CFA RESPONDS TO BOARD OF TRUSTEES: A CALL TO SUPPORT CAFT REPORT

On January 15, 2015, the UI Board of Trustees issued a statement saying that the banning of Steven Salaita from his teaching post was “final.”   With this statement, the Board believes that it has quashed any further action in regard to the recommendations made in the report of the  Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT).  The CAFT report states that in firing Steven Salaita, the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees violated the University’s statutes and the processes of shared governance, as well as principles of academic freedom and free speech.  The CAFT report recommends three steps to correct these violations: (1) the remand of the candidacy of Steven Salaita to a committee of experts in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to examine his professional fitness; (2) the retraction of the statements made by the Chancellor, the President, and the Trustees in mass mails in August, 2014 concerning civility as a standard of conduct; and (3) and the financial compensation of Steven Salaita for damages done because of the University’s failure to comply with its hiring procedures.

We support all these recommendations. We believe that we must act to support shared governance and academic freedom. We believe that a united faculty voice in support of the CAFT report recommendations can change the minds of the Trustees. If the Trustees refuse to reconsider Salaita’s candidacy if it comes before them again, then the onus for censure from the AAUP falls squarely upon them.

Some faculty members have suggested that a fair and objective evaluation of Steven Salaita’s professional fitness is not possible in this “politicized” environment. We completely reject this cynicism. The faculty members who will serve on a duly constituted college ad hoc committee can be fully trusted to perform their duties in this personnel action with the utmost seriousness. To think otherwise is to impugn our entire system of personnel evaluation.

By attempting to quash any further action on the CAFT report recommendations, the Board of Trustees has effectively told the UIUC faculty that their carefully considered opinions on hiring matters can simply be disregarded.  We reject this, as we reject all attempts to undermine shared governance on this campus.

We call for all faculty to join us in signing a petition to support the CAFT report recommendation. This petition will be circulated to all Campus Faculty Association (CFA) members. An online version of the petition is now posted on this website. We ask you to send us an email from your Illinois account (to assure an identity check) stating your support. If you know colleagues who might sign, please show them the petition and ask them to send us an email in support of it. If you choose, you may wish to bring this before your department for a vote.

This is a critical time. We face AAUP censure. We face the most serious case of Board overreach in the recent history of the University. We must fight back.