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April 29, 2015

Dear Chancellor Amiridis:


As the Principal Investigators of the Chancellors Cluster Initiative to Increase Diversity and
Interdisciplinarity and tenured faculty of color in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, we write
to express our outrage at the recent unilateral decision to cancel four searches being run through the
initiative (Social Justice and Human Rights, Diaspora Studies, and Middle East and Muslim
Societies). As we believe you know, the news of the last minute cancellations came on April 16,
2015 from Interim Provost Gislason and Dean Tantillo, at the first meeting the Cluster PIs have had
with Dean Tantillo in the three years the program has been in existence at UIC. These cancellations
came at a time when candidates had already been invited to campus, and faculty had deliberated and
made recommendations on two of the four searches. In addition to stopping the current searches, the
Interim Provost and Dean explained that the entire cluster program was being delayed, and that
before it could restart, the substance of the positions required recalibration that would supersede both
the agreed to conditions of the cluster proposals (all applications were signed by Executive Officers
and Deans) and the extensive internal peer review process that selected these clusters over others.
Such an abrupt cancelation of four high-profile searches (not delay as recent communications have
indicated), and a drastic change to the peer review process, fundamentally endangers this major
diversity initiative at our public urban university and threatens to tarnish our national reputation and
ability to recruit in the future.
We recognize the precarious budget situation UIC and the University of Illinois are in at this
moment, but this directive from the Interim Provost and the Dean of LAS fundamentally undercuts
the commitment to diversity and collaboration laid out in your Budget Memo of March 30, 2015. It
puts in jeopardy the campuss mission to create and foster an intellectual community of scholars that
reflects a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and disciplinary and interdisciplinary training, as
well as the recruitment and retention of qualified students from diverse backgrounds. The manner in
which the decision was announced to the faculty, without any attempt at collaboration or even
consultation, is part of a pattern of administrative decision-making that ignores multiple stakeholders
at UIC. The PIs of the clusters and other faculty in LAS who were involved with the cluster initiative
are deeply upset and demoralized by this pattern of treatment that disregards our input and devalues
our work. In what follows, we substantiate our claims in hopes of providing you with additional
evidence to reconsider the decision to cancel these searches.
1) Lack of communication: In the last three years, the length of time the cluster program has
existed at UIC, the communication between the clusters and LAS was weak at best. Examples of
this range from the long period of time taken to approve campus visits, make offers to
candidates, and negotiate with the candidates. This delay did not reflect well on UICs position
as an honest recruiter of diverse faculty and certainly does not reflect anything we know about
the best practices for recruitment. The lack of communication also directly contributed to at least
one of the failed searches in LAS, significant in a climate with a 50 percent failure rate of
negotiations (six of the twelve offers made were declined, two of which were to African
American senior scholars, three to senior scholars of South Asian descent, and one to a senior
white scholar). These failed searches have hindered the possibility of building critical mass of
faculty for all the clusters, producing, in essence, the justification for cancelling the current
searches. Over the course of the first three years, the PIs made requests for meetings with Dean
Tantillo to discuss search processes; we never received a positive response and instead were re

directed to meet with Associate Deans who were not authorized to make decisions on the hiring
process.
2) Lack of collaboration and transparency: The process and manner by which the cancellation
decision was rendered did not reflect any effort to collaborate with relevant stakeholders.
Cluster PIs were not consulted in the process or invited to provide any viable alternatives. The
Cluster Implementation Advisory Committee (co-chaired by Associate Provost Saul Weiner and
Professor Beth Richie), a committee tasked with resolving issues and developing guidelines for a
fair and transparent process, was neither notified nor consulted before this decision was made.
This administrative and faculty body has spent the last two years working on this project. By not
consulting the key stakeholders in this process there has been a serious erosion of faculty
confidence and trust in the College. Just one week before the cancellation of our searches
stakeholders were called to a meeting by the Cluster Advisory Committee and invited to revise a
document that would provide guidelines and criteria for implementing the cluster hires. A few
days later, half of those searches were being unilaterally cancelled.
The recent directive from Interim Provost Gislason and Dean Tantillo is divisive because it
appears to arbitrarily favor one search over another without clear and compelling criteria, as we
outline below. It has been the goal of the Cluster PIs to build synergies across the clusters and
create a dynamic and innovative community of scholars who are able to answer important
questions. This decision and the way it was carried out undermine that collaborative spirit.
Further, this directive disproportionately effects faculty of color.
3) Inconsistent criteria for cancelling searches: The three criteria presented for cancelling
searches were: lack of student demand, the absence of a critical mass of faculty already on
campus, and the budget. However, there is an apparent inconsistency in defining these criteria.
We take up each in turn.
With respect to student demand, the rationale is both erroneous and shortsighted. First, many of
our students excitedly participated in each of these searches, were a part of the selection
processes, and met with candidates during their visits. In addition, Arab American and Muslim
students have complained for years that despite their growing numbers, there are only a few
faculty members on campus to serve their intellectual interests and needs; one of the cancelled
searches would have attended to this demand. The same is the case for Asian American students
on campus. No new Asian American Studies faculty searches have been authorized since at least
2007, making for student demand that exceeds the programs capacity; In terms of the social
justice search, there is clearly growing interest in various issues related to social justice as
evidenced by the new Social Justice Minor, which launches in the fall with its first course nearly
full.
Second, the implied definition used for student demand is very limited and does not take into
consideration that cutting edge scholarship and creative interdisciplinary hires will actually
create student demand by offering new courses and introducing students to new forms of
knowledge production that they surely could not demand before they are exposed to it.
Third, smaller programs with few FTEs, which is where the overwhelming majority of faculty of
color in LAS are located, cannot generate student demand at the same rate as bigger, more
established degree-granting units. Thus, the cancellation of these searches disproportionately

impacts younger and smaller programs. These interdisciplinary units cannot be measured by the
same yardstick as their larger counterparts. We also want to dispel the myth that the clusters
were some sort of special interest project rather than integrally related to what we profess to
be our mission. The Cluster Initiative has been a means through which the traditional disciplines
are growing. For example, the cancelled searches would potentially impact several units
including, Political Science, Criminology, Law and Justice, Sociology, and History. These
potential joint hires were poised to generate exciting synergies among these disciplinary and
interdisciplinary units, and would have filled a set of demands that exists among their majors and
minors.
Fourth, we also wish to underscore the robust presence of Asian American, Arab, Arab
American, and Middle-Eastern students on our campus, many of whom come from immigrant
communities in and around Illinois. We also have interactions with the communities these
students come from and see them as a part of our constituency as a public institution. The
decision to cancel hires that would have addressed issues of concern to these communities is
problematic.
Fifth, in terms of African American students, whose numbers are abysmally low, all of the
cancelled searches had recruited candidates whose scholarship and teaching address issues of
inequality, discrimination and disenfranchisement, all issues of concern to African American
communities and students. As an existing AANAPISI institution, which has also gained
eligibility to apply to become a Hispanic Serving Institution, we are also confident our Asian
American and our Latino students would benefit greatly from more courses on social justice and
diaspora, rubrics that directly address issues of migration and marginality.
Finally, to the issue of the budget, we cannot deny the potentially profound impact of the
impending budget cuts, but a budget, large or small, is a reflection of values and priorities. The
decision to interrupt search processes in the final stage, without consultation or an impact study
with regard to the potential harm and consequences of this action, sends a disturbing message
about our values and priorities at this time.
4) Respect for facultys work/effort: The cluster PIs and other faculty have worked tirelessly on
this initiative, some for the last four years. The overwhelming majority of cluster PIs and search
committee members are associate professors, women, and people of color, who already provide a
tremendous amount of service to the college and the campus. Faculty who participated in this
cluster program have performed this service for the College and the University in good faith. It is
only so long before faculty lose faith in the face of such devaluation and disrespect of our time,
labor, and contributions. This will have a grave impact on our ability to retain existing faculty,
including those who were hired through the cluster initiative and came here with the promise of
building and joining a cluster program and an intellectual community.
We have recruited faculty from around the country and internationally with the promise that they
would be a part of a robust hiring initiative. These colleagues left prestigious institutions in order to
be a part of a cutting-edge and paradigm-changing initiative. If we abandon the commitment we
made to these recruits, we seriously undermine our efforts to recruit in the future, especially among
faculty of color.
As you are aware, this cluster initiative emerged from your office and we call on you not just to

preserve this initiative and the process we have established, but also to advance it. This recent
directive, and the process that brought us to it, is a move in the wrong direction. As a campus-wide
program, we seek direction and leadership from you to consider this new information. To launch a
high profile program, publicize it, ask for faculty work to make it move forward, and then to
undemocratically undermine it, does not make for good press, good institutional profile or good
community relations. We fear that the upcoming webinar on clusters and diversity, in which UIC is a
model, will magnify the institutional failure in relation to the clusters and further damage our
collective reputation. UIC's reputation in the academy, in the city, and in the press, is very important
to our ability to grow. Finally, we want to note that your faculty staked their personal and
professional reputations on recruiting applicants to these positions. We hope that you can honor and
support our work and see us as your partners in transforming UIC into a university that recognizes
that diversity is critical to innovation and to our efforts to be among the best urban public research
universities in the country. The cluster initiative has the potential to be a distinguishing factor of
innovation for UIC so we urge you to meet with the cluster PIs, reconsider this decision, protect the
reputation of UIC, and empower it to be the campus at the vanguard of creating this important,
exciting, and innovative intellectual project that has diversity and interdisciplinarity at its core.
This is an urgent situation for us with far-reaching implications for our work at UIC. We were all
very hopeful when our colleagues on the Chancellors Search Committee told us that you were a
candidate who represented a deep and longstanding commitment to diversity and sensitivity to
faculty needs. We are hopeful that those commitments and sensitivities will be brought to bear in
this situation. We therefore respectfully request a time to meet with you to discuss these serious
concerns and hopefully work toward a more just outcome.
Sincerely,
Cluster PIs and Tenured Faculty of Color in LAS:
1. Sunil Agnani, Associate Professor, Departments of English and History
2. Aixa Alfonso, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences; Faculty Co-chair,
Chancellors Committee on the Status of Latinos (CCSL)
3. Xochitl Bada, Associate Professor, Latin American and Latino Studies Program
4. Cynthia Blair, Co-PI, Racialized Body Cluster; Associate Professor, Departments of African
American Studies and History
5. Jennifer Brier, Co-PI, Social Justice and Human Rights Cluster; Associate Professor and
Director, Gender & Womens Studies Program, and Department of History
6. Mark Chiang, Associate Professor, Asian American Studies Program and Department of English
7. Madhu Dubey, Professor, Departments of African American Studies and English
8. Andreas Feldman, Co-PI, Global Immigration Cluster; Associate Professor, Latin American and
Latino Studies Program and Department of Political Science

9. Roderick Ferguson, Co-PI, Racialized Body Cluster; Professor, Department of African American
Studies and Gender & Womens Studies Program
10. Nilda Flores-Gonzalez, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Latin American and
Latino Studies Program
11. Lorena Garcia, Associate Professor, Departments of Sociology and Latino and Latin American
Studies
12. Anna Guevarra, Co-PI, Social Justice and Human Rights Cluster; Associate Professor and
Director, Asian American Studies Program
13. Peter Ibarra, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, Law, and Justice
14. Lynette Jackson, Co-PI, Diaspora Cluster; Associate Professor, Department of African American
Studies and Gender & Womens Studies Program
15. Cedric Johnson, Associate Professor, Departments of African American Studies and Political
Science
16. Helen Jun, Associate Professor, Departments of African American Studies and English
17. Lisa Lee, Affiliated Faculty, Gender & Womens Studies Program; Director, School of Art and
Art History
18. Rama Mantena, Associate Professor, Department of History
19. Norma Moruzzi, PI, Middle East and Muslim Societies Cluster; Associate Professor, Department
of Political Science and Gender & Womens Studies Program
20. Nadine Naber, Co-PI, Diaspora Cluster; Associate Professor, Gender & Womens Studies and
Asian American Studies Programs
21. Rafael Nuez-Cedeo, Professor Emeritus, Departments of Hispanic and Italian Studies
22. Amalia Pallares, Associate Professor and Director, Latin American and Latino Studies Program
and Department of Political Science
23. Pamela Anne Quiroz, Professor, Departments of Sociology and Educational Policy Studies
24. Barbara Ransby, Director of Social Justice Initiative; Professor, Departments of African
American Studies and History, Gender & Womens Studies Program
25. Gayatri Reddy, Associate Professor, Gender & Womens Studies Program and Department of
Anthropology; Director, Asian Studies
26. Jane Rhodes, Head and Professor, Department of African American Studies

27. Beth Richie, Director, IRRPP and Professor, Departments of African American Studies and
Criminology, Law and Justice
28. Margarita Saona, Associate Professor, Departments of Hispanic and Italian Studies
29. David Stovall, Associate Professor, Departments of African American Studies and Educational
Policy Studies
30. Sultan Tepe, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
31. Javier Villa-Flores, Associate Professor, Department of History and Latin American and Latino
Studies Program
32. Xuehua Xiang, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics and Basic Language Program
Coordinator for Chinese
cc:

Interim Provost Eric Gislason


Dean Astrida Tantillo
Professor Janet Smith, President, UIC United Faculty
Professor Catherine Vincent, Secretary of the Senate and Chair of the Executive Committee