Restore James Kilgore's Employment Status
This petition had 1,960 supporters
James Kilgore is a respected researcher, writer, educator and criminal justice activist. He has been open about having felony convictions resulting from political activities in the 1970s and about having served time in prison. For the past three years he has worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a temporary faculty member, teaching classes in Global Studies, Urban Planning and the College of Fine and Applied Arts. Student evaluations of his work have been overwhelmingly positive, landing him on the University’s Excellent Teacher list in 2013. Each of his supervisors has given him glowing performance reviews and they had plans to employ him in the 2014-15 academic year.
On February 9th, 16th, and 23rd of this year, the local paper, the News-Gazette published attack pieces on James, highlighting his criminal background, political activities of the 1970s and questioning the U of I for hiring a person with such a history. The article also pointed to his work in opposing the construction of a new jail.
On March 22nd University of Illinois spokesperson Robin Kaler told the Chicago Sun-Times James was doing a “great job” and that he was a “good example of someone who has been rehabilitated.” On April 9, the University Provost, in a private meeting, informed James Kilgore that the University would not approve any future contracts to employ him, declining to provide any explanation as to why, how and by whom this decision had been made.
We the undersigned scholars, legal professionals, activists and concerned individuals believe that the University of Illinois gave in to political pressure and refused to approve future employment contracts for James Kilgore on the basis of his background and sensationalist media coverage, rather than on his job performance. Refusing to approve Kilgore's employment contracts represents a blow to academic freedom and transparency in universities but also has serious implications for the fifteen million Americans who have felony convictions and face a constant battle to access employment. We call on the University of Illinois to immediately restore James Kilgore’s employment status.
Read an editorial about James's situation in the Daily Illini, the University's student newspaper here
Link to James Kilgore's website and his writings here
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