The Daily Illini

Editorial: Adding needed honesty to personal emails

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

Among other factors, the use of personal email accounts that skirted public records was followed by the resignations of two University officials — Provost Ilesanmi Adesida and former Chancellor Phyllis Wise.

At Monday’s Senate Executive Committee meeting, SEC member Abbas Aminmansour presented a draft of an email code of conduct for SEC members to adopt.

The proposed code would require all SEC members to disclose the University administrators they discuss University business with and what that business is.

While some SEC members, such as Vice Chair Kim Graber and member Matt Wheeler, raised concerns that the code would put restrictions on whom individual members can talk to about University matters, Aminmansour stated this was not the intention. Even if restrictions were a side-effect of the new policies, it would be a beneficial change to current rules and would provide more transparency and honesty to University communication.

When the University released 1,100 pages of emails on Aug. 6, SEC members Nick Burbules, Joyce Tolliver and Graber were included in the emails and found giving advice to Wise and other administrators. Some of the advice centered around topics the SEC and Academic Senate also discussed and debated throughout the 2014-2015 school year including Steven Salaita and the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine.

Requiring SEC members to disclose such conversations would add a needed layer of transparency to current University conduct. It would provide SEC members with the sense of security that they can trust fellow members; members may also be better able to understand a person’s viewpoints if more information is shared.

Most importantly, it would reassure the University community that our University and its leaders are committed to transparency and shared governance rather than politics. Although it seems Wise and Adesida truly believed they were doing what was best for the University by communicating privately, keeping all decision makers on the same page will benefit our University immensely.

The University is currently at a major crossroads, where it can either recommit to its mission to “transform lives and serve society by educating, creating knowledge and putting knowledge to work on a large scale and with excellence” or continue on with the skepticism and distrust of the past ten years.

As Acting Chancellor Barbara Wilson said Monday, the SEC must begin to have more frank conversations to move past the “anger, anxiety and lack of trust,” University faculty and staff are experiencing. Simply disclosing more information about conversations concerning University business will help diffuse tension and reestablish a sense of trust and dedication in every University community and administrative branch.

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