Senate Executive Committee moves Resolution Reaffirming Principle of Academic Freedom off agenda, maintains other resolutions

By MaryCate Most

Members of the Urbana-Champaign Senate Executive Committee deliberated over resolutions on academic freedom and a review over a statewide library program at their meeting on Monday.

Following an executive session about a resolution to reaffirm principles of academic freedom, fair employment and appropriate unit governance over curriculum, the committee announced that it would not move the resolution on to the senate due to concerns for privacy and precedent, committee chair Roy Campbell said.

“We don’t want to set a precedent that we will discuss individuals,” Campbell said. “We don’t want to prejudice any of the committees by talking about this thing. The individual can appeal to those committees for those principles and we shouldn’t get in the way of those committees doing their work.”

This resolution, which would have voiced senate support for the University’s commitment to the principle of academic freedom, fair employment, and appropriate unit autonomy over curriculum, comes a week after students and faculty began petitioning to restore the employment of James Kilgore, a non-tenured faculty member in FAA.  Kilgore was notified on April 9 that he will not be hired by the University for the 2014-15 school year. Petitions accused the University for choosing not to hire Kilgore based on media attention that publicized Kilgore’s history of convictions. 

Only graduate student Calvin Lear mentioned Kilgore by name. The resolution and the other senators referred to “a well-regarded lecturer” and “an individual” throughout the meeting.

Provost Ilesanmi Adesida also voiced the administration’s concern about these matters.

“As I said, more work needs to be done,” Adesida said. “There needs to be more clarity about the roles, responsibilities and privileges assigned to specialized faculty. We are going to be working with departments and colleges on these processes, because each department has its own bylaws. This is something we are going to be working on vigorously.”

Adesida also stated that more efforts should be given to closely defining hiring procedures and to giving all faculty members an opportunity to voice grievances.

The resolution also called for committees of the senate, such as the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and committees at the University, such as the Faculty Advisory Committee, to investigate this matter further. 

This does not mean that the issue will not be discussed. Instead, faculty will find a different way to address the issue — either through a committee or a report, Campbell said.

“I would see it as almost inevitable that a more refined and more abstract version of this that covers all the topics and all the issues will be discussed in the future,” Campbell said. “I can’t see this matter just sort of evaporating. I do think that occasionally we need to carefully check that all the procedures and policies at the University are being instituted. That is sort of the job of the SEC.”

Another resolution in support of continued University of Illinois stewardship of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois, CARLI, was debated and approved to go before the Senate on May 5.

After University Administration Review, a process set into place by President Robert Easter, a review committee requested a decrease in the funds going to CARLI. Executive Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Barbara Wilson, who served on the review committee that oversaw the CARLI spending, said during the review there was confusion about CARLI and its role on campus.

“We had incomplete information about what the organization was doing and couldn’t make sense of the huge balance of funds,” Wilson said. “This (passing of the resolution to support CARLI) could have an opposite effect to scare the administration off in the future from having a UA (University Administration) review.”

Library representative and recently elected Senate Executive Committee member Mary Mallory argued that not supporting CARLI would reflect negatively on the library system as a whole.

“Both University of Illinois at Springfield and University of Illinois at Chicago senates have passed a very similar resolution,” Mallory said. “I think it behooves us to pass such a resolution.”

The CARLI organization infrastructure supports book borrowing and licensing of electronic reserves, amongst other things, the resolution stated. Mallory said that to show strong support for CARLI and other CARLI libraries, the University needed to pass a resolution.

“Even though all of us understand what happened, the public doesn’t, nor do all the CARLI libraries in Illinois, neither do University of Illinois at Chicago or University of Illinois at Springfield,” Mallory said. “I think it puts us in a bad light if we don’t support it.”

MaryCate can be reached at [email protected] and @marycate_most.