Academic Senate to vote on hiring policy change after Salaita controversy

By Megan Jones, Staff Writer

New professors who begin teaching classes in August will work until September without having their appointments approved by the Board of Trustees.

For some, such as Steven Salaita whose controversial appointment was denied, this can create a lack of job security leading into the academic year.

While the Board must ultimately approve new hiring policies and procedures, the Academic Senate will vote on them Monday.

The procedures encourage the board to delegate the approvals for tenure and non tenure track academic appointments to each campus’ chancellor. The committee reaffirmed that the board should approve all appointments at the dean-level and higher.

The recommendations come from a committee that examined the policies after forming in October 2014 at the request of Former Provost Ilesanmi Adesida and Former Senate Executive Committee Chair Roy Campbell. A final report was issued in December 2014.

The committee formed after the rejected appointment of Salaita, who was offered a position as a tenure professor in the American Indian Studies department for the 2014-2015 school year. On Aug. 1, 2014, Former Chancellor Phyllis Wise stated she would not forward his appointment to the board for approval, citing his recent tweets regarding conflict in Gaza. The Salaita case was resolved in $875,000 settlement.

Emails released later showed Wise was under pressure from donors and other stakeholders to rescind his offer. By the time Salaita’s job was rescinded, he had already left his previous job and began preparations to move to Urbana.

The board typically meets every two months, so the time between a concluded search and when the board may meet could be weeks and months, said Bill Maher, chair of the committee on University Statutes and Senate Procedures.

“It has meant that we have people here who were hired to start working and are expected to start meeting with class and doing work, who haven’t had their appointments formally approved by the board, so there was this gap in timing,” Maher said.

Additionally, the board does not receive substantial information regarding the proposed appointments. In the past, the board receives a spreadsheet with the person’s name, the title they are being appointed to and possibly their past employment or what they hold a degree in, Maher said. The board did not review resumes or detailed information, such as a letter of recommendation.

The committee agreed this created large inconsistencies and puts the University at a competitive disadvantage because academics are left in a period of uncertainty between the time they’ve agreed to come to the University to when the board finally approves it.

The University of Illinois Act, which created the Board of Trustees bylaws and creation, listed the board to be in charge of making appointments, but there are several other actions listed in the act that have been delegated to others, Maher said.

“This would not conflict with the University of Illinois Act because the kind of delegation of activities is the sort of thing that is typical when you have a body in an oversight capacity,” Maher said.

If approved by the Academic Senate, it would move to both Chicago and Springfield’s campuses to be voted on by their university senates. The Board of Trustees would then have the final vote on enacting the proposed changes.

[email protected]