After extensive debate during an extended meeting Oct. 4, members of the Urbana-Champaign Senate passed their latest resolution calling into question the UI’s affiliation with the Academy on Capitalism and Limited Government Foundation.
Citing the foundation's "secret" new affiliation, created in 2009 with the UI Foundation, senators, in a 73-29 vote, called for dissolution of the agreement that established the group as a 509(a)(3) affiliate of the UI. The resolution further called for the organization to become a fully independent foundation and that all funds held by the UI Foundation toward the purpose of funding it be returned.
The reviewing campus committee, called the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on the ACLGF (aka the Ulen Committee) investigated the organization in 2007 and 2008. According to the senate resolution's background statement, the committee concluded in its final 2008 report that the organization's mission of promoting capitalism and free enterprise violates the UI's mission of being a "free and distinguished university" because "the narrow advocacy mission expressed by the ACLG Foundation was inconsistent with the university's standards of open and free inquiry."
The committee also found that the organization's operation violated the UI's principle of being an autonomous institution "because the association of the ACLG Foundation with the UI, its establishment and its academic mission were unaccountable to traditional administrative and faculty governance oversight."
In her opening remarks Monday, Senate Chairwoman Joyce Tolliver said the UI has worked for years to come to an agreement on an appropriate relationship between the organization and the UI.
"(The resolution) affirms the recommendation made by the Ulen Committee in July 2008, in the face of the failure of months - and now years - of good-faith attempts to find a structure that would make the ACLGF's mission and operations consistent with the fundamental principals of institutional neutrality and institutional autonomy," Tolliver said.
"That recommendation was that the ACLGF should establish themselves as a truly independent institution, with no explicit or implied relationship to our university."
In later talks with the UI Foundation, the foundation had become (in 2009) a "supporting organization," a legal tax category allowing the group to proclaim both "independence from the UI and affiliation with the UI for fundraising purposes."
The senate also has recognized possible conflicts of interest when it learned that a large percentage of funded ACLGF projects were going to members of its own advisory council.
"This appears to be in violation of university ethics rules that prohibit this type of conflict of interest," according to the resolution.
Earlier this summer, Stanley O. Ikenberry, who was serving as UI president in an interim role, attempted to help negotiate a set of guidelines for the expenditure of ACLGF money, which stated that the foundation could expend funds only in response to faculty-initiated proposals and establish more open and transparent process for inviting and evaluating proposals. Also, the funding would have to be vetted by the proper unit and campus-level review first.
Despite the agreement, the senate believes that certain language in the ACLGF's documents state that money raised on behalf of university research can be used for other purposes if university authorities say it doesn't fit certain research protocol.
The senate also takes exception to the ACLGF's original mission language, which the organization won't change.
"Equally clear was that their fundamental doctrine - that capitalism and limited government are superior social and economic principles - was not subject to change; and in fact that their commitment to this doctrine, much more than any commitment to rigorous intellectual inquiry or to the (UI) itself was the driving force behind the establishment of the ACLGF in the first place," according to the senate document.
Before passing the resolution, Senators voted several times on revisions to the background statement accompanying the resolution, which deleted language that possibly could imply a conflict of interest among certain academic staff. They also amended language in the resolution itself that alluded to an ideological advocacy mission on the part of the ACLGF.
At the beginning of the meeting, Tolliver asked senators to let the governing body know about any other funding organization they had concerns with regarding institutional autonomy or institutional neutrality.
"Other colleagues have suggested that we should not single out the ACLGF for special attention, alleging that other units on campus have an implicit or explicit ideological mission. I want to be clear that the ACLGF is the only organization we know about that claims an academic affiliation with our campus while operating outside of regular campus and university oversight and approval structures," Tolliver said.
In other business, the senate:
Approved a revision to the M.S. in advertising from the Graduate College and College of Media.
Approved revisions to the University Statues regarding academic freedom, which state that academic staff has the freedom "to teach, conduct research, participate in faculty governance and civic discourse without interference." The revision was prompted by a proposal from the Committee on Academic Freedom in the wake of two recent Supreme Court decisions that placed limits on the rights of state employees to criticize their employers.
Approved revisions to the senate bylaws regarding adding other academic staff electorate to the senate electorate per constitution amendments.
Approved revisions to the senate election rules regarding the faculty electorate, other academic electorate and student electorate.