Kilgore Hiring Permitted by University of Illinois Trustees
By John K. Wilson
James Kilgore, an adjunct instructor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was banned from teaching by the administration in 2014 after a public controversy over his criminal past. Kilgore was part of the Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s, when he participated in a bank robbery where a woman was murdered. Kilgore fled to South Africa for 27 years, where he began his academic career under an assumed name. He was caught and served time in prison for his crimes. He was released in 2009.
Even though Kilgore had taught at UIUC for four years and had been approved to teach classes in Fall 2014, Provost Ilesanmi Adesida told him on April 9, 2014 that his U of I contracts would not be renewed. However, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees could not reach consensus about Kilgore's case, and ultimately decided on Nov. 13, 2014 that the hiring of adjunct instructors was beyond the purview of the Board of Trustees.
Christopher Kennedy, the outgoing chair of the Board of Trustees, opposed allowing Kilgore to teach, but he admitted that protests by academics had swayed the Board: "Rather than expose the university to greater upheaval, perhaps additional boycotts and more no-confidence votes, I think the board put its own desires behind what they believed is the best interests of the campus."
Kilgore will be teaching a class in Spring 2015, but this will not be the end of the controversy. Richard C. Hill resigned as chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois Foundation in anger at the decision not to ban Kilgore, and announced that he would revoke a $4.5 million gift that he had promised for the University of Illinois.
State Sen. Chapin Rose has promised to introduced legislation to ban convicted felons from teaching at public universities. Rose had introduced legislation aimed at Kilgore to make it illegal to use a degree obtained under a false name.
Kilgore declared, "The university in making this decision, if I am rehired, is recognizing that people can change and that people should be given second chances and that when they prove themselves, they shouldn't simply be dismissed from their position on the basis of their criminal background or their past."