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updated: 4/29/2014 3:02 PM

U of I plans committee to review Kilgore decision

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  • James Kilgore, a former member of the radical 1970s group the Symbionese Liberation Army, was told recently he can no longer teach at the University of Illinois. Kilgore was released from prison in 2009 after serving six years for his role in the killing of housewife Myrna Opsahl during a 1975 bank robbery in California.

      James Kilgore, a former member of the radical 1970s group the Symbionese Liberation Army, was told recently he can no longer teach at the University of Illinois. Kilgore was released from prison in 2009 after serving six years for his role in the killing of housewife Myrna Opsahl during a 1975 bank robbery in California.
    Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

 
Associated Press

URBANA, Ill. -- A top administrator at the University of Illinois now says the decision not to rehire a former member of the radical 1970s group the Symbionese Liberation Army is not final and will be reviewed by a committee.

James Kilgore said last week that he had been told by the university that he would not be hired after this semester. Kilgore has been working at the Urbana-Champaign campus since 2011 and currently teaches two classes, on global studies and fine and applied arts.

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But campus Provost Ilesanmi Adesida told The News-Gazette in Champaign on Monday that the decision isn't final. He says he plans to appoint the committee to review the Kilgore decision and other hiring policies regarding nontenured faculty. Some faculty members have signed a petition supporting Kilgore.

"Personnel matters are usually not for public discussion but in this case one thing I'd like to note is that no final decision has been made in that particular case," Adesida said.

Kilgore, 66, said last week that Adesida told him he wouldn't be hired in the future and declined to tell him why. University officials at the time declined to comment when asked by news media.

When reached Tuesday by The Associated Press, Kilgore declined to comment.

Kilgore was released from state prison in California in 2009 after serving six years for second-degree murder for taking part in a 1975 bank robbery in California in which housewife Myrna Opsahl was shot to death. He served an earlier federal sentence for using a dead infant's birth certificate to obtain a passport and for possession of a pipe bomb found in his apartment in 1975.

Last week Kilgore said he believed that the initial decision not to hire him was based political pressure over his criminal record.

"I think it amounts to political interference in the academic freedom of a university," he said at the time.

The committee will include faculty members, Adesida said.

The SLA was best known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in 1974. After the bank robbery Kilgore lived for 27 years at large, spending much of that time in South Africa.

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