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University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise | AP file

U of I: Administrators broke e-mail rules to hide messages

SHARE U of I: Administrators broke e-mail rules to hide messages
SHARE U of I: Administrators broke e-mail rules to hide messages

URBANA — The University of Illinois says several administrators violated school policy by using private emails to hide correspondence from public view, including exchanges about a professor whose job offer was rescinded after he sent anti-Israel Twitter messages.

A statement Friday from the U of I says emails on several sensitive topics should have been turned over in response to a Freedom of Information request. The university simultaneously released hundreds of pages of the emails in question.

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Steven Salaita | AP file

Among the emails were those from outgoing Chancellor Phyllis Wise, who submitted her resignation Thursday. A university spokesman was not immediately available to comment on whether the alleged violations of email policy was related to Wise’s decision.

Wise and the school face a lawsuit filed by Steven Salaita, whose job offer she rescinded over anti-Israel tweets.

READ THE EMAILS U of I releases 1,100 files

Three major issues were discussed in the personal email exchanges: the hiring of Salaita; the hiring of James Kilgore, a felon following radical activities in the 1970s, to teach a global studies class; and a proposed engineering-medical school.

The university released 1,100 emails on Friday, many from Wise’s personal account.

“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,” U of I said in a statement.

In one email, Wise told another employee she waspurposely avoiding the university’s email system.

“We are doing virtually nothing over our Illinois email addresses,” Wise wrote. “I am even being careful with this email address and deleting after sending.”

In another, Wise complains to a colleague about the university, and signs off by saying“This place is so messed up.”

University President Timothy Killeen said the document release was to foster transparency in university leadership.

“The University of Illinois takes its commitment to FOIA compliance and integrity seriously,” Killeen said in a statement.

A University of Illinois official says Wise will receive $400,000 as part of her abrupt resignation.

U of I spokesman Tom Hardy says Wise’s contract includes a $500,000 retention bonus — $100,000 for each year she stayed. She’s been chancellor for four years.

Wise announced Thursday she’s resigning effective Aug. 12. She cited a range of “external issues” she says have become a distraction.

State Sen. Tom Cullerton criticized the payment. The Villa Park Democrat says tuition dollars should not be used for “filling the pockets of overpaid administrators.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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