Wise making case against censure by AAUP

Wise making case against censure by AAUP

URBANA — Chancellor Phyllis Wise says the University of Illinois made "significant" settlement offers to Steven Salaita and reiterates her commitment to academic freedom in documents prepared for a national organization considering a censure of the campus.

The documents, obtained by The News-Gazette, were sent this week to the American Association of University Professors' Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. It's scheduled to decide Saturday whether to recommend that the UI be censured for the Salaita case.

"I've been told by people who know better than me that we should expect to be censured," Wise told the campus Senate Executive Committee on Thursday. "We hope to be able to respond in a way that can get us uncensured as quickly as we possibly can."

Salaita, a former English professor at Virginia Tech, was hired for a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program in October 2013, subject to UI trustees' approval, and didn't plan to start teaching until this past August. Wise revoked the offer Aug. 1 after Salaita posted a series of angry tweets about Israel during its bombing of Gaza and before trustees approved the hire. Trustees upheld Wise's decision in September and reiterated their stance in January. Salaita then sued the university to get the job back.

The case sparked faculty outrage and a national debate over academic freedom. The AAUP's Committee A concluded that the UI violated Salaita's due-process rights and academic freedom; it considers him a university employee, not just a job applicant. The panel asked the campus for further information in advance of its meeting this weekend.

In her response, Wise said the university began efforts to reach a financial settlement with Salaita "within days" of informing him that he would not be hired.

"Those efforts were genuine and significant, and they extended over a period of many months until litigation was filed by Dr. Salaita," the chancellor wrote.

She declined to elaborate because of the pending lawsuits. Sources have said the offer reached hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Wise also issued another clarification of her Aug. 22 public statement about the decision, which emphasized the need for "civil, thoughtful and mutually respectful" debate on campus.

"What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them," she said.

Those comments were seen by critics as endorsing a campus "speech code." Wise later apologized and said that was not her intent, adding that the AAUP's own policy statements use the term civility.

"I have stated on several occasions in several venues that I am totally committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech," she wrote in her email to the AAUP. "The recent widespread national debate about the role of civility in the academy makes it clear that we at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign should reaffirm our long-standing policy. We will continue to promote and encourage civility as both a value and a practice. But we do not believe civility can be imposed on employees or that they can or should be sanctioned should their behavior vary from that norm," she said.

Rather, as the AAUP's own principles on collegiality and free-speech state, civility is a "quality whose value is expressed" through successful teaching, research and service, Wise wrote.

"I think we have made very significant efforts to make changes for the better, in terms of best practices, in terms of saying over and over again, loudly and clearly that we embrace, that I in particular embrace, the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech," Wise said Thursday.

"We do not use civility as a criterion for hiring or letting anyone go."

AAUP officials have said they were just as troubled by a similar Aug. 22 statement from then-President Robert Easter and UI trustees. It said the UI "must constantly reinforce our expectation of a university community that values civility as much as scholarship," and that "disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice" will have "no place" at the university.

Professor Nick Burbules said that statement may have to be revised as well in order to remove censure, saying some passages were "objectionable on all sorts of grounds."

"I do think with a new president and a new chairman of the board, it would be an opportune moment to go back and revisit that statement, clarify it, modify it or whatever," he said.

Wise said she gave Killeen copies of her communication to the AAUP, to "offer him the opportunity to either affirm it, not say anything or go further."

In her email to the AAUP, Wise also outlined changes made by the campus in response to recommendations from the Academic Senate and a Hiring Policies and Procedures Review Committee.

For instance, tenured faculty appointments will be brought to trustees much earlier in the hiring process. The campus has also added an "explicit consultation process" that requires any concerns about a pending appointment to be discussed with the provost, college and the unit hiring the individual, she said.

The hiring committee recommended that the Board of Trustees delegate to the president and chancellor its responsibility for approving faculty appointments below the level of dean. While trustees have yet to adopt that change, Wise said a committee of the Academic Senate is reviewing the University Statutes and proposed amendments that would implement the recommendation.

The campus will "work with our Senate to evaluate and complete any additional actions that would benefit our faculty, students and campus community," she wrote.

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reader0 wrote on May 29, 2015 at 9:05 am

Wise: "We do not use civility as a criterion for hiring or letting anyone go."

Did she really say this? There is a lengthy paper trail of statements that contradict this. Many of them are quoted in this article. What then does she claim is the (latest) justification for firing Salaita? It is clear that the chancellor is now saying whatever she thinks the AAUP and the faculty want to hear, regardless of the university's actual practices. At this point, her violation of UI and AAUP policies on academic freedom and shared governance have done far more damage to the reputation and morale of the university than anything Salaita tweeted. How can she continue as the chancellor? 

tominmadison wrote on May 29, 2015 at 12:05 pm

reader0 and Facultymember:


could not agree more; well said.


Wise: sacrificed sacred academic principle for donor dough.

Then likely lied to cover it up. Can't wait for document production in litigation discovery and FOIAs.



Several other u of I scandals since then.


maybe they can giver her the Richard Herman Chair of Academic Oversight.

sad day for a once great public university.











Faculty Member wrote on May 29, 2015 at 9:05 am

No matter what Wise says and no matter what settlement has been offered, there can be no question that she, Easter, and the Board of Trustees violated basic standards of academic freedom.  That violation has not been corrected and that violation will be the basis of the AAUP's determination to censure the University.  It is a shameful moment in the University's history.  The repercussions of the initial violation have been extremely destructive and will likely only worsen.  Wise seems oblivious to the damage that she has caused.

Jam wrote on May 29, 2015 at 11:05 am

AAUP seems to be able to get a way with academic blackmail in the name of free speach.  This particular situation gives evidence that if you do not submit to this liberal orgaizations line of thinking then you will be censored.   Wouldn't it be nice if the UI became a home for conservative scholars.

reader0 wrote on May 29, 2015 at 3:05 pm

"Jam," you are confused about the mission of the AAUP and about academic freedom/free speech. The AAUP protects speech regardless of political orientation and would also censure the university if it fired faculty for conservative speech.

By contrast, some conservative groups--despite much talk of "freedom"--have attempted to place limits on speech--particularly academic studies when their results are at odds with right-wing ideology (see the silencing of "climate change" reports by the Republican governor in Florida, right-wing opposition to teaching evolution in science classes and textbooks, right-wing opposition to studies of gun violence,...).

Rocky7 wrote on May 29, 2015 at 4:05 pm

The "outrage" of a small number of faculty and the AAUP is nothing more than a hit job on the mission of a great university.

End of story.

hyena wrote on May 29, 2015 at 8:05 pm

In a Q&A with the News-Gazette last January 25 (http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-01-25/qa-phyllis-wise.html), Wise was quoted as describing a possible AAUP censure as a "bump in the road": 

"The AAUP is talking about possible censure because of the Salaita case. What would that mean for the campus?

Censure is something that's relatively new to me as well. Other universities, and our own, have been censured before. For us, I believe that it is a bump in the road, but that the majority of people — particularly if our faculty go forward and convince them that censure is inappropriate and in fact will hurt them and not actually the administration — (feel) that it is not the appropriate path to take. I believe we're going to go forward with our mission and our vision."

But hey, just one more year of that same sort of BS and she gets her $500,000 bonus: 

"Wise, 66, will earn $500,000 annually with an additional $100,000 per year deferred and paid if she stays in the job for five years." (http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2011-08-03/new-ui-chancellor-named.html)