An Open Letter to President Killeen

adminallthewaydown

Dear President Killeen,

I was struck by your decision to stop by and visit with the NTFC members working outside your office. You may be wondering why the NTFC members are striking again. After all didn’t negotiations just start today? Being from SUNY and new to UIUC, you may not be familiar with our history with crooked administrators.

Former UIUC President Michael Hogan raised his salary to more than $100,000 dollars more than his predecessor. He alienated faculty by increasing the role of University administration. Hogan resigned in 2012 after over 200 professors, including endowed chairs and distinguished professors called for his removal. He was followed by Robert Easter, known as “the accidental president.”

Our troubles didn’t end there. Last year, Phyllis Wise resigned amid a controversy over the use of her personal email for University-related communications, in violation of Illinois law. This was following “external issues” that had plagued the end of her tenure. Steven Salaita had been preparing to move to Illinois to join the faculty at UIUC, but was informed by Chancellor Wise in August of 2015 that his position would not be recommended for approval by the Board of Trustees. This resulted in censure by the American Association of University Professors and national embarrassment.

The Athletics Department has also been subject to scandals. Former head coach Matt Bollant was accused of abusing female basketball players verbally and harassing them. Although parents submitted letters describing the abuse, the Office of Diversity, Equity, Access, and Human Resources found no violation of laws or University policy. Similarly, after allegations of abuse by players, former football coach Tim Beckman was fired. Although Beckman was fired for forcing injured players to play, UIUC had to pay him $250,000 because he was “wrongful[ly] terminated.”
These scandals aren’t only present at the executive level. The GEO has been meeting about two different arbitrations this year. In one of the arbitrations, the arbitrator ruled that the University needed to provide the GEO with reasons why appointment letters were sent beyond the deadline in the contract. However, in a meeting with the GEO, Craig Hoefer, a University counsel, stated, “Even if we were able to issue you all the letters there’s not going to be much in the way of damages.” Late appointment letters mean that graduate employees face months of uncertainty about their employment, leading to stress; however, all Hoefer sees it is a financial decision that affects the University’s bottom line. Late appointment letters also make it difficult to make financial decisions like signing a lease and may make it difficult for international students to get a visa.

Similarly, NTFC is asking for multi-year contracts for stability for their members and their families, as well as their students. Although the University claims that multi-year contracts are already University policy, most NTFC faculty who are eligible do not have multi-year appointments. Likewise, the GEO contract specifies when departments should send appointment letters to graduate employees, yet the University does not want to abide by the agreement. University officials at all levels seem to balk at anything beyond discussing “principles.” If the University can’t make strides to abide by policies already in place, why should we trust administrators?

President Killeen, I think you’re a trustworthy administrator, but it’s hard to trust you because we know the people you work with. Despite the teaching and research done by NTFC and GEO members, the administration doesn’t honor agreements already in place. It’s hard to trust people who don’t respect your work. If your administration respects our work, then they need to show us.

Describing an interaction between a scientist and a member of the public, Stephen Hawking stated, “A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: ‘What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.’ The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, ‘What is the tortoise standing on?’ ‘You’re very clever, young man, very clever,’ said the old lady. ‘But it’s turtles all the way down!’” Right now, the evidence shows us that the administration is crooked administrators all the way down. Maybe this isn’t true, but we have no reason to believe otherwise. All the evidence shows that the administration does not respect us. They are late to meetings. They do not respond to emails for days or weeks. They claim that University policy works when the evidence shows that it doesn’t. If you want us to trust you, you need to give us a reason.

Sincerely,

A concerned graduate student and member of the University community