CHAMPAIGN – University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise said Wednesday the school’s faculty hiring process should change amid an ongoing controversy over the decision to rescind a job offer to one professor.
Wise also said she hopes to mend a rift on the Urbana-Champaign campus over the decision not to hire Steven Salaita, even as another campus department approved a no-confidence vote on the chancellor.
Salaita accepted a job offer at Illinois and would have started teaching last month, before the board of trustees considered his hire. Critics of the decision not to hire Salaita say that professors commonly start jobs before the board considers their appointments, and believe Salaita had already been essentially hired when Wise told him he didn’t have a job at Illinois after all.
“There have been some errors in the process,” Wise told The News-Gazette in an interview Wednesday. “People are on campus and working before their appointments are approved by the board. We need to correct that.”
In October 2013, Salaita accepted an offer to become a professor in the Native American Studies program, starting in August 2014. The board, as a standard practice, would have considered his appointment this month at its regularly scheduled meeting.
But after Salaita posted dozens of sometimes-profane anti-Israel Twitter messages during this summer’s military action in Gaza, Wise wrote to say he wouldn’t be hired. Many students and donors complained to Wise that they believed some of those messages were anti-Semitic.
Wise said Wednesday that, while she wouldn’t reverse her decision, she should have consulted with more people before she wrote to Salaita.
Salaita has not commented but his supporters on campus have said they believe he had already been hired as a professor, a situation in which his statements likely would have been protected by tenure. Faculty members in several departments have approved votes of no-confidence in Wise and the trustees, most recently the Department of History this week.
Wise also said Wednesday that she hopes ease the tension on campus.
“I want to bring the campus back together,” she said.