University departments free to hire Kilgore again

By Abigale Svoboda

James Kilgore is free to work at the University again, following a decision made by the Board of Trustees on Thursday. 

University departments who wish to hire Kilgore will be free to do so, campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said. 

The board has traditionally not been involved in part-time and adjunct faculty hiring decisions and instead called on President Robert Easter to develop a clear policy to guide future hiring decisions for part time and adjunct staff on all campuses of the University. They expect Easter’s policies to be presented to the board in January.

Kilgore said although he was hopeful the board would make a decision on his employment status at its meeting, he truly had no idea what would happen. He said he was “really surprised,” but ultimately glad, when he heard the news.

“I’ve been in contact with a lot of people, but no one officially in the administration, but a lot of people that have been supporting me throughout this campaign,” Kilgore said.

While he isn’t certain about what his future holds, Kilgore said he would like to take the job offer he was originally given at the beginning of this academic year, working at the Center for African Studies and teaching Global Studies.

Kilgore served six years in prison for his involvement in a 1975 bank robbery and was also a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, known for kidnapping Hearst Media Company heiress, Patty Hearst.

According to Kilgore, the University was fully aware of his past when he was hired in 2011. However, his criminal record had not been a public issue until The News-Gazette published articles about Kilgore. Following the public’s reaction to the University’s employment of a former criminal, Kilgore was told his contract with the University would not be extended, which expired Aug. 15.

Provost Ilesanmi Adesida appointed a committee in April to review Kilgore’s status, which ruled no policies were violated in hiring Kilgore.   

“Dr. Kilgore is an excellent scholar, a committed and engaging teacher (judging from student feedback), and a colleague who gives of his time generously to the University and its diverse programs,” D. Fairchild Ruggles, professor in Landscape Architecture, said in an email.

Ruggles also said she is looking forward to having Kilgore as her colleague again.

“It just means an opportunity for me to teach, which I really enjoy, and to re-establish my connection to Africa, where I lived for almost two decades,” Kilgore said. “And the Center for African Studies has been very important to me in terms of maintaining that connection.”

Kilgore added he wants people to realize his case is more than a personal issue and his situation speaks to a multitude of other issues.

“I think it’s a good step for the University that they have at least recognized that people who were formerly incarcerated, like myself, can change their lives,” Kilgore said. “They can transform, and can make useful contributions to educational institutions.”

Abigale can be reached at [email protected]