UI AAUP chapter to hold censure discussion

By Imogen Lindsley

Discussions on academic freedom and faculty governance have become increasingly prominent on campus due the national AAUP’s censure of the University on June 13 for academic freedom concerns relating to the dismissal of Steven Salaita last fall. The new criminal background check policy for all new faculty, which will be implemented on Nov. 1, has also raised concerns. https://www.dailyillini.com/article/2015/10/aaup , https://www.dailyillini.com/article/2015/09/background-checks

David O’Brien, associate professor in art history, will present “Censure: Where Does the University Go Next?”CC

“The AAUP censure damages severely the reputation of the University,” O’Brien said. “Shared governance and academic freedom on this campus have suffered greatly in the last few years, but I think that there are positive steps we can take.”

The censure applies exclusively to the University administration.

“The Chicago campus and the Springfield campus are not involved,” Hilton said. “Except that the onus of having the Board of Trustees censured and the President of course carries across the campuses.”

For the censure to be lifted, the AAUP Committee A will have to agree the University is positively exercising academic freedom and tenure, and a vote will be taken at the AAUP national meeting in June 2016.

However, several key changes need to made before lifting censure can be considered, Hilton said.

“Number one, we have the problem of shared governance,” Hilton said. “Unfortunately — and (former) Chancellor Wise knows better — when she wrote to Salaita informing that she wouldn’t approve the hiring, she did not consult with the dean of LAS or with the committee of LAS that recommendeded the hiring in the first place.”

Hilton said the Board of Trustee’s approval policy for new professors should be updated. In order for University professors to be paid, they need to be approved by the board, but the board’s bimonthly meeting occurs in September, even though classes start in August.

“Here they were (teaching), yet they could not get paid, because you could not issue a contract before the Board of Trustees had approved it,” Hilton said. “That part is procedural and I think that can be fixed.”

Jessica Greenberg, associate professor in anthropology, will also present “The Problems with Background Checks.”CC

The University administration implemented the policy following the controversy surrounding the hiring of adjunct professor James Kilgore.

Teresa Barnes,CC professor in history and Kilgore’s wife, said she didn’t like the policy’s lack of clarity.

“The procedure also fails to specify whether the ‘Criminal Conviction Review Committee’ makes a yay/nay decision on a candidate with a criminal conviction on its own, or whether it is only an advisory committee that makes a recommendation to the Provost,” Barnes said.

Additionally, she said she objects to the background check policy as a whole.

“A person who has committed a felony and served her or his time in prison has by definition been judged by the entire U.S. justice system to be rehabilitated and ready to rejoin society,” Barnes said. “The Criminal Conviction Review Committee will in effect be retrying and re-sentencing a person for an offense, which is unfair.”

In August 2014, the National Employment Law Project revealed that “one in four U.S. adults – 70 million people and counting – now has a conviction or arrest history that can show up on a routine background check for employment.”http://www.nelp.org/content/uploads/2015/03/Wild-West-Employment-Background-Checks-Reform-Agenda.pdf

Hilton said the event will aim to create public dialogue about shared governance and academic freedom and bring the diverse prospectives on campus under one umbrella.

“The chapter is not involved in having to do anything, we can sit, we can advise, we can complain, we can suggest,” he said. “But anything that we do that’s extra and doesn’t count.”

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