In another bombshell, UI trustee James D. Montgomery tells Ali Abunimah, well, I’ll just quote from Ali’s piece:
A trustee of the University of Illinois has added to public criticism over the decision to fire Palestinian American professor and Israel critic Steven Salaita.
“I think it would have been far better had it been dealt with differently and had it been done with more consultation with faculty,” James D. Montgomery told The Electronic Intifada today.
He also acknowledged the “adverse” impact that a growing boycott was having on the university’s ability to function.
Montgomery, a prominent Chicago attorney, echoed the regrets expressed by Chancellor Phyllis Wise over her own role in the affair.
Montgomery was careful, however, to say that he was undecided about the merits of the case, but he sounded far less certain and more circumspect than a public statement he signed last month along with other trustees forcefully backing Wise’s decision.
Montgomery laid out some of the issues that the board would be faced with at its upcoming 11 September meeting.
“Obviously there’s a lot of uproar on both sides of the issue from the perspective of students and alums who are offended by the manner in which Salaita spoke,” Montgomery said.
“And there are folks who are claiming that is a violation of the right to academic freedom. It’s a difficult decision in terms of what is right and what is wrong,” he continued.
“I know we’re going into executive session and obviously there are people who are seeking to pressure the university to reverse its decision. It’s coming from very significant places. It’s had an adverse impact because people are declining to participate in university activities and there have been a number of events canceled.”
“How it will turn out is anybody’s guess and I would not hazard one at this point,” Montgomery now says, adding he personally has not made up his mind about the issues the board would have to decide.
Here’s the take home:
First, and most important, this is not a done deal. Montgomery very clearly says that he has no idea how or what the Trustees will decide, and how he will vote. So keep up the pressure (more below).
Second, a member of the BoT has now admitted that the faculty should have been involved in this decision.
Third, that a trustee would be willing to go on the record like this, again, it shows a university that is not in control of itself.
Fourth, as Bonnie Honig pointed out to me, the UI Board of Trustees is very small. There are twelve members, and two of them (students) can’t vote. That means at least one out of ten of the trustees is undecided. Believe it or not, that’s huge.
Fifth, when we went through a similar battle over BDS at Brooklyn College, this is how it happened. One cracked, and then they all fell down. No predictions, no guarantees. But this could be the beginning of the end.
Sixth, and again most important, email the Board of Trustees. We have an opening, so let’s take it. Be polite, be firm, reach out to them as people. All of you have gotten us to this point. Now take us all the way there.
Again here are the emails:
Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees: email@example.com
Robert A. Easter, President: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hannah Cave, Trustee: email@example.com
Ricardo Estrada, Trustee: firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee: email@example.com
Lucas N. Frye, Trustee: firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Hasara, Trustee: email@example.com
Patricia Brown Holmes, Trustee: firstname.lastname@example.org
Danielle M. Leibowitz, Trustee: email@example.com
James D. Montgomery, Trustee: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pamela B. Strobel, Trustee: email@example.com
Thomas R. Bearrows, University Counsel: firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan M. Kies, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and the University: email@example.com
Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Treasurer, Board of Trustees: firstname.lastname@example.org