The original resolution supporting the principles of academic freedom and fair employment for faculty members on the Urbana campus was replaced with an alternate version and approved by senators at the May 5 Urbana Academic Senate meeting.
Supporters of the alternate version said the original version went too far in identifying a faculty member on campus whose employment situation is the impetus for the resolution.
Sen. Kim C. Graber, a professor of kinesiology and community health and a co-chairman of the Senate Executive Committee, said the new version she submitted also mentions specific university statutes supporting academic freedom, giving it greater weight than the first version.
"It emphasizes the same principles," she said, "but it takes out any implicit reference to an (ongoing) employment case. It's stated in a manner that would be less contentious."
Sen. Kathryn J. Oberdeck, a professor of history and one of 14 sponsors of the original resolution, said that version did not unduly identify the faculty member in question.
She said the intention of the resolution was to ensure the "appropriate application of these principles," which includes academic freedom as it relates to university hiring practices and unit autonomy.
"(The resolution) emphasizes that the main qualification for appointment is fitness of qualification," she said. "We need to affirm from the floor of the senate the principles of academic freedom."
The SEC a week earlier had shelved the Oberdeck proposal after leaders met in executive session to discuss whether the document identified the faculty member in question. They decided it did and voted not to place it on the senate agenda.
Following a special SEC meeting May 2, the resolution was resubmitted as new business.
On May 5, more than 300 faculty members delivered a petition to the Office of the Chancellor asking that the specific case be reconsidered, echoing a call made in a letter by the American Association of University Professors sent in April.
Many senators supporting the replacement resolution said a resolution wasn't needed at all, considering the specific employment issue was being investigated and would be addressed through a committee established by Ilesanmi Adesida, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.
Sen. Mary Mallory, a professor of library administration and a supporter of the original version of the resolution, said she was concerned that the replacement version had been submitted and accepted after the normal senate materials deadline and was not part of the meeting materials packet.
"Why is this sprung on us after we walked in the door?" she asked. "It's very uncollegial."
Other supporters of the original version expressed confusion over the competing resolution, considering the case had garnered widespread media coverage and the faculty member in question had waived confidentiality rights.
And they expressed concern that the provost's committee circumvents the senate process, which has a committee on academic freedom and tenure, and the campus Faculty Advisory Committee.
SEC member Abbas Aminmansour, a professor of architecture, advised against approving either of the resolutions, saying university processes are performing as intended.
He said the faculty member in question had yet to even avail himself of the established grievance process, making the body's action premature.
"You don't need to make these things public," he said, unless there was evidence the system had been abused. "There's no need for a resolution."
Graber, who submitted the alternate version of the resolution, asked senators not to support it.
But they did, by a 44-21 vote.