State Rep. Charles Meier authors bill in response to Kilgore hire

By Josh Winters

After learning of the University’s decision to hire James Kilgore in the fall, State Rep. Charles Meier, R-108, has introduced legislation to bar convicted terrorists from teaching at Illinois’ public universities. 

“I just find that this idea that we would let convicted terrorists, whose whole plan was to destroy America, teach our youth … (is absurd),” Meier said. 

Meier’s bill, HB 150, “prohibits universities and community colleges from knowingly employing a person who has been convicted of attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, soliciting, or committing the offense of terrorism or any offense committed or attempted in any other state or against the laws of the United States.”

Kilgore was a member of the radical Symbionese Liberation Army, known for the kidnapping of Hearst Media Company heiress Patty Hearst. He was arrested for second-degree murder and possession of an explosive device in 2002 for his involvement in a 1975 bank robbery that left one woman dead. He served six years in a California federal prison and was released in 2009.

Kilgore worked in the Center for African Studies on campus from 2010 until August 2014, when he was told that his contract expired. 

In November 2014, the Board of Trustees asked President Robert Easter to develop a clear policy for future hiring decisions regarding part-time and adjunct staff. Campuses were told to continue acting under existing hiring practices for such instances and the Urbana campus chose to rehire Kilgore.

He currently teaches as an adjunct lecturer in the Global Studies program. 

Meier said he was also motivated to write the legislation after watching the spread of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS. If convicted terrorists are allowed to work at Illinois universities, Meier said, it would give groups like ISIS the green light to “invade our society” and “destroy our way of life.”

“If we have a college professor that is allowed to teach after being convicted of terrorism, convicted of second-degree murder, what kind of example are we setting?” Meier asked. “I have a problem with that, and I believe most of America has a problem with that.”

Soon after authoring the bill, Meier learned that the Illinois State Board of Education already had a similar policy banning people convicted of terrorism from primary education, which he believes will better HB 150’s chance of passing. He has also appeared on nationally-syndicated news programs like Fox News’ Kelly File to promote his legislation.

“It seems ridiculous to me (that) while we’re fighting terrorists across the world, spending millions of dollars, that our taxpayers are here, (we’re) paying for a convicted terrorist, who was on the run and had to be extradited back to America,” said Meier. 

University Spokesman Tom Hardy said the University has reached out to Meier and his bill’s sponsors to review the legislation and discuss the University’s hiring process.

“The proposed law appears to be aimed at James Kilgore,” Hardy said. “We’ll answer any questions they might have about our hiring practices in certain instances, and we’ll try to keep them informed about the development of the background check policy.”

Hardy said the University is currently drafting a new criminal background check for potential faculty members and that an early version of the policy is expected to be completed this spring.

Meier alleged that some University donors had already ceased their donations over Kilgore’s hire. While several donors had expressed intent to withdraw funding from the University, Hardy said he was currently unaware if any had followed through. 

James Kilgore declined to comment on Meier’s bill.

Josh can be reached at [email protected]

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the Board of Trustees voted to rehire James Kilgore in November. The article should have stated that the board asked President Robert Easter to develop a clear policy for future hiring decisions for part-time and adjunct staff. Campuses were told to continue acting under existing hiring practices for such instances and the Urbana campus chose to rehire Kilgore. The Daily Illini regrets the error.