Campus leaders are forming a committee to study employee hiring and grievance processes.
Ilesanmi Adesida, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, told members of the Senate Executive Committee April 28 that the committee would specifically address the recent case involving a lecturer whose contract has not been renewed, and generally review campus hiring practices.
Adesida said employment issues applying to specialized faculty, the subject of a recent provost's communication that codifying non-tenure faculty hiring procedures, would be a part of the committee's charge.
"The committee will involve campus leaders as well as administrative staff members," Adesida said. "Once we receive the recommendations from the committee, the chancellor and I will consult with campus and university administrators."
The SEC had prepared a statement on academic freedom to present to the full senate, but the statement was rescinded amid worries of illegally identifying the unnamed professor, and in light of Adesida's committee formation announcement.
The decision to not present the statement to the senate was made in executive session, with leaders citing the "personnel" exemption under the Illinois Open Meetings Act to discuss it privately.
The draft statement, a reaffirmation of long-held campus academic freedom principles, was prepared in light of a "well-regarded" lecturer whose contract was not renewed following "media exposure of a controversial political past and felony convictions."
"In the view of many faculty and academic staff (members) on campus, this case raises potentially grave concerns about principles of academic freedom and fairness in the appointment and reappointment of instructional faculty at the university," the draft statement says.
Roy Campbell, a professor of computer science and SEC chair, said the issue put members in a difficult situation of wanting to discuss the academic freedom issues at stake, but not wanting to illegally identify or discuss a contracted employee's employment status in a public setting.
"As part of its efforts to comply with applicable university policies and state/federal laws, the university generally does not discuss publicly potential personnel
actions," he said. "Therefore we must remove any reference to an individual for this item to be considered."
In other business, a resolution presented by the senate's Library Committee will be on the next senate agenda, despite the urging of several SEC members to not include it.
The resolution, which calls for continued university support of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in
Illinois, was presented by Sen. Mary Mallory, a professor of library administration and the chair of the Library Committee.
CARLI is a 145-member statewide academic library system that offers the I-Share resources sharing program, allowing researchers and students to access academic library materials from libraries all over the state.
The impetus for the resolution was a recommendation that came out of the
recent universitywide administrative review process, which questioned why the CARLI fund contained a reserve that is four times greater than its annual operating budget.
Richard P. Wheeler, an English professor and the visiting associate vice president for academic affairs, said the administrative review revealed that the U. of I. is the custodian of the statewide fund and that the surplus was being saved for system upgrades.
He said plans to reduce the reserve are now off the table and that the committee's resolution in support of it was not necessary.
He said the consortium's fee structure would be studied in the future once the system upgrades are complete.
"I don't see the point in doing it," he said of the committee's resolution.
Mallory said the resolution's wording was generic enough for its passage,
despite Wheeler's assurances the issue was resolved.
"I don't feel like I can do that without consulting with the rest of the committee," she said, noting that off-campus members of the consortium also need to be informed that the initial CARLI recommendations in the administrative review had changed.