The UIUC Boycott – What’s Next?

There has been a lot of movement in the Steven Salaita story in the past few weeks, timed perfectly for the anniversary of the un-hiring. I want to talk about Phyllis Wise’s parachute and the future of the UIUC boycott.

The news:

First – the emails that Phyllis Wise tried to hide on a private server were released via FOIA. Kudos to IL Open Records laws (if I understand it right) for saying that public records are public records, regardless of what email account was used. Here’s a good piece on what the letters say – from the AAUP blog.

Second – federal court has allowed Salaita’s suit against UIUC to go ahead. The judge dismissed the claim that Salaita wasn’t really hired. Yes, the BoT hadn’t approved it, but he’d been given classes, an office, invited to look at housing, filled out all his paperwork, and otherwise performed all the activities associated with being hired. To pretend he wasn’t would go against decades of standard practice in academic hiring, and the judge isn’t interested in playing pretend. Second, the judge finds the free speech claims plausible, because clearly Salaita was fired for speaking publicly via Twitter, which goes to the heart of free speech.  David Palumbo-Liu has more, at The Nation.


Meanwhile, Wise has abruptly resigned, and is set to get a year sabbatical, a $400,000 golden parachute, and a tenured position in the biology department. Like all other right-thinking humans, I am appalled at the notion that Wise will be so well rewarded (and perhaps the 400K bonus will not be paid, and then she’ll sue, etc.).

I’ve been thinking, though, that it’s vital that administrators, who are often fired or pushed to resign, to have some kind of faculty position waiting for them. Otherwise, even fewer faculty would take administrative positions and we would cede governance of our university to even more corporate managers. The faculty fallback allows someone to take a provost job somewhere and to push an agenda. What do you think?

And then there’s the boycott. The boycott has been an effective tool for registering dissent, but not for effecting change. It’s hurt precisely the UIUC departments most hurt by the un-hiring. Is it time to let that tool go?

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