University Board of Trustees right to end Kilgore controversy

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

On Thursday, the Board of Trustees announced that University departments were free to hire former instructor James Kilgore, ending months of debate and controversy that embarrassed the University on a national level.

Kilgore was a lecturer in Global Studies and part-time staff member with the Center for African Studies before the University chose not to renew his contract in the spring following a string of media reports (none by The Daily Illini) about Kilgore’s past as a convicted felon and member of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

On April 23, The Daily Illini wrote an editorial criticizing the University and supporting Kilgore’s employment at the University of Illinois. At the time, we wrote, “The University seems to be folding under political pressure and punishing a man for committing a crime he has already paid for and been rehabilitated from. The University needs to respect the laws society has in place. The University should let Kilgore have his second chance and continue his contributions to his job.”

Since writing the editorial, nothing has changed in terms of Kilgore’s situation — except that he lost his job for a semester. Kilgore himself has not changed, nor have we changed our position on Kilgore. He should not have lost his job in the first place, and it is about time the University offers him the freedom to have it back.

In a May interview with the News-Gazette, board chairman Christopher Kennedy called Kilgore a “domestic terrorist” and said Kilgore should not be on the public payroll.

Kennedy and the rest of the Board of Trustees intervened in a place that they should not have. They remedied that on Thursday by asking President Robert Easter to come up with a plan for hiring part-time and adjunct faculty members. This would eliminate the confusion regarding whether the board is allowed to weigh in on hires of these instructors.

This new process will help give the University stricter guidelines for hiring that will help resolve similar issues in the future. The guidelines will help keep the Board of Trustees out of decision-making that should be done without political influence.

We criticized the University for not renewing Kilgore’s contract, so it is only right that we commend the Board of Trustees for changing its mind and allowing Kilgore to be employed at the University. Now, it needs to take the next step and give Kilgore his job back.