UI Board Makes No Decision On Former 'Terrorist' Professor

May 14, 2014
Originally published on May 14, 2014 2:46 pm

  The teaching career of former radical James Kilgore remains in doubt. He says one of his contracts with the University of Illinois expires Thursday. But the Board of Trustees ended a meeting Wednesday without taking action on his case.

Kilgore was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a group best known for kidnapping Patty Hearst in 1974. He was convicted of murder for his role in a bank robbery the group carried out the next year.

After decades on the run, Kilgore served six years in prison for that crime, and eventually found work as an adjunct professor at the U. of I. in Urbana.

Last month, his contract was not renewed. He argues that's a violation of academic freedom and mistreatment of adjunct faculty.

"As a young man, I committed acts of which I stand ashamed," he said. "Who better to tell someone how to avoid a destructive path than someone who has walked that path?"

The Board of Trustees wants to mandate criminal background checks on all new employees.

Trustee Patrick Fitzgerald — the former federal prosecutor who sent two Illinois governors to prison — says there should not be a policy to automatically exclude people with criminal records.

"The issue of how to deal with a population that's gone through prison and tries to reintegrate into society is a vexing one," he said.

Nevertheless, he says the board should still be able to exclude such people in some cases. And he says this case has nothing to do with academic freedom.

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