Red Soybeans

By Andrew Scheinman

The fallout at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) continues unabated: the Chancellor and Provost have both “stepped down,” and Steven Salaita’s legal team’s added destruction of evidence claims to their lawsuit.

Here in Urbana-Champaign we’re having a “red soybeans” moment, what with the show-trials and blood sports already occurring and, no doubt, ramping up to still greater purges. Who will Nick Burbules face down to the death, and in what arena? Who’s next in a wicker cart, Kaler, Scott Rice? I’m sure wagers are being placed in some circles in breathless anticipation of events likely to come.

I’m against red-meat entertainment, deserved though it may well be. What interests me most is what steps UIUC will take to 1) thoroughly investigate what happened; 2) thoroughly reveal those investigations; and 3) take thorough public steps to ensure that it doesn’t/can’t happen again.

That raises the real question of what the AAUP will recognize as enough reform at UIUC to warrant withdrawal of its censure of the university. In its report the AAUP went to great lengths to emphasize that censure was of personnel (management), and not of any university itself. So with Wise and Adesida exiting stage-right, is that enough of a management change for AAUP to withdraw the censure ruling?

Let’s hope not. I’ve already taken both UIUC’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) and the AAUP investigating committee to task for a lack of thoroughness, and, unfortunately, events of the last few weeks are validating all my written concerns in a way even I wouldn’t have thought possible. But now is an opportunity for the AAUP especially to call for a real investigation, not only into why and how much they were lied to, but who did the lying, and what UIUC plans to do to fix its broken system above and beyond what’s starting to look a lot like a growing blood-bath in upper management.

When AAUP steps up to the plate to help guide this open investigation, let’s hope they make sure to pay attention not only to malfeasance at the top, but also the banality of evil at mid-level UIUC management that at every turn aided and encouraged what Wise and Ade and the rest were doing. Consider that there’s been no discussion at all of Kaler and Scott Rice and Laura Frerichs and all the rest of the mid-level people who 1) obstructed FOIAs, who 2) called for FOIA obstruction, who 3) set up a system of no responsibility in terms of FOIA responses, and who 4) sat idly by when they got Wise’s own statements about blowing off FOIA law, a fact all the more astounding since they presumably did take the FOIA training that told them that intentional avoidance of FOIA was … illegal.

Here’s a simple case in point: why is Rick Stephens still a director of the U of I Foundation when he had actual knowledge of what Wise was up to, as evidenced by the email read to him by his secretary that Wise sent him on 3/19/14:

Rick: I may be getting paranoid, but since someone has FOled all of the emails that Laura Frerichs has exchanged between herself and the internal and external advisory board members with regards to the COM, I am using my personal email …

(UIUC “supplemental emails” on the College of Medicine (COM), page 18). In case you don’t know, Stephens is the founder of “Horizon Hobby,” was a member of Wise’s “advisory team” that met secretly to push the COM through, and is on the Board of Managers of UIUC’s Research Park, you know, the Park that stands to benefit Peter Fox (developer) and Laura Frerichs (head of the Park) and the rest by the formation of the COM. With his seemingly questionable ethics, why is he still on the Foundation board, which is, after all, a position that would seem to require a great deal of ethical stability?

It doesn’t stop there, of course, and let’s hope the AAUP doesn’t let it stop there. Frerichs is not only head of the Park, she’s also Director of Economic Development for UIUC and, in February, was appointed by Governor Rauner to Innovate Illinois Advisory Council. If she was the one who set Wise on the path to personal emails and FOIA avoidance, why hasn’t she been grilled, and why is she in all of her various positions of high power? And for that matter, those same emails implicate Peter Fox (the developer), Jim Leonard (the CEO of Carle) and a bunch of other people. Will the AAUP consider them part of UIUC “management”? Will real reform occur at UIUC if all of these people continue in the positions of power and (ir)responsibility that they currently hold?

AAUP, your move.

3 thoughts on “Red Soybeans

  1. I don’t speak for the AAUP, but the AAUP doesn’t investigate cases after they’ve investigated them. So really, there’s nothing for the AAUP to do. And the AAUP censures university administrations for their actions, not their personnel. If the administration changes its mind and restores academic freedom, and reinstates or compensates the victim, then the AAUP will remove censure, even though the very same people remain in charge. If everyone in the administration and Board of Trustees is replaced, but the policies remain the same, then censure must remain. So far, the Board of Trustees has made no substantive changes in policies, no investigation of what happened, and no reinstatement or settlement with Salaita. Your move, University of Illinois.

    • As Chair of Committee A I can speak for the AAUP. John’s comment is correct. We censure administrations and not their members. We remove institutions from the censure list if the initial case is successfully resolved (we of necessity retain flexibility on how the resolution occurs); if policies are adopted (or improved) that ensure that such cases are unlikely to reoccur; and if the overall atmosphere for academic freedom is favorable. We don’t and can’t demand perfection, but we do seek significant improvement. One minor detail: very rarely we do informally investigate institutions already on the censure list and issue a supplementary report, albeit not concerning the original case but most often a new one. Such a supplementary report will be issued next week on the Louisiana State University. It will be the seventh such supplementary report in the AAUP’s 100-year history. With respect to UIUC, we certainly hope that the new leadership will be willing to work with us to remove censure as quickly as possible, but, as John writes, the next move is certainly theirs to make.

  2. As much as I respect both of you, AAUP could certainly make the next move, by, for example, making a very reasonable public statement that given the recent events at UIUC, the university may well have been less-than-forthcoming with the CAFT and the AAUP, and that AAUP looks forward to a more complete accounting as AAUP/UIUC work to resolve the issues that caused the censure.

    That’s hardly a lot for AAUP to say. In fact it’s barely anything.

    So, yes, I say again, AAUP, the next move is YOURS.

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