13 August 2015

I Have Never Heard of Something like This in Academe Before

One of the bigger clusterF%$#s in academe recently has been the hiring, and subsequent "un-hiring" of Steven Salaita, a professor of literature with a focus on American Studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

During Operation Cast Lead, he was rather "emphatic" on the Twitter machine regarding military operations in Gaza, and as a result of pressure from the legislature and the alumni, his offer was rescinded.

It was a done deal, and Salaita had already resigned his prior (tenured) position when the offer was revoked.

In the ensuing kerfuffle,  it was discovered, it was discovered that the Chancellor, who was the bag man for this sordid affair, was conducting business over her personal email with the specific goal of evading Illinois open record laws.

After all this came out, a new president came in, and started cleaning house.

The Chancellor, Phyllis Wise, offered her resignation, but the trustees rejected her resignation, and instead fired her, which cost her a significant retention bonus and a paid sabbatical year:
University of Illinois trustees Wednesday rejected a $400,000 bonus payment for outgoing Chancellor Phyllis Wise, backpedaling on a resignation deal made last week and instead choosing to begin dismissal proceedings against her.

The unanimous decision to reject Wise's resignation came six days after she announced she would step aside just ahead of the revelation that she had been using a personal email account to hide discussions of sensitive and controversial issues from the public. The deal had been recommended by new U. of I. President Timothy Killeen.

But the terms of her resignation, including the bonus intended to acknowledge four years in the job, were roundly criticized by Gov. Bruce Rauner and others, and the board's three-member executive committee decided Wednesday to take the more contentious — and legally risky — path of firing Wise for cause instead.

The board will next provide Wise with "a statement of the reasons" for firing her and will hold a dismissal hearing, according to a letter U. of I. board Chair Edward McMillan sent Wise after Wednesday's meeting. Until then, Wise will be assigned as an adviser to the U. of I. president on biomedical affairs and continue to draw her salary of $549,069. She will retain her tenured faculty appointment, as the dismissal applies only to her administrative role. The board Wednesday appointed Dean Barbara Wilson as the acting interim chancellor.


Killeen said discussions about Wise's resignation began early last week when she was presented with the findings of an investigation into her deliberate use of a personal email account to hide information. Killeen said he did not "directly" ask Wise to resign and that she "indicated interest or willingness" to do so. She publicly cited "external issues" as the reason after a tumultuous year at the state's flagship public campus.


U. of I. on Friday released about 1,100 pages of emails that showed Wise and other campus administrators used personal email accounts in an attempt to circumvent state public records laws, a violation of university policy. The emails were related to three of the university's most significant and controversial decisions from the past year: the decision to withdraw a job offer to professor Steven Salaita, the hiring of felon James Kilgore and the proposal to open an engineering-based medical school on the Urbana-Champaign campus.


Rosenstein said he had disagreed with how Wise handled the situation with Salaita, whose job offer was withdrawn last year after he wrote dozens of critical and sometimes profane comments on Twitter about Israel and its military policies. And Rosenstein said he was further disturbed by the content of some of the emails that Wise tried to keep private.
First, let me say that I think that Wise deserved to be fired, if just for the aggressive evasion of open record acts.   (The James Kilgore thing is a typical bullsh%$ tempest in a teapot.  He's an adjunct who has done his time)

On the Salaita matter, it is clear that just everything was handled badly, but I get the sense that she was less the boss on this than she was the bag-man, and she was also the sacrificial lamb.

As Atrios so pithly put it,  "I hate the phrase "Thrown Under A Bus, but it certainly applies here. Thanks for doing our dirty work, no thanks for making us look bad, piss off."


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