Bug in the system
Handling of all – not just Salaita’s – cases by U of I is deficient, with the final approval coming only after the move to campus is done. We all are culpable, registering this issue when hired, then happily forgetting about it, waiting for that ticking bomb to explode, relying on assumptions. Debugging this procedure should be done as soon as possible. It seems the administration acts on it.
Role of Trustees
in terms of procedure they were fully within their prerogative not confirming Salaita’s appointment, as
the Board of Trustees exercises final authority over the University.
They are not a rubber stamp, and the fact that they rarely exercise their veto rights does not mean it is nonexistent or unlawful. It just means that it is applied only in extraordinary cases. Clearly, Salaita’s case is an extraordinary case, so the Board of Trustees acted.
We should remember that the BoT is a political body. This is neither bad nor good, this is a part of the mechanism.
According to the BoT’s mission,
for the proper administration and government of the University, the Board of Trustees is responsible to the people of Illinois.
In other words, BoT form a part of check and balances act vis-a-vis us as a corporate body.
As members of our corporation, the University of Illinois, or more broadly, academia, we are biased toward defending the principles enabling our modes of operations, – exactly the same way as British Petroleum relies on the legal principles assigning the mineral rights to them, or Monsanto relies on the intellectual property laws permitting them to produce proprietary seed lines.
Neither right is God given, but rather is a political concession to a corporation, conditional on a political decision. When such a decision is made, it can be fought only by political means. If BoT, in handling Salaita’s case, misread the will of the people of Illinois, they will pay a price. But this is not up to the corporation to assert its rights as if they assigned to it naturally.
Role of the Chancellor
Lastly, where this all places Chancellor Wise? the simple answer is – she is a decent administrator caught in a Catch 22 situation.She tried to remedy a bug in the system, but got into the crosshair of the activists’ anger. Were Chancellor a shrewd politician, she would find plenty of ways to better her standings without getting any heat. She chose to make a quick move to minimize inevitable problems for Dr. Salaita. For that she deserves a full measure of our support.