By John K. Wilson
Columbia College Sued Over Faculty Firing
Columbia College of Chicago is facing a race discrimination lawsuit from a former part-time faculty member who was fired in 2009 for allegedly making an anti-Semitic comment. Suriya H. Smiley had taught for fourteen years in Columbia's Radio Department, but in January 2009 she claims that she was informed that she had been found guilty of a student complaint against her, even though she had never been told about the details of the charges. When Smiley asked for an explanation, she claims Department Chair Barbara Calabrese told her, "I am here for the students, not to support you." When Smiley met with Assistant Provost Louise Love and Calabrese, she was told that the student claimed that Smiley said to the student while taking class attendance, "I should have known you were Jewish by the size of your nose." Smiley denied saying this, and asked Columbia College to question other students in the class to confirm her account. However, she was sent a termination letter the next day.
Love was the Associate Provost at Roosevelt University when adjunct philosophy professor Douglas Giles was dismissed after a student asked in a World Religions class about the idea that Zionism is racism. Although Giles expressed his disagreement, he allowed the class to discuss the issue. According to Giles, his department chair Susan Weininger told him, “What disturbs me is that you act like the Palestinians have a side in this. They don't have a side! They are animals.” Giles reported, “Love even characterized Weininger's comments disparaging Palestinians as an ‘academic discussion’ where Weininger was ‘defending her position passionately.’"
Columbia College refused to comment on a personnel matter. Smiley contended in her complaint, "Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff based on her race, Arab, by discharging Plaintiff from her employment based on false and pretextual reasons, as revealed by Defendant's refusal to investigate the allegations and the clear evidence that Plaintiff did not commit the alleged misconduct.”
UIC Graduate Students Fight Administration
University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) graduate employees voted overwhelmingly Feb. 15 to authorize a strike, and in March the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) submitted notice of intent to strike pending negotiations with the administration. The contract for the 1400 graduate and teaching assistants at UIC expired in August. The GEO has been in negotiations since April of 2009,
According to GEO president Charles Moss: “Improvements in job security, such as guaranteeing tuition waivers that grads already receive and getting skyrocketing fees under control, won’t cost the university a dime, but would make graduate employees much more secure in their jobs.”
Toyota Managers Resign from SIU Panel
Two Toyota executives resigned in 2010 from a Southern Illinois University advisory panel on automative technology in response to testimony from a professor criticizing the company's cars. Professor David Gilbert testified before a House panel that he found weaknesses in Toyota’s electronic throttles that were worse than other carmakers: “None were quite as easy as the Toyota system to crack.” Toyota held a webcast trying to refute Gilbert's claims. SIU spokesman Dave Gross told Bloomberg News, “It’s fair to say Toyota would have liked to have had a chance to review his results before they were presented in a congressional hearing. We’ve had a long relationship with Toyota, and we’re just trying to facilitate communication.” Toyota has donated $100,000 to SIU for a new Transportation Education Center which begins construction this spring.
Formal Complaint Over U of I Furloughs
The Visiting Academic Professionals/Association of Academic Professionals filed an unfair-labor-practice has filed a complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board over the University of Illinois' plan to require all faculty and academic professionals making more than $30,000 per year to take off four unpaid days before the end of the semester. The complaint accuses the university of violating the state's labor act by failing to bargain with the union for changes in employee appointments with the furlough. The union is currently negotiating with the university over a contract.
Trib Sues U of I Over Admissions Clout
The Chicago Tribune has sued the University of Illinois seeking the names of applicants' parents and their patrons who helped them gain admission to the university as part of the scandal surrounding political clout and the admissions process. The U of I claims that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects student privacy and prevents release of the information.
MAP Grants Restored, New Higher Ed Cuts Likely
Last fall, the state of Illinois restored MAP grants providing financial aid to needy college students in Illinois. However. Gov. Pat Quinn's budget proposal in March 2010 included a $1.3 billion cut to education, with higher education absorbing $78 million of those reductions, unless a 1% increase in the state income tax is passed.