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U of I trustees approve employee background checks
Policy will apply to new hires beginning Oct. 5

September 10, 2015

URBANA, Ill. — Background checks will be required for all new faculty, academic professional and civil service employees at the University of Illinois beginning Oct. 5 under a policy approved Thursday by the university’s Board of Trustees.

Checks into criminal history are now required only in security-sensitive positions or for positions that fall under the university’s existing protection of minors policy. Broadening the policy will go a long way to ensure a safe environment for students, employees and visitors, and provide guidance to make more informed decisions, officials said.

There is no list of crimes that would automatically disqualify someone from employment, said Maureen Parks, associate vice president for human services. If checks yield a criminal background, she said, that would be weighed against a variety of factors, including how long ago it occurred, the person’s age at the time, their employment history, rehabilitation efforts since the offense, the nature of the crime and whether the convictions relate to the job in question.

“Our goal is to make sure our campuses are safe, not to deny second chances to people who have served their time and should be integrated back into society,” said Trustee Patrick Fitzgerald, a former federal prosecutor.

Background checks will examine national, state and local criminal records, the National Sex Offender Registry and will verify Social Security numbers. For certain jobs, the checks also will include educational and credit history.

Each campus will develop processes to protect the privacy of applicants’ background information and to specify who will be consulted in cases involving serious safety questions, Parks said.

She said checks will only be done after job offers are made and accepted contingent upon successful completion of the background check, and most appointments will not be sent to the Board of Trustees for approval until checks are completed. In extraordinary circumstances, employees could begin work pending a background check, under the condition that the offer could be rescinded if the check nets concerns.

University officials spent nearly two years developing the new policy, which will apply to all new faculty members, academic professionals and civil service employees. The policy will not cover undergraduate and graduate student workers, volunteers, contractors or people appointed to non-paying positions, unless they fall under the existing protection of minors policy.

Interim chancellor/provost

The board also approved the appointments of Barbara J. Wilson as interim chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus and Edward J. Feser as interim vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost.

Wilson has served as acting chancellor since she was appointed Aug. 12 to succeed Phyllis Wise, who resigned after nearly four years as chancellor and will return to the faculty. Wilson will continue her role as dean of the campus’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and serve during a national search for a permanent chancellor. The university hopes to name a new chancellor during the spring semester and Wilson has said she will not be a candidate.

Feser was named last week by Wilson to replace Ilesanmi Adesida, who resigned as provost effective Aug. 31 and returned to the faculty. Feser, who has been dean of Urbana’s College of Fine and Applied Arts since 2012, will serve during a national search for a permanent provost, which will begin after a new chancellor is named.

Kathleen Harleman was appointed to serve as interim dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts while Feser serves as interim provost. Harleman has been director of the Krannert Art Museum in Urbana since 2004. Earlier, she directed art museums in Washington and Florida and held various posts at academic and public museums in Massachusetts and Ontario, Canada.

Other appointments

The board also approved several other administrative appointments on the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses.

Bill Cubit was appointed interim head football coach in Urbana for the 2015 season. He replaces Tim Beckman, who was dismissed Aug. 28 after three seasons as head coach. Cubit, who joined the Illini football program as offensive coordinator in 2013, served as head coach at Widener University from 1992 to 1996 and at Western Michigan University from 2005 to 2012.

Steve McClain was appointed head basketball coach at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) through March 2019. McClain was named head coach in March to replace Howard Moore, who was dismissed last spring after five seasons with the Flames. McClain spent the last five seasons on the coaching staff at Indiana University, most recently as assistant head coach. He was head coach at the University of Wyoming from 1998 to 2006.

Eric A. “Rick” Gislason was reappointed as interim vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost at UIC. Gislason, who has been interim provost since September 2014, will serve through May as the campus completes its search for a permanent provost. A new provost is expected to be named next spring, and Gislason would stay on to assist during the transition. Gislason joined UIC in 1969 as a professor of chemistry, and has served in a variety of administrative roles, including as interim chancellor from 2008 to 2009.

Ralph Keen was appointed to a one-year term as interim dean of the Honors College at UIC. Keen replaces Bette Bottoms, who stepped down in August to return to the faculty, and will serve during a national search for a permanent dean. Keen, who joined UIC in 2010, is currently a professor of history, chair of Catholic Studies and coordinator of religious studies.



The University of Illinois is a world leader in research and discovery, the largest educational institution in the state with more than 78,000 students, 25,000 faculty and staff, and campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I awards more than 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.