A UI Trustee Breaks Ranks! We Have an Opening!

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: chris@northbankandwells.com

Robert A. Easter, President: reaster@uillinois.edu

Hannah Cave, Trustee: hcave2@illinois.edu

Ricardo Estrada, Trustee: estradar@metrofamily.org

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee: patrick.fitzgerald@skadden.com

Lucas N. Frye, Trustee: lnfrye2@illinois.edu

Karen Hasara, Trustee: hasgot28@aol.com

Patricia Brown Holmes, Trustee: pholmes@schiffhardin.com

Timothy N. Koritz, Trustee: timothy.koritz@gmail.com or tkoritz@gmail.com

Danielle M. Leibowitz, Trustee: dleibo2@uic.edu

Edward L. McMillan, Trustee: mcmillaned@sbcglobal.net or mcmillaned@msn.com

James D. Montgomery, Trustee: james@jdmlaw.com

Pamela B. Strobel, Trustee: pbstrobel@comcast.net

Thomas R. Bearrows, University Counsel: bearrows@uillinois.edu

Susan M. Kies, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and the University: kies@uillinois.edu

Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Treasurer, Board of Trustees: lmckeever@wpmck.com

40 Comments

  1. Phil Perspective September 5, 2014 at 11:28 am | #

    Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee: …

    Is that Patrick Fitzgerald of prosecuting Scooter Libby fame?

    • jonnybutter September 5, 2014 at 11:53 am | #

      Yes.

  2. Lynne September 5, 2014 at 11:40 am | #

    Evidently one of the e-mails I sent yesterday has had an effect.

    • ralph September 5, 2014 at 12:42 pm | #

      fwiw here’s my letter just sent:

      Ralph Johansen
      Attorney at Law (inactive)
      130 Lakeside Loop
      Crescent City, CA 95531
      707-465-3570
      September 5, 2014

      Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair,
      University of Illinois Board of Trustees

      Dear Mr. Kennedy.

      I feel much regret for the pickle you find yourselves in as a Board, and for all the implications for academic freedom and for the reputation, most likely to be permanently affected, of this university. The only saving solution. obviously, is to bite the bullet and rehire Steven Salaita.

      Yours truly,

      Ralph Johansen

      • Lynne September 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm | #

        I like it, especially “bite the bullet”, which is something we all have to do sometimes.

      • Ash September 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm | #

        “I feel much regret for the pickle you find yourselves in”

        Now this made me giggle. Pickle is something of a massive understatement.

  3. JOANNA A. September 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm | #

    Here’s what I emailed to your list…..in case it makes a useful template.

  4. Howard Swerdloff September 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm | #

    FYI: Thomas Bearrows, whose email you have above is upset about all the email he is getting. He says he’s not a member of the B of T and please stop. Sounds like a lot of people are writing.

    • Ash September 5, 2014 at 4:26 pm | #

      Where did he say that?

  5. mlmcgill September 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm | #

    The first of the Koritz email addresses bounced my letter back to me; will try the second and hope it goes through. Thanks for sticking to this Corey. It’s worth the fight.

    • mlmcgill September 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm | #

      The second address — tkoritz@gmail.com — seems to have worked.

  6. bor September 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm | #

    Please make sure to include this article in your emails:

    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/183813/steven-salaita-academic-work

  7. Ash September 5, 2014 at 3:30 pm | #

    I’m drafting my email now (which will be sent to each Trustee individually). Just trying to keep it to the point.

    I’m feeling VERY hopeful.

  8. Ben Chappell (@MidWestLeft) September 5, 2014 at 3:50 pm | #

    The reason Mr. Montgomery is having trouble telling right from wrong boils down to his phrase “pressure the university to reverse its decision.” The decision of the university was to hire. The decision of the Chancellor was to reverse that decision, under pressure. Trustees and head administrators who see themselves as “the university” and the faculty as something else are the entire problem.

    • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 5, 2014 at 4:15 pm | #

      Very sharp eye there, Ben Chappell. Good close reading of the passage. And very revealing as regards the nature of subjective institutional identification where power distribution runs into conflict with stated institutional goals and interests — or discloses them.

  9. Illyria One (@IllyriaOne) September 5, 2014 at 7:02 pm | #

    This guy will be the next one to get fired, just watch.

  10. NattyB September 6, 2014 at 1:00 am | #

    Just a reminder of the structural forces aligned against his appointment:

    Chairman of the Board of Trustees Christopher Kennedy:

    Our intention isn’t to hurt him financially. We don’t like to see that. We are not trying to hurt the guy. We just don’t want him at the university.

    Did you catch that. Without any formal finding of fact. On behalf of whom does JFK’s nephew speak? The faculty? The students? They didn’t consult any of them. The “Donor Class,” the Champaign Country Club? The Nomenklatura? Like, I missed the part where there was some due process to determine that Dr. Salaita’s communication’s rendered him so dirty, that this XXXX in a suit, is justified and authorized to say: “we don’t want him here.”

    I’ve never heard of trustees vetoing a faculty appointment. We’re talking less than $80k/year.

  11. Greer Eggers September 6, 2014 at 2:52 pm | #

    I’m curious about journalists’ use of the term “Israel critic.” When people object to the invasion of Iraq and other actions and policies of the U.S., it would be inconceivable for a journalist to refer to them as “America critics.” The apparent purpose of “Israel critic” is to bolster the idea that any criticism of Israeli policies or actions is a criticism of the nation’s very existence.

    • Snarki, child of Loki September 6, 2014 at 4:52 pm | #

      More likely, it’s just that many more Americans recognize the name “Israel” than recognize the name “Likud” or “Netanyahu”

  12. bor September 7, 2014 at 2:16 am | #

    We now also have this article about Salaita’s “scholarship,” which includes at the end a section from the article I had found in looking over the 430 emails released by the university as part of Salaita’s application for the position at UI. It’s highlighted in blue. But read the entire article first.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/09/05/someone-actually-read-steven-salaitas-scholarship/

    Read it and weep, not only because this man actually got tenure, not only because he was actually published by university presses, not only because he was hired by a new university, not only because he’s a key member of the BDS movement (completely unsurprisingly, by the way, since those of us who oppose this movement keep trying to tell you all what it’s about), but especially because so many of you are defending him.

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