New U of I chancellor tangled in recent racial rush-to-judgement case

Dr. Robert Jones will be the first African-American to hold the top position as chancellor at the University of Illinois. Jones leaves University of Albany New York and also leaves behind a recent racially-charged incident that raised questions about his judgment.

Longtime educator Jones will be introduced Wednesday morning at the student union in Urbana.

The case he leaves behind is one in which Jones came under fire for his quick and racially-pointed response to an incident on a bus. A response he later had to walk back. Nevertheless, he's the search committee's selection and his $650,000 a year contract goes before the U of I board Thursday.

Jones came under fire in January following a brawl on a public bus in Albany. Three black female students told police the fight began when they were jumped by a dozen angry white people.

Immediate campus protests took place and a statement was released Jones, noting that, "Students, who are black women, stated that racial slurs were used by the perpetrators whom they described as a group of 10 to 12 white males and females."

Jones found "no place for racial intolerance," and the university was taking a "stand against bias, violence and hatred."

Quickly though, police determined from surveillance and witnesses that the so-called racial attack was a hoax, concocted by the three black female students who are now charged with instigating violence against the white bus passengers.

On campus, some said Jones rushed to judgement.

One Albany student publicly asked him to apologize and told the I-Team he still questions such knee-jerk support for the three black students.

"I thought he did it very poorly," Jeff Rosenheck, a University of Albany graduate, said. "He sent the email out roughly 12 hours after the alleged assault happened. And he didn't' wait for any more information from the police about what could have possibly happened."

Jones said he saw no need to apologize and said he based his initial statement on police information.

Four days after the fabricated racial incident, he released a video stating, "I ask all of us to not rush to judgment. We need to know all of the facts. We must get this right."

The I-Team asked U of I officials whether the chancellor search committee was aware of the way Jones handled the bus incident and whether the Board of Trustees will question Jones about it Thursday before deciding whether to agree to pay him $649,000 a year. The I-Team has not received answers to those questions.
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.