Category Archives: UIUC-Salaita

As We Wait …

Dear News-Gazette:

It will likely be a miracle to rival the parting of the red sea if UIUC actually releases any of the details of the Salaita affair, or the ethics report(s) around Wise’s misconduct and those of her cronies.  As someone said above, given that they’re apparently printing money at the admin building, it’s clear that they’ll be more than happy to spend whatever it takes to bury the facts, on the theory that the best way to learn from this tragedy is to conceal, dissemble, and run like heck from the truth.

Oh well.  The other question is how much respect do we appropriately have for Salaita if he settles without there being some truth-telling.  On the one hand, he has kids to take care of, and I think any parent would understand that children run on money as well as love.  Also I’m sure the controversy hasn’t been especially good for his health — I know there are many who think he’s a publicity hound, but his talk at the IMC a few weeks ago was chock-full of shyness and missed opportunties to bang the drum everyone seems to think he likes to whack.

But if Salaita really does believe in speaking truth to power, what do we think of him if his settlement involves the continued supression of the truth?  He’s in an incredible position, in that his lawyers are as far as I know basically working for free — the Center for Consitutional Rights (CCR) took his case as part of their own agenda of (in a rosy view) supporting dissident voices (especially Palestinan ones) and (in my pessimists view) of creating a story about “the Joos” acting in concerted fashion to suppress those dissident voices.  So he could continue to push the issue, and goodness knows there’s more than a little there to pursue: destroying documents, pretending they didn’t know personal emails were subject to FOIA, one little conspiracy after another, utter disregard for university procedure, policy, or the law …

I have the bad feeling the only thing we *might* get in the way of “disclosure” is the 10,000 emails (you know, Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, central Illinois is the land of 10,000 emails).  But even that’s not sure, it’s been 6 months and counting.

And of course, even if UIUC does release those emails, you can bet they’ll be a sea of mostly blacked out text, especially since, with Salaita’s settling, who’s going to push back to get the blacking out removed?

(Comment on Salaita Settlement)

Salaita in Urbana

Steven Salaita spoke at the Independent Media Center (IMC) in Urbana on the night of  Tuesday the 13th to a crowd of at least 200 people.

No fireworks.  In fact the conversation was so academic it was hard to listen to the man and believe he incurred (and continues to incur) such controversy.  Appearances may be deceiving, and ongoing litigation may be an inhibitor of more emphatic statements, but I and, I think, many in the audience, were by and large left wondering what the fuss was all about.

Of course the deeper picture is exactly that the fuss was manufactured, but by whom and for what reasons we still don’t know, however many months we are into the multi-million dollar litigation, however many months we are into UIUC’s nonproduction of the Salaita documents they were required under court-order to produce.  However many months we are into a continued stream of grotesque examples of deceit and indifference to the community and the law by UIUC top administrators and staff.

***

Listening to Salaita I kept waiting for the bomb to drop, and kept hearing no bomb’s boom.  Again it’s tempting to think he’s tight-lipped because of litigation; but, having read far too many of the Salaita emails, and having spent far too much time already on analysis, I’m really pretty convinced he knows as little as the rest of us.

I should say that I’m not giving Salaita a pass on his own actions, some of which were certainly at least intemperate; also I’m not judging his dangerousness (or lack thereof) in terms of his larger statements about BDS, Israel, and etc.   Salaita may well be intemperate, unqualified, and dangerous … but none of those characteristics were at all in evidence on Tuesday; instead Salaita came across as a pretty academic guy, spouting pretty academic talk.

Those reverberations of the academy extended to his interlocutor, Robert Warrior, as well as to the sponsor of the event, the Campus Faculty Association (CFA).  Considering the media coverage and the crowd this could easily have been a watershed moment for outrage and organizing; instead, it played far more into that whole “civility” think that (former) Chancellor Wise has recommended to the community as the way to live one’s life.

Was that purposeful?  Perhaps, but I think the likelier truth is that reports of organizing and hot-headeness have been wildly exaggerated. The fuss was manufactured, and the fuss about the fuss has been overblown – at least as it applies to Salaita and his supporters. However unreasonable and untrustworthy they may be, they’re not nearly as calculating as they’ve been made out.

***

The Tuesday talk leaves me wondering what comes next.  More dispiriting revelations no doubt — I wonder if anyone in the UIUC administration realizes how destructive that festering of undisclosed truths is? Listening to Salaita and reading the (to date revealed) emails I’m left with this great sense of the overall stupidity and incompetence of everyone involved; but the longer there’s no openness on UIUC’s part about what went on, and no calls to accounting, the more that sense of dismay at the bungling turns to justifiable anger and outrage.

And that’s hardly surprising since the larger context for the Salaita Affair is the duty of a university to act with openness, a bedrock principle of the academy.  Honestly it’s amusing to hear people claim that universities are drawn to secrecy on the corporate model of non-disclosure, since that corporate model is largely discredited, albeit still too prevalent.  Many corporations have figured out that it’s altogether better not to dissemble at all rather than to be caught in the lies later on.  Not all by any means, but enough that no university can claim with a straight face that they’re only doing what’s standard practice for corporations.

And if UIUC thought they were following a corporate playbook here or, worse, if they continue to think they can just claim that “ongoing litigation” precludes full-discussion and truthfulness … then Salaita will have far more consequence than he ever intended, or the university ever wanted to happen.

And that might be a good thing, at least if it brings about change.

(Note I’d sent this to Academblog in case they wanted to put it up.  They didn’t, so I’m putting it up here.  It may or my not be my finest work (I make no claims to it being so), but I thought it worth noting that reports of Salaita’s incendiary nature have been greatly exaggerated, at least if that talk was any indicator.)

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

Chancellor Wise Strikes Back (With a Little Help From Her Son)

Well, obviously a lot has happened at UIUC.  I was driving from NY to Urbana on Thursday and Friday; Thursday night I read the online Gazette article about Wise departing, and then Friday I got an email at about 2 from UIUC FOIA referring to “supplemental” 2014 FOIA results … about 10 minutes after arriving in Urbana I got a call from the Chicago Tribune asking for comments.  To which I had to laughingly reply “I’d love to comment … but I don’t know what the heck’s going on!”

Now I know of course – sorta anyway, and I don’t think any of us will really know until all the other concealed emails come out and we find out more.

In the interim I want to note a couple of things.

***

First, UIUC’s claim about how they found out that Wise was using a personal email for university business and explicitly to avoid FOIA is a joke.  UIUC-FOIA didn’t find out because they found a reference to her personal email account.  Instead, they almost certainly found out because outside counsel prepping UIUC for the Salaita lawsuit (at a cost, so far, of > $1M?) undoubtedly said, “we have to provide documents under discovery; we have Wise’s university emails, did she (or anyone else) use a private account?”

Jaw-dropping no doubt ensued, as apparently this was a question that poor old bumbling UIUC-FOIA had never thought to ask.  Double-dare-Jaw-dropping then ensued when outside counsel informed them that, although the discovery logs in the Federal case would be confidential, if Salaita won the parallel state suit over the FOIA, not releasing those personal emails in the state case would be active fraud, not to mention malpractice by the lawyers involved.

That’s my guess anyway; it taxes my imagination that UIUC-FOIA had anything other than a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy towards actually probing the responses they got from Wise, a conclusion I draw based on voluminous evidence I’ve already discussed on that point.

***

Second, at the end of the “supplemental” stuff on Salaita from Wise’s personal account, there’s the most incredible email from Wise’s son Andrew on Kennedy, an email that Wise forwarded to university counsel Scott Rice in what I’m sure was a flat out power play to the university that she wouldn’t go down without a fight.  Here’s the majority of the email (I’ve left out the last paragraph and the fact that Andrew sent it from his law firm’s account, which is probably against firm policy):

the_poison_pill

Let’s be clear on what this email is: a poison-pill that Wise forwarded on to Scott Rice so he (and the university) would know that she was documenting stuff she had earlier been forced to elide over.  A poison-pill warning to UIUC that, if she went down, she’d take bodies with her.

Put it this way, lawyers don’t write emails like this unless they’re creating a record.  And Chancellors don’t send letters like this to university Counsel unless they’re telegraphing a not–very-subtle threat: screw with me and you’re screwed.

The only thing that remains to be seen is who’ll end up swallowing the poison.  How far after Chris Kennedy will the lawsuits (and the clamor for the truth) go?  What heads will roll, and to what extent?1

***

More to follow, I still haven’t read the COM documents, which tie into my anger all along at having been subjected to the petty cronyism of the Research Park, which seems to be well-known in the CU community as a place where nothing happens without pay-to-play.

Anger particularly at what Laura Frerichs did to me, sending Jed Taylor to monitor my business dealings and apparently also writing at least one email to a person I was working with telling him “I will not work with anyone who works with Andrew as he is harassing me,”2 something I know from having seen the email as it arrived and which I have in writing, albeit redacted by UIUC-FOIA to conceal Frerichs’s words.  Although I’ll say at the moment that I merely allege Frerichs made the statement — for it go beyond allegation will require the Illinois Attorney General’s office stop colluding with UIUC (I have proof of that collusion) and make them release the document in unredacted form.3

Andrew Scheinman

ADDENDUM 8/10/15

Here’s the Salaita and COM email releases, I’ve numbered the pages and also run Optical Character Recognition on them, so although OCR isn’t always perfect in what it picks up, it should greatly facilitate searching.  I’ve done the COM as multiple subsets, since the whole thing is about 70MB; each of the subsets is c. 2 5MB.

I wonder why UIUC-FOIA provided scanned copies instead of the originals in electronic form; oh, wait, it’s harder to search when they’re scanned so asked and answered.

Salaita_OCR

COM_OCR_1_200

COM_OCR_201_400

COM_OCR_401_600

COM_OCR_601_773

 

 

 

 

  1. Resigning with a $400K payout doesn’t strike me as a lot of head-rolling. []
  2. I assumed “harassing” meant filing FOIAs, but I’ve heard rumors that Frerichs may have claimed I sexually harassed her.  Well since I didn’t know her phone number and talked to her at length exactly once at her work, that statement, if she really made it, is flat out not true. []
  3. I’ve earlier posted my appeals to the AG’s office on some aspects of my treatment by Frerichs and UIUC FOIAs illegal redactions of what Frerichs said. []
wiesenthal

The Wiesenthal Letter — A Whole Lot of Much-Ado-About-BUPKIS.

I realize that mysterious letters make for grandiose speculations, but even by those standards the to-do about the mysterious letter sent last July by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles about Salaita was a to-do that was … overwrought, to say the least.

Part of the problem seems to be that mysteries that aren’t quickly disputed and dispelled become ever so much more mysterious.  Consider the following comment by Ali Abunimah in The Electronic Intifada on 8/7/14 (Electronic Intifada):

Another Israel lobby group, the fervently anti-Palestinian Simon Wiesenthal Center, has been more direct, accusing Salaita of being an “anti-Semite” and urging in a letter to university president Robert Easter that the university “reconsider” Salaita’s appointment.

The Jewish Voice reported (Jewish Voice) on the letter from the Wiesenthal Center’s director Rabbi Meyer May and campus outreach coordinator Aron Hier yesterday, but does not say what date it was sent.

I’m not sure whether it’s exactly true that the Wiesenthal Center is “fervently anti-Palestinian,” but the fact that the letter in question from the Wiesenthal Center was never released for public consumption didn’t help dispel any myths about 1) what it said, exactly1 or 2) when it was sent, a particularly important fact since the timing in the Salaita affair is all-critical.

***

Well, public information that’s not been made public … that’s what FOIAs are for, right?

So to dispense with any more rumor-mongering — and I realize I’m a year out of date here — below please find the Wiesenthal letter in its total two-page non-enormity, which you’ll note was sent July 28, 2014 to Bob Easter, who got it the next day:

wiesenthal1

 

Wiesenthal2

 

And here it is in all its .pdf glory: FOIA15_419 WIESENTHAL LETTER

What do we learn from seeing the actual letter rather than rumors about it?  To me it’s a pretty spectacular failure of an entity that’s  apparently fervent about anything and everything  to exhibit any fervency whatsoever.

“We strongly believe …” or “we urge” … really?  That’s fervency?  It strikes me that our wonderful declaration of independence, if written with this level of gusto, would read something like:

When in the course of human events one nation strongly considers the desirability of somewhat reducing the bonds that have joined it to another …

Or some-such.

***

Which leads me to a point I find myself making over and over and over (and over).  Too many people have spent too long shooting off their mouths about what did and didn’t happen in the Salaita Affair while at the same time spending too much time extrapolating facts from scanty evidence, and too little time actually gathering those facts.

This letter is a case in point, although I already know that some people see its milquetoast content as yet further evidence of a carefully staged conspiracy.

So be it.  Oh and by the way, when I got this FOIA result I immediately recognized the letter, or at least the letterhead.  Even though I have an eidetic memory it took me a while to figure out where I’d seen it before … in FOIA14-849, the 1,600 page document that I made public a month or so ago.  It should soon be available from the UIUC archives which, in what only can be described as a somewhat ironic situation, contacted me 3 weeks ago to get copies of all my FOIAs because … (wait for it) … UIUC wouldn’t provide them to its own archives.

Anyway.  No one else picked this document out of the FOIA 15-489 mix.  Which I think shows how much this narrative is driven by want-it-to-bes rather than … what’s that word?

Oh yes, facts.

  1. There having been some excerpts of it quoted but apparently not the whole thing. []

“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, []

So Who ELSE Was Involved?

Last week I got more FOIA results which — surprisingly — yet again shocked me.

Oh maybe “shocked” is too strong a word, let’s say … raised my hackles?  I don’t know, words continue to fail me here.

So first, here’s the most recent little tidbit of Chancellor Wise’s “not consulting to the level she holds herself to,” or whatever newspeak rendition she gave of her dissembling about the behind-the-scenes of the Salaita Affair:

15_108-112-49 copy

This was yet another email UIUC never released in response to those 27 FOIAs it got in 2014 about the Salaita Affair: this one is significant because it shows the involvement early on not only of another HR person (Sandy Jones, Associate Director of Academic HR), but also of Barb Wilson, formerly executive vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, now dean of LAS.

Well.  I don’t think anyone could be surprised that there was a whole lot more shaking going on behind the scenes at UIUC during July 21-25 than UIUC’s FOIA responses revealed, but once again, is the best way to deal with a crisis to hide as much information as possible?

Consider that this new email just raises more questions about what exactly happened and why none of this was disclosed in FOIAs filed in 2014, or, better yet, in public statements by the public officials who were paid by the public to be truthful and honest about what they were doing.

I don’t intend to practice any more high dudgeon on this, but I will say … there’s more coming.

The Non-Disclosure of The Wise & Adesida & Burbules & Tolliver Emails Was an Illegal Act by UIUC.

In my previous post I provided the complete FOIA set that I’d gotten from UIUC right before memorial day, the one in which Adesida and Wise and Burbules and Tolliver were exchanging thoughts on the Salaita Affair the morning of the UIUC Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting on July 24.

The fallout from these emails has been significant: when even the Gazette sits up and takes notice (Even the Gazette Has to Report) you know that the pond is truly well-rippled.  Perhaps more to the point, the CAFT asked Chancellor Wise to explain why the emails in that FOIA had never been provided them, a question to which she responded (according to the Gazette article):

Wise on Thursday acknowledged talking with “a few people” about the case, including the provost, Burbules and Tolliver, but “I wouldn’t consider that consultation.” She said she had told the committee that she “did not consult in the way I pride myself on consulting.”

If that isn’t a mutilation of the english language, I don’t know what is.

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But here’s the more important point: no matter what you think of Wise’s remarks, or for that matter no matter what you think of Salaita’s tweets, his “un-hiring” etc. etc., you must remember this:

UIUC never produced those emails in its 1,600 pages of FOIA responses in 2014, and that was either a per se illegal breaking of FOIA law, or it was an act of such incredible negligence as to almost certainly rise to the level of criminality.

So let me step you through it — and keep in mind that, whoever “you” are, you should be completely over-the-top incensed at these illegal actions no matter what else you think about the Salaita case:

  1. It took samizdat-startups.org to collate all the FOIAs filed on the Salaita Affair in 2014 — no one else thought to do this.  FOIA filers don’t work together, and there were 27 FOIA filings in 2014 on the Salaita case, so no one had a vantage-point of the entire set of documents produced.  samizdat-startups.org did, because a DDoS-FOIA collaborator filed FOIA with UIUC to obtain all Salaita-related FOIAs, including both 1) the FOIA requests themselves as well as 2) the documents produced.
  2. The collated results (FOIA 14-849) showed 27 FOIAs filed, 12 answered, and a total of about 1,600 pages of results — again, this total packet was something no one else saw (because no one else asked for it).  There were 27 FOIAs filed with UIUC on Salaita in 2014, UIUC answered the 12 it didn’t consider “unduly burdensome,” for a total of about 1,600 pages of mostly emails, many of them repeated multiple times.  Was this huge dataset useful?  Damn straight it was, because no single FOIA production contained all the information present in the 1,600 page monster.  There are a variety of reasons why this was the case, some of them a simple result of how the individual FOIA requests were worded, some likely more nefarious.  But consider that UIUC FOIA was scrambling to respond to these requests and, no matter how paranoid you are you can still understand why they provided results that only partially overlapped one another.
  3. samizdat-startups.org (in the human form of yours truly) reviewed every single page of that bloated FOIA set, and found things that no one else did.  Yes, I admit, I did it, and it took me a hugely long time, and I found it possible only because I have an essentially eidetic memory (I’m like Sheldon, only shorter, although I think my jokes are funnier).  As a result I discovered emails that had never been publicly discussed.  Like the Adesida comment that Salaita’s hiring was “final” (go back to my earlier post and read it, the language is pretty telling but probably not completely dispositive of Salaita’s estoppel claim),
  4. samizdat-startups.org (in the human form of yours truly) realized that the only way to get real data on the Salaita Affair was to file FOIA for every email sent by each player on each day of the Affair.  UIUC hates me, I’ve filed more FOIAs with them over the last three years than anyone else — hundreds (they’re almost all single-question FOIAs, which I file to defeat their rejection of more-than-one-question FOIAs as “unduly burdensome.”  I.e., how 27 FOIAs became 12).  But I learned a great deal from filing those FOIAs, chiefly that filing a FOIA asking UIUC-FOIA to find documents is an invitation to  … bupkis.  And then I realized that I could file FOIAs to ask for, say, “all emails sent by Chancellor Wise on July 21, 2014,” and the 22nd and the 23rd and the 24th (each one a separate request, so that, bundled, UIUC couldn’t reject the bundle as “unduly burdensome”).  And this mostly complete set (deleted emails are probably not produced, and there’s apparently no oversight of what the individual tasked with the production provides to the FOIA office) is as complete as it’s going to get, unfiltered by any selection done by the UIUC-FOIA office or the person tasked with providing the UIUC-FOIA office the documents.
  5. Right before memorial day I got the FOIA set containing the Wise & Adesida & Burbules & Tolliver emails.  I continue to be very surprised UIUC provided me those documents, and I think the fact that they waited until right before memorial day is very suspicious.  My guess is that they figured that the stuff was going to come out eventually, why not disclose it at a time when most people wouldn’t care.  But I don’t know if that’s true.
  6. NONE of those emails were in the 1,600 page monster (FOIA 14-849), which means either 1) UIUC intentionally and illegally withheld them, or 2) UIUC was negligent about providing them, so negligent I’d argue it rises to the level of actual criminality.

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So, QED.  I challenge anyone to come up with any explanation for the absence of those emails other than 1) intentional and illegal withholding by UIUC or 2) negligence so enormous as to rise to the level of criminality.

Oh and don’t argue along Wise’s line of “it wasn’t really consulting, so I didn’t need to tell the CAFT.”  The CAFT failed in numerous ways in its Report, including not documenting what they reviewed or the conditions under which they talked to Wise or a transcript of that conversation (even redacted).  But a FOIA response has NOTHING to do with the CAFT.  Adesida alone sent an email on the 24th where he specifically referred to Salaita, so any keyword search in response to those 12 FOIAs MUST have identified that email.  And yet it wasn’t disclosed until this year.

The point of all of the above, is that whether or not you like Salaita, or Wise, or are a Jew or a non-Jew, whatever you may be, you ought be OUTRAGED that UIUC broke FOIA law.

Because as I’ve passionately noted previously, these laws are there to protect us, the citizens.

So now you have the facts, what are you gonna do about them?

And yes, I’m talkin to you.

Here’s More Information … You see if it Matches What Wise and Burbules Say

So the News-Gazette finally sat up and took notice, well, that’s good, I’ve only been informing them about this for the last 2 months: Gazette Recapitulates Scheinman With Little Credit

So good, it looks as if the CAFT finally found some ability to speak to power.

Some part of power’s responded (Wise, apparently not Burbules or Tolliver).  Here’s the whole FOIA result set, read it for yourself: FOIAS_15-098-102

 

 

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The “Facts” Don’t Fit.

I’m tired of parsing this most recent FOIA set, so over the weekend I’ll put it up for public consumption.

Until then, here’s the most recent example of cognitive dissonance.  Recall what Chancellor Wise told the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) about the events at the Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting on July 24, 2014:

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(pages 6-7 of the CAFT report).  Now let’s look at one of the email exchanges in the FOIA set that I got from UIUC last friday — again recall that these emails were never previously released:

 

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Now the “Deb Stone says ….” subject lines in these emails refer to the email I’d put up previously of Deb Stone by way of (likely) Robin Kaler by way of Chancellor Wise on an HR view of Steven Salaita.  So when Wise says in the above email at 1:56 pm on the 24th that “… they will be considering carefully whether to approve in September.  Definitely not a given” she’s referring to the UIUC Board of Trustees apparently not having reached a conclusion on the Salaita hire.

This seems not to fit with what she told the CAFT she understood the upshot of that meeting to be.  So how could Wise write one thing at 1:56 pm on the 24th and tell the CAFT something different when they interviewed her later?

Well, one possibility is that Wise heard something from the Board of Trustees some time after 1:56 pm and before 4 pm when the BOT meeting ended and she had a phone call with Carle Hospital, which as I recall was either at 4 pm or certainly by 4:30 pm.

The other possibility is that … well, I’m tired of this level of analysis, so I’ll just leave it up to you out there to form and discuss your own conclusions.

Professor Warrior Confirms …

A couple of news articles ago I put up an email that UIUC’s Chancellor Phyllis Wise forwarded on the night of July 23, 2014, you know, that one that UIUC had never produced in previous FOIAs (why?) in which Wise reproduced presumably Robin Kaler quoting an HR person at UIUC suggesting she (Wise) sit Dr. Salaita down once he arrived at UIUC and … well, basically read him the riot act about how to behave:

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Since this was the night before the UIUC Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting where Wise and (Wise thought) the BOT reached agreement that Wise wouldn’t forward Salaita’s hire letter, the above email certainly suggests Wise was going to go ahead with the hire until … well, until … perhaps … someone on the Board corrected her misapprehension that she ought do that (hire Salaita)?

Just to close one of the many loops here, below is a comment I received from UIUC’s Dr. Warrior last month — that is, long before I had the above email — Warrior’s response being to my query about what he and Wise discussed when she called him at 4:30 pm on the 23rd:

20150518_warrior

So it’s interesting, what Warrior describes Wise as having said in the phone call fits with the content of that later Wise/(Kaler)/Deb Stone email; also, since that HR email was forwarded by again presumably Kaler (who signs her emails “r”) at 5:49 pm, you have to wonder if Wise had seen/heard it earlier directly from Deb Stone?

I admit this starts to get out into the weeds, so let me emphasize the takeaways that I see in this (feel free to differ):

  1. UIUC didn’t produce the first email when it should have (2014), raising significant questions of violations of FOIA law;
  2. If this non-disclosure was intentional, it would make perfect sense in as much as the emails I’ve been putting up were likely not what UIUC would have wanted out feeding the bonfires of fall, 2014;
  3. I query why UIUC released these emails now … I admit my FOIA to them was clever, but even so, the timing of the release (just before Memorial day) could suggest someone there figured this would come out eventually, so why not right at the start of summer, when no one would notice/care/do anything (e.g., the News-Gazette);
  4. Warrior’s recollection of the conversation with Wise further supports what I’m beginning to feel more and more is the reality here — that Wise et al. probably were going to hire Salaita, but someone(s) at the Board sat on them not to.  Not to say this story — if true — makes Wise guiltless, but the picking around she seems to have done on Salaita between July 21 and the BOT on July 24 fits reasonably well with a “hire and then pillory” strategy, and not (in my opinion) with a “blast Salaita out of the water” approach.

All just opinions of course, but it’s certainly true that there are more facts on the ground here than UIUC ever let on.

Which is, to my eye, illegal behavior.

 

 

 

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Professor Burbules Responds.

There’ve been a lot of articles over the last number of years about how the academy is grappling with the real-world.  You know, how do you take an enterprise that prides itself on relative informality over inflexible structure and get it to work in situations that elsewhere are anything but informal.  For example, how do campus committees engage in evidentiary hearings over rape accusations, hate speech, athletics issues, etc. etc. etc?  How do explosive issues with legal consequences that can be profound get resolved in an environment of scholarly pursuit?  That sort of thing.

Below is an exchange I had with UIUC professor Nick Burbules about what to my legal eyes was inadequate disclosure on his part and that of professor Joyce Tolliver of their conflicts of interest in the Salaita Affair.  I note that given UIUC is a small community, conflicts are hardly surprising, and just because there’s potential for a real conflict doesn’t mean that a real conflict necessarily exists.

I used to be an academic; now I’m a lawyer, and I bring with me a lawyer’s view on the dangers of conflicts.  My view may or may not fit with your own.  So here’s the conversation — you should make up your own mind.

And do keep that “civility” thing in mind when you read.  Both professors Burbules and Tolliver undoubtedly care a great deal about UIUC, and Steven Salaita certainly isn’t the most uncontentious of people.  So whether or not you agree with what’s said, keep calm and civil on:

 

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And here’s professor Burbules’s response:

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