The Hiring Policies and Processes Review Committee is a faculty committee impaneled last October by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign faculty senate and Provost Phyllis M. Wise. It has recommended the University of Illinois System Board of Trustees no longer approve new faculty hires and cease all personnel decision-making below the position of an academic dean.
In the Steven Salaita summary dismissal case, the Board of Trustees rejected the contract offer of a tenured position in the American Indian Studies Program some ten months after it had been proffered and signed. Fifteen days before he was to start teaching in August, Dr. Salaita received notification that his contract would not be sent to the board for approval. Now this latest faculty senate committee has determined that the current system in which the BOT may actually fire a faculty member, after he or she begins teaching at the beginning of their academic appointment, is not sustainable.
The News-Gazette reported that the faculty panel recommends that the board delegate its ultimate authority to the president, chancellor and provost. We have seen that the Board of Trustees is not amenable to faculty committee suggestions that could attenuate their lawless approach to shared governance and academic freedom. They announced in a terse press release, on January 15, 2015, their refusal to adhere to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure recommendation that Steven Salaita’s case be remanded to an ad hoc College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Committee.
It was not surprising that Inside Higher Ed reported that the administration has not endorsed the Hiring Policies and Processes Review Committee report even while conceding some “streamlining” is necessary. The issue is not merely about sequence, in which post-hiring reversals wreck careers and eviscerate common decency. It is essential to strip the U of I Board of the power to engage in the determination of the “fitness” of an academician who has been offered, signed, returned and in many instances already started teaching. Once hired, a post-hiring review is unacceptable nonsense and incompetence of administration!
The hiring practices at the University of Illinois are broken. Faculty committees endeavoring to address these concerns are ignored by the Board of Trustees and other administrators seeking to perpetuate their power. There must be continued resistance against the illegitimate authority of the Board of Trustees when it persecuted and immiserated Steven Salaita because of differing points of view on Israeli military devastation of the Gaza Strip last summer.