Champaign Senate was unable to get through its full agenda Sept. 22 after discussion of the Steven Salaita issue ran longer than anticipated.
Senators voted on two items: one giving Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise a preliminary campus endorsement for the proposed college of medicine; the other renaming the Institute for Genomic Biology as the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.
The rest of the agenda items will be passed to the Oct. 20 senate meeting, while discussion on the Salaita issue is expected to be taken back up at the Oct. 13 Annual Meeting of the Faculty.
Wise, who some on campus have accused of abridging Salaita's speech and academic freedom, said she welcomes the conversation.
"This has become a national discussion and one that we should participate in," she said. "I believe academic freedom is the bedrock of our institution. ... It's critically important for us to have this dialogue and hear the spectrum of opinion."
She said she has personally met with various groups to discuss the issues surrounding the decision to not recommend the hiring of Salaita, including a group of sign-carrying protestors in attendance who also were at the recent U. of I. Board of Trustees meeting where Salaita's appointment officially was rejected by an 8-1 vote.
Wise said she will continue to meet with critics and supporters, and that discussions already are taking place to strengthen the campus hiring process and the faculty's role in it.
The Salaita issue was discussed by senators in a special committee-of-the-whole format, where speakers pro and con were given two minutes each to make their points. Senators voted to extend the meeting by a half-hour for the discussion.
Supporters generally commended Wise's work as chancellor and said her decision did not rise to the no-confidence votes taken by a few campus departments. Detractors accused the chancellor of being swayed by political and moneyed interests.
Bruce Levine, a professor of history, exemplified those faulting the chancellor for her decision.
"Your decision is already deeply harming this university," he said, an opinion he based on the number of academics boycotting the U. of I. for speaking engagements. "You ran into an organized lobby and you folded."
A U. of I. business student, said Salaita's tone in widely reported online comments, as well as the words he chose to use, was unprofessional and proved him unqualified to lead students.
"There are consequences for what you say," he said. "He crossed the line with what he said."
Roy Campbell, Senate Executive Committee chairman and a professor of computer science, said he hopes faculty members on both sides of the issue can reconcile the "vehement disagreement" and move forward as a campus, now that the board has decided the matter.
Campbell said an SEC task force has been appointed to study university hiring guidelines and make recommendations if needed.
"Nobody is prejudging what that task force might include," he said. "Nobody wants to find our campus in this situation ever again."
As for the discussion leading to the preliminary approval of the campus-based college of medicine, senators were mostly supportive, but said many questions needed to be answered before it could become a reality.
The new college would parlay the national prominence of the university's engineering program and the highly ranked clinical enterprise within the Carle Health System into new medical discoveries and devices, and doctors who think about care from a patient's standpoint.
Wise's administration currently is working on a more-detailed college of medicine plan that will include funding mechanisms and more-specific recommendations.