Champaign Senate at its Feb. 16 meeting, though the rest of the senate's business was tabled after senators discovered they were three senators short of a quorum.
The quorum call forced senate leaders to adjourn the meeting and extend the agenda's remaining business to a reconvened March 9 meeting.
The Feb. 16 meeting was a continuation of the Feb. 9 meeting, which went well beyond the allotted time because of the discussion of the proposed Urbana college of medicine and the report on the Steven Salaita situation.
The 60-24 vote in favor of the resolution carried the day, but a count by attendees afterward revealed there were only 97 senators present, short of the minimum 100 senators required to officially conduct business.
Last year, the senate attempted to resolve the perennially low senate meeting turnout problem by passing a resolution reducing the quorum to 75. However, the measure was never considered by the U. of I. Board of Trustees.
The Feb. 16 resolution was debated vigorously for around an hour and survived several amendments, with senators finally settling on a version that added wording referring to the American Association of University Presidents' 1940 landmark statement on academic freedom.
The resolution was presented as a consensus-producing transitional document that involved the work of sponsoring professors Ben McCall (chemistry), Randy McCarthy (mathematics), Joyce Tolliver (Spanish/Portuguese) and Nicholas Burbules, (education policy, organization and leadership). It outlines three outstanding issues they found in the Salaita case and recommendations for addressing them.
The first issue, a conflict within Provost Communications 2, 3 and 9, "apparently give(s) conflicting advice about the roles of the chancellor and president, once a hiring and/or promotion case has been reviewed by the provost."
The second issue is, "Nowhere in the statutes or other governing documents are there guidelines about what process of consultation, including consultation with faculty, the chancellor should follow."
Recommendations include fixing the language in the communications, and "If it is judged that an independent stage of review at the chancellor's level should be preserved, the Office of the Provost should develop explicit procedures for consultation with unit administrators, and with relevant faculty committees, to be followed during such reviews."
Issue three deals with due process and asks that a universitywide committee be formed to review the University Statutes and General Rules to ensure that policies on academic freedom and extramural speech "and the language in which they are expressed, are clear, consistent and informed by relevant AAUP policy statements on the subject."
Any changes in the statutes as the result of recommendations from the committee, comprised of the campuses' committees on academic freedom and tenure and other representatives universitywide, would go through the normal three-campus deliberation process.
"It's a forward-looking resolution that is intended to prevent it from happening again," McCall said.
He said the result was a "consensus language" document created by "people with very different views" on the handling of Salaita, all of them focused on improving the process.
"It's a look at what might have gone wrong with this process and how to prevent it from happening again," Burbules said.
The other agenda item pushed to the March 9 meeting is a McCall-sponsored resolution related to Salaita that affirms the senate's belief that a prior statement by the chancellor about civility in academic debate "be corrected or clarified to reassure faculty that a lack of civility itself is not a basis for a decision to discipline or dismiss a faculty member."
At the Feb. 9 meeting, senators narrowly endorsed a report from the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure that recommends revisiting the Salaita affair.
"The conclusions of the committee are clear," said Bruce Levine, a professor of history and a co-author of the Campus Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee report, which started investigating the matter last year.
He said the 51-41 vote in favor of adopting the committee report was a test of the senate's will.
"Will (it) back up the findings of our committee, will it stand up for the right of faculty (members)?" he said. "Will we put our money where our mouths are?"
The committee report says Salaita's academic freedom was abridged and Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise violated university statutes that are designed to promote and protect shared governance in decision-making.
It also asks that the chancellor rescind a statement she sent to campus that holds up civility as a principle of academic debate, and that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences be allowed to form a committee to re-review Salaita's academic record to determine whether his scholarly fitness is up to U. of I. faculty standards.
The imbroglio started last year when the American Indian Studies program offered Salaita a tenured faculty position and Wise opted not to forward the recommendation to the U. of I. Board of Trustees after controversial social media comments attributed to Salaita surfaced.
Since then, the board of trustees voted 8-1 to not hire Salaita into a tenured faculty position, the chancellor has clarified her statement, the AAUP has publicly opposed the idea of a professional fitness review and Salaita has filed a federal lawsuit.
Because of that, many at the senate meeting argued that creating an LAS faculty re-review committee is counterproductive.
"It's not going to do anything in the long run," said Kim Graber, a professor of kinesiology and community health and a member of the Senate Executive Committee.
The Campus Academic Freedom and Tenure report can be accessed on the senate website.