Committee forms to investigate tenure-track hire proceedings

By Angelica Lavito

Members of the Urbana-Champaign Senate Executive Committee agreed to move ahead with a resolution to form a committee for instances in which the chancellor or provost find a reason not to proceed with a tenure-track hire that has already been approved by department and college committees at its meeting Monday.

This comes after Chancellor Phyllis Wise rescinded an offer of employment on Aug. 1 to American Indian studies professor Steven Salaita. In August, Salaita posted several politically charged tweets regarding conflict in Gaza. 

The University has statutes dealing with hiring, but the new task force will specifically explore the process when the provost or chancellor does not agree with a hiring decision despite approval from the department.

In conjunction with the Office of the Provost, the SEC Chair will create a task force composed of tenured faculty members and appropriate administrative officers. The group will be tasked with developing a new process, although they can also conclude that the current process is effective.

“What we’re facing in this situation is an extraordinary, literally extra ordinary set of circumstances,” said Nicholas Burbules, SEC member and professor of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership. “It’s a perfect storm of problems that all converge at the same time.”

Joyce Tolliver, SEC member and associate professor of Spanish, agreed that the hiring process is sensitive. Because of this, she said the University should have a detailed process for rescinding offers of employment when the chancellor does not agree with a department or college committee’s recommendation for hiring.

“[Detenure] is something you hope never happens and in fact very, very, very rarely happens,” Tolliver said. “In a situation where you do think it might be necessary, you do need a very detailed procedure to deal with it.”

The Provost and Chair of SEC will meet in the future to talk about the selection process of those on the committee.

“The critical issue is putting together a group that won’t be criticized for being unfair or biased,” said Kim Graber, SEC Vice Chair and professor of Kinesiology and Community Health.

Burbules added that he does not think anybody anticipates situations like this to come up, but if it does “I hope that we have thorough guidelines of what to do.”

Angelica can be reached at [email protected] 

Clarification: Steven Salaita was not a tenured professor at the University.