Changes at the Top at the University of Illinois: Will it Affect Salaita Case?

President Robert Easter of the University of Illinois who participated in and approved of the egregious dismissal and summary suspension of Dr. Steven Salaita at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is retiring. He will receive a $180,000 Golden Parachute bonus in a state that is broke with one of the worst managed finances in the United States. Yet they always dole out huge financial packages for the governing elites as pension packages for retirees are eviscerated.

Timothy Killeen was named today as the new president of the University of Illinois that will become effective, pending board approval, in 2015. He currently serves as president of the State University of New York’s Research Foundation that has a nifty $900,000,000 in its research portfolio. His new salary will more than double his current remuneration as reported in the Chicago Tribune:

Killeen will have a five-year contract and initially earn up to $730,000 a year. His base salary is $600,000, with a possible $100,000 performance bonus and more in a retention bonus. He currently makes about $300,000 a year at SUNY.

Performance bonuses are quite common in the corporate world of competitive capitalism which supposedly reward rising profits, increase in equity prices, and improving the bottom line. Virtually all Fortune 500 companies have them. It is not surprising that the University of  Illinois with a budget in excess of $5 billion and 6,000 faculty members would emulate the corporate world in its compensation package of its “CEO.”

Bruce Rauner, the newly elected Republican governor, is expected according to the Tribune, to replace Christopher G. Kennedy as board chair of the University of Illinois in January. It remains to be seen if his replacement will be as equally intolerant of academic freedom and free speech as Mr. Kennedy. So the Times They Are A-Changin’ hopefully at the University of Illinois. Whether these significant developments, which will occur next year, will have an ameliorative impact on the restoration of Professor Salaita to his rightful position as a tenured associate professor in the American Indian Studies Program remains to be seen.

It is essential that critical thinking units on that campus insure that the next president and chair of the board of trustees are fully informed about the current war on academic freedom that precipitated a firestorm across the academy with multiple votes of departmental no confidences in University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise and the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. They must begin to govern the university as a university and not as a for-profit corporate enterprise that tolerates no dissent or challenges of the ideological preferences of the ruling hierarchy.

Nota bene: The University of Illinois refers to three campuses. The flagship at Urbana-Champaign and campuses in Chicago and Springfield. It has more students, 78,000, than any other state-university system in Illinois. There are many other public universities in Illinois including Northeastern Illinois University which the A.A.U.P. censured at its annual meeting last June.

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