U of I Faculty Petition to Retain James Kilgore
Therefore, we ask that the University of Illinois, with immediate effect, reverse its decision not to approve James Kilgore’s future employment contracts. We further ask that the administration base all future decisions regarding employment on performance and suitability for the position, not on outside political pressure or criminal background.
For the past three years, James Kilgore has worked at the University of Illinois (U-C) as an adjunct faculty member, teaching classes in Global Studies and the College of Fine and Applied Arts. Student evaluations of his work have been overwhelmingly positive, landing him on the University’s Excellent Teacher list in 2013. He has also worked as a grant writer for the Center for African Studies. Each of his supervisors has given him glowing performance reviews and had plans to employ him for the 2014-15 academic year.From the outset, he has been open with the university about his criminal background which includes serving prison time for charges based on his political activities in the 1970s. On February 9th, the local News-Gazette, published a lengthy piece about James Kilgore, sensationally highlighting his past and strongly criticizing the University of Illinois for hiring a person with such a history. They added similar pieces on February 16th and 23rd.
The University remained silent on the issue until March 22 when Robin Kaler, U of I Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Kilgore:
“...does a great job. He’s very well-respected among students. He served his time in prison. He is very remorseful... He is a good example of someone who has been rehabilitated, if you believe in second chances and redemption, he’s someone who helps prove that’s the human thing to do.”
On April 9, in a private meeting the University Provost informed James Kilgore that the university would not approve any future contracts to employ him, declining to state why, how and by whom this decision had been taken. This decision represents a serious blow to academic freedom and employment equity. The University should not base employment decisions on outside political pressure. Furthermore, faculty and staff contracts should be renewed based on performance and programmatic needs, not on a person’s political or criminal background.