The University of Illinois Statutes specify how hiring should work:
Recommendations to positions on the academic staff shall ordinarily originate with the department…and shall be presented to the dean for transmission with the dean’s recommendation to the chancellor/vice president. In case a recommendation from a college is not approved by the chancellor/vice president, the dean may present the recommendation to the president, and, if not approved by the president, the dean with the consent of the Board of Trustees may present the recommendation in person before the Board of Trustees in session [emphasis added].
So what did our Chancellor do in Dr. Salaita’s case? After initially approving the recommendation from Interim Dean of LAS Brian Ross to hire Dr. Salaita with tenure, she changed her mind in August and rejected the Dean’s recommendation. She said she would not take his case to the Board because they were unlikely to approve it. Then last week she presented the case to the Board after all, telling them on September 11 that “I cannot recommend that you approve his appointment to the faculty.”
Are the Chancellor’s actions in keeping with her Statutory responsibilities? No.
According to the Statutes, once the Chancellor has decided not to approve the Dean’s recommendation, the next step is up to the Dean. The Statutes do not grant the Chancellor the authority to transform a Dean’s positive recommendation into a negative recommendation from the Chancellor to the Board. If the Chancellor does not agree with the Dean’s recommendation then she is simply supposed to leave it up to the Dean as to whether to pursue the case further with the President and Board.
The Chancellor has breached the Statutes of the University of Illinois.
Why this matters
Would the result have been different if Chancellor Wise had followed the rules? Most likely not, given how heavily the Board voted against hiring Dr. Salaita. But the Chancellor shut down legitimate decision-making and debate by denying the Board even the opportunity (perhaps) of hearing the Dean of the largest college on campus presenting, in person, a positive case for hiring Dr. Salaita.
Chancellor Wise also admitted in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education that the procedures in the Salaita case were irregular.
Is it any wonder that fourteen departments* and many more individual faculty members have stated they have no confidence in the Chancellor?
Faculty members can no longer rely on the administration to follow the Statutes of the university. We need a union and a union contract, to protect educational quality and the reputation of the University of Illinois. Join the effort at <firstname.lastname@example.org>!
* At this writing we tally fourteen departmental votes of no confidence and several other departmental statements of grave concern.