Academic senate calls for clearer guidelines on academic freedom

By Abigale Svoboda

The academic senate passed three recommendations regarding shared governance and academic freedom procedures, calling for clearer guidelines, at its Monday meeting. 

The recommendations were submitted by Kirk Sanders, associate professor in classics; Ben McCall, professor in chemistry; Joyce Tolliver, professor and University Senates Conference representative; and Nick Burbules, chair of the committee on general education policy. 

The recommendations proposed to clarify University rules regarding position offerings, appointments of faculty and promotion or tenure to be more aligned with the University’s statutes. 

The second recommendation suggests if the chancellor continues to independently review a candidate for hiring, a clear procedure should be developed for consulting with unit administrations and relevant faculty. 

The third recommendation states the Statutes and General Rules should be reviewed by a University-wide committee to ensure the University’s policies on academic freedom, extramural speech and the expression of each are in agreement with the American Association of University Professor’s policies. 

Some senators believed the creation of a new committee would be in conflict with the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure. 

Burbules clarified that while each three campuses of the University has its own Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the ad hoc committee proposed in the third recommendation would be one committee composed of members from Urbana, Springfield and Chicago.

Tolliver supported Burbules’ statement, stating the University Statutes are not campus documents and cannot be amended by campus bodies alone. 

McCall added the recommendations were not intended to take the place of CAFT but instead create a way for the campus to move forward, away from the issues stirred by the Steven Salaita controversy. The senate eventually voted in approval of the recommendations. 

Following the vote, Kristina Riedel, professor in linguistics, called for a quorum, stating there were not enough senators present to vote on the recommendations. A head count proved that only 97 members were present, falling short of the required 100 members to make quorum. 

Senators expressed disapproval of Riedel’s call, as she had previously expressed opposition for the recommendations. Burbules reminded the senate it is bad precedent to call a quorum to avoid certain issues. 

According to parliamentary procedures, the vote stood, resulting in the end of the meeting. The remaining agenda items will be postponed until its March 9 meeting. 

Abigale can be reached at [email protected]com.