The future of the University of Illinois' American Indian Studies program is under review following the departure of its longtime director, Robert Warrior, and most of its faculty.
Warrior, a leader of the unsuccessful campaign to reinstate Steven Salaita at the UI, recently accepted an endowed professorship at the University of Kansas in English and American studies.
History Professor Adrian Burgos Jr., who specializes in the history of sport and U.S. minorities, has been named interim director of the program.
He will lead a review to determine its future scope and structure, working with an advisory group of faculty and staff who maintain close ties to it.
"Adrian's job is to work with the people who have a stake in American Indian Studies, to come up with a plan for several options for what we could do next," said Martin Camargo, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The Salaita case took a huge toll on the program. The UI's decision to withdraw his tenured job in American Indian Studies in 2014 after his angry tweets about Israel raised widespread concerns about free speech and academic freedom.
Faculty members in American Indian Studies felt particularly vulnerable, following years of tensions about Chief Illiniwek.
Two years ago, the program had seven core faculty members. By last fall, it was down to two, including Warrior.
Two faculty members, Vicente Diaz and his wife, Tina Delisle, had taken new jobs at the University of Minnesota. The UI had to make counter-offers to retain two others, who asked to move to other UI departments where they had joint appointments. Professor Jodi Byrd is now in English and gender and women's studies, and Professor Matt Gilbert moved to history.
Native American poet Joy Harjo, who held a part-time appointment in American Indian Studies, accepted a position at the University of Tennessee. And Professor Jenny Davis has since moved to anthropology, where she had a joint appointment.