The University of Illinois Board of Trustees today announced that it will never reconsider the dismissal of Steven Salaita, and it will not listen to any faculty committee about Salaita’s qualifications: “That decision is final.”
According to the trustees, “The decision concerning Dr. Salaita was not reached hastily. Nor was it the result of external pressures. The decision did not present a ‘new approach’ to the consideration of proposed faculty appointments. It represented the careful exercise of each board member’s fiduciary duty and a balancing of all the interests of the University of Illinois. In the end, this is a responsibility that cannot be delegated nor abdicated.” Actually, hiring faculty is not a fundamental responsibility of the Board, but a power that easily can and definitely should be delegated and abdicated. It would be as simple as the Board declaring that it is delegating its normal hiring authority over faculty appointments to the president and chancellors, which is exactly what the Board does with adjunct faculty, and exactly what many Boards do for all faculty. Considering that the Board of Trustees is entirely unqualified to judge faculty, is incapable of examining the large numbers of hires made each year, and has declared that it uses non-academic criteria to determine faculty hires (and even those who supported the firing of Salaita have criticized the Board’s approach), the best possible outcome for the University of Illinois would be if the trustees did exactly that.
This is a devastating blow to the University of Illinois. It means that an AAUP censure of the University of Illinois is virtually guaranteed to happen on June 13, 2015, and it may take a very long time before censure is lifted. Normally, administrators are anxious to remove the stigma of censure, and a new president at a major university is quick to move toward correcting the mistakes of predecessors. But the current Trustees (and any new ones appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner) will never admit they were wrong.
The Board of Trustees’ refusal to admit any mistakes means that the University of Illinois will be at a severe disadvantage in recruiting faculty. Few tenured faculty will want to move to the University of Illinois if the trustees can simply revoke the job after they begin teaching. The boycott against the University of Illinois will continue.
This is an attempt to shut down debate and discussion. The Trustees imagine that if they refuse to listen to any criticism, the criticism will stop.