Board of Trustees Meeting, Sept. 11, 2014

Prepared remarks by U of I President Robert A. Easter and U of I at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise.

President Robert Easter

I have an ardent belief that universities must be rooted in the open and frank discussion that is fundamental to democratic society and take seriously our responsibility to prepare the next generation of leaders. In our pluralistic society, it is increasingly obvious that forward progress is impeded by polarization, bigotry and hurtful dialogue that inhibits reasoned discourse. I have come to the conclusion that Professor Salaita’s approach indicates that he would be incapable of fostering a classroom environment where conflicting opinions could be given equal consideration, regardless of the issue being discussed. I am also concerned that his irresponsible public statements would make it more difficult for the University and particularly the Urbana-Champaign campus to attract the best and brightest students, faculty and staff. I concur with the chancellor that Professor Salaita should not be appointed and that the Board should support this decision.

Chancellor Phyllis Wise

There are many – on our campus and beyond – who feel passionate about the University of Illinois and our decision not to appoint Dr. Steven Salaita to our faculty. As chancellor, I recognize and accept the responsibility of making difficult and even unpopular decisions. My goal has always been to make decisions that are in the best interest of the campus, and to further its vision, goals, objectives and reputation.

Although Dr. Salaita’s appointment had gone through many procedural steps, including my initial approval, I cannot recommend that you approve his appointment to the faculty.

To my campus faculty colleagues who are frustrated and angry about this case, I pledge that I will continue to listen and learn, and work hard to bring the campus together. To my faculty colleagues who are concerned about process issues, I pledge to you my commitment to the principles of shared governance, and I will engage even more in consultation with deans, departments and faculty.

To the larger Illinois community, including our students and their families, our academic peers around the world, and all those whose attention has turned to us as we face this challenge: I’d say to you, we will be stronger because of this and look forward to the engagement of our entire community.