Governor Bruce Rauner is stepping up his assault on Illinois’ public colleges and universities by appointing to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) a man who displays little respect for faculty members, the people he’s supposed to represent.

John Bambenek was nominated in April as the IBHE’s sole faculty representative. The appointment requires legislative approval. More about that in a moment.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the part-time cybersecurity instructor at the University of Illinois is a quintessential appointee for this governor, as Bambenek is an outspoken opponent of free speech, academic freedom and unions.

In a regular column for Illinois’s student newspaper, Bambenek’s also rebuked both non-tenure-track faculty and graduate unions and argued that academic freedom has come to mean “academic serfdom” to liberal ideas. In one such column, he suggested that intelligent design — which scientific consensus rejects — merits a place in the classroom.

“Academics pat themselves on the back for parroting out each other’s ideas while slamming their minds shut to all that could shake their faith,” Bambenek wrote in The Daily Illini in 2006. “This is the behavior of a prelate, not a professor. The intelligent design debate remains the best example of this. Instead of talking about intelligent design, the acolytes of Darwinism engage in character assassination.”

Faculty at the U of I are represented by the American Association of University Professors, whose members are equally outspoken about the latest Rauner assault on higher education.

“Rauner has been trying to destroy Illinois higher education from the moment he became governor,” John K. Wilson, co-editor of the association’s “Academe” blog and an independent scholar of academic freedom, wrote in a recent post. “So it’s not surprising that he would appointment as the faculty representative on the [board] someone who is anti-faculty, anti-free speech, anti-union, anti-academic freedom, anti-science and anti-academia. Bambenek was not chosen for this position in spite of his loony ideas and efforts to repress freedom; he was chosen because of it.”

As previously stated, the appointment requires legislative approval. You can strike a blow for higher education by calling Sen. Antonio Muñoz, chairman of the executive appointment committee and telling him to reject Bambenek’s appointment because:

  • John Bambenek is unqualified to represent faculty on the IBHE.
  • John Bambenek cannot represent faculty when he has repeatedly expressed contempt for academic freedom, free speech and the right to collective bargaining, issues most faculty embrace.
  • Governor Rauner should seek input from the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, organizations that represent higher education faculty in Illinois, and use their expertise to select an appropriate IBHE faculty representative.

It’s bad enough the governor is financially starving Illinois’ colleges and universities. This appointment adds grievous insult to horrible injury.

Call Sen. Munoz: (217) 782-9415. Tell him to say no.