Colleagues provide support for professor

By Amanda Porterfield |, Anthony Antoine |, Gary Brode |

Published 04/23 2014 10:35AM

Updated 05/12 2014 02:11PM

Latest: 10:01 pm, 5/9/14, Friday
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS -- Some say he’s paid his debt to society. That’s why they’re trying to save a professor’s job. James Kilgore has been a professor at UI since 2011. His contract wasn’t renewed this year. WCIA-3’3’s Amanda Porterfield finds out why.

Professor Cary Nelson, who is trying to help Kilgore says, at this point, no matter the reason, the way it was handled was unfair. Nelson has been an English professor at UI since 1970. He doesn’t know James Kilgore personally, but is well aware of his work.

“I think it’s important the university recognize that and that he is now a value to the campus. Again, not just as a teacher, but as someone who has written good work.”

James Kilgore is a professor of African studies at UI and has written several publications about South Africa. He spent 27 years there as a fugitive and was arrested in 2002 for crimes he committed in the 1970’s. It’s a past Nelson says Kilgore has never hidden.

“A person that turned his young life, that was a disaster into a life that was meaningful and productive and I think he served his time. After four decades, it’s time to move on. Ask who he is now. I don’t think he is the same person now that he was 40 years ago. I don’t think I am either actually.”

Suddenly, in April, that past came up again and Nelson says, this year, the UI suddenly decided not to renew Kilgore’s yearly contract.

“Faculty members get to decide who teaches at the university. That’s been a fundamental value for just about 100 years.”

That’s why hundreds of faculty are petitioning to stop his contract from ending later this year.

“They see the violation as very basic. It’s not a judgement call. It’s a basic violation of principals and if we don’t stand up for James, they’ll come for you the next time.”

Out of fewer than 2,000 faculty at UI, about 300 have already signed the petition.

“Herding cats is easier than getting faculty members to agree on anything.”

Nelson says they hope to collect signatures all summer and reverse the university’s decision.

“I think it’s important the university recognize that and that he is now a value to the campus. It’s also terribly important that the university stand up for its own values and not succumb to outside political pressure.”

The provost has appointed a committee to review the decision. Members of that committee haven’t been announced yet, but Nelson says he believes the provost made a mistake by doing that because it undermines the standing committee on academic freedom and tenure which would ordinarily take this matter up.

Kilgore changed his name to Charles John Pape in 1975. It was actually the name of a child who died in Seattle. Kilgore was with the Symbionese Liberation Army; a revolutionary group which committed crimes to bring attention to social injustice.

Several members of the SLA were arrested in the 60’s, but Kilgore took off. He was arrested in South Africa in 2002. He pleaded guilty to murder and served six years in prison. Kilgore was paroled in 2009. In 2011, he joined the staff at UI. His contract expires August 15.
Update: 4:52 pm, 5/5/14, Monday
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS -- A UI professor's contract isn't being renewed and faculty members are coming together to support him. James Kilgore is an employee of UI. His role in a bank robbery and murder in the 1970's was made public earlier this year.

Some of his coworkers say that's why his contract isn't being renewed. Now, they're trying to do something about it. More than 300 faculty members signed a petition and took it directly to the provost and chancellor's office.

In April, officials told Kilgore his contract would be renewed. Since then, a committee is reviewing the decision, but Kilgore's supporters say they don't feel comfortable with a committee appointed by the university.

Monday, they gathered in front of the Swanlund Administration Building, made public comments and handed over their petition. A group called Friends of James Kilgore drafted the petition. They say, within days, they had hundreds of signatures, including 89 full-time professors. Graduate and international students also have a petition circulating in support of Kilgore.

As of right now, new hires aren't given a background check at UI, but that will change in 2015. Kilgore's contract is up in August of this year.
Original: 10:06 pm, 4/22/14, Tuesday
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS -- A controversial professor won't be teaching at the university next year. James Kilgore says he was told Tuesday his contract won't be renewed. He started working at UI in 2010. Earlier this year, a report came out stating Kilgore went to prison for his role in the murder of a bank teller in the 1970's. Kilgore says he is quite surprised by the news.

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