Questions About Chancellor Cheng’s Recent Version of the Facebook Fiasco

Posted: November 9, 2011 in Free Speech, News
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

[Edit: Here is the interview referenced below ]

We just received this email:

Moments ago, I just heard Chancellor Rita Cheng on WSIU radio. I have two things I would like to request you post to your blog.

Chancellor Cheng claimed that the only posts that were deleted from the SIU Facebook page were ones containing vulgar language. She then went on to say that at 3am, the one staff member who was monitoring the site had the page locked down, to prevent further inflammitory comments. She did not mention the many comments that were not vulgar, but simply asked the administration to settle, yet were deleted. Even now days later, SIUC is not being honest about what happened. Could you ask your blog readers to call Chancellor Cheng for clarification?

Chancellor Cheng also mentioned that some students have started a petition stating they now prefer their faculty replacement. Could you ask your blog readers to call Chancellor Cheng to make this petition available to the public. How many students have signed it? In the interest of transparency, let us see it.

If you do wish to call the administration:
Chancellor Rita Cheng 618-453-2341
SIUC Board of Trustees 618-536-3357
President Glen Poshard 618-536-3357

  1. Donnie Laur says:

    #2. It is entirely possible for a student to prefer a replacement. I would be surprised if that didn’t happen. In a class, at any time, some students will be passing, others failing. The students failing are either not putting in enough effort or they are not understanding the material presented to them. In my opinion, their can be other reasons, I’m sure.

    The reasons are endless: a faculty member with an overloaded schedule, or teaching a class that they might not be comfortable with, the requirements to start the class are not high enough and the replacement is teaching at a different level, or simply personality differences. In many cases the replacement is going to come in with a different personality or opinion. We didn’t clone faculty! In some cases, as recorded, the replacement is another professor in the same department, just simply not on strike. They might have had that professor before and preferred them.

    Also, not every student is attending class. It is very likely that those with a high attachment to the faculty teaching class, are not there to even be taught by a replacement.

    It don’t make those students bad people, it just makes them human voicing their opinion in a way that they should be allowed to voice as well.

    Therefore, I don’t have any objections to seeing a list or petition after the semester is over and grades are recorded. In the same way that evaluations are not shared until the class is over.

    But, providing that list now would just cause issues for both sides of the negotiation.

  2. a_little_confused says:

    So you’re saying that a student may prefer a “qualified replacement” because they are poor students to begin with. So when a replacement comes to take attendance or give a Day 1 lecture, all the student has to do is sit back and get credit for being in class.

    Also, how in the world is this petition going around if it’s not in the public? Are people supposed to go to Cheng’s office to sign it?

  3. a_little_confused says:


    It is quite possible for the petition to be signed anonymously, as you can see from the “Save Tenure Petition” linked at the top of this blog’s nav bar.

    Your point is completely invalid Donnie.

    Not to mention that a petition has absolutely no validity unless it is made public.

    I hope your not subbing for an American Government course, Donnie.

  4. Just a TA says:

    Before anyone attacks me for defending Donnie’s points, let me point out that I am a TA working with a substitute who is, in fact, qualified to teach my course. I understand that I seem to be in the minority with this. I also would prefer to have my regular professor back, because no substitute can fully maintain the cohesive arc of a course this late in the semester. Yet, I–as with all GAs–have to do my job under the conditions I have been given.

    However, in Donnie’s defense, yes, a student may prefer a substitute because he/she is a poor student. I have had several students already ask me whether they will receive automatic As from their substitute. When I explained to them that, should the strike continue until the end of the semester, we will combine their old work with the work they do under the sub, they were rather disappointed that they couldn’t have an easy A. It happens. Donnie also rightfully pointed out that there are a plethora of reasons why a student might prefer a substitute over his/her regular instructor, and we shouldn’t automatically assume that every student is angry.

    With that being said, many of my students have chosen not to attend class in support of our professor; meanwhile, many have been attending class because they are receiving valuable, if contextually disjointed, information about our subject area. I do not know whether they prefer the sub or our professor, and frankly, I find it frightening that Chancellor Cheng would even suggest that a substitute would be preferable. They are substitutes, interrupting the flow of the classroom content and context, and I would hope that the administration would not try to even pretend that there could be anything positive about such an interruption.

    I also agree that, if such a petition exists, it should be released ONLY if anonymity is guaranteed. Regardless of how ethically a professor returning from the strike tallies final grades, we should not even open the possibility of ramifications for students who choose to support their substitutes. Further, providing a situation in which students can (and should!) challenge their final grades based on whether a professor might have seen the student’s name on a petition is unfair to both faculty and students as it establishes the potential for unwaranted negative ramifications for those who chose to go on strike.

  5. Craig Gingrich-Philbrook says:

    When I heard about this morning conversation today, I was a little incensed at first. After listening, though, I think Jennifer Fuller did, overall–given the time she had–a remarkable job of asking questions of Chancellor Cheng. I’m thinking here of the questions about Fair Share, the back to work agreement, how to heal the university and so on. She got the issues out there. I felt the Chancellor’s answers were more evasive than I’d like, to be sure. For example, she said the university couldn’t agree to furlough protection, when clearly it can if it grants that protection to other unions. The facebook censorship question is very late in the interview, and Jennifer didn’t have the kind of time necessary to follow the issue up.

    All of that said, I do believe the Chancellor’s ongoing failure to “come clean” about the issue is troubling, if understandable as a misguided and clearly harmful 20th century effort at damage control. Anyone who has looked at the facebook page our wonderful and resourceful, 21st century students created to document their being censored (Available here:!/pages/SIUC-fan-page-Stop-Censoring/196307620443592 ) can see at a glance that the Chancellor’s characterization of the kinds of posts deleted is misleading and incomplete.

    I’m about to write to both Jennifer and the station’s news director, Jeff Williams, to ask them to look at the page and challenge the characterization of our censored students as vulgar. Chancellor Cheng can say what she wants to about the faculty association. In some ways, that’s the job the BOT has asked her to do. I don’t offer that as an excuse, just an observation that her tactics aren’t surprising. But as for her implication that our censored students were only the ones who were vulgar, that I can’t accept after all of their civil support of faculty–those who struck and those who did not–and calls upon the university simply to settle. I had the privilege of meeting Shaheen Shorish, a veteran and student, who was one of the posters censored. Shaheen’s post, while critical and to the point, was not, in any way, vulgar. (You can read Shaheen’s post here:

    To me, to characterize Shaheen and other articulate and committed students this way is profoundly unfair, and it would be particularly ironic for a news organization like WSIU-FM, upon which so many of us depend and offer support for, to allow clear and evident censorship to be swept under the rug like this.

    It’s also troubling to me, btw, that it appears our administrators get questions in advance, as implied in the morning conversation with the Chancellor last week. If the administration is exerting the kind of pressure on WSIU that it exerted on the DE, I hope they will find a way to let those of us who support it with all our hearts know so that we can stand up for them together.

    Turns out Jennifer’s email isn’t on the WSIU page anywhere I could find. But News Director, Jeff Williams’, is: Join me in sending the link to him and calling for a follow up on this story if you choose. It’s my belief that censorship of this kind should concern everybody, regardless of their perspective on the strike.

  6. Not Gonna Be Silenced says:

    I am a student who had at comments deleted. None were vulgar or personal attacks of an inappropriate nature; one post stated that I had no substitute-qualified or otherwise-in two classes. One stated that transparency was not too much to ask considering taxpayers and parents pay Cheng’s salary, for the new logo, etc. The other post was something along the lines of, ‘How many minutes until you delete this post as well?’ (The answer was less than two minutes.)

    I listened to “Morning Edition” this morning and was enraged by Cheng’s comments-her lies- claiming that the only posts removed were vulgar or personal attacks. Parents had responded asking about qualified substitutes, students wrote asking what to do, some posts simply said, “settle now.”

    Clearly this is censorship and an attempt to silence opposition. Cheng has lied outright about this. I hope it is not swept under the rug with the strike.

  7. WishingForEasierTimes says:

    People hear what they want to hear, and I see a lot of that going around. Yes, the admin made some mistakes when it came to deleting comments on FB. Yes, Cheng has mentioned deleting posts that were vulgar or used foul language. It has also been stated that originally, that is what was being deleted. However, with only one person to maintain the site, it became far too large of a task for any one person to manage, so it was decided to disable the comments in order to stop what was happening. Was it right to silence the voices? No. Was it their right, as owners of that page, to delete whatever comment they chose? Yes. Was it right morally, ethically, or legally? There is definite grey area there.
    I guess my point is this…move on. It’s over and the ability to comment has been reinstated, so why not find something else to talk about? They (admin and FA) made mistakes throughout this whole ordeal, but it’s over now and it’s time to get back to work. If you are still complaining about FB, days after the page has been restored, then you obviously don’t have enough to do or have much of a life.

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