UIUC rejects Chancellor Wise’s resignation
Last week, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign did not approve the resignation of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, but shortly after her decision was rejected she announced that she has tendered her resignation for a second time and has declined an administrative position offered to her.
She originally tried to resign hours after a federal judge ruled that Steven Salaita’s case against the university would not be dismissed, much to the disappointment of the university administration, who fired Salaita last year.
According to Wise, her resignation is a result of “external issues [which] have arisen over the past year that have distracted us from the important tasks at hand.”
Wise did not say in her statement whether she intends to remain at UIUC as faculty. University spokesman Thomas Hardy told the Chicago Tribune that Wise’s statement will be reviewed “and the university will determine its appropriate course of action.”
Her resignation was a point of tension in the university due to the payoff she had asked to receive (roughly $400,000). The request for a resignation was initially denied by the university, as there was a disagreement of the terms of termination.
The university dismissed Salaita a year ago, days before he was set to start a tenured position in the American Indian Studies (AIS) program, due to the academic’s public criticism of Israel using twitter. As a result, Salaita filed two lawsuits against the University, stating that the rescinding of his appointment was a violation of his academic freedom and demands his reinstatement.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber rejected UIUC’s attempt to get the case dismissed and ruled that it must continue on and be processed.
“Given the serious ramifications of my termination from a tenured professorship to a wide range of people, I am happy to move forward with this suit in the hope that restrictions on academic freedom, free speech, and shared governance will not become further entrenched because of UIUC’s behavior,” said Steven Salaita in a statement to the Center of Constitutional Rights. [link]
Salaita’s lawyers will now be able to acquire and use additional evidence, including newly released email exchanges between members of university administration, which include evidence of misconduct in the handling of Salaita’s case and conversations that inappropriately took place over private emails, among other things.
“The real question for me is when does freedom of speech cross the line into hateful, harassing, unprofessional speech and action” Wise stated in one of her emails, regarding the words Salaita spoke on his twitter account. The emails concerning Salaita that were exchanged by Illinois’ administration can be found here. The fact that Wise conducted these conversations through her private email were also alarming.
With Salaita’s case being re-evaluated, it is a symbol of the slow undoing of propaganda’s hold on academia, and a new evaluation between what is considered anti-Semitism and what is considered a criticism of a racist, illegal regime. It is still unknown if Salaita’s previous position will be reinstated at the conclusion of the case, but the injustice behind his treatment is finally gaining attention and being objectively analyzed.