Springfield Faculty Takes Stand on Academic Freedom

Oct 10, 2014

The University of Illinois Springfield Campus Senate today/Friday passed a measure aimed at protecting academic freedom. It's in response to the U of I's controversial decision to withdraw a professor's job offer.   The vote came after more than an hour of debate, much of it revolving around "civility." That was the term used by Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the university’s Urbana campus, in a mass email sent to the university community in an attempt to justify putting a halt to the hiring of Steven Salaita.  

Steven Salaita held a press conference at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on Sept. 9.
Credit WILL
 Salaita had been in line for a tenured position at that campus until controversy arose over his passionate and sometimes profane tweets about the conflict in the Middle East. The resolution objects to the addition of civility as a requirement for being hired.   James Ermatinger, the administration representative on the senate, argued that what a person says is fair game.  "The way this reads is that basically ... we can hire somebody who is a racist, a sexist," Ermatinger said.  But theater professor Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson said it won't mean an acceptance of what some view as "hate speech."   "I don't think this document is saying 'You now have a license to say bad things to people.' I think what it says instead is that the issue of civility should not now be introduced as an additional criterion in the hiring process," Thibodeaux-Thompson said.  The resolution at the Springfield campus also includes language that urges   faculty be consulted before a job offer is rescinded.