salaita tweeted the statements after he was recruited but before he was hired, and the university had no knowledge of that beforehand, Kennedy said. With Salaita due to begin teaching in a few weeks, "that left us a very short time frame to react."

"We got caught in a squeeze play. Given the parameters we were dealing with, everyone acted about as well as they could," he argued.

"This isn't a year-long gig, this is a lifetime appointment," Kennedy added. "You can stay here forever."

The decision has prompted some academics across the country to boycott the UI, with some canceling scheduled appearances here.

Kennedy doesn't think that will have a lasting impact if people see the language in the tweets and understand that the board did not "overreach" but rather backed the chancellor.

"It's absolutely clear that we could not bring Salaita onto this campus. We cannot endorse that behavior," he said. "I don't believe there's anybody with an open mind who cannot be convinced we did the right thing, ethically and procedurally."

He believes there's a "fundamental lack of understanding" about how the case transpired.

Kennedy said he first heard Salaita's name when he came across a story about the professor's tweets in daily news clips provided to trustees, just before the board's July 23 meeting in Chicago. He asked President Bob Easter about it, and the president told him Salaita would be discussed during the board's executive session.

Chancellor Phyllis Wise attended the meeting and told the board that the university had recruited Salaita, that after he'd accepted the job he used social media to comment on Israel, and that his tweets had "crossed the line" in her opinion, characterizing them as "hate speech," Kennedy said.

At one point one of the student trustees Googled Salaita's name and read his tweets aloud to the other board members, he said.

"We were sort of stunned that anyone would write such blatantly anti-Semitic remarks," Kennedy said. "We indicated to Chancellor Wise that we'd be supportive of her decision."

The board discussed the free-speech ramifications, "and the rights that we had as a board and that she had to make that decision," he said. With two lawyers and a judge among trustees, the board was sensitive to free-speech concerns, he said.

A week or so later, Wise and Vice President Christophe Pierre wrote to Salaita, advising him that they were not recommending his appointment because it was "unlikely" to win board approval. Kennedy said he didn't understand at the time that that phrasing could be "misinterpreted as hijacking the chancellor's authority."

"We weren't saying if you recommend him we were not going to approve. We were never close to that," he said.

That letter "triggered a firestorm," Kennedy said, but the UI remained silent for several weeks because Salaita's legal team had contacted the university, Kennedy said. The UI held off commenting because officials didn't want to put out a statement that would make it more difficult to reach a settlement with Salaita, he said. If Salaita couldn't find another job, that might "make him push harder to come," he said.

When it became clear a settlement wasn't likely, the chancellor put out a letter explaining her decision, which the board publicly backed in its own letter, he said.

Last week Trustee James Montgomery expressed regret for signing that letter and voted to affirm Salaita's appointment, citing concerns about free speech, faculty consultation and the academic boycott.

Salaita has said he will pursue legal action to regain his job. Kennedy said Salaita hasn't filed a lawsuit yet, and the UI has not offered a settlement. The university will calculate "what's going to cost us more — to defend and win the lawsuit or to settle."

"We're happy to negotiate. We've said all along we don't want to hurt the fellow," he said.

Kennedy said he was not pressured by donors to reject Salaita. Records released under the Freedom of Information Act showed that Wise received numerous complaints about Salaita's tweets from alumni, students and some donors, though she stressed Monday that she did not make her decision based on pressure from donors.

"I don't think it was anything like the pressure that was put on the university by the pro-Salaita forces," Kennedy said, noting that trustees and Wise received thousands of emails, some "very personal in nature," in the days leading up to last week's board vote.

Outside academia, he said, the decision was "a no brainer." He characterized the opposition on the Urbana campus as a "handful of very loud, vocal opponents who were well-connected before this episode who banded together and created a lot of communication to the chancellor."

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rsp wrote on September 19, 2014 at 8:09 am

Reading anything out of context can make it sound different than what it was meant to mean, especially on a media form like Twitter where you are limited to 140 characters. Wise was 'informed' by the donors that it was hate speech, she knew them so why question it. When she talked to the trustees she told them it was hate speech, they knew her, why question it. They were all expressing an opinion about another man's thoughts and beliefs without ever investigating or meeting with him. That's what is so embarrasing coming from a major university. And the genuine hate speech that has been directed towards this man? The suggestions he should die?

Toranut97 wrote on September 19, 2014 at 8:09 am

rsp, did you even read the article? There was a lot more that went on behind the scenes than the general public knew. The trustees heard a student trustee read the Tweets aloud at a closed session. They knew what they were dealing with. The interview is enlightening. 

rsp wrote on September 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Did they look at them in historical context? At what was happening when the tweets were sent? The replies to them?  We don't know if they read all of the tweets of just random ones. We don't know if they understood what they meant. I have heard so much garbage about how he hates Jews, wants to kill Jews, etc., with no proof of any of it. He doesn't hate Jews, he doesn't want to kill anyone. He's angry at the war and children being killed. He has seen the devastation there.

blerg wrote on September 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

the only thing enlightening about this is the extent of kennedy's pure idiocy

Local Yocal wrote on September 19, 2014 at 9:09 am
Profile Picture

The generous PR The News-Gazette is providing the U of I administration to explain the "unhiring" of Salaita is not going to undo the damage the U of I suffers from these year-after-year scandals that keep popping up from yet another heavy-handed, sneaky decision made by,....uh, the U of I administration. The McCarthyism, elitism, racism, greed, and drunkeness at the No. 4 Party School in the Nation is not easily erased. While the school will continue to receive generous, misprioritized gifts (like an 80-yard $12 million dollar practice football stadium. Used how many times a year?) from the like-minded meglamaniac rich; and desperate, unemployed PHD's from around the world will flock by the hundreds to fill any job vacancy (I once watched 240 applicants apply for one associate professor position in 2002) and the U of I is pretty much guaranteed 7000 incoming freshmen every year, and other desperate, unemployed people will accept the crappy wage and benefits to be the support staff there....

....what remains is a reputation that the U of I is stingy, deceitful, demands political correctness on or off the clock, its administration is a pack of overpaid prima donnas, and the workloads and class sizes are unreasonable. Therefore, the best and brightest will go elsewhere, making the institution for all its size, wealth, pomp and circumstance second rate, second tier. Much like its football team.

NIIChaVo wrote on September 19, 2014 at 10:09 am

>> "I don't believe there's anybody with an open mind who cannot be convinced we did the right thing, ethically and procedurally."

My mind is pretty open, and I'm not convinced on either point.  Ethically, this decision has had a significant negative impact on Dr. Salaita and the University. So much so that it's stirred a national debate.  Procedurally, if I've understood the details, they've taken an unprecendeted step in the hiring process. If, as Chancellor Wise has suggested, the approval process had happened earlier so as not to be a rubber stamp, they'd be looking at a much bigger issue. There would be no question that Dr. Salaita had been hired by the time of the tweets.

Certainly Salaita's comments were offensive, as we're the Israeli's actions this summer. Are his comments anti-Semetic or hate speech? It's not for me nor Mr. Kennedy to decide.  So far I haven't heard a clear answer.

>> "I don't think it was anything like the pressure that was put on the university by the pro-Salaita forces,"

All the more reason for an FOIA request for the remaining emails.

 

Anyway, I do hope Dr. Salaita pursues the legal option.  This is to big of an issue to be left with UI administration and Mr. Kennedy's reassurances.

 

Reykjavik wrote on September 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

We've heard enough about this issue.  

No one is very happy with what happened, but too many are looking for a soapbox to proclaim their views or their insights.

Time for the outraged on both sides to get back to doing their teaching, research, and service.  Time to prove you are as noble as you say you are and want others to be.

CZI wrote on September 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

Reykjavik

Of course people who are employed to teach and research need to fulfill those obligations.  Fortunately that does not prevent one from also being a good citizen nor should it.  Why is it noble to ignore a travesty of justice?  How absurd.

CZI wrote on September 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

Of course people who are employed to teach and research need to fulfill those obligations.  Fortunately that does not prevent one from also being a good citizen nor should it.  Why is it noble to ignore a travesty of justice?  How absurd.

CZI wrote on September 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

Kennedy's arrogance is so unbelievable as to almost beggar belief.  One wonders how many of the thousands of email and letters he received he actually read or registered given his absolutely certainty that his position is uniquely and incontrivertibly ethical and right.  He knows almost nothing about academic freedom, almost nothing about shared governance, almost nothing about the Middle East, almost nothing about anti-semitism and yet he is confidently ready to assert that "outside academia, the decision was a "no brainer."  Well, Mr. Chairman you are not outside academia: you are the chair of a Board of Trustees *in* academia.  The difference between this case of an interventionist board and some other recent examples is that, according to Kennedy at least, the chancellor and/or president made this decision and he just played along.  President Easter is retiring and Kennedy will probably soon be testing the political waters.  Anyone who really cares about Phyllis Wise's leadership, as many people say they do, should stop hiding their heads in the sand.  Either she needs to find a way to steer UI back to the norms of shared governance and academic freedom or she needs to resign.  The alternative is damaging this institution for decades to come.

Rocky7 wrote on September 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

The folloing link explains why the Board had to do what it did:

http://chronicle.com/blogs/letters/language-like-salaitas-creates-risk-f...

Apparently a large segment of the academic world is unaware of how things really work in a university and have failed to understand that academic freedom and free speech ALSO have critical, related RESPONSIBILITIES..

CZI wrote on September 19, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Another silly reply from Rocky 7

from the letter you linked to, "If a person used wording similar to that tweeted by Mr. Salaita in a class, a campus seminar, or when representing the university at a professional meeting or a public lecture, the risk of retribution from outraged students [would be bad for the university]" 

Precisely, and if a person walked naked through the quad like they do in their bedroom that would also be bad for the university.  But that is a hypothetical scenario that does not speak to the facts.  The evidence is that Salaita is an amazing teacher.  There is zero evidence that his classes are offensive in any way and that his conduct on campus is troubling.  Zero.  And if this was truly the concern what about getting in touch with Salaita himself to see what he has to say about his tweets and his teaching?  Was this or any other shred of due diligence even contemplated?  

You've probably heard this before and chosen to ignore it but let's try again: hiring, promotion and tenure are academic decisions.  The provost is the real court of appeals in this sphere and he doesn't seem to have even known was going on .  The offer came from the dean of LAS.  He didn't find about it until Salaita was fired.  This was an academic decision made far away from the source of academic authority and from the facts of the case.  Fiduciary responsbility is not an excuse for interference in academic decision-making and academic freedom.  Moreover, in fiduciary terms this decision is a major loser for the university.  The costs of fighting Salaita in court and/or of settling with him, on top of the damage to the UI's reputation and the hours of university time soaked up dealing with the fiasco do not make sense in pure economic terms.  There is no precedent for this violation of academic freedom and shared governance and the world is watching.  

 

Kennedy positions himself as the arrogant outsider who always knows better.  It would be like an Onion parody of boorish privilege were it not so tragic for the UI community.  

 

 

 

Rocky7 wrote on September 19, 2014 at 5:09 pm

It would appear that CZI, despite a large number of words, has little to say except lead off with a personal attack to deflect focusing on facts and reality.

CZI stated that Mr. Salaita was hired "to teach."  At UIUC, tenured faculty are hired to teach, undertake and publish Research (scholarship), and undertake "service." The research and service was omitted from CZI's remarks for reasons unknown.

Controversy has existed about Mr. Salaita's scholarship but I chose not to judge it. Nor would I judge  Mr. Salaita's teaching when I never saw him teach a class.  Has CZI observed Salaita teach a class? If not,how does s/he know? Borderline hearsay?

The fact is that Mr. Salaita used profanity-laced hate speech in his tweets.  He did it to himself, or as they say, he shot himself in the foot.  Words have consequences as he now knows.

Only faculty can decide faculty appointments? Check the  UIUC rules and by-laws first. Ditto for all Tier 1 research universities.

It seems to me that CZI's reply is the result of the deteriorating standards in the Humanities, social sciencs, and agenda-driven programs on campus.  Consequently, UIUC and other Tier 1 universities reflect the French model of higher ed in one campus, which is why engineering science, business, and agriculture students get jobs on graduation,  but other don't.

CZI wrote on September 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Sorry, Rocky 7 that your feelings were hurt, but you are out of your depth and lack a grasp of the facts.  Of course teaching, research, and service were vetted at length: by the search committee, the external reviewers, the deans in LAS, the LAS Executive Committee, the Provost Office and, finally, the Chancellor's office.  The entire case *against* Salaita rests on the presumption that a few extramural tweets on a matter of political concern--evaluated out of their original context and amidst charges of anti-semitism by outside groups--neutralize and invalidate the extensive and thoroughly vetted case for excellent teaching (and research and service) that had been done over a period of 18 months prior to the tweets.  

That is an egregious violation of academic freedom as well as a wholesale departure from university protocols and norms of shared governance.  

If you don't like my opinion on the matter of academic freedom, check out what Justice Brennan had to say on the matter of academic freedom in a landmark case from 1967.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/385/589

Bear in mind too that there were other options open to the chancellor, president, and board for dealing with concerns from alumni and others about Salaita's teaching.  His classroom could and would have been monitored to make certain there was no bias or lack of respect.  That said, the strong likelihood is that there would have been no such problem even without monitoring since the man's political opinions on Israel and Palestine did not delevop in the summer of 2014--they are longstanding and in fact the subject of some of his research--and his excellent teaching has been established over a period of almost a decade of teaching.

This is a tragic case of the chancellor getting dreadful advice from people who had no direct knowledge of the case or the issues it bears on and of a pushy chairman whose idea of "open-mindedness" consists in a "my way or the highway" apprpoach to basic facts.   

 

Rocky7 wrote on September 20, 2014 at 4:09 pm

No, CZI, my feelings weren't hurt  It's just that your opening comment was straight out of the Saul Alinsky school to trivialize and ridicule those who have a cogent position that is factually based on common sense, reality, and main-stream American principles.

I would have to conclude that it is your position that Academic  Freedom and free speech has no responsibilities associated with it and that Salaita-like profanity-laced hate speech is acceptable on a university campus.  Regrettably, that position is flawed and contrary to accepted norms of Ameircan society. IF you are a faculty member at UIUC or a graduate student hoping to be one in the future, it is no wonder that students in certain fields and agenda-based programs have a difficult time being socially relevant and finding acceptable job opportunities on graduation saddled with large student loan debt, ofcourse, which society may have to absorb.

Having served for almost 25 years at UIUC as a science professor and placing students in good jobs (one directs a world-class oceanogrphy institution, one directs a university energy center, etc), and having served in the UIUC campus faculty senate,  I think I know more about how a university functions and its boundary conditions than you may know. But in your Saul Alinsky world, facts, track record, and university rules and by-laws do not matter because they keep the system running, a system, you may, perhaps, wish to see destroyed in the name of "academic freedom" and "free speech" used to  advocate irresponsibility.

Good Day to you, sir or madame, because further comment is a waste of my time and NG digits. 

CZI wrote on September 20, 2014 at 4:09 pm

I''m sorry that we must disagree, Rocky 7,  but I think it's me who is upholding the rules and procedures, not you.  If the charge against Salaita is hate speech  (a claim with which I disagree but which might well have required investigation in this case), the correct place to evaluate that claim is through the appropriate committee in the senate: which you as a senator ought to know.  It's not the job of the president, or the chancellor, or the Board of Trustees, to arrogate authority on a matter of academic freedom.  The so-called norm of rescinding a tenured position without due process because of assumptions about extramural speech is very far from "accepted" by "American society." That is why so many professional organizations all over the country are protesting.

Salaita could have been contacted and told that there was public concern about the specific tone of certain utterances, extramural and political though they were, and given a chance to respond.  His teaching could have been monitored and he could have been suspended if there were any evidence that his teaching had (suddenly) become biased or threatening to students in any other way.  That's what it means on this campus and most others to observe the correct protocols of shared governance and academic freedom.  That's what good leadership sometimes requires.  Unfortunately our chancellor was poorly advised or perhaps pressured to step out on a limb.

As an aside, Alinsky is no particular hero or role model of mine; I'll stick to Justice Brennan for this purpose.  Though it do find it ironic that you choose to cast aspersons on a man who was himself the victim of actual (not imagined or alleged) anti-Semitism.  

Rocky7 wrote on September 20, 2014 at 6:09 pm

As I recall, Salaita's tweets were profanity-laced hate speech about which there is general agreement that those were words he used.  It is regrettable, but not surprising, that CZI overlooked the profanity-laced part.

Why is it not surprising? Because it appears that CZI is a person of no academic standards, well in keeping with the current orientation of departments of humanities and social sciences and agenda-driven programs and centers. Their goal is to undermine academic standards and use "academic freedom" and "free speech" as a cover for their purpose.  It comes from the playbook of Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Brezhnev, and Alinsky, as stated earlier.

And what does Alinsky's experience with anti-semitism have to do with anything in this discussion? Again, that comment, in Alinsky style, is used to deflect from the topic at hand.

I  trust CZI doesn't do his/her research or scholarship that way.

Bulldogmojo wrote on September 19, 2014 at 12:09 pm

 

The board hasn't been honest about this matter yet have they? If they are going to lie about their real motivations and BoT supporters want to be sheep and follow them without informing themselves...

 This--> http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/email-contradicts-univ-illinois-presidents-statement-salaita-firing

 

Rocky7 wrote on September 19, 2014 at 5:09 pm

With all the complaints, the voices of "gloom and doom," and boycot threats regarding UIUC, it is refreshing to observe that UIUC is ranked the 15th best university for which to work in the USA (even better than Michigan):

http://www.chron.com/jobs/article/The-top-25-universities-to-work-for-57...

So, things can't be all that bad, except perhaps for a small, but over-vocal group of people.

Reykjavik wrote on September 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

The key issue is whether those enraged about this case think that the chancellor of the university should be removed. Although conspiracy theories abound, it was just a screw-up.   Screw-ups happen all the time, its just this one resonates with faculty looking for something to be outraged about.   Those voting no-confidence (i.e. the chancellor should resign) are voting to jeopardize a huge operation on which tens of thousands of people depend.   

So the outraged ones throw out Phylis and then what????  The succession is ....  Under a U of I with a presidential search underway?  Think it through and project what will happen. 

Phylis has otherwise been very good for this campus.  When was the last time we had such an outstanding chancellor? These practical questions seem not to be considered by many outraged faculty.

rsp wrote on September 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I don't think they necessarily want her replaced. I think it's more about putting things back in balance and not being listened to. It's not just this issue but if you look closely there have been other problems not getting resolved that have piled up. And when the UI bylaws state how someone is to be hired and all of the delegating that goes with it, and it gets tossed aside on a whim it can set off a firestorm.

I would think of it as having one position, and they just demoted everyone because they got some emails and phone calls. No matter what the rules say, they just changed everything about your ability to do your job. Sound fun? Of course you may think nothing's different.

Reykjavik wrote on September 19, 2014 at 8:09 pm

"I don't think they necessarily want her replaced."

Then you need to relearn signaling in academia.  Jeepers. 

Throw her out (oh, we didnt mean it that way!) and then what?

I just dont think that the outraged folks realize how many decisions are made by Phylis per hour and their magnitude.  

Its Benghazi-fever for academics.

CZI wrote on September 20, 2014 at 1:09 pm

What kind other kinds of signals , Reykjavik,do you recommend?  The faculty has tried meetings, letters, petitions, protests and the biggest impact thus far is that the chancellor now admits that she should have consulted more widely (bearing in mind that "consultation" itself can be a mere gesture and this is an *academic* decision).  There is plenty of opportunity for the chancellor to take on a new strategy.  But a board chair who insists on tripling down without even making the kind of concenssion the chancellor has made only worsens things.  (Note too that it's Kennedy, not the chancellor herself, who keeps insists on portraying the chancellor as the person who originated the decision.) It is as not as though faculty and students, especially those in the affected fields, can simply sit back and enjoy the censuring of their institution.  Your seem to assume that the situation would just go away if local faculty pretended it didn't matter.  But this is not a purely local story.  How can you be so certain?

Reykjavik wrote on September 20, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Well unfortunately several departments have already signaled, I think tone-deafly - that they want her gone.  So the signals have been sent.  I am just terrified that she resigns and then we start a really protracted high risk succession business with the new President determining our chancellor and the interim chancellor being someone who is underqualified.  

Like I said, its Benghazi fever -  faculty blinded by the self-satisfaction of their being outraged ("gotcha") but who fail to comprehend the scope and rate of the exec's decision making. Analgous to the Tea Partiers being convinced that Obama is monitoriing the daily operations of 200+ embassies in addition to runnign the country.

It was a screwup, Wise knows that, Kennedy knows that.  Scewups will happen in a billion dollar, 50,000 person operation. 

highspeed wrote on September 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

A professor doesn't get hired, everyone makes a big deal out of it. What law did the University break? What part of their hiring policy did they violate? My guess is none.

You're not hired till the board says so!!!!! 

Reykjavik wrote on September 19, 2014 at 7:09 pm

That is NOT how the system works, which is part of the problem.  Lots of staff start their position before final OK from the BoT (which meets only occassionally).  Also the BoT rubber stamps faculty and staff recommendations by the universities. They examine bigger issues and potentates. Finally, Salaita resigned his previous position under the reasonable supposition that he had the position.  So even though their outrage is too loud and misguided, faculty have a point - it was a big screwup.

 

The problem for me is that the outraged faculty could cause damage greater than the error made by the Chancellor.

wayward wrote on September 22, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Yes. And in fairness to Wise, there were issues with the hiring system long before she came to UI.

I'm a little torn. Salaita is responsible for his own words, but not for the hiring system screwup. He's not a great hire, but it does seem a little shady for UI to claim that he wasn't hired in the first place.

Last week, I took a look at his dissertation. It didn't seem that impressive. The people he cited included Ward Churchill and a Brazilian cartoonist named Carlos Latuff, who won the 2007 Iranian International Holocaust Cartoon Competition and has been accused of anti-Semitism by the ADL and others. I also had some concerns about factual accuracy. For example, he claimed, "Sterilization of Native women peaked in 1975,
when 25,000 were permanently sterilized, many by force," but there was no citation to back this up. So I did a search, and found an article on the NIH website that said 3406 American Indian women had been sterilized without their permission between 1973 and 1976.
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/nativevoices/timeline/543.html . This left me wondering if Dr. Warrior, who was Salaita's Ph.D. advisor as well as the current head of AIS, might have different ideas about academic standards than Chancellor Wise.

FungibleChairs wrote on September 20, 2014 at 12:09 am

Regarding this article, to quote the Chairman of the BOT himself, it was "not brief enough."

CZI wrote on September 20, 2014 at 4:09 pm

I see no evidence that Kennedy thinks "it" was was a screw-up if by "it" you mean the wrong-headed decision to rescind the offer of a tenured professorship long after the ink had dried on the offer letter.  Objectionable though the tweets were, they were political speech on a controversial subject and did not demonstrate unfitness to teach and do research by any objective standard.  UI made no effort to contact him or anyone else who might have offered more measured advice but simply pulled the plug based on a groupthink mentality.  That such screw-ups occur in the upper echelons of an administration anyone can see--though it's worth adding to the simple adherence to protocols is a good way of avoiding them.  That the making of a serious mistake has been admitted, even by Wise and still less by Kennedy, is quite doubtful: consult the title of this article for evidence.  

As to the relatively small number of no confidence votes: these can be addressed in multiple ways.  Resignation is only one kind of reponse.  Have you seen the faculty letter that this article cites and links to and which simply asks for reversal of the decision?  It's up to Wise to find a way to some kind of reconciliation: "listening" will not be enough.  She needs to act in decisive ways.  

Kennedy, however, is an obstacle whose belligerence and conceit inflame people's emotions while stifling actual discussion.   How this man can think he has a career in politics is beyond me though I guess you never know what some people will vote for.  It is hard to imagine a less impressive leader with so little worth hearing to say for himself.  Wise needs to get out from under his thumb if that's where in fact she finds herself.

CZI wrote on September 20, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Wow, Rocky 7, that is the first time I've been accused of communist sympathies for upholding the first amendment and a professor's right not to be summarily fired for extramural speech on a matter of political concern that, yes, gasp, included profanity.  The fact that what led Salaita to be so emotional was the death of innocent civilians seems not to figure at all for you in this picture.  And since you don't seem like the kind of person who enjoys the death of children, I'm willing to bet that you have not read any of these tweets in their context; and I'm also willing to bet that this so-called hate speech would sound very different to you if you read them as part of the dialogue in which they were written.  

You are very much mistaken if you think my standards for the profession are not of the very highest.  One thing we agree on is that there isn't much point in arguing any further.  Enjoy the rest of the weekend.  

Rocky7 wrote on September 23, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Wasn't the latest Israeli-Hamas Gaza war started when Hamas kidnapped three Israeli teenagers (including an American) and killed them?

Where is the outrage over that from the departments of the humanities, social sciences and agenda-driven centers and programs?

CZI wrote on September 28, 2014 at 12:09 pm

This is just an example of the very narrow prism through which you regard the Salaita affair: you are thinking more about prior attachment to Israel than about UI's breach of its own protocols of academic freedom and shared governance.  Plenty of people in the humanities have an interesting in Middle East politics; while many are Jews who feel personal allegiance to Israel, few of the latter regard the origin of the conflict as the kindapping of the teenagers (tragic though that was).  This conflict is ongoing and has gotten worse in the last ten years.  One might as easily ask you where your outrage is over the burning alive of the Palestinian teenager?  Hopefully all of us commenting on this article wants to see a peaceful outcome for Israelis and Palestinians alike but whatever one's position on Israel/Palestine, the Salaita decision is a major loser for the University of Illinois.  It will not take very long for history to remember this incident in as a loss for UI's academic integrity.

Rocky7 wrote on September 25, 2014 at 5:09 am

It's a busy fall nationwide.  Seems Florida State Board of Trustees has a similar problem (and it isn't football):

http://chronicle.com/article/Florida-State-U-Board-Picks/148975/