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Statement by Hilton at AAUP National Meeting regarding AAUP Censure, June 2015

Washington, DC, June 13, 2015

There was no prepared written speech. The following is a reconstruction from a brief outline and memory:

Dear Colleagues,

 I am here as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) AAUP Chapter president and one of its three delegates to report on University activities.  I am no stranger to the AAUP having been a continuous member since the mid 1950s and chapter president twice before – once during the Koch affair and then again at the time of the campus disturbances.  We overwhelmingly supported censure after the unilateral firing of Professor Koch by president Henry. During the disturbances the UI trustee wanted to fire 15 tenured and tenure track faculty members for their “impolite utterances.”  The UIUC chapter intervened and was successful in preventing the trustee’s contemplated actions.

The chapter membership that was 800 plus from the early 1950’s to the 70’s has been declining steadily reaching the current 66 with a much larger total campus faculty compared to some six decades ago.

First let me tell that we polled the Chapter on its views regarding AAUP censure.  With 48.5% of the members voting, 27.3% of the chapter members voted for censure, 18.2% against, 3% for delay and no abstentions.  As chapter president I will therefore vote for censure.

Secondly, I need to report to you on current and past campus conditions regarding academic freedom and shared governance.

Last December, our Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) after investigating the Salaita matter issued a lengthy set of findings and recommendations that have been referred to by Committee A in their report presently before us.  Some of CAFT’s proposals have been adopted at UIUC while others are being worked on.

It is worthy to note that in some respects shared governance at UIUC is effectively working. During the past eight years the UIUC Senate was visibly instrumental in approving by substantial majority votes of no confidence in two University presidents and one UIUC chancellor, which eventually led to their terminations in their respective offices.

We have had a hyper active Board of Trustees (BoT) lead by chair Chris Kennedy in several academic matters that up to now have been routinely approved by the Board. The most notable among these are BoT’s refusal – lead vigorously by chair Kennedy – to grant earned emeritus status to Professor Ayres of our Chicago campus and to delay for a year non-tenure track UIUC Professor Kilgore’s reappointment.  He was eventually reappointed. Kennedy has since left the Board.

Although I have no proof what so ever, it is my firm personal belief that chair Kennedy’s heavy hand is behind the Salaita non-appointment.  I strongly suspect that chair Kennedy ordered our chancellor Phyllis Wise not to recommend Dr. Salaita’s appointment to the BoT.  Eventually upon the chancellor’s recommendation, BoT voted not to approve Dr. Salaita’s tenured appointment offer.

There is no question that State of Illinois law confirms the UI BoT as the sole entity to govern the University including approving all appointments.  In the past, the Board has been content, except for the two instances noted previously, of letting the academic and administrative appointment process run its established courses and then twice a year routinely approve such appointments en masse.  Of course, this procedure established an extremely bad practice, particularly when the Board switched to by-monthly meetings, where individuals would start their resident duties prior to receiving a legal contract.  This deplorable BoT custom has been terminated and proper time schedules and procedures have been codified and adopted to prevent such aberrations in the future.

There have been on and off campus conversations regarding phone calls, letters, emails, etc. from donors promising to cease their contributions if Dr. Salaita is hired.  It has been our experience during the Chief Illiniwek 12 year prolonged episode that such threats or promises are totally ineffective, as donors tend to soon return to the fold. Stanford and other major universities have had similar experiences. It is, therefore, doubtful that such alleged communications had a significant impact on the current decision process.

A number of improvements have been implemented on the UIUC campus but additional actions need to be taken in some areas. Notably among these are:

  • New hiring procedures including timetables have been issued by the provost and discussed by the campus Senate. These items need to be further refined and codified in campus operation manuals.
  • The appointments and duties of adjunct and similar non-tenured professors have been codified but further campus improvements regarding uniformity of duties, voting rights, etc. need to be implemented.
  • Further attempts by all parties need to be made to reach a negotiated settlement.
  • While official statements have been issued by the chancellor regarding civility issues vis-à-vis academic freedom, promotion, retention, etc., additional ones need to be made by the provost, president and the BoT.
  • Finally, the university statutes will need to be revised as needed to incorporate the above and other improvements and changes.

Thank you for your attention.

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