U Of I Chancellor Discusses Progress & Challenges, Including Addressing Sexual Misconduct
In his annual State of the University address Thursday, University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones talked about progress the campus has made in recruiting and retaining faculty members, increasing access to higher education to low-income students, fundraising and expanding both online and on-campus courses.
Speaking to a packed audience at the Illini Union in Urbana, Jones also drew attention to several pressing issues that he says must be addressed promptly, including the policies and practices regarding campus investigations into sexual misconduct.
Improving sexual harassment policies
Jones said he shares the concerns that many within the campus community have expressed, including that campus sexual misconduct policies don’t do enough to protect students and staff.
He apologized that many on campus have been treated inappropriately.
“I am sorry that individuals have had their lives disrupted and found their educational and professional experiences impacted by unacceptable, inexcusable behavior,” Jones said. “I am sorry and I am angry.”
Jones did not specifically reference the sexual harassment case involving U of I law professor Jay Kesan, which led to sanctions many on campus call a slap on the wrist.
But he did say harassment cases recently made public have made many people concerned as to whether the U of I’s standards for sexual misconduct are sufficient.
Jones said the campus has launched a task force to look at ways to improve campus policies.
Moving forward without the Chief
Regarding Chief Illiniwek, Jones said the University of Illinois must move forward without forgetting the controversial symbol that was officially retired over a decade ago. He said the university must find new ways to celebrate, while still acknowledging the school’s history with the Chief.
“I believe there is an honest and sincere critical mass of Illinois family members that are ready, willing, and eager to put this behind us and to focus on the bright future of this university,” Jones said.
Jones said Chief Illiniwek is one of the most divisive issues in the history of the university.
He said a coalition of stakeholders will begin meeting together next month to find ways to bridge the gap between the university and Native American communities. Jones said the coalition will have proposals for this initiative by the end of next semester.
A look ahead
Jones also presented a preview of the “Next 150 Years” plan, which he said will be formally released in the next month.
Jones said the campus is looking forward to having an active, visible presence throughout the state, while remaining anchored in the Champaign-Urbana community.
He said advances in health care and medicine are on the horizon, with the establishment of a new cancer research center, as well as continued growth in the humanities, arts, and sciences.
Jones said he looks forward to working with Illinois’ new governor-elect to “find even more ways to transform our state higher education systems into more growth and prosperity for all of Illinois.”