Category Archives: UIUC-Carle

A Touch of Evil

I’ve held off writing up until now because I’d hoped to see real progress in UIUC engaging in house-cleaning.  Alas, such house-cleaning clearly hasn’t occurred.  Wise is gone (as Chancellor anyway), as is Adesida (as Provost), but my opinion is that neither Wise nor Adesida were the only people who should have been brought to accounting — they were merely two visible outcroppings of a corrupted culture, and what they did (to the extent that we know it now) was encouraged and enabled at every turn by others in the UIUC administration and faculty.

Case in point: Robin Kaler, spokesperson for UIUC.  I knew her from her emails, but hadn’t met her in person until yesterday afternoon when I attended an AAUP presentation at UIUC on the censure and on background checks.  One of the faculty members in the audience brought up the question of why the people who seemingly knowingly avoided FOIA hadn’t been brought to account — I noted that Wise had written in her email that Kaler had told her something like “private emails aren’t subject to FOIA” or something to that effect (I don’t have the quote from the supplemental emails before me at present).

Kaler was in the audience and responded that she hadn’t told Wise that; I said “yes, you did,” she said, “no, I didn’t.” and we went back and forth like that for a few minutes until I asked her what she’d said, and she said something like “I told Wise that all emails could be subject to FOIA” — again, my recollection should be mostly right.

Then I got it — Kaler was saying that Wise’s written statement about what she’d heard from Kaler — presumably shortly after she heard it — was wrong.  Wise got it wrong, misunderstood Kaler.  Of course you’d think this a bit surprising considering that Chancellors of universities are usually pretty sharp about what they hear, and also considering that Kaler’s claimed statement was never committed to paper, so we just have to trust her on what she says she said, don’t we.

I’m many things, but a good liar isn’t within my talent-set, and it took me a good long time to realize that it seems Kaler possesses that particular talent in spades.  And why not lie?  Why not claim you made a statement that no one can contest your having made because you never wrote it down, and you can argue than anyone who did write it down (like the Chancellor of UIUC) no matter how close to when you said it (likely very close) got the statement wrong.

Brilliant.  And evil.  Assuming Kaler’s lying (I believe she is, but I suppose we don’t know the truth at this point), isn’t that just a perfect example of the indifference she and all the others in this sorry sordid affair took (and take) to being open?  Or is it just so much simpler to not say anything at all when you have power? To not be honest when you don’t have to be because you live in a consequence-free bubble.

***

And that brings me to my current lament, which is that we’re now more-or-less two months post Wise/Adesida, and 4 or 5 months post court decision requiring the disclosure of the 10,000 Salaita emails, and yet we’re still no closer to having been given any real information by UIUC, much less seeing any mea culpas or self-examination by the folks in the Swanlund building.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; but even so, I’m still disgusted.  What do you suppose it will take for one or more of these people to realize that truth-telling isn’t a liability, and that “the corporate model” they claim to be emulating isn’t actually based on a surplus of lies?

BTW, here’s the latest FOIA of Burbules — it’s large, c. 27mb.  I find his conversations with Jorge Villegas (Business Admin, UI Springfield) about the medical school yet more evidence of how wrapped up in the medical school all these people were at the time Salaita was happening.  Once again it reinforces my conclusion that Wise wouldn’t have cared in the least about Salaita had he happened at a different time.  And it also makes me wonder even more why Burbules was this busy pushing the medical school.  Pure sycophancy?

FOIA _15-500-503

“Freedom of Speech” is NOT Freedom to Newspeak. (CORRECTED)

Consider “newspeak.”  George Orwell, “1984,” for those unfamiliar with the book.  The word reverberates long after communism is gone, reverberations that continue to carry the original meaning of a language developed expressly to suppress independent thought, indeed to create a language that — by its very construction — makes independent thought impossible.

***

1. “Public Curiosity” as espoused by UI’s lawyer in the Salaita FOIA case is one recent example of newspeak, you know, that statement that the public’s concern about the Salaita case isn’t actually “public concern,” but merely “curiosity,” the kind of rubbernecking that goes on about the Kardashians, as UI’s lawyer put it.  I wonder how much we paid him to produce this ode to dissembling, as well as to the wholesale destruction of the english language.

***

2. “Gone Missing” is another nice one, credit Steven Salaita for this one.  Specifically, when he tweeted a week after the three Jewish teens were murdered that “more settlers should go missing,” he was called on it and responded that, by “go missing” he merely meant “get out of Palestine,” in other words “missing” as in “leave” as opposed to “be slaughtered.”

Note that the problem with what Salaita said has much less to do with the fact that he said it, and much more to do with the fact that he defended it later on.  I don’t know exactly where the line of horribleness is drawn, but murder of children — whether by Palestinian terrorists, Jewish terrorists, or the actions of both Hamas and the Israeli government in the Gaza war — is not something that ought ever make it into justifications of any sort for any party.  People in general don’t deserve to be killed, certainly civilians less than soldiers, and certainly children not at all.

And Salaita’s happy dancing around what he said rather than owning up to the wrongness of it … well it goes a long way to eliminating not only variant speech but indeed the ability to speak outside a narrow box.

It’s newspeak, in other words.

***

3. “I didn’t consult in the manner that I pride myself on normally doing,” I admit, I don’t remember exactly what Chancellor Wise’s construct was for justifying all the conversations that she had about Salaita before she un-hired him, you know those conversations she told the Committee on Freedom and Academic Tenure (CAFT) that she never had.

“Never” meaning, according to Wise’s later mid-course correction, that yes, she did have conversations but NEVER to the extent that she normally has conversations when she means to have conversations.  It was a conversation, but surely not a Wise-certified “CONVERSATION.”

Yes well.  Lying is lying is lying is lying, and no amount of constructing a bulwark of words around that core truth changes that truth.  Note that the circumstances Wise was referring to involved the discovery by samizdat-startups.org that Wise was talking to Nick Burbules and Joyce Tolliver the morning of the Salaita un-hiring (July 24,2014), something neither she nor Burbules nor Tolliver revealed.

Note also that the significance isn’t that she was talking to people — we could already have guessed that.  Instead, the significance is that she was doing a whole LOT of talking to a whole LOT of POWERFUL people, some of them clearly not administrators, something neither she (Wise) nor they (Adesida, Burbules, Tolliver) ever discussed.

Let’s also note that none of the emails that samizdat-startups.org found that showed this whole lot of talking going on were *ever* produced in any of the 12 UIUC FOIA productions made in 2014 — nowhere in that 1,600 odd pages of documents.

Nowhere.  Which is evidence not just of interpretation of the english language in some sort of Zen koan way (“What is the sound of conversation not to the level of Chancellor Wise’s high standards for “conversation”) but, put simply, of lying.

Lying, lying, lying.  And lying.

***

4. “It was perfectly ethical of me to not disclose my talking to Wise when I contributed to the ‘Gang of Five’ and other opinion pieces.”  Nick Burbules is apparently a professor of ethics, which I think is an admirable occupation.  When I was in law school I learned that conflicts were things you disclosed, and that non-disclosure was immoral, even when it didn’t seem (to you) that it was necessary (for you) to disclose those conflicts that some might think, upon discovery, made (you) look like a liar.

Well, I’m not a professor of ethics, so what do I know.  Professor Burbules has written that he didn’t need to reveal his conversations with Wise because, they weren’t conversations that would have been important like Wise talking to Warrior or other unit heads.  I’m recalling this slightly off the cuff, but that’s the gist of it, although I welcome clarification by Professor Burbules.


CORRECTION 6/25/15.

Per my conversation with Professor Burbules of 6/23, which I quote below:

[Nick,] Actually you’re right, although I [AOS] said in the second paragraph that what I was writing was a paraphrase, I didn’t do so in the first paragraph where I did provide quotes.  I thought the context of those quotes as roughly stating what was said rather than exactly stating it came across from the other numbered comments, but I agree it’s misleading.

Here’s what you’d written to me on the subject, I believe my distillation of what you said was accurate.  “It was per­fectly eth­i­cal of me to not dis­close my talk­ing to Wise when I con­tributed to the ‘Gang of Five’ and other opin­ion pieces” is what I said.  What you said was:

The representation here that I did not “disclose” these conversations suggests something nefarious. I was under no obligation to do so, unless you think that all faculty who expressed such views are obligated to make them public. I don’t know what that principle would be.1

That to me is awfully similar but I’ll be happy to put up that exactly language of yours with “nefarious” instead of “ethical” and so on.

END CORRECTION.


 

So fine.  People talk, and as long as it doesn’t ruffle their feathers to do so, why should it ruffle the feathers of anyone else or even be worth mentioning?  It’s merely public “curiosity” after all, not actual “concern.”

Newspeak.  Newspeak, newspeak, newspeak and newspeak.

***

5. “Anti-Zionist” isn’t anything to do with “anti-Israeli” or, God forbid, anti-Semitism.  I find this one particularly fascinating, and I’m the first to admit that I accept it as true in principle, but, in practice … not so much.

In principle, “anti-Zionist” apparently means against occupation of land that used to be Palestinian, which I guess makes sense apart from the fact that it depends upon the time-frame you’re referring to, and probably has different answers if you’re talking a biblical time-frame versus much much more recently.  But if the argument is simply and cleanly that Israel ought not expand to areas where people used to live, or — more plausible to me by far — that you can’t just kick people out of their houses because you want their land — then fine, maybe “anti-Zionist” has a concise meaning.

But the word always seems to be used in a larger context that fits far too many long-time ant-Semitic tropes.  For example, the whole narrative about rich “donors” without regard to ethnicity, “donors” who acted because they’re pro-Zionism, and not because they’re “pro-israel,” or … “Jews.”  And yet, the narrative is, oddly enough, exclusively about *Jewish* donors and not Carle hospital or billionaires in Champaign Urbana who, far as I know, aren’t Jewish (is Peter Fox?).

Recall there were exactly TWO emails that smelled of actual donors of any significance, and that significance was likely no more than 2-4% of a single year’s gifts to UIUC.  Carle, on the other hand, is putting up $100 million, and getting its name on the College of Medicine as a result.  So if it’s pure agnosticism with regard to ethnicity, why is it the focus is still on Jews with money (something of a stereotype as I recall) and not merely rich bastard corporations (Carle) or rich bastard developers (Fox) or rich bastards per se?

The language, you see, isn’t incidental.  It’s newspeak in the most basic sense of a language designed to frame an argument in a way that leads inevitably and only to a single conclusion.

Independent thought apparently need not apply.

***

6. “I will not work with anyone who works with Andrew, because he is harassing me.”  Laura Frerichs, head of the Research Park, said this about me in writing a number of years ago, the “harassment” referring to the fact that I’d been filling FOIAs on the rampant nepotism and profound mediocrity in the Research Park incubator and administration.2

This little verbal gem — “FOIA = harrassment” — is one that UIUC-FOIA also habitually uses in many/any/all of their impassioned arguments to the Illinois Attorney General’s office about how I’m a pain-in-their-collective-administrative-asses.  “Our recurrent requester,” they say, “he’s a RECURRENT REQUESTER,” they bray, “HE FILES SO MANY FOIAs IT’S NOT FAIR” they shout.

Sure, FOIA is a right, it’s a critical tool in the people uncovering abuses of power, and in fact it’s a right that I’ve practiced very parsimoniously to very very productive ends.

But take a right and call it subversive.  Take a powerful tool and call it meddling.  However you do it, the result’s the same, “FOIA = harassment,” and so let’s put an end to FOIAs.

***

I have more of course, but that’s enough of a diatribe for the moment.

  1. Actually I do think that all the faculty and administrators involved in the behind-the scenes decision-making about Salaita were obligated to disclose their actions, on a moral principle of avoidance of even an appearance of impropriety.  Note that I already flagged Robert Warrior’s apparently not revealing he talked to Wise the afternoon of the 23rd about Salaita, and I’ve already filed FOIAs to find out who on both sides of the discussion was involved and didn’t speak out to reveal that fact. []
  2. This is almost certainly tortious interference with business relations as well as tarnishment of my reputation.  But I digress, []

UIUC And Spoliation of Evidence; More on UIUC/Salaita

Two more summary letters, the first on how the procedures at UIUC-FOIA encourage spoliation (destruction) of evidence … the second a recap of the need to pursue the alternative narrative in the Salaita case — the gorilla in the room is the $100M donor, Carle hospital, and that desperately needs to be investigated.

2015_04_23_SPOLIATION

2015_04_29_Carle_COM_Donor_Influence

Open Letter to the UIUC CAFT Committee

Over the weekend I sent a 26 page letter to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign “Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure” (CAFT) regarding deficiencies in their investigation of the Steven Salaita affair.

Specifically, I pointed out they did little if any evidence-gathering, including by either looking at already filed FOIAs or by filing FOIAs of their own.  They weren’t helped by UIUC either, which certainly failed to produce many important emails that, by and large, I’ve already discussed on this website.

I also point out that while the CAFT chose to address the question of “donor Jews,” they failed to do any investigating of this issue.  Had they investigated the question of donor influence generally, they’d certainly have ended up wanting to do some real digging about Wise’s relationship with Carle hospital and the rich and powerful individuals who were working with her behind the scenes to push forward the new College of Medicine.

Here’s the letter (about 3mb): 2015_04_24_OPEN_LETTER_TO_CAFT

the_chancellors_gang

Chancellor Wise and her Carle “gang.”

I know certain people are fixated on Chancellor Wise and the trustees palling around with Jews, and other people are fixated on Steven Salaita palling around with anti-semitic sentiments.

As I’ve said, both theories are stupid:

  • Wise and the trustees reached their decision on Salaita for reasons that are much more likely due to their worries about fundraising for the new $235M medical center ($100M from Carle, $135M from UIUC donors); and,
  • Salaita’s comments aren’t nice — although how could anyone possibly say anything nice about that many people killed? — but they certainly aren’t anti-semitic.

 

More evidence of how much Chancellor Wise likes her Carle Hospital “gang:” come on over …

I don’t like proof-by-assertion, and, to this end, I’ve tried to provide lots of evidence in my earlier posts to support my arguments about the great influence of Peter Fox and Carle Hospital and other huge-$ folks, and I’ve also tried to show that this influence is likely a lot more than what was ever applied by angry Jews.

Here’s a tidbit that further supports that idea — specifically, here’s Chancellor Wise inviting the Carle folks over to her house to discuss … well, presumably the medical center:

 

wise_come_hither

Now I don’t particularly care that Wise has the Carle gang over to hang with her and her UIUC crew … but given the claims made after Wise met Steve Miller for breakfast in downtown Chicago, doesn’t Wise having these other people over to her house to talk strategy also ring alarms?

My point again is that there’s a gorilla in the room — and it isn’t wearing a yarmulke.

 


Regarding the marquee image:

“Rural community fire apparatus purchased through the Progressive Farmers Club, and manned by the Village Fire Department”

By an unknown photographer, Watertown, Minnesota, ca. 1925

Firefighters’ clothing was part of their safety equipment. Heavy raincoats and distinctive headgear served to protect them from fire, water from the high-pressure hoses they use, and falling debris.

National Archives, Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (983-ML-21713)

Available at National Archives

 


 

 

big_bertha

Big Guns — some of the real heavy-hitters influencing UIUC.

Time to talk about some of the really big guns $ sources involved in what goes on at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (“UIUC”), and in particular inside players in the ever-expanding push of UIUC to raise $135M to pair up with its partner Carle hospital (putting in $100M itself) to build a medical center over the strenuous objections of UI Chicago (“UIC”).1

 

1. Some history.

Some quick historical background:

1. The “Cluster Report.”  On January 20, 2014, UIUC released a report on suggested areas for technology development at UIUC — the “Identification of Technology Clusters for Economic Development” report (the “Cluster Report”).2

2. The “Economic Development Advisory Group.”  This report’s executive summary revealed that “[r]ecently, the Chancellor convened an Economic Development Advisory Group composed of a small group of campus and business leaders, to discuss economic development for the campus and community.”  This Economic Development Advisory Group (“Economic Advisory Group”) was responsible for commissioning the Cluster Report.

3. The Strangeness at the Urbana City Council meeting.  On March 3, 2014, the head of the UIUC Research Park, Laura Frerichs, presented a summary of the Cluster Report to the Urbana City Council3  At about 10 minutes into the presentation,4 council member Diane Marlin asks Ms. Frerichs about the reference to the Economic Advisory Group in the Cluster Report, specifically who’s in that Group.

A very weird back-and-forth ensues where, for whatever reasons, Ms. Frerichs won’t say who’s in the Group.  No one has ever explained Ms. Frerich’s behavior; could be she’s just not sure if she’s allowed to say what the membership is, could be she doesn’t want to say.

4. I file FOIA with UIUC to find out who’s in the “Economic Development Advisory Group.”  I watched Ms. Frerich’s presentation, and thought it would be really interesting to find out who was a member of this group, and whether this information would be publicly available or not.  So I filed FOIA with UIUC, and on 3-21-14 got this back from the UIUC-FOIA office:

 

economic_devl_group

 

To summarize who these people are:

  1. Phyllis Wise — Chancellor of UIUC;
  2. Ilesanmi Adesida — Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost, UIUC;
  3. Dan‎Peterson — Vice Chancellor, Institutional Advancement, Senior Vice President, UI Foundation;
  4. Michael DeLorenzo — Associate Chancellor, UIUC;
  5. Pradeep Khanna — Associate Chancellor for Corporate and International Relations, UIUC;
  6. Laura Frerichs — UIUC Research Park Director, UIUC Director of Economic Development;
  7. Peter Fox — “Peter B. Fox is the Founder of Fox Development Corporation (FDC), a real estate development firm which develops, manages, and leases approximately 1.5 million square feet of office and retail space in Champaign, Illinois”;5
  8. Jim Leonard — President & CEO, Carle Foundation Hospital;
  9. Greg Lykins — Chairman of First Busey and a director of Busey Bank and Busey Wealth Management, Inc; and,
  10. Rick Stephens, founder, Horizon Hobby.

 

2. Who’s in, who’s not.  Nepotism (Fox); nepotism (Leonard); nepotism (Lykins); nepotism (Stephens?).

Let’s focus on the non-UIUC people on that list — Fox, Leonard, Lykins and Stephens.6  These are names that crop up continually in high-level dealings at UIUC, obviously at least partially because they’re all community leaders.

These members of the working group also aren’t shy about Chancellor-boosting in public — here, for example, is an open-letter published in the local paper (The News-Gazette) on 9-11-14 about the Salaita Affair,7 with the funky academic-y columns cropped out:

 

open_letter

 

Now of course we’re a country that believes in free speech, whether that speech is by an outraged Jew (including an outraged Jew donor) or outraged leading light of the community.  So what we should conclude — and in fact must conclude — is that the degree of separation of either individual — outraged Jew or outraged leading light — has to be scrutinized in any fair analysis of influence.

Yes, well, it’s a funny thing, but the degree of separation between Wise/UIUC and Fox, or Leonard, or Lykins — and probably Stephens — is very very little.  In fact, I think it’s pretty clearly nepotism, which is defined as:

The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.

Thus Fox is the developer of the UIUC Research Park (which is run by his former employee, Laura Frerichs), and would seem the likely developer for the proposed medical center.8

And Leonard is of course the CEO of Carle Hospital, which aims to build the medical center with UIUC, and which says it will put in $100M towards that center.  That’s a whole lot of influence, and it shows in, e.g., Associate Vice Chancellor Eardley shilling for Carle’s bed expansion, as I wrote about previously (Big Donor, Little University).

Now regarding Greg Lykins, who’s the Chairman of First Busey, turns out Chancellor Wise is on the board with at least $20K in compensation per year from that entity:

University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise has been appointed to First Busey Corp.’s board of directors, the company reported in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Wise, who has been chancellor of the UI’s Urbana-Champaign campus since 2011, is entitled to receive a base retainer of $20,000 a year as a First Busey director. She is also entitled to a grant of restricted stock.

She has not yet been appointed to any First Busey board committees, service on which could boost her compensation.

First Busey is the holding company for Champaign-based Busey Bank, which has offices in central Illinois, Indianapolis and southwest Florida.9

So obviously that’s a rather close relationship; of course it must be ethical since it’s publicly disclosed?  It would be interesting to find out what committees at Busey Wise is now on, and whether she’ll get any $ for a Busey involvement in, e.g., financing Carle’s put for the medical center.10

Finally, Rick Stephens.  I really don’t know much about Mr. Stephens, any thoughts on him would be helpful.  I will note that same article in the Gazette on Wise’s involvement in Busey also note that Joseph M. Ambrose, president and CEO of Horizon Hobby, is also on the Busey board.  I’m sure there are more connections there.

 

3. Where would you like to go next?

I’ll conclude this post with two points:

First, while you’d expect community leaders would and should be highly connected into UIUC affairs, there are plenty of issues raised by the incredibly close involvement of Fox, Leonard, Lykins and Stephens that need to be resolved, or, better yet, directly answered by UIUC.  I’ve noted many times how those Economic Advisory Group meetings are closed-door, and how there’s no representation by Urbana or Champaign city personnel. All of this isn’t per se suspicious, but it sure suggests a whiff of fire-and-brimstone.

Second, if you’re going to raise eyebrows about rich Jew donors, you can’t do that with any sort of integrity and not also demand answers about rich donor influence from Fox, Leonard, Lykins and Stephens as well.  This isn’t to say Jews aren’t involved; but it is to say that any “analysis” that doesn’t pursue the obvious influence these other people routinely exert is, frankly, anti-semitic, because it elevates Jews to a special level of suspicion that can, should and must be equally applied to others.

Unless, of course, it really is true that any two Jews in a conversation really are conspiring for world domination and Israeli supremacy.

 


The marquee images are of “Big Bertha,” a type of super-heavy mortar developed by the armaments manufacturer Krupp in Germany on the eve of World War I.  See Wikipedia — Big Bertha

Just think, Krupps.  Now they make your coffee machine.


 

 

  1. For a lovely report of NO NO NO Nanette from UIC, see, e.g., UIC FACULTY SENATE TASK FORCE: TRIPP-UMBACH REPORT ON UIUC MEDICAL SCHOOL. []
  2. Available at Cluster Report. []
  3. See Frerichs Presentation Hardcopy. []
  4. Video available at Frerichs video to Urbana City Council. []
  5. See Fox Atkins Development. []
  6. Note that Laura Frerichs’s role is a hybrid one, as the Park Management has external functions.  I’ll have a lot more to say about Ms. Frerichs in future posts, as I think she represents (simultaneously) both the best and worst of UIUC’s attempts to go beyond academics.  One thing I’ll note now is that she used to work for Mr. Fox. []
  7. See Gazette Open Letter. []
  8. See, for example, David Prochaska’s reproduction of a likely proposal by Fox’s firm to bid on the medical center, in “How Public & Private Work Together Today: A UIUC/Carle Medical School?”  Available at Public -Private Partnerships. []
  9. See the News-Gazette, 1-3-14, at Chancellor on Busey Board. []
  10. I haven’t been able to find out how Carle’s going to find the $100M, whether it’s going to use bonds issued through Busey, or what.  Many Marvels, are you out there?  Would you like another DDoS-FOIA topic? []
more

More more.

A quick update on Dan Peterson, the “Dan” of the “Dan, Molly and I” advice to Chancellor Wise not 90 minutes after Steve Miller’s email to Wise:

 

20140723_6_11pm_NGUYEN_443_excerpt_39_ABOUT_MILLER

 

Apparently Dan was brought to UIUC in order to help with the brave new world of dying state funding, and to aid in bringing in private and corporate $.  Or so said Phyllis Wise in October, 2012, months before Peterson’s arrival at UIUC:

It is my pleasure to announce that Dan Peterson, who has served in several senior leadership positions at three leading universities, has been named vice chancellor for institutional advancement at the Urbana campus of the University of Illinois. He also will serve as senior vice president of the University of Illinois Foundation.

His chief responsibility will be to bring our campus, the U. of I. Foundation and the Alumni Association onto a team whose primary purpose includes building enduring relationships with our many constituents and generating diverse resources that further our learning, discovery, and engagement excellence through the integration of marketing, communications, alumni relations and development.

This is a critical time for the university as we move away from the traditional tax-supported funding model and explore new avenues to support our core educational missions. That makes the office of institutional advancement, and its leadership, more important than ever in setting us on a continued path of excellence. Dan Peterson is an accomplished and thoughtful leader, who understands the challenges and opportunities we face at Illinois and how we can become more effective at building the support that is critical to reaching an even higher level of accomplishment. As the landscape for higher education changes, the Urbana campus is now positioned to significantly strengthen philanthropic support for our mission.

Mr. Peterson will play a vital role in leading our efforts to continue building private and corporate support for the campus. Please give him a warm Illinois welcome when he arrives Dec. 1 [2012].1

Given the above, doesn’t it seem more and more likely that, however influential Steve Miller and the rest of the Jewish donors might have been about Salaita, Dan and Molly and the rest of the UIUC Donations gang had an awful lot to do with how that decision went down?

Especially considering that UIUC had been making various announcements over the partnership with Carle Hospital since April — you know, that $100M put from Carle into a project with the university as it moves away from taxpayer support?

Just saying.


  1. See Dan Peterson named new Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement, announcement of 10-12-12 by Chancellor Wise, available at UIUC Dan Peterson Joins. []
more

More.

 

14_182_FOIA_excerpt_48

 

Tripp-Umbach prepared two reports on the importance of the Carle-UIUC medical center.  I have to check on the costs, as I recall the second one was quite a bit more than $100K.  I don’t know who paid for it.

But how is this merely “university-corporate” relations, and not donor influence?

how_to_donate

How to donate to UIUC — the Carle example.

As I’ve written previously, the Salaita Affair” has been in the news a lot lately — that affair being the non-hiring/unhiring/firing of Steven Salaita at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (“UIUC”) in light of 1) Salaita’s midsummer tweets about Israel’s war in Gaza combined with 2) lots of emails from alumni and students — particularly Jewish ones — objecting to Salaita joining UIUC, with evidence of 3) pressure from big donors to UIUC to undo/not-do Salaita’s joining UIUC.

 

1. About that “big-donor-pressure” thing …

Regarding this three-part schema, I’m still grappling with that “big donor pressure” issue.  Again, the evidence is clearly there that some of the FOIAed emails were from donors — and please don’t believe me on that, check what at the moment appears to be the c. 15 mb canonical set of FOIA results — NGUYEN_443.1  But if you look carefully at some of the received wisdom on what the donors said and how UIUC and Chancellor Wise reacted … well, to be honest, there seem to be some cognitive dissonance there.

What do I mean?  Here’s part of one of Corey Robin’s thoughtful pieces on the events in Salaita:2

 … In the days following this forthright defense of Salaita, the Chancellor and her associates begin to back-pedal. Around July 23, Wise starts reaching out to select alumni, trying to arrange phone calls (and in one instance, struggling to rearrange her travel schedule just so she can meet one alum in person [pp. 78-94]). To another such alum, she writes, “Let me say that I just recently learned about Steven Salaita’s background, beyond his academic history, and am learning more now.” (p. 293) That “beyond his academic history” is going to get Wise in trouble on academic freedom grounds.

This paragraph is certainly broadly true … so is it just me, or is the phrase “struggling to rearrange her travel schedule just so she can meet one alum in person” … tendentious?

 

2. How much “struggling” did Chancellor Wise do to meet Steve Miller in Chicago?

Specifically, if you look at the actual back and forth between Wise and the person she’s meeting — outed as Steve Miller in a failed redaction elsewhere in the FOIAed documents (see previous posts) — it strikes me that “struggled” may be a bit of an overblown description.  Miller wants to talk to Wise on the phone, Wise says she can be in Chicago anyway, is close to Miller’s office in Northbrook, the timing doesn’t work, Wise goes through Chicago, Miller comes downtown to meet her.

Amusingly, there are two versions of this exchange in the compiled FOIA results — in one, Miller’s location in Northbrook is redacted; in the other, Miller’s trip to Santa Fe is redacted.  The latter is particularly funny since Wise’s responses wishing him a good time in Santa Fe are still present — so what was the point in doing the redaction?3

FYI, here are the two versions of the email exchange between the two of them —  NGUYEN_443_Excerpt_288_292 (the trip to Santa Fe is not redacted, but Northbrook is); and, NGUYEN_443_Excerpt_82 (Northbrook is not redacted).

 

3. How much “struggling” did Chancellor Wise do to meet Carle — an A/B comparison.

So if you’ve read that exchange between Wise and Miller (and please, do read it for yourself, and don’t just believe me on it), it seems pretty clear that at every opportunity Miller is happy to talk on the phone, and Wise, while certainly doing some rearranging of her schedule, does’t appear to be doing that much “struggling” to meet Miller.

But as any semiotician knows, words can be slippery little devils — so it’s worthwhile to ask if there are any A versus B comparisons that can be made about Wise’s struggles with big-$ people that might provide larger context for what the Chancellor did with Miller.

Yes, Virginia, of course there are such A/B comparisons that can be made.  For example, let’s look at how the Chancellor seems to be willing to struggle with changing her schedule on Good Friday, 2014, in order to make a meeting with Carle:

 

chancellor_1

And then 15 minutes later:

chancellor_2

 

From the emails I obtained in this UIUC FOIA 14-182 production I can’t tell whether the meeting went forward on Good Friday or not — that’s something that would be a marvelous FOIA project for one of the Marvels.  And, as always, please fact-check me on all of this.  So here’s the complete FOIA production:14_182_FOIA_NUMBERED, and here’s the pinpoint cite to the excerpts above: 14_182_FOIA_NUMBERED_excerpt_84_86.

 

4. Why this really matters — a digression to what I believe.

First, I think Salaita’s tweets weren’t anti-semitic, and I’m not even sure they were “anti-Israel.”  They weren’t the sort of thing you’d tell to your kids to help them get to sleep — but they strike me as well within the fold of what most people would have considered more-or-less civil discussion.  I do of course realize that not everyone agrees with this assessment — and that’s fine.

Second, even apart from the above, I think Salaita ought be at UIUC teaching now.  There are a million mechanisms for the body academic to engage its own immune response to faculty that aren’t accepted — and those mechanisms work best when they come through the student body or protests against that faculty member by other faculty.

So the blue-sky scenario should have been to hire Salaita and let there be frequent protests against his presence at UIUC by students and faculty both.  That would have been academic civility at its best — let the academy itself do the purging and the complaining.  Let Salaita speak to his peers and his students and justify himself to them.

Third, since life is invariably not blue-sky, UIUC 1) should have had and 2) should have used a standard operating procedure (“SOP”) for handling the Salaita pushback.  In this regard, there’s not even a remote bit of evidence to suggest that the ethics of pressure by students, alums and donors was considered in a standard framework — did Chancellor Wise consult the UIUC ethicist?  Did it occur to anyone there to do so?

Fourth, this invent-the-rules-as-you-go approach is incredibly concerning in light of the really big donors Chancellor Wise and UIUC are playing with behind closed doors.  By which I mean Carle.  Remember that number: Carle is putting in $100M to that medical center.  And how much oversight is there? Very very little.

Fifth, there’s unfortunately a very unpleasant undertone in this whole debate about the vast Jewish conspiracy that brought Salaita down.  And as much as I’d like to dismiss this point-of-view as not-normal, I have to say that I really worry at how facile the arguments are for this vast coordinated attack by “zombie Jews.”

Consider this commentary by Philip Weiss on Steve Miller:

Miller is a graduate of UIUC and is on the board of the Jewish Federation of Chicago, too– a leading organization in the Jewish establishment, along with Hillel. (This is further evidence of my point that the Israel lobby is based on financial contributions and on the Jewish presence in the establishment, Jews in their 40s and older who were indoctrinated in triumphalist Zionism, such as Brian Roberts and David Cohen, leaders of Comcast, the largest media company in the world, or Thomas Kaplan, who is married to an Israeli and funds an organization that is pushing war with Iran. Today all the mainstream Jewish organizations are Zionist, and you have to reckon with this sociological/religious issue, as uncomfortable as it is, in a process of decolonizing Judaism from Zionism.)4

I don’t quote this in order to condemn what Mr. Weiss has written.  Rather, I quote it in order to emphasize that, as disturbing as the donor pressure on UIUC was — and again, the emails only show three such donors — there’s a larger context that everyone on all sides needs to put this in.

And that’s the A/B comparison to what truly large donors do with/to UIUC.  Explore the relationship with Carle, and then step back and ask how much of what’s going on here is Salaita-specific, and how much of it is just part of a much much larger problem.

The Salaita Affair and the Carle Caper aren’t a zero-sum-game; each is independently important.  But.  Please don’t fixate on the first and completely ignore the critical conclusions that you can draw from the latter.


The harlequins in the marquee image are from the website EKDuncan.com.  I’ve had an ongoing project of using unity3d to create animated paper theaters, and this is one of the many sites with absolutely lovely images of paper cutouts for those theaters, a technology that was, at one time, state-of-the-art.


 

 

  1. This is a download I did of the document assembled by Phan Nguyen and referred to (with link) in Cory Robin’s blog, “Reading the Salaita Papers.”  I’ve numbered each page in this document in order to be able to pull out excerpts without losing context. []
  2. See previous footnote for web link.  Note that links internal to the quote will bring you to the dropbox file of the FOIA results. []
  3. I note that at one level I’m sympathetic to the redactor’s actions, in that the trip to Santa Fe could have served as a cue for the identity of the donor.  On the other hand, I think this is a typical example of an over-eagerness to redact at UIUC-FOIA, a point of view that, I suspect, cascades down from the highest levels of that unit of UIUC. []
  4. See Salaita Firing a “Catastrophe” for UIUC. []
motive

Motive.

Ah, motive.  The actor struts and frets her hour on the stage, but why?  Is it the overwhelming desire to ACT?  Or is there a more direct motive, say someone whipping her legs to inspire her, as in the image above?

But let’s be less esoteric.  The wisdom in the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (“UIUC”) Salaita Affair is that Steven Salaita was fired/unhired/etc. by UIUC’s Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s intervention after Wise was pressured by a big-$ UIUC donor about Salaita’s comments on Israel and the war in Gaza during the summer of 2014.

Due to incomplete redactions by the UIUC Freedom-of-Information-Act (“FOIA”) office, it appears that donor is Steve Miller, a Jewish donor who runs a venture capital fund in Chicago (“Origin Ventures”1) and sits on a number of boards, including the Hillel board in Urbana-Champaign.  This has led to the following proposed chain of causation for the events in the Salaita Affair:

  1. Salaita sends out tweets;
  2. Jewish donor (Miller) “complains” to Wise, i.e., exerts great influence via his/her (his) $$$;
  3. Wise bends to this great $$$ influence; and,
  4. Wise, along with UIUC trustees and perhaps others acts to fire/unhire/etc. Salaita.

The problem, though, is that while this chain of events certainly makes sense, is it really the case that UIUC would sell itself that cheaply?  Specifically, as I’ll discuss below, Steve Miller’s really not that big a donor, despite the venture capitalist label and so on.

I don’t have an immediate answer to that question.  So let me focus on a related issue — if Miller had influence given the relatively small amount he’s given to UIUC, how much more influence is being exerted by the really big $ players — Carle, Peter Fox …

And I do want to emphasize a point about this question of the influence of larger $ sources; it’s not a zero-sum game, the Salaita Affair is important in-and-of-itself, regardless of how really-big-$ players move policy at UIUC.

But at the same time, I do think an understanding of the effects of the really big $ sources helps understand the Salaita Affair.

 

1. Why would UIUC care about Steve Miller’s views, he’s a small-time donor at best.

Lots of hay’s been made about Miller being a big-time donor.  But what are the facts to support that?  Here are a couple of excerpts on Mr. Miller’s abilities to throw his money around, there might be more, but these came up with relatively little effort:

… more than $500,000 from Steven and Diane Miller, to create the Diane and Steven N. Miller Endowed Professorship in Business Fund. Proceeds from the fund will support a professor in the College of Business with expertise and academic abilities in the field of entrepreneurship. Previous gifts from the Millers established two interview rooms in the new College of Business Instructional Facility as well as support for fellowships and scholarships for business students interested in entrepreneurship. Steven Miller, a 1987 graduate of the College of Business, is a founding partner of Northbrook-based venture capital firm Origin Ventures. Diane Miller’s career involved health care marketing.2

[Miller] serves on the board of US Empowered, which furnishes urban students with the resources, support and networks that make higher education a reality. Steve is a board member and committee chair of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, as well as the Better Government Association. He is a longtime board member of the not-for-profit organization i.c.stars, which provides inner-city young adults with technology training and leadership development. He is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago, and the University of Illinois Foundation.3

So there you have it, let’s say Miller’s given c. $750,000 or so.  Hardly small change, I admit.  But is it really that much?

 

1. Steve Miller’s donations amount to about $750,000; Carle Hospital’s putting in $100M to the UIUC-Carle medical center.  Which do you think has more influence with Chancellor Wise?

According to recent reports, Carle hospital is planning to put in $100M over 10 years4 into a medical center it and UIUC want to build in the Champaign-Urbana area.

$100 million?   Wow, that’s a bit bigger than Steve Miller’s contributions to UIUC; I wonder if there’s any evidence that Chancellor Wise might be influenced by this level of donation?

And actually this $100M isn’t a donation; instead it’s a  full-blown ongoing relationship between Carle and UIUC that benefits not merely Carle’s ability to put other local hospitals out of business,5 but also puts $$$$s in the pockets of local multi-billion dollar investors (Peter Fox) and other (already) very rich (already) very heavy hitters.

Well bully for them — job well done, especially in light of the fact that it’s not as if everyone’s just jumping for joy at the prospect of this medical center.  In fact there’s heated opposition from no less than the University of Illinois, Chicago, which sees it as completely unnecessary and a project that will occur at the expense of the UIUC/UIC system as a whole:

“It would be a waste because it would be a lot of redundancy,” Dimitri Azar, UIC’s dean of the College of Medicine, said in an interview. “Just because the idea is new, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best idea.”6

And, while it’s not exactly “opposed” by the City of Urbana, the Urbana Mayor (Laurel Prussing) has been pushing UIUC/Chancellor Wise to open a public dialogue on how this Carle-UIUC relationship affects the Carle-Urbana tax lawsuit.7 Pushing, but, alas, so far unsuccessfully:

Prussing met Friday [12/12/14] with Chancellor Phyllis Wise and invited the UI to co-host a community forum on Carle, which is embroiled in a battle with the city over tax exemptions. The chancellor declined.

“We appreciate Urbana’s situation, but this discussion should be led by Urbana, not the university,” Wise said Monday through a spokeswoman.

Prussing argued that the impact of the taxation issue and rising health insurance costs in the community go beyond Urbana’s borders, affecting the university, every local business and social service agencies. They also tie in to discussions Wise convened two years ago about “micro-urban transformational leadership” to improve the community’s future, she said.8

All of which leads to the question of how much more Wise/UIUC might be influenced by these really really big $$$$$ pots as opposed to the Jewish donor in the Salaita case.

 

2. A woods-for-the-trees view of causation — Miller?  Yah sure, you betcha.  But Carle/Fox/etc. is likely a lot more causative.

To quickly summarize, sure, that donor (Miller) had influence, and there look to be some smoking gun emails that Wise sent that support this point of view.  In these circumstances, very public scrutiny and soul-searching is the least UIUC should want to see occur.  That’s sarcasm btw, if you’re Sheldon.))

But.  While I don’t in any way minimize the Salaita Affair, if people want to talk about donor influence at UIUC, that conversation should go well beyond the facts of the Salaita case and include the really big donors out there in the shadows.

To that end, here’s a wider view of the potential causal chain-‘o-influence at UIUC:

  1. Gigantically-huge money-pots like Carle or Peter Fox exert great influence via $$$ on UIUC/Wise;
  2. Wise bends to this great $$$ influence; and,
  3. Wise, along with UIUC trustees and perhaps others act in ways that, at the very least, ought be publicly scrutinized in light of that huge-$$$ influence;
  4. Other donors such as (presumably) Miller also wield power, and this also needs public discussion; but,
  5. For some reason the huge donors remain in the shadows, not in the limelight.

Reasonable enough, yes?

But is there evidence to support this larger view of things?

 

3. Regarding that evidence?  Here you go.  Tip ‘o the iceberg.

So here’s an email exchange between Chancellor Wise and some of those $$$$-pots that tends to support the idea that there’s influencers bigger than Miller:9

 

wise_motive_500

More such emails to come.  That link, btw, is Billionaires with Big Ideas.

 


The marquee illustration is “Alas, poor Ghost: R.W. Elliston whipping the legs of the Ghost who is being lowered through a trap, Hamlet, act I, scene 1, by George Cruikshank, 1857,”  from the Folger Shakespeare library.  See Folger Shakespeare Library Images.


 

  1. See Origin Ventures — Steve Miller. []
  2. From University of Illinois Foundation press release of October, 2010.  See UIF Announcement []
  3. See Victory Gardens website, at Victory Gardens — Steve Miller. []
  4. See, .eg., Proposed Medical School Draws Controversy. []
  5. See. for example, Covenant-Carle Fight, which provides the tip of the iceberg of the struggle between the two entities. This article doesn’t state that Covenant’s opposed to the new medical center, but clearly they’re against the favoritism of UIUC towards Carle. []
  6. See Proposed Medical School Draws Controversy. []
  7. E.g., Lawsuit History. []
  8. See UI Won’t Join Urbana. []
  9. From Scheinman UIUC FOIA 14-369.  See 14-369.Final.Documents.Redacted []
foia_me_this

FOIA me this: UIUC’s Chancellor Wise’s concept of “civil discourse.”

Today’s News-Gazette1 has an interesting article on Chancellor Wise’s refusal to have UIUC meet with the City of Urbana to discuss UIUC’s partnerships with Carle and how those partnerships affect Carle’s lawsuit with the State of Illinois and Urbana over Carle’s taxes.

So here’s the Gazette on the meeting of the Urbana mayor Laurel Prussing with Wise to discuss larger talks:

Prussing met Friday with Chancellor Phyllis Wise and invited the UI to co-host a community forum on Carle, which is embroiled in a battle with the city over tax exemptions. The chancellor declined.

“We appreciate Urbana’s situation, but this discussion should be led by Urbana, not the university,” Wise said Monday through a spokeswoman.

Hmmm, how odd, it sounded as if UIUC wasn’t being asked to lead, simply to commit to joining in a discussion.  Again quoting from the Gazette article:

Prussing sought the meeting with Wise, arguing that the impact of the taxation issue and rising health insurance costs in the community go beyond Urbana’s borders, affecting the university, every local business and social service agencies. They also tie in to discussions Wise convened two years ago about “micro-urban transformational leadership” to improve the community’s future, she said.

Prussing said she wasn’t surprised by Wise’s response.

“I’m not offended,” Prussing said. “She’s got other things to deal with.”

The UI and Carle are partnering on a proposal to build a new engineering-based medical school in Urbana, with Carle pledging $100 million toward the project.

 

 1. How could Chancellor Wise refuse Urbana’s offer of “Civil Discourse” at its best?

Ms. Wise’s declining the Urbana offer hardly seems an example of what the she seems to hold near and dear: “civil discourse.”  So here’s an excerpt from Ms. Wise’s blog of 8-14-14 on the Salaita Affair:

The decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel. Our university is home to a wide diversity of opinions on issues of politics and foreign policy. Some of our faculty are critical of Israel, while others are strong supporters. These debates make us stronger as an institution and force advocates of all viewpoints to confront the arguments and perspectives offered by others. We are a university built on precisely this type of dialogue, discourse and debate.2

“Dialogue, discourse and debate,” how euphoniously alliterative!  But … well, if dialogue & discourse & debate are really these critical principles, wouldn’t you think UIUC would be eager to engage in dialogue & discourse & debate over what it has going on behind closed doors with Carle?

After all, as far as I can tell, dialogue & discourse & debate all take at least two parties; and as much as Clint Eastwood impressed with the empty chair on the stage, it would be infinitely better if the discussion Urbana wants to have about UIUC’s community involvement took place with UIUC actually there on the platform.

 

 2. A DDoS-FOIA opportunity — let’s put the Marvel Family to work.

There are lots of other things I could say about this fascinating call of Chancellor Wise for dialogue & discourse & debate (“D3”), and how it seems D3 was lacking in what Salaita said but is present in abundance in the Chancellor’s declining the opportunity for public discussion with Urbana.

But my talk is cheap.  So instead, let’s use the DDoS-FOIA approach and bring in the Marvels to procure and share the emails and other documents Chancellor Wise has exchanged over Laurel Prussing’s offer.

 

3. What the Marvels might ask UIUC-FOIA.

Now I’m not one to tell superheroes what to do or how to do it.  So I have no script for what one or more of my mysterious Marvels milling out there might enquire of UIUC-FOIA on the topic of Wise’s actions.  That said, I’m sure we’d all agree it would run something along the lines of:

Please provide all emails and other documents sent by Chancellor Wise or personnel in her office regarding Laurel Prussing’s asking Wise to have UIUC cohost the discussion with Urbana.

As I said in my earlier post, I can’t myself file this FOIA request without incurring a waiting period of months and months.  And although the law isn’t completely clear on it, heavens forbid that I should have someone else act as a mere minion of mine and FOIA to my specifications.

But I’ve no doubt that there are more than a few Captain Marvels, Juniors, Uncle Marvels, Mary Marvels and — as the marquee image shows — even Baby Marvels, all of whom are out there in cyberspace and are interested in following up on this quite independently of me.

The language: you’re superheroes, use your own language.  The address?  Merely click on the link UIUC FOIA and follow the directions.  And keep in mind that you can file anonymously, so your name can be whatever you want, “Mary Marvel,” say, or “Mary FOIA” if you prefer.3  And since you can file anonymously, the only contact information you need provide is your email.  Check the Illinois Attorney General’s facts on FOIA filings if you have any doubts: How to file a FOIA request.

I don’t think this needs to be said, but: in your FOIA, be polite, the people at UIUC-FOIA are mostly very nice, and D3 is a good principle no matter if the people proposing it obey it or not.

 

4. What to expect (when you’re expecting).

In term of timing, UIUC-FOIA will get back to you in about a week, then they can take an extra 5 days under Illinois law.  But come new years you should hear something back … then you can share it with all of us!


The marquee image is from page 24 of that same issue #1 of Dec, 1945, of Marvel Family Comics.  See Marvel Family Comics #1.


 

  1. See UI won’t join Urbana meeting on Carle. []
  2. See The principles on which we stand. []
  3. Given the season, “Merry FOIA” might be more apropos. []
big_donor_uiuc

Big donor, little university — Salaita, sure, but don’t forget the Carle/UIUC iceberg.

Ah, the big donor and the poor little university in the donor’s sway.  The evil suitor and the blushing maiden seeking true-love’s-first-kiss.  A recipe for disaster if ever there was one.

In the much-discussed recent example at UIUC — that is, the Salaita Affair — the big bad donor is by all reports a wealthy Jewish person — probably Steve Miller,1 a venture capitalist2 who (successfully it seems) pressured UIUC’s Chancellor Wise into declining to take on Steven Salaita because of Salaita’s tweets about Israel’s actions during the summer war of 2014 in the Gaza strip.3

Now the point made in the blogosphere is that donors as a general class (not just of particular religious persuasions) like to get their way, and the bigger the donations the more likely the donor is to want her/his way on where it goes.  And, so the theory usually runs, not only does the donor get her/his way, but she/he exerts some sort of almost Svengali-like influence over the blushing entity that’s the recipient of the gift.4

Something like this:5

donor_influence

 

1. In fact it takes two to tango, Svengali and Subject both.

Just to discard a threshold misperception, hypnotism requires two players: 1) the hypnotizer; and, 2) the hypnotized.  And while it’s convenient to see the hypnotized as a naive victim, that point-of-view is almost always exceptionally dangerous.

 

2. In the Salaita Affair, regardless of the hypnotic abilities of the donor, UIUC in the form of Chancellor Wise was the culprit for allowing the donor’s actions.

I’m hardly the only person to point out that the donor in the Salaita case isn’t really the problem — instead, responsibility falls on the shoulders of UIUC personnel, particularly the Chancellor, Phyllis Wise.  We know donors want what they want — and we also know that it’s up to the recipient(s) of the donation to show some fortitude in what they’ll allow, and what they won’t.6

In UIUC’s case, the Chancellor is the point-person for what goes on, particularly for what goes on in terms of academic standards and academic principles.  Here’s an apropos visual to this point of the Chancellor’s ever-present control:7

chancellor_power

My unsubtle point: UIUC is Chancellor Wise’s domain, she has her arms around everything going on, and she bears the responsibility for allowing things to happen, or to stop them from occurring.

 

3. Chancellor Wise is allowing/encouraging interference in UIUC’s mission by a much bigger donor than the one in the Salaita Affair — which is to say, Carle hospital.

Bloggers and other commentators have generally concluded that the Salaita Affair has a huge component of indue influence — dollars talking.  Thus consider Michael Hiltzik’s post in the 9-25-14 online LA Times8 on the decision not to “retain”9 Salaita:

This can rightly be seen as a blow to the very concept of academic freedom, but there’s another sinister undercurrent to the case: there’s evidence that major donors put pressure on the board and the university administration to dump the professor, Steven Salaita. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that financial donors have tried to manipulate university administrations into doing their bidding, but it’s certainly one of the most disturbing examples of a bad trend.

That phrase, “manipulate university administrations into doing” donor bidding … in the event you might be wondering whether there are other examples of this happening at UIUC, let’s consider the “arrangement” between UIUC and a huge local hospital chain — Carle Hospital — to climb in bed together on a medical center.

 

4. Carle: infamous … and yet partnered with UIUC, which is busy shilling for it.

Talking about just Carle is itself a long-haul; and the separate topic of the Carle/UIUC collaboration on the medical center … nope, not even remotely a walk in the park.

But there are basically three points:

  1. Carle is already infamous for its battle with the City of Urbana and the State of Illinois over Taxes;
  2. Despite that infamy, UIUC’s partnered with Carle on a long-term arrangement to build a medical center in Urbana that’s vehemently opposed by UI Chicago; and,
  3. UIUC’s allowed some very high-level personnel to go out and speak for Carle’s short-term projects, projects unrelated to the medical center..

I’m not going to dwell on the first two points, as there are lots and lots of articles already written about them.10

But that third point?  Well, there’s no question that UIUC really really (really) wants its own medical school — all the other big universities have theirs after all.

And how much is “really really (really)?”  Well, enough for UIUC’s Chancellor Wise to deploy Jennifer Eardley, an ‎Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, to advocate for a Carle bed expansion that’s not at all related to the proposed medical center.  At Carle’s solicitation.  Presumably to make nice with Carle — what many would call taking direction from a donor.

To this point, below are excerpts from various Freedom-of-Information-Act (FOIA) requests I filed with UIUC-FOIA to trace down the facts around Ms. Eardley’s testimony at the Illinois permitting agency considering Carle’s expansion:11

 

5. FOIA Result — Carle says Speak, Jennifer does (to their script), Carle pays for it.

travel_fromCarle

 

eardley_overnight

 

mileage_submitted1

mileage_submitted2

 

6. Appeal Result — When caught red-handed, claim you didn’t cash the check.

If you thought the above exchange was bad enough … wait, there’s more!

So when I filed FOIA I obtained some results (excerpts above), but there were lots of withholdings and lots of gaps that roused my ire.

So I appealed to the Illinois Attorney General’s office.  And UIUC-FOIA responded by providing me a letter and withholding a number of statements — under oath no less — from Ms. Eardley and other UIUC personnel that, UIUC-FOIA claimed, showed they were responsive.  I raised the roof over this and finally got these statements.12

More about these details in a later post.  For now, let’s focus on this part of Ms. Eardley’s sworn statement:

eardley_affidavit

Well, there it is, world — even though Carle promised to pay, and Ms. Eardley submitted the mileage, and Carle sent her a check, we can all rest easy because she didn’t cash it!

 

7. Appeal Result — And about that hotel you stayed in … ?

Now that we can rest easy knowing Ms. Eardley didn’t cash the check, I guess we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads about the hotel she had reserved for her and presumably stayed in, or the meal(s) she ate there, and the drinks she drank?

Of course, that statement that “I did not submit any other expenses to Carle” is a bit odd in light of that hotel, and the likely meals and drinks and so on.  If I didn’t know better, I’d almost say that was an attempt to do an end-run around the basic question of whether Carle paid for the trip as well as just providing a script of talking points?

But, I guess if George Washington had been asked if he cut down the cherry tree with a chainsaw, he could have answered no with complete honesty.

 

8. Why this behavior disgusts me.

The Salaita affair is awful, because universities are supposed to maintain strong firewalls between their academics and the outside world, which given its druthers would like to enforce its own strong preferences on who’s hired and what they say.

The UIUC-Carle relationship is even worse, because the university-industry partnership is ubiquitous, and far less surveilled than academic hirings.

I’ll be writing more about this, and providing lots more FOIA results and Appeals.  For the moment let me just say that I’m disgusted that the great university I attended as an undergraduate has sunk to shilling for a local hospital chain, and even more disgusted that it would seemingly lie about its actions with such ease.

 

9. Postscript — for your reading pleasure.

In the event you’re interested, here are some reading materials for your perusal:

UIUC-FOIA Eardley Results

141023_Shilling_For_Carle Appeal to AG

UIUC Response to Appeal

2014 PAC 31991 University Affidavits

 


The showcase image is from the 1897 book “Magic: stage illusions and scientific diversions ” available at Magic: stage illusions and scientific diversions.


  1. This based on a slip by UIUC-FOIA in not redacting his name.  See Steve Miller, the mysterious donor. []
  2. See, e.g., Corey Robin, The Salaita Papers. []
  3. Language is always slippery, and in the Salaita case there’s been nothing short of hermeneutical scrutiny of every statement made by anyone/everyone.  Please don’t infer anything from my language about my sympathies — to put it short and sweet, I’m Jewish, I don’t support everything Israel does, I resent people implying that Jews are a bunch of zombies who do exhibit such mindless and automatic support.  We’re a contentious tribe; I’ve yet to see a dinner party where Jews agreed even on the amount of salt!  As far as the Salaita Affair, as I’ve already said, there are firewalls that need to exist in universities to ensure separation between donor desires and university actions.  Is that efficient?  No.  But neither is the template on which this country’s government was built (three coequal branches of government).  If it was good enough for the Founders, it ought be good enough for universities.  Nu? []
  4. I never know how politically-incorrect a particular usage is these days, but I note that, according to Wikipedia, “Scholars call Svengali [from du Maurier’s 1895 novel, “Trilby”] a classic example of anti-Semitism in literature because he is Jewish, of Eastern European origins, and he seduces, dominates and exploits Trilby, a young English girl, and makes her into a famous singer.”  See Wikidepia on Svengali.  I use the word here strictly for its more generic implications, and only for those implications. []
  5. Really the one in the business suit ought be the one doing the hypnosis, not the professor-type in the robes.  Things have obviously changed since  this image appeared in the 1906 San Francisco Chronicle.  See Hypnosis Poster. []
  6. Given the above, I don’t understand why the donor in this case — presumably Steve Miller — would feel even remotely shy about discussing how he felt, what he wrote and what he expected.  I suppose he’s protecting his relationship with UIUC, his Alma mater after all, but still, why not get the conversation out in the open for real discussion? []
  7. An illustration from the Moody Bible Institute Monthly, December, 1925.  See Moody Bible Institute.  Note that I’ve edited the image; in the original, the octopus is labeled “Modernism,” and the buildings wrapped in its tentacles are all YMCAs and religious seminaries and the like. []
  8. See The Salaita Case and Big Money Donors. []
  9. Again the word-choice here is not a demonstration of affiliation on my part.  Was Salaita hired and then fired?  Was he never really hired?  I think he should have ended up at UIUC because it wasn’t for the Chancellor to decide … but just let “retain” be a stand-in for some combination of hired and fired ( and neither) quantum states. []
  10. See, e.g., David Prochaska’s article in the PublicI,  How Public & Private Work Together Today: A UIUC/Carle Medical School? []
  11. The permitting agency is the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board (IHFSRB), the FOIAs include 14-501 through 14-505 and 14-607 through 14-611.  These FOIAs resulted in 24 pages of documents and an Appeal on my part before the Attorney General of Illinois, still ongoing. []
  12. Although not 10 pages of withheld documents that I am currently seeking to learn more about.  Are they merely documents that I’ve already seen in redacted form … or are they something else? []