University of Illinois Refuses to Renew Prof’s Teaching Contract; Decision Linked to Ties with Radical Group?


University of Illinois has not renewed the teaching contract of 66-year-old James Kilgore for unspecified reasons.

Dr. Kilgore, hired at Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2011, said that the reasons might be linked to his past connections of  40 years ago to the Symbionese Liberation Army. His contract ends Aug. 15

Kilgore, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, was freed from a Californian prison in 2009 after spending six years there in connection with a murder during a 1975 bank robbery. Following the robbery, Kilgore fled to Africa and stayed there for  27 years. The Symbionese Liberation Army is infamous  for the 1974 kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst.

At Illinois, the professor teaches two classes - global studies and fine and applied arts and is a temporary staff member with the Center for African Studies. Prior to Illinois, Kilgore was a part-time grant writer.

"(They were) focusing largely on my past and attacking the University of Illinois for employing someone with a criminal record like mine," Kilgore said. "I fully disclosed my criminal background and the political context of my criminal background. I've made a statement to the court indicating my remorse...," Miami Herald reports.

Kilgore feels that the university might have succumbed to political pressure by donors or well-wishers to make the decision. He described the decision as a political intrusion in the academic liberty of a university.

Supporters of Kilgore claimed that Kilgore's felony conviction and political activities might have provoked unlawful solution to an academic problem.

UI landscape architecture Professor William Sullivan said that higher educational institutions like UI should evaluate academicians like Kilgore by their efficiency and accomplishments and not on their criminal backgrounds or media reports.

"It's not in our best interest to have our academic integrity be infringed upon by The News-Gazette and the yellow journalism of Jim Dey. We should judge James Kilgore on the basis of his dedication to excellence, his actual behavior from his release from prison. Isn't that what we do in America? People make a grievous mistake, they do their time. ... They get a second chance. The university should be first in line to defend that idea," Sullivan said, News-Gazette reports.

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