Chancellor Wise Forced to Release Emails From Private Account

by Corey Robin on August 8, 2015

The Chicago Tribune reports today that UIUC was forced to release 1100 pages of emails from Chancellor Wise, many of them from her personal email account, many of them related to the Steven Salaita case. According to a statement from UIUC:

A desire to maintain confidentiality on certain sensitive University-related topics was one reason personal email accounts were used to communicate about these topics. Some emails suggested that individuals were encouraged to use personal email accounts for communicating on such topics.

The statement may be referring to this email from Wise, on September 18, 2014.

Wise Email #1

Equally interesting is this one from July 24, 2014. Note that statement by Wise re “after the decision to hire him and after his acceptance of our offer.”

Wise Email #2You can read the emails related to the Salaita case here.

{ 23 comments }

1

js. 08.08.15 at 2:27 am

Yowza! Is it just me or does “Let’s not use our work email addresses and also, let’s immediately delete communication, and also also, I have the shredder right here, thanks very much!” sound really bad?

On another note, I tried to go to the Tribune article but the site wants me to do some sort of registration thing which I don’t feel up for just now, so: Who are Robin, Nick, Joyce and Ade, anyone know?

2

Collin Street 08.08.15 at 2:59 am

I tried to go to the Tribune article but the site wants me to do some sort of registration thing which I don’t feel up for just now

Escape will kill any lockout script, and if the scrollbars are disabled you can ctrl-a and copy the content, or you can view source.

[except the financial times, which is programmed differently. “load page; check credentials” you can bypass; “check credentials; load page” you can’t.]

3

js. 08.08.15 at 3:09 am

Um, have you tried accessing it?

4

Snarki, child of Loki 08.08.15 at 3:11 am

Yeah, that first message just screams “obstruction of justice”, doesn’t it?

5

Anders Widebrant 08.08.15 at 4:05 am

js., Firefox’s Reader View got past that registration thing, the article looks a bit like this.

6

Dr. Hilarius 08.08.15 at 7:11 am

Oh, good, a university Chancellor who doesn’t know that deleting something doesn’t make it go away. Or that being told not to use email means just that.

7

Barry Freed 08.08.15 at 7:33 am

IANAL, contract or otherwise but I’m thinking those phrases “our offer” and “his acceptance” have got to be worth something in the low 7 figures. When do you think we can expect the first settlement offer?

8

xaaronx 08.08.15 at 9:47 am

“Twitters”. Like nails on a chalkboard.

9

engels 08.08.15 at 10:53 am

OOPS

10

AcademicLurker 08.08.15 at 11:37 am

@6: Didn’t Oliver North get into trouble in large part because he didn’t realize that pressing “delete” doesn’t actually make things disappear? Maybe he had an excuse, since computers were still somewhat unfamiliar to non-specialists back in the mid 80s.

But making that same mistake today? Wow.

11

Barry 08.08.15 at 12:51 pm

Dr. Hilarius 08.08.15 at 7:11 am
“Oh, good, a university Chancellor who doesn’t know that deleting something doesn’t make it go away. Or that being told not to use email means just that.”

Classic stuff. She figured that she’d lift her pinkie, crush Salaita, and there’d be no fuss, muss or bother.

12

t. gracchus 08.08.15 at 12:51 pm

The term you are looking for is “spoliation of evidence.” Obstruction of justice is not really a possibility in an ordinary civil case. Advice to the effect that communicating through a personal account will protect email from discovery is bad. Documents are collected by subject, not location. If the advice came from a lawyer, it is incompetent counsel. A deliberate plan to destroy evidence, which is what appears to be the case here, is sufficient basis for default.

13

Lynne 08.08.15 at 1:20 pm

I just read through quite a few of those e-mails and several times the correspondents refer to Salaita’s appointment—one of them on July 24 says Salaita should be told to meet with someone when he arrives on campus so he can be apprised of the code of conduct, or something like that—I tried to search for the quote but the search didn’t work, but at that point they were still thinking he had been hired. The emphasis throughout was on the limits of academic freedom, when free speech becomes hate speech; they weren’t so concerned with denying he’d been hired. There were several references to “the Kilgore case” which seems to have brought the university some bad publicity, and they were worried about further bad publicity. All concerned were determined that Salaita would be a disgrace to the university.

Reading these (maybe a quarter of the whole 200 + pages) made me feel less optimistic that the university will ever agree to giving Salaita his job, if he still wants it. Some of the board of trustees seemed quite puzzled at the boycott, and convinced that many of the signatures on the petitions were of people who were misinformed and easily led. These do not seem like the kind of people to doubt themselves.

14

AF 08.08.15 at 3:25 pm

As to the admission that his hire was a hire, their offer was an offer, and his acceptance was an acceptance, you hardly need a private email to show that. The offer letter itself made that clear, as the court found. I can’t believe they even tried to deny those things. As the court mentioned, the University’s argument could not be made “with a straight face.”

15

Corey Robin 08.08.15 at 7:17 pm

AF at 14: “As to the admission that his hire was a hire, their offer was an offer, and his acceptance was an acceptance, you hardly need a private email to show that. “

I agree. I’ve been arguing this position for a year. I was just pointing out that this is further confirmation of the position I’ve held since the story first broke. Sadly, many commentators here tried to argue that this was not the case.

16

Snarki, child of Loki 08.08.15 at 7:55 pm

Re:t. gracchus
The term you are looking for is “spoliation of evidence.”

Thanks! IANAL, and all that. Can’t imagine that it would play will in front of a judge.

Still, it takes a special kind of blindness to write “okay, I destroyed most of the incriminating evidence!” and expect a good outcome.

17

The Dark Avenger 08.08.15 at 8:38 pm

If the Tribune uses the same system as their sister paper the LA Times, you just Google the headline of the article, and you click on the link to the LA Times article that the search brings up, and voila!, the article is available without any registration nonsense.

18

Layman 08.08.15 at 8:40 pm

‘Still, it takes a special kind of blindness to write “okay, I destroyed most of the incriminating evidence!” and expect a good outcome.’

It’s amazingly commonplace. When I’ve (in the past) been called upon to review communications in pursuit of legal matters, that particular email is nearly always there, along with the one which says ’email me here instead so it won’t be discoverable’, and the one which says ‘I need to brief you on this very bad thing but don’t want a record of it, so come see me ASAP’. For some reason people are crazy with email.

19

mbw 08.08.15 at 9:08 pm

For js #1:
“Who are Robin, Nick, Joyce and Ade, anyone know?”
Robin Kaler
Nick Burbules
Joyce Tolliver
Ilesanmi Adesida

Google will take you from here.

20

js. 08.08.15 at 9:12 pm

AW @5 — Thanks!

And thanks also to mbw — using the email cache and google, I did indeed figure out the identities, etc. of the involved parties.

21

CDT 08.09.15 at 1:02 am

That lengthy book scan was likely a copyright violation, as well.

22

Fuzzy Dunlop 08.10.15 at 12:12 am

“You say potato, I say spoliation of evidence.”

Dr. Hilarius @6, Layman @18: It’s somehow all the more funny, to me, that this error (however common) should be made by someone coming from a STEM background. But I think Barry @11 has it right:

She figured that she’d lift her pinkie, crush Salaita, and there’d be no fuss, muss or bother.

23

Barry 08.10.15 at 2:13 am

Thanks, Fuzzy. Think of how many police assume that they can do as they please, and there’ll be no question of evidence, because there will never be a trial (or honest inquiry).

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