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Leading U of I Faculty Want Killeen To Address Salaita ‘Damage’

Current U of I President Robert Easter, incoming president Timothy Killeen, and wife Roberta Johnson in Chicago

From left, current University of Illinois President Robert Easter, applauds with Timothy L. Killeen and Killeen's wife Roberta M. Johnson, before Killeen is introduced in Chicago November 19. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

A number of academics at the University of Illinois say they need incoming president Timothy Killeen to help reaffirm core values in the wake of the Steven Salaita case.

A 4-page letter includes the signatures of 34 academic officers -14 of them department heads – and was sent out by Philosophy Chair Kirk Sanders, to ‘address the damage that has been done to the campus in the wake of the Salaita decision.’

Some have criticized Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s decision to move forward with revoking his position without consulting faculty first. 

Sanders said it’s important to come up with a statement of shared principals they could rally around – no matter where some faculty stood on U of I Trustees’ decision about professor Salaita.

“Those efforts came out of outreach on part between departments that had voted no confidence, departments that had expressed unqualified confidence in the chancellor, unqualified support of the chancellor," he said.  "And as we talked, there were shared values that really were areas of concern."

Sanders said principles like academic freedom and shared governance should not be controversial. 

The letter doesn’t address specifics about Salaita, noting that only some of those who signed it pushed for his reinstatement.

Sanders said a couple areas on campus were hurt by the Salaita case - including the History Department, which he said had to abandon an approved senior search, as well as Philosophy, which had a colloquium series cancelled for the academic year.

Salaita lost his appointment to teach at the U of I’s American Indian Studies program due to a series of inflammatory tweets criticizing Israel over the summer.