Wise responds to student backlash

Chancellor Phyllis Wise in an Inside Higher Ed blog post Thursday said she was disturbed by the attacks following her announcement that the University would hold classes Monday.

“Making an unpopular decision and accepting the ensuing criticism is part of the job of a university leader,” Wise said in the article. “People have asked me whether the attacks disturbed me. Yes.”

Wise also said, “What was most disturbing was witnessing social media drive a discussion quickly into the abyss of hateful comments and even threats of violence.”

Wise was the subject of Twitter backlash Sunday night into Monday by hundreds of students, some whose remarks were sexist or racist.

She said she worries that social media attacks could be used to target students and faculty just as she was.

“Of all places, a university should be home to diverse ideas and differing perspectives, where robust – and even intense – debate and disagreement are welcomed,” Wise said. “On Monday, Jan. 27, we held classes, as usual, at the University of Illinois. And, I hope, we all learned something.”

Student Body President Damani Bolden, along with other campus leaders, will hold a Campus Conversation in Civility conversation next Tuesday at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts to discuss what happened. Wise will be in attendance for the discussion, campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said.

“We see it as an opportunity to provide the entire campus community to come together in response to what happen,” said Bolden, who issued a formal apology to Wise in a mass email to the campus Tuesday.

“The chancellor is human; Chancellor Wise has feelings; she’s a valued member on the campus community,” Bolden said. “As a human being, she deserved an apology.”