SEC postpones Salaita resolution, waits on committee report

By Abigale Svoboda

The Senate Executive Committee moved to postpone a resolution regarding Steven Salaita’s rejected appointment and the importance of shared governance, in a 7 to 5 vote with 2 abstentions. 

Two senate committees have been appointed to review how Salaita’s case was handled. Nick Burbules, SEC member, said he believes it is important to wait until those groups report back to the senate before the resolution is decided upon to ensure mixed messages are not sent. 

“I’m certain that the issues are going to look different after those committees have reported out,” Burbules said. “I think we owe it to the senate and to those committees for a chance to make their statement before the senate takes any stance on those issues.”

The resolution was co-authored by faculty senators Ben McCall, professor in chemistry, and Kirk Sanders, associate professor in classics, and will now be presented to the academic senate at its Feb. 9, 2015, meeting. 

“I can’t imagine CAFT (Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure) comes out with a report that convinces me that academic freedom isn’t important,” McCall said.

The goal of the resolution is to “try to seize middle ground and to try to bring people together, coming from different perspectives on the Salaita case,” McCall said.

The proposed resolution states the decision to not forward Salaita’s appointment to the Board of Trustees was inconsistent with the University’s principles of shared governance. Additionally, it urges senior administrators to go through appropriate processes of consulting with academic units when they oppose recommendations. 

“The senate … rejects the notion that a university should value ‘civility as much as scholarship,’ since the free expression of scholarly opinions is the essence of academic freedom,” the resolution stated. 

Calvin Lear, graduate student and SEC member, had reason to agree with McCall’s statement on the unlikeliness that the two committees reports will change the resolution. 

“There is a big portion of this campus that believes that the senate, and the senate executive committee by connection, is either unwilling or unable to help them improve their lot in life; so there is an impetus to try and consider something,” Lear said. “It’s not that we’re tone deaf and we don’t get it, it’s just that we have some concerns.”

Lear suggested presenting the resolution at the senate’s Dec. 8 meeting, where opposed members could voice their concerns to the whole senate. This way, all members would be given the opportunity to weigh in on the subject and the resolution may still be held until February. 

Burbules reminded the SEC that the committee’s purpose is to be “thoughtful and considerate.” 

“I’m not very moved by the concern that we have to do something because people want to see the senate do something,” he said.

Abigale can be reached at [email protected]

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly named Nicholas Burbules as SEC Chair of General University Policy. Burbules is a member of SEC and Chair of the Academic Senate’s Committee on General University Policy. Additionally, Ben McCall and Kirk Sanders were named SEC members. McCall and Sanders are faculty senators. The Daily Illini regrets this error.