Imagine my relief.
If you are scratching your head about this one, you don't know either
a) Illinois politics and the level of arrogance in office; or
b) academic administration and the level of incompetence. . . .
but there is a happy ending and precedent for university presidents to demonstrate some common sense and independence. Read on:
1. The state requires all employees to pass an ethics exam to keep future governors and their friends ethical and out of prison. Oops. Let me rewrite: The state requires all employees to pass an ethics exam so THEY remain ethical (governors will still be convicted of crime in grand Illinois tradition).
2. The ethics law--passed after Governor George Ryan went to prison--forbids partisan political activity on state property. The exam tests whether you know promising a contract to your neighbors, the Sopranos, is illegal. Also, you must not show political favoritism by using your university phone to fund raise for Mike Rezko or his friend Barack Obama (not being partisan here, just keeping an Illinois focus).
3. Faculty are really revved up about this election. Obama is their guy and they wear his button on their lapels (or t-shirts, if they got lost somewhere in the Sixties time zone).
4. University of Illinois Ethics Office issues newsletter reeducating employees about the ethics law and even extends it--if only hypothetically--to campaign buttons and bumper stickers! No word on whether a strong-felt wink reveals (illegal) support for Sarah Palin.
5. Inspector General Gilbert Jimenez, the same schmuck who busted employees for passing their ethics exam too quickly, backs this interpretation of the law. U of I students lead a "civil disobedience" rally for Obama (who else?) and it makes the Chicago Tribune.
5. FIRE, ACLU, and your intrepid moderator (as president of the Illinois Association of Scholars) blast the University of Illinois for being on the wrong side of common sense, the Constitution, and a lot of pissed-off professors (Jimenez even extended the ban on campaign buttons to students!).
HAPPY ENDING: University of Illinois president B. Joseph White issues a "simple message" that actually defends free speech and challenges the state to define its problematic ethics law. Yippee!
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