Report: UIUC Wise to send Salaita file to Board

THERE HAVE BEEN SUBSEQUENT REPORTS I HAVE RECEIVED FROM UIUC INDICATING THE CHANCELLOR MAY NOT BE SENDING PROFESSOR SALAITA’S DOSSIER TO BOT. I KNOW IN THIS BUSINESS WHEN TO HEDGE. HENCE THE WORD “REPORT” AND “IT HAS BEEN REPORTED.”  IT WOULD NOT SURPRISE ME IF THE STUDENT BELIEVED THIS TO BE THE CASE, OR WAS TOLD IT WOULD HAPPEN, AND THEN IT WAS RETRACTED VIA FACULTY CONTACTS. I THINK AS THE ‘WE ARE FINKLESTEIN’ STUDENT MASS SUPPORT DURING HIS TENURE TRAVESTY AT DEPAUL, THAT UIUC STUDENTS SHOULD BE PRAISED AND HONOURED FOR THEIR COURAGE AND COMMITMENT TO CRITICAL THINKING AND HUMAN DECENCY.

It has been reported that Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise is going to forward Professor Steven Salaita’s file to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees for their September 11, 2014 meeting. This was first revealed on the online Gender and Women Studies News where they summarise their communication with the chancellor. I am reproducing the entire analysis that these brave and sophisticated students have presented in their support of Professor Salaita’s appointment. It is fitting that any movement toward resolution would result from dialogue between students and the administration.

It was the gratuitous charge that Professor Salaita’s tweets indicated a lack of fitness to teach his courses. That he would demonstrate bias and persumably treat some students in a hostile manner that disagreed with his views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I see this as a positive development and quite possibly a reaction to Anita Levy’s AAUP letter to the administration which is usually the first stage of a process that could lead to a censure. I think UIUC has possibly realised that a reversal is necessary. I seriously doubt Chancellor Wise would send Professor Salaita’s appointment for board approval to seek, yet again, their support of the chancellor’s August 1 firing letter. They would not want to inflame an already tense and highly controversial decision. I believe it possible that the BOT will accept the appointment, perhaps make a statement that Professor Salaita’s tweets do not represent those of the university and allow him to teach. Here is the GWS statement:

GWS students organize to Support Salaita

GWS Student Stephanie Skora reads student letter of concerns at Board of Trustees meeting

Updated 9/1/2014, 8:00 pm central time :

From GWS Undergraduate Stephanie Skora’s report back on meeting with Chancellor Wise on Monday, September 1, 2014:

“The meeting with Chancellor Wise was a success, and we have gained some valuable information and commitments from the Chancellor!

We have discovered that the Chancellor HAS FORWARDED Professor Salaita’s appointment to the Board of Trustees, and they will be voting on his appointment during the Board of Trustees Meeting on September 11th, on the UIUC campus! Our immediate future organizational efforts will focus around speaking at, and appearing at, this Board of Trustees meeting. We will be attempting to appear during the public comment section of the Board of Trustees meeting, as well as secure a longer presentation to educate them on the issues about which Professor Salaita tweeted. Additionally, we are going to attempt to ensure that the Board of Trustees consults with a cultural expert on Palestine, who can explain and educate them about the issues and the context surrounding Professor Salaita’s tweets. It has been made clear to us that the politics of the Board of Trustees is being allowed to dictate the course of the University, and that the misinformation and personal views of the members of the Board are being allowed to tell the students who is allowed to teach us, regardless of who we say that we want as our educators. We will not let this go unchallenged.

Additionally, Chancellor Wise has agreed to several parts of our demands, and has agreed upon a timeline under which she will take steps to address them. The ball is currently in her court, but we take her agreements as a gesture of good faith and of an attempt to rebuild trust between the University administration and the student body. She has not agreed unilaterally to our demands, and but we have made an important first step in our commitment to reinstating Professor Salaita. In terms of his actual reinstatement, the power to make that decision is not hers. This is why we have shifted the target of our efforts to the Board of Trustees, because they alone have the power to reinstate and approve Professor Salaita’s appointment at the University. In regards to the rest of our demands, which we have updated to reflect the town hall meeting, we have made progress on all of those, but continue to emphasize that it is unacceptable to meet any of our demands without first reinstating Professor Salaita.

We have made progress, but we all have a LOT of work left to do. We must organize, write to the Board of Trustees, and make our voices and our presences known. We will not be silent on September 11th, and we will not stop in our efforts to reinstate Professor Salaita, regardless of what the Board of Trustees decides.

Please keep organizing, please keep making your voices heard, and please‪#‎supportSalaita‬!

Also, feel free to message or comment with any questions, comments, or concerns.”

Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) students are involved in organizing efforts to voice their concern over the firing of Steven Salaita in August. Professor Steven Salaita’s appointment at the Department of American Indian Studies was rescinded by a top administrative officer. Protests among scholars around the country have led to a nation wide academic boycott, and now graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

On August 24, students from different departments attended the Board of Trustees meeting to voice their concerns and support for Dr. Salaita. Students of American Indian Studies (AIS) and INTERSECT grant students also drafted a Letter to Chancellor Phyllis Wise in Support of Steven Salaita that undergraduate and graduate students from different departments around campus have signed. Students have coordinated a Town Hall Meeting on Friday, August 29th 7:30 to 9:30 at the Wesley Foundation at UIUC, and a meeting with Chancellor Wise on Monday, August 1.

GWS Undergraduate Matt Speck, one of the organizers, said about the efforts: “Our efforts on campus work in conjunction with faculty and scholarly protests to hold the administration of UIUC publicly accountable for the uncivil treatment of not only Professor Steven Salaita but also his family, his department, and his students.  This is only another in a long line of injustices committed against both the faculty and students of UIUC (especially AIS) by campus administrators.  In order to provide a much desired level of transparency and accountability as regards the Office of the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees, we have taken to political action in solidarity with scholars both on campus and transnationally.  We act out of obligation to the UIUC student body, faculty, and community at large.”

From the Student Statement:

The immediate reinstatement of Dr. Salaita as a tenured faculty member in the Department of American Indian Studies.

Full and fair compensation to Dr. Salaita for time missed during which he would otherwise have been working.

Immediate increased transparency in the faculty hiring process – as a public university, UIUC has the responsibility to make public all intended faculty changes as well as take public comment in regards to any change.

GWS Grad Minor Rico Kleinstein Chenyek, one of the students who took part in the action, told The Electronic Intifada that the university’s firing of Salaita was another example of the use of “a multiculturalist ‘Inclusive Illinois’ imagined narrative, rather than to promote diversity, to actually regulate diversity and the dissent of minoritized people, and in this particular case, that of Palestinian people.” Follow Rico’s Twitter account @FreeOfSanity for up to date information.

Stay tuned for more updates on our amazing GWS students!

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University of Illinois Behrooz Tabrizi Cites AAUP Illinois in Counterpunch

In a Counterpunch article, Crisis at the University of Illinois: Bombs in Gaza Wound Academic Freedom in Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign history and sociology Professor Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi cites the initial statement in defence of Professor Steven Salaita that was released by the Illinois AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. He also cites the significant national AAUP statement that raised concerns about the academic freedom violations attendant to this dismissal.

These are the excerpts from the article:

Alas, this is not the case these days. From a piece in Haaretz to an editorial in Inside Higher Education , from the Illinois AAUP committee to a whole host of bloggers from across the  country, academics have denounced the Chancellor of  University of Illinois’ decision to rescind the hiring of the Professor Steven Salaita for his incendiary tweets against the Israeli attacks on civilians in Gaza. Chancellor Wise has reportedly informed Prof. Salaita that the university has voided a job offer that was extended to him earlier this past year. The news came nearly 10 months after Professor Salaita had signed an offer letter, at a time when he had already resigned from his position as an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech with the understanding that he was to move to Urbana-Champaign with his family. His courses were already enrolled and he was to begin teaching with a few weeks…

More than 16,000 people have already signed a Petition asking Chancellor Wise to reconsider her decision and to reinstate Prof. Salaita’s appointment. In a strong statement, the American Association of University Professors argued on behalf of Steven Salaita that his and the faculty of the University of Illinois’ academic freedom has been violated. More than 3,000 scholars have so far boycotted the University of Illinois, cancelling lectures, refusing to write letters of recommendation or participate in peer review.

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Christopher Kennedy: “We don’t want him “Salaita” at the university”

Christopher George Kennedy, Chairperson, University of Illinois Board of Trustees. The University of Illinois encompasses three campuses at Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune’s Jodi Cohen, Christopher Kennedy, chair of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, stated he was open to a financial settlement with Professor Steven G. Salaita. On August 1, 2014, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign summarily dismissed him without due process, without a written explanation of academic cause and without compensation.

Note the professor resigned a tenured position at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, moved his family after his wife also quit her job and is fired without an explanation with a summary dismissal two weeks before the semester was to begin. Yet Chair Kennedy, perhaps, reacting to the firestorm of criticism said:

“Our intention isn’t to hurt him financially,” Kennedy said. “We don’t like to see that. We are not trying to hurt the guy. We just don’t want him at the university.”

Four points:

A) Mr Kennedy does not possess godlike authority. He does not speak for the entire university. He does not speak for faculty. The use of the word “we” is an arrogant assumption of authority that he cannot claim. It is not for him or his confrères to declare arbitrarily whom they will permit to serve as faculty members at the University of Illinois. That is not a power that he can arbitrarily enforce, and such a pronouncement suggests an authoritarian demeanor that is contrary to the very notion of shared governance between faculty and administration.

B) Professor Salaita is not a “guy.” Dare I say one might consider such a reference to an abused academic as “uncivil!”: the new standard that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign chancellor and board of trustees have inappropriately imposed upon the university when considering faculty appointments. He is a published scholar that was offered tenure at the rank of associate professor in the American Indian Studies Program. Professor Salaita is highly respected in his field and is not a “guy” that the chancellor or board of trustees can cast aside due to feckless caving to vested interests and organised e-mail campaigns from those wishing to suppress open inquiry on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He is a highly educated academician, an advocate for social justice, the marginalized, the occupied, and was hired according to the university’s own statutes. I have written that the BOT, under Mr Kennedy’s charge, shamelessly exceeded its authority in reversing the contract proffer.

C) I hope Professor Salaita does not accept a settlement, although, that is for him and counsel to determine. A settlement gets Mr Kennedy and Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise off the hook. A settlement ends the matter. It also binds the parties never to discuss the details and not to litigate any aspect of the revocation of continuous tenure. A settlement does NOT restore a career. It does not permit teaching and the prestige of a university appointment. It does not guarantee future employment and the removal off a blacklist. If a settlement provides health care, a pension plan or cash, it is at best of limited duration. It certainly is less than  the several decades of financial benefits that a continuous tenured appointment would provide.

D) Mr Kennedy should do the right thing. He should not try to buy out a “guy” who was clearly treated in a manner that violates American Association of University Professors guidelines and has roiled and outraged much of the academic community in this country. He should exercise leadership, commitment to due process and demonstrate compassion in restoring Steven Salaita to his position that was so abusively and irresponsibly taken from him.

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Kirstein on WGLT Illinois State U. Radio re Salaita Tenure Travesty

I was interviewed on the Steven Salaita case on Illinois Public Radio as the Salaita case was going viral. It was carried by several stations including WGLT at Illinois State University. This is a brief excerpt on the financial distress that Professor Steven Salaita has been subjected to for tweets that some of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign power elite did not like, or some of its well-connected fund raises or donors. Yet in this country, they are not possessed of dictatorial power but must respect shared governance.

The recent AAUP letter to Chancellor Phyllis Wise explicitly “insists” that he be compensated during his suspension. So my comment was prescient as events have unfurled concerning this academic freedom case at the University of Illinois. Below is the text from their WGLT website. If you click here this is a brief excerpt of the on-air interview:

Professor Says U-of-I Could Be Violating Free Speech

Fri, 08 Aug 2014 09:34:25 CDT
By: IPR

“A committee of university professors says the University of Illinois is violating academic freedom and standards of free speech, if it has withdrawn its pending appointment of Steven Salaita. The online publication “Inside Higher Ed” cites anonymous sources in reporting that Salaita lost his appointment to teach this fall in the U of I’s American Indian Studies program after controversy arose over statements he made on Twitter critical of Israel’s policies in Gaza. Professor Peter Kirstein of Saint Xavier University in Chicago says he’s seen persecution of professors who criticize Israel before. But he says if the news reports are accurate, the U of I’s action is a rare one:

“Where they would be so cruel to a professor, and essentially render him possibly destitute. I heard he resigned from Virginia Tech, so I assume he has nothing. Nothing. For tweets? Unbelievable.”This is the statement that the above link recorded.

“Kirstein chairs a committee on academic freedom with the Illinois Conference of the American Association of University Professors. It said in a statement issued Wednesday, that while Salaita’s tweets may be “strident and vulgar”, they are protected speech under the U-S Constitution. A spokeswoman for the University says they don’t comment on personnel matters. Salaita has not returned calls seeking comment.”

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Tsunami of No-Confidence Spreads on University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus

The Department of Asian-American Studies at the University of Illinois votes no confidence in the administration of the University of Illinois in the wake of the Steven Salaita firing. It is the third unit to do so on that campus. The first being Professor Salaita’s American Indian Studies program. The second was the Department of Philosophy. 

Junaid Rana, professor and acting head of the Department of Asian American Studies, issued the following statement:

“In response to the firing of Professor Steven Salaita by the chancellor, an act that undermined shared governance and unit autonomy, and the recent suggestions reported in the media of external pressures from donors and alumni in the hiring process well after the standard vetting process was concluded, we no longer have faith in the chancellor and the board of trustees who are implicated in this highly irregular action. Additionally, we are suspicious of the recent move by the Senate Executive Committee to aid the administration in regularizing these processes for undermining unit autonomy.

“Although the recent statements of the chancellor and the board of trustees on Friday, August 22nd, affirm the values of dialogue and diversity, we believe this decision has done enormous harm to our campus and has created a climate that does not honor dissent. Set in the context of the recent Israeli bombing of Gaza, the chancellor claims to have made this decision based on tweets with an inappropriate tone of incivility. We believe her actions exceeded the bounds of the rules and policies that govern our university. Furthermore, the firing of Salaita has created an atmosphere of fear and retaliation for unpopular academic, political, and personal pursuits.

“The administration’s claims to honor diversity are at odds with the marginalization of academic units that represent the teaching and research of topics related to racialized populations. These units serve as the face of diversity on this campus, yet their autonomy is willfully disregarded. Thus, the University continues a superficial endorsement of diversity through its contradictory actions regarding issues of racial injustice and violence.

“In solidarity with the American Indian Studies program and thousands of scholars and organizations around the world, we see the chancellor’s decision and the approval by the board of trustees as a violation of academic freedom and the First Amendment right of freedom of speech.”

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-08-29/another-department-votes-no-confidence-ui-trustees-wise.html 

Correction: Earlier I posted briefly a no-confidence vote that was not directed at UIUC. I removed it and regret the error. The only no-confidence votes in the administration of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that I am aware of are the American Indian Studies Program, the Department of Philosophy, that I previously commented on, and the Asian American Studies Department.

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A.A.U.P. Letter to Chancellor Wise and Salaita Academic Freedom

This letter is a dramatic escalation of  the American Association of University Professors engagement in this tenure travesty. While I will not predict future courses of action, I will share the fact, that Illinois A.A.U.P. Committee A was a major player in the censure of Northeastern Illinois University. The initial firestorm was lit by the Illinois Conference, national A.A.U.P. came to the rescue, wrote letters to the president, Sharon Hahs and eventually censured the institution. This process could be replicated here; hopefully it will not be.

The letter that was written by Associate Secretary Anita Levy from the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance hopefully will resolve the controversy with an appropriate response from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This means no suspension without pay and the fulfillment of their SIGNED job offer to Professor Steven G. Salaita. It should be lauded for its careful preparation and use of historical examples such as the University of South Florida 1964 case. A.A.U.P. lives by its iconic history, celebrates its centennial, advocates in the present, yet uses the past to remedy and repair broken practices of academic due process, governance and academic freedom so future transgressions will be minimised.

The Levy letter and again, I am NOT predicting but merely elucidating, could lead to an A.A.U.P. investigation of the University of Illinois for this arbitrary and odious  summary dismissal with a total absence of a due process hearing or even an explanation of putative academic cause to Professor Salaita. This A.A.U.P. letter of inquiry may ultimately lead to censure of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign if an investigating committee  of usually three persons reports violations of A.A.U.P. standards and principles. I testified before the committee at N.E.I.U. which, as indicated, was censured.

This is followed by the national A.A.U.P. Committee A voting whether to recommend a censure to the council which is basically the governing board of A.A.U.P. If the council agrees that censure is appropriate, the chair of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure presents the rationale at the national meeting of the association held in Washington each June. At the 2014 meeting, I spoke in favour of censure for N.E.I.U. since Illinois Committee A initiated its own state-level report. I am again speculating on possible scenarios. Let us hope that none of this will occur with the University of Illinois and that Professor Salaita is allowed to teach his courses, resume his career and tweet to his heart’s content. I urge the U.I.U.C. to consider carefully the consequences of failing to respond positively to an A.A.U.P. inquiry, and to remember its problematic past. It should not assume that fund raising is the only objective or satisfying invested groups in viewpoint cleansing serves the interest of an American university.

The University of Illinois succumbed to external legislative pressure when President David Dodds Henry fired biology Professor Leo Koch in 1960 after he wrote a letter to the Daily Illini that advocated premarital sex and free love. President Henry was hung in effigy outside a Y.M.C.A. in protest this abusive firing of Professor Koch. This dismissal landed the University of Illinois on the A.A.U.P.s censure list for a number of years and the university eventually altered its processes and was later removed from the censure list.

History is worth learning, so it won’t be repeated! Is anyone listening?

August 29, 2014

VIA U.S. AND ELECTRONIC MAIL

Dr. Phyllis Wise

Chancellor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Swanlund Administration Building

601 East John Street

Champaign, Illinois 61820

Dear Chancellor Wise:

Dr. Steven Salaita has sought the assistance of the American Association of University Professors pursuant to your letter of August 1, 2014, informing him that you would not be recommending the tenured faculty appointment offered to him on October 3, 2013, to the board of trustees for its approval and stating, “We believe that an affirmative Board vote approving your appointment is unlikely.”

The Association’s interest in Professor Salaita’s case stems from its longstanding commitment to academic freedom and tenure. The basic tenets, as you know, are set forth in the attached joint 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, to which the University of Illinois subscribes. Also attached are the complementary joint 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings and the AAUP’s derivative Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

* * * * *

From the information provided to us by Professor Salaita, others at the University of Illinois, and media sources, we understand that he was offered an appointment as an associate professor with tenure at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, initially to begin January 1, 2014. The offer was made in a letter dated October 3, 2013, from Dr. Brian H. Ross, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences upon the recommendation of Professor Jodi Byrd, then the acting-director of the American Indian Studies Program (AIS) for which Professor Salaita was recruited. In this letter, Interim Dean Ross stated that the recommendation for appointment was “subject to approval by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.” He nonetheless asked for Professor Salaita’s decision by October 14 and directed him to return “a photocopy of this letter with the form at the bottom completed and signed,” should he accept the appointment. He then wrote:

At the University of Illinois, like at most universities in this country, we

Page 2

subscribe to the principles of academic freedom and tenure laid down by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure has been since 1940 the foundation document in this country covering the freedoms and obligations of tenure. The AAUP Statement on Professional Ethics is a document of similarly broad application to those in academia. I am enclosing copies of these documents for your information, and commend them to your attention.

On October 9, Professor Salaita wrote to Interim Dean Ross accepting the appointment and returning a copy of the signed offer letter. With the interim dean’s concurrence, he states, he amended the effective date to August 16, 2014, in order to enable him to complete the academic year at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where he was then serving on the faculty as a tenured associate professor. After accepting the appointment, Professor Salaita resigned his tenured position. Shortly thereafter, and throughout the spring and early summer, he engaged in e-mail correspondence with incoming AIS program director Professor Robert Warrior and the program assistant regarding matters related to his fall

2014 course assignments, schedule preferences, and book orders. Toward the end of January, Professor Salaita wrote to Professor Byrd about scheduling a visit to Urbana-Champaign in order to make arrangements for a place to live for him and his family. He states that they visited the area in March and subsequently initiated the purchase of an apartment, including payment of “earnest” money, which was subsequently forfeited when the agreement was voided following the abrupt notification regarding his appointment. During this visit, the AIS faculty hosted a dinner for him and his family to welcome him to the faculty. In early April he was notified of his fall teaching assignment, and he finalized his course book orders in mid-summer.

In the intervening months between his October 2013 acceptance of the appointment and early August 2014, when you notified him of its termination, Professor Salaita received information from various offices of the university, indicating that they had been informed of his appointment, including an invitation from your office to attend your August 19 reception “welcoming faculty and academic professionals who joined the Illinois community in 2014,” as the invitation stated. Nothing was said to Professor Salaita about board action still to come, and we are informed that it is not uncommon for board action on new appointments to take place only after the appointment has begun and the appointee is already at work.

* * * * *

We are deeply concerned about the action taken against Professor Salaita. Long after he was offered and accepted a tenured position, specific arrangements were made regarding courses, schedules, and salary. The exchange of letters between Interim Dean Ross and Professor Salaita appears to have been in accordance with generally established procedures by which academic appointments are tendered and accepted. Ten months elapsed during which time no one in the university administration gave any indication that the appointment as agreed upon might not be brought before the board. Only this August, after Professor Salaita had resigned his tenured position at Virginia Tech, prepared for his assignments, and shortly before the semester was to begin did he receive notification asserting that, because the board of trustees would not be acting on the matter, he did not have an appointment at the University of Illinois. Aborting an appointment in this manner without having demonstrated cause has

August 29, 2014 Page 3

consistently been seen by the AAUP as tantamount to summary dismissal, an action categorically inimical to academic freedom and due process and one aggravated in his case by the apparent failure to provide him with any written or even oral explanation. As an AAUP 1964 investigating committee report on a similar faculty dismissal at the University of South Florida concluded, the academic community cannot condone an appointment procedure which enables a university to offer a professor a position during normal appointment “season” and then, after he has accepted the position, to cut him adrift without warning or hearings. . . . This committee sees no way in which the academic marketplace could operate in a rational and just way if the practices followed . . . were accepted as normal procedure.

The University of South Florida, the investigating committee further concluded, had a “moral and professional obligation” to support the faculty member’s appointment by its board of trustees in formal action, and its failure to do so constituted for all practical purposes a dismissal. The AAUP’s 1964 annual meeting imposed censure on this basis, which the 1968 annual meeting removed after the university provided redress to the professor and adopted procedures consistent with Association-supported standards.

While the administration has not provided an explanation for the actions against Professor Salaita, it seems evident from media and other accounts that the actions have been publicly seen as having been triggered by his posting on social-media websites which were condemnatory of Israeli government practices in recent months. We are not privy to the circumstances under which information regarding his statements was discovered and distributed, we do not know what motives were involved, nor is it for us to render a judgment on the substantive merits of those statements, but we sharply question whether they meet the standard, set forth in Regulation 5a of the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure, that cause for such actions “be related, directly and substantially, to the fitness of faculty members in their professional capacities as teachers or researchers.”

We see Professor Salaita’s online statements as extramural activity as a citizen rather than as faculty performance, and the 1940 Statement of Principles cautions that when faculty members “speak or write as citizens they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline. . . .” The document goes on to explain that faculty members should nonetheless act responsibly as citizens and (in its 1940

Interpretation No. 3) states that an administration may bring charges if it believes that these admonitions have not been observed “such as to raise grave doubts concerning the teacher’s fitness for his or her position,” but that in doing so it “should remember that teachers are citizens and should be accorded the freedom of citizens.” We see that a very serious issue of academic freedom has been raised by the actions against him, an issue that will not be resolved as long as the actions remain in effect and their soundness has not been demonstrated by the University of Illinois administration under requisite safeguards of academic due process.

We understand that an issue has arisen regarding the legitimacy of Professor Salaita’s tenure absent board of trustees’ approval. We have been informed that the university’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT), acting under its statutory authority, has decided to initiate an examination of the issues posed by the Salaita case.

Chancellor Phyllis Wise

August 29, 2014

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We appreciate that the information on which this letter is based has come to us largely from Professor Salaita and that you may well yourself have information that would add to our understanding of what has occurred. We shall accordingly welcome your comments. Until these issues have been resolved, we look upon Professor Salaita’s situation as that of a faculty member suspended from his academic responsibilities pending a hearing on his fitness to continue. Under the joint 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings, any such suspension is to be with pay. As detailed earlier in this letter, Professor Salaita has incurred major financial expenses since he accepted the University of Illinois offer. We urge – indeed insist – that he be paid salary as set in the terms of the appointment pending the result of the CAFT proceeding.

We would welcome a prompt response.

Sincerely,

Anita Levy, Ph.D.

Associate Secretary

Enclosures via E-mail

cc: Mr. Christopher Kennedy, Chair, Board of Trustees

Interim Dean Brian H. Ross

Professor Robert Warrior, Director, American Indian Studies Program

Professor Jodi Byrd

Professor David J. O’Brien, Chair, Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure

Professor Roy Campbell, Chair, Senate Executive Committee

Professor Bruce Rosenstock, Chair, Campus Faculty Association Professor Steven Salaita

Professor Michael Harkins, President, Illinois AAUP Conference

Professor Peter Kirstein, Chair, Illinois AAUP Conference Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure

Professor John Prussing, President, UIUC AAUP Chapter

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Spreading No-Confidence Votes at University of Illinois

First it was the American Indian Studies Program. Now it is the philosophy department that has voted no-confidence in Phyllis Wise, Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign President Easter, Board of Trustees Chairperson Christopher Kennedy and the rest of the board. Their n0-confidence vote is sweeping and appropriate given the “civility” test that has arbitrarily been imposed without faculty input.

Faculty have the right under shared governance to determine the criteria for tenure and appointment. AAUP has promulgated principles that emphasise the primacy of the faculty role in the determination of the composition of the professoriate. While the administration ultimately grants tenure and proffers contracts, it is the faculty that is responsible for the identifying, vetting and ultimately recommending to an administration whom it wishes to appoint. From the seminal American Association of University Professors 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities we have a carefully delineated conferral of appointment primacy with the faculty:

The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process. On these matters the power of review or final decision lodged in the governing board or delegated by it to the president should be exercised adversely only in exceptional circumstances, and for reasons communicated to the faculty. It is desirable that the faculty should, following such communication, have opportunity for further consideration and further transmittal of its views to the president or board.

Tweets do not justify “exceptional circumstances.” The faculty of the University of Illinois should be given an opportunity to contest this decision, to demand “further consideration,” and to reclaim its shared governance role in determining faculty status and the qualifications of the faculty. University bylaws and handbooks are where the criteria and process are defined in employment decisions and not from legally vetted ex cathedra pronouncements that were apparently influenced by fund raisers and special interest groups of the Israel lobby. I find it astonishing that Chancellor Wise would impose such a standard outside the traditional triad of teaching, scholarship and service.

My initial source was a faculty member at the University of Illinois who e-mailed me this action by the intrepid Department of Philosophy:
No Confidence Vote by Department of Philosophy

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign approved the following resolution today (August 28):

“Whereas the recent words and actions of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, President Robert Easter, and the Board of Trustees in connection with the revocation of an offer of employment to Dr. Steven Salaita betray a culpable disregard not only for academic freedom and free speech generally but also for the principles of shared governance and established protocols for hiring, tenure, and promotion, the faculty of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign declares its lack of confidence in the leadership of the current Chancellor, President, and Board of Trustees.”

See also News-Gazette front page that may time out.

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Brian Leiter on Legal Defence of Steven Salaita

Brian Leiter, law professor at the University of Chicago, was interviewed on WTTW Chicago Tonight. He presents a very strong legal defence for Steven Salaita that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign should carefully consider.

http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2014/08/25/freedom-expression-and-education

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Natalie Zemon Davis Supports Salaita at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

I received this via e-mail from David Prochaska, a transnational historian of Europe and Africa, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who wrote the brief biographical entry. It is clear the Steven Salaita academic freedom case is the acid test in measuring where academicians in this country stand on the right of professors to be themselves, to express themselves, to have academic freedom, to show emotion when babies are burning, to engage in, perhaps, uncivil speech as children are slaughtered, houses destroyed, power-stations obliterated, civilisation reduce to rubble.

I have also said I am against all violence including the use of rocketry fired into the State of Israel. I hate war and admire a Professor Salaita who had the courage to express his views, however, controversial and who should not pay the price of a career for it. Finally, it is clear that academicians of all faiths have clearly articulated views that a crime against the academy has occurred at UIUC. Please see the Davis letter. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi!

Natalie Zemon Davis is one of the most distinguished historians at work today. Past president of the American Historical Association, she is the author of 10 books, including The Return of Martin Guerre (translated into 22 languages). She is the recipient of the Holberg International Memorial Prize (2010), National Humanities Medal (2012), and has been named Companion of the Order of Canada (2012).

26 August 2014
Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise
University of Illinois
 
Dear Chancellor Wise,
 
            As a long-time participant in the university world, I implore you to reverse your decision in regard to Professor Steven Salaita and now to recommend the approval of his appointment to the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
 
            I write you as an admirer of the remarkable achievements of the historians, literary scholars, and anthropologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  I have seen the lively and creative exchange among professors and graduate students close up as an invited guest of the History Department, and cannot believe that you would want to jeopardize this learning experience by the inappropriate and misguided criterion of civility.
 
            I write further as a Jew, growing up in Detroit during the rise of Nazism and the anti-Semitic sermons of Father Coughlin; a Jew committed to that strand in the Jewish sensibility that still places justice and universal values at its heart; committed to the uses of rabbinical and Talmudic debate, which sought truth by language not always decorous; and to the old tradition of Jewish humor, which put laughter and mockery to the service of helping the oppressed.
 
            As a distinguished physiologist, you have surely heard “disrespectful words” among scientists as they argued the pros and cons of research.  I certainly have, as I listened to scientists go at it on grant committees, including when the important subject of gender-based biology was on the table.   If words thought “demeaning” were uttered, the speaker was not excluded, he or she was answered.
 
            The role of vigorous expression is even more central in the humanities and social sciences, where we are examining thought systems and actions that range from the violently cruel to the heroically generous.   What, following your Principles of August 22, would we make of the writings of the great François Rabelais, who used every comic metaphor available, especially the bodily ones, to plead the cause of those who had been silenced by the Inquisition or harmed by unjust war?
 
            You speak of your responsibility “ to ensure that. . . differing points of view be discussed in and outside the classroom in a scholarly, civil and productive manner.”  In the classroom: one of the exemplars of master teaching was the late George Mosse of the University of Wisconsin, refugee from Nazi Germany and historian of the rise of Nazism.  His lectures were celebrated for his sharp affirmations and his simultaneous invitation to the students to respond in kind—which they did – and for what one observer has called the “cross-fire” between him and a Marxist colleague.   Not surprisingly, he had good friends among both Israelis and Palestinians.
 
            Outside the classroom?  But surely one knows that “differing points of view” are being discussed by members of your large faculty all the time, using every kind of speech, some of it uncivil and disrespectful.   How would one enforce your criteria at the University?  By “speech-police” in every classroom, college restaurant, sports arena, and living room?
 
            Since this cannot be your intention, I come to the case of Stephen Salaita, whose scholarship, publications, and teaching were reviewed and warmly approved by colleagues, specialists, and university executive committees.  You say in your statement of Principles that the “the decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel.”  If this be truly the case, then what could lead you to overturn the well-established evaluation and appointment procedures of your university and (according to the commentary by legal specialists) even hazard a possible lawsuit? 
  
            Professor Salaita’s tweets in regard to the Israeli bombing of Gaza in the last months seem to have been the trigger: as reported in information obtained by Inside Ed, they prompted some seventy emails to you, including from students who, as Jews, said they feared he would be hostile to them if they happened to take his course.  (What their majors were was not specified in the report.)  
 
            Indeed, some of Professor Salaita’s tweets were vehement and intentionally provocative: he used strong language both to criticize the deaths from Israeli bombing and to attack anti-Semitism.  The lack of “civility” in some of his tweets is linked to the genre itself: a tweet is often an answer to a tweet, and a tweet always anticipates a response.  It is a form of concise communication based on give and take, on the anticipation that the respondent may respond sharply or critically to what you have said, and that the exchange will continue.   Thus, in his public political life, Professor Salaita participates in a mode that always leaves space for an answer, thus, extending the respect to the individual respondent for which you call in your Principles.
 
            The classroom is, of course, the critical space for assessing a professor’s educational performance, and from all reports, Professor Salaita has been a very successful teacher and much appreciated by his students.  Why not accept the careful and extended scholarly inquiry of your University of Illinois colleagues over the hasty and seemingly politicized judgment and fears of the emailers?    Further, Professor Salaita would be joining the Department of American Indian and Indigenous Studies, which on its web site commits itself to “free academic inquiry” and “the best ideals of academic freedom.”  Why not leave it to the professors in this fine department to insure that a new colleague fulfills the highest goals of teaching?   Indeed, the practices of careful listening and full speaking are very much part of the American indigenous tradition.  Professor Salaita would thus be in a setting where he could expect to do his best teaching and make the significant contribution to scholarly inquiry hoped for by the University of Illinois professors who have been seeking his presence.
 
            I urge you, Chancellor Wise, to rethink your position and to recommend that the Board of Trustees give its approval to the appointment of Professor Salaita.   This would be an honorable course, and one that would restore the academic values which should and can prevail at a great university.
 
                                                Natalie Zemon Davis,
Henry Charles Lea Professor of History emeritus, Princeton University
Adjunct Professor of History, University of Toronto
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Salaita Case and Board of Trustees Exceeding Authority

 

I allege that the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois exceeded its statutory authority in denying Steven Salaita a promised appointment, that was virtually finalised ten months ago on October 9, 2013 with a signed-contract acceptance. The News-Gazette was the first under the Freedom of Information Act (F.O.I.A.) to release the Salaita Papers: the corpus of documents that was sent to the professor in October, 2013 and August, 2014.

Open the link to the PDF and scroll down to attachment three (3) titled:

GENERAL TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT FOR ACADEMIC STAFF MEMBERS
(Excerpted from UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS STATUTES AND THE GENERAL RULES). (Emphasis in Original)

There is an explicit statement on the limited role of the board and the process that is used to affirm job appointments at the university. It is clear the board is not empowered to examine teaching, scholarship or electronic communication on Twitter prior to its approval of the merits of a decision from lower units to proffer a contract. It is a rubber-stamp exercise, not an independent substantive assessment of whether an academic appointment merits approval. The following is explicit in delineating the University of Illinois Board’s limited authority to countermand a job offer:

1. Notification of Appointment from the Board of Trustees:

The University of Illinois Statutes (Article IX, Section 3.a.) provide that only the Board of Trustees has the authority to make formal appointments to the academic staff. New academic staff members will receive a formal Notification of Appointment from the Board once the hiring unit has received back from the candidate all required documents, so the appointment can be processed. Required forms normally include the electronic Employee Information form, the I-9, W-4, and the Authorization for Deposit of Recurring Payments form. Other documents (i.e., resume/vitae, 3 references, etc.) may be required and will be requested as appropriate by the unit. Some of these forms may be completed online through NESSIE. {Emphasis added}

The first sentence seems to have governed most “legal” discussion of the powers of the Board of Trustees. The second sentence, however, governs the powers established in the first sentence. It is clear that the powers granted to the board, as established by the university, are limited. The board finalises the appointment once it receives the folder that contains required documents. This would presumably include the appointment letter of October 3, 2013. It would include the October 9, 2013 signature of Professor Salaita’s acceptance of the offer and other documents that are explicitly referenced in the contract-offer packet. Note  the words “will receive.” The submission of an academic appointment will be accepted and the candidate “will receive a formal notification of appointment,” once the routine assemblage of documentation is received by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

There is no substantive conditionality: it is a promise of board acceptance, pending the submission of necessary documentation. There is no claim by Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise, President Robert A. Easter or Board Chairperson Christopher G. Kennedy that Professor Salaita or anyone else was derelict in executing appropriate documentation relevant to the hiring process.

There is nothing I could find in any document that empowers the Board of Trustees, if it receives the proper documentation, to nullify a decision by a department, program and in this case Brian Ross, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Dean Ross played by the rules and did his job. He considered the American Indian Studies program recommendation and acted positively and in an honourable manner accepted it. As an administrator, it should be noted the reckless U of I Board of Trustees also ignored and overrode his authority to confirm an appointment within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The Board cannot nullify these actions based upon the procedural guidelines contained in the General Terms of Employment for Academic Staff Members.

To add to this cruel, cynical, if not academically lawless assault on Professor’s Salaita’s academic freedom and career, the Board of Trustees is injecting through its public pronouncements substantive arguments concerning the lack of  alleged civility in antiwar Tweets concerning Israel’s military action in Gaza. The Board of Trustees is acting in an arbitrary manner beyond its powers. So those who argue that Salaita’s appointment was merely de facto and that the board has final approval, do not fully appreciate the limited authority that is vested in the Board of Trustees when considering an academic appointment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

It is also quite probative that the board frequently meets after a semester has begun and after new appointments of faculty members across the sprawling campus have commenced. This is further evidence that the board’s role in accepting final appointments of a position is a ritualistic exercise, conducted AFTER a semester begins and is limited to affirming that all paperwork as defined in the General Terms of Employment is in order.

When governing boards exceed their authority in this manner, it is a clear and present danger to shared governance, the primacy of the professoriate in determining the appointments of future colleagues and the adherence to clearly articulated university documents on the procedures attendant to the hiring process.

Contact:  kirstein@sxu.edu I am chair of the Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors.

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Chronicle of Higher Education Links Kirstein Blog Posts on Salaita

Nick DeSantis wrote an article, “Scholars Sound Alarms About Being Judged on Their Civility” that appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It surveys commentary on the tenure-travesty dismissal of Steven G. Salaita at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This is the excerpt from the article that links some of my recent commentary on Salaita:

Peter N. Kirstein, a professor of history at St. Xavier University, has also posted several items about the controversy. His posts can be found here, here, and here.

The Illinois Conference of the American Association of University Professors Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure wrote a supportive statement within hours of the InsideHigherEd article that broke the story of the Salaita firing. One of our seminal points is that extramural utterances that are controversial cannot be used to assess teaching unless there is prima facie evidence of “fitness” being compromised. Also the entirety of a professor’s work needs to be assessed. Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign chose to ignore, in an egregious manner, AAUP guidelines on academic freedom, sanctions and shared governance.

Other members of the Illinois Committee A are Professors Walter Kendall, John Marshall Law School, Loretta Capeheart, Northeastern Illinois University and Iymen Chehade, Columbia College. John Wilson also serves on the committee and is cited in the DeSantis piece.

contact: kirstein@sxu.edu

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U of I Campus Faculty Association Resist Salaita Persecution

 

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus Faculty Association (C.F.A.) has responded to the coordinated viewpoint cleansing and firing of Professor Steven G. Salaita, a tenured associate professor in the American Indian Studies Program. Yesterday, the chancellor and all the university’s top administrators issued coordinated statements to stop the hemorrhaging of the university’s reputation. Namely scholars in the United States and abroad are horrified at the cruel and arbitrary dismissal and firing of Professor Salaita.

What I find particularly disturbing is that both Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise and the follow-up letter of President Robert A. Easter and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees Christopher G. Kennedy rhetorically present carefully crafted innuendos in explaining why they would engage in viewpoint cleansing of a tenured faculty member, two weeks before his appointment would begin and ten months after he returned his contract.

They do not state specifically, or it should be assumed, university counsel won’t state directly that Professor Salaita was fired for his humanistic but provocative response to the mass killings of civilians in Gaza. They merely suggest that his tweets were not civil and contained statements unsuitable for polite discourse. This is mere obfuscation of the real reason: the professor criticised a foreign country, a nuclear power that was blasting away at a trapped civilian population in Gaza.

One does not have to concur with his analysis or hyperbolic language, but to destroy his career possibly and render him without income for his antiwar advocacy and compassion for innocent victims of war are reflective of a lack of ethical humanism. One would hope that Chancellor Wise and other officers of the university respect diversity of viewpoints even if it contravenes the ideology of the powerful. Such toleration of both rhetorical flourishes and substantive analysis must prevail in a democratic society and especially on a campus of the stature of the University of Illinois .

Again, it was probably those University of Illinois lawyers who urged that inferences not directness prevail in this assault on shared governance in determining the composition of the professoriate. Lawyers in all likelihood suggested they not charge directly that Salaita would fail students with whom he disagrees or might offend the delicate sensibilities of students who might not embrace every idea and opinion that is enunciated in class. Yet pusillanimous inferences and innuendos were clearly intended to damage the reputation of Professor Salaita and exculpate his viewpoint-cleansing oppressors. This egregious violation of academic freedom, due process, free speech, and professional treatment of an appointed colleague to the faculty cannot stand and should be construed as a salvo against free-thinking faculty.

This is the C.F.A. statement and I am honoured to be linked to a blog post. It is their courage, however, and their risk taking under this oppressive academic environment that should be lauded as they resist the illegitimate actions of the senior administrative officers of their university. They are not alone!

CHANCELLOR DECREES FACULTY AT ILLINOIS ARE SUBJECT TO CIVILITY TEST; TRUSTEES BACK HER TO THE HILT

Chancellor Wise broke her long silence on the Salaita case by launching a frontal assault on academic freedom and shared governance. Her campus massmail of August 22 seems perfectly reasonable at first reading – this campus is generally a friendly and cordial place, and who would want to change that? – but what she actually asserts is alarming:

“What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.”

Universities exist in order to investigate, challenge, and (when necessary)  “demean and abuse” viewpoints. But the Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will not tolerate the utterance of words that demean “viewpoints” if, in her sole judgment, those words are “personal and disrespectful.” We are presumably now forbidden, for example, from bluntly disparaging the viewpoints of creationism or homophobia on this campus.

This newly-invented civility test has been applied so far only to Steven Salaita, yet we must assume the Chancellor intends for all faculty and staff to be bound by her decree. Further, her treatment of Salaita demonstrates that she sees no need for due process in such cases. Salaita was fired without the Chancellor even informing the director of the American Indian Studies Program in which he was to teach. The Chancellor seems to regard shared governance as an irritation to be discarded when convenient.

The Chancellor’s statement is troubling also for non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty, who have little enough job security as it is, what with the administration refusing so far even to recognize their new union (CFA Local 6546). On the Chicago campus, faculty are protected by their union contract from the whims of administrators. But here, NTT faculty in particular now have to look over their shoulders and worry about their social media posts – for the Chancellor might decide that some future student could be uncomfortable about comments made in the faculty member’s personal life.

The follow-up statement by the Board of Trustees and President Easter supporting the Chancellor (August 22) is just as bad. They say “we must constantly reinforce our expectation of a university community that values civility as much as scholarship.” Civility is pleasant enough, to be sure, but scholarship justifies the university’s existence. To rank the two as equally important betrays a sophomoric understanding of the institution that the Trustees and the President purport to lead.

For more extended analysis and skewering of the Chancellor and Trustees’ statements, we recommend the blog post by Peter Kirstein here, and here (second link added) the Academe Blog posts by John K. Wilson here and here.

Contact us now at <campusfacultyassoc@gmail.com> to join the movement for a tenure-stream faculty union – and restore power to the faculty.

 – Campus Faculty Association Executive Committee

contact: kirstein@sxu.edu I chair the American Association of University Professors Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure that issued the first comprehensive statement on this matter.

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Piling On: Wise Firing of Salaita Backed by Administration {Updated}

I think it reasonable to assume that the August 1 letter of dismissal that University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Christophe Pierre, Vice President for Academic Affairs, sent to Steven Salaita was vetted by the executive committee of the board of trustees, the president or some significant third parties. It is almost certain that Chancellor Wise’s firing of Steven Salaita for tweets during the time of significant civilian casualties in Gaza, was not a unilateral decision but was either mandated by or was in consultation with senior administrators and board members.

Note the dismissal letter contained no explanation for the refusal to submit the appointment to the Board of Trustees. I presume that Professor Salaita has yet to be notified why he was fired. Press releases and mass e-mails do not constitute a professional and legitimate notification to an academician why dismissal and the violation of one’s continuous tenure were effectuated. Honourable administrators directly communicate to professors the reasons why a reversal of a job offer, however illegal or misbegotten, is taken.

It is revelatory that the purpose of this statement is to support Chancellor Wise and buttress her declining reputation as chancellor, despite her assault on the basic premises of the tenure system and academic freedom. It is clear their letter, with not one dissenter, is defencive in nature–a circling of the wagons, as it were, to defend their collective authority to engage in viewpoint cleansing at the University of Illinois campus. It is obvious this was a staged, choreographed roll out of oppression.

First arrived the chancellor’s letter to the faculty, then the follow-on letter from the president, board chair and other viewpoint-cleansing collaborators. Their claim that they are the great defenders of students rings hollow since students are also victimized. The purpose of higher education is the search for the truth. If the truth is defined through heavy handed, brutal administrative diktat, then students will receive an education shorn of critical thinking, much less exposure to antiwar protest of civilian bombardment in one of the world’s most significant areas: the Middle East.

In this specific case, students are denied a pedagogy that apparently outside pressure groups and Israel-lobby partisans were determined to suppress. Other victims are colleagues in the American Indian Studies Program who exercised due diligence in conducting a national search and submitting the appointment recommendation to the administration. They have courageously voted no confidence in the chancellor’s capacity to carry out her duties. Additional casualties of viewpoint cleansing are the tenure system, academic freedom and, in particular, American Association of University Professors (AAUP) guidelines that UIUC claims as its basic principles. So they say. Actions speak louder than printed statements in statutes and enclosures of iconic AAUP documents with contract offers.

Here is the full statement from President Robert A. Easter, Board Chairperson Christopher G. Kennedy and other University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign officials as published in the News-Gazette of Urbana-Champaign:

Earlier today, you received a thoughtful statement from Chancellor Phyllis Wise regarding the university’s decision not to recommend Prof. Steven Salaita for a tenured faculty position on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

In her statement, Chancellor Wise reaffirmed her commitment to academic freedom and to fostering an environment that encourages diverging opinions, robust debate and challenging conventional norms. Those principles have been at the heart of the university’s mission for nearly 150 years, and have fueled its rise as a world leader in education and innovation.

But, as she noted, our excellence is also rooted in another guiding principle that is just as fundamental. Our campuses must be safe harbors where students and faculty from all backgrounds and cultures feel valued, respected and comfortable expressing their views.

We agree, and write today to add our collective and unwavering support of Chancellor Wise and her philosophy of academic freedom and free speech tempered in respect for human rights – these are the same core values which have guided this institution since its founding.

In the end, the University of Illinois will never be measured simply by the number of world-changing engineers, thoughtful philosophers or great artists we produce. We also have a responsibility to develop productive citizens of our democracy. As a nation, we are only as strong as the next generation of participants in the public sphere. The University of Illinois must shape men and women who will contribute as citizens in a diverse and multi-cultural democracy. To succeed in this mission, we must constantly reinforce our expectation of a university community that values civility as much as scholarship.

Disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice is not an acceptable form of civil argument if we wish to ensure that students, faculty and staff are comfortable in a place of scholarship and education. If we educate a generation of students to believe otherwise, we will have jeopardized the very system that so many have made such great sacrifices to defend. There can be no place for that in our democracy, and therefore, there will be no place for it in our university.

Chancellor Wise is an outstanding administrator, leader and teacher. Her academic career has been built on her commitment to promoting academic freedom and creating a welcoming environment for students and faculty alike. We stand with her today and will be with her tomorrow as she devotes her considerable talent and energy to serving our students, our faculty and staff, and our society.

We look forward to working closely with Chancellor Wise and all of you to ensure that our university is recognized both for its commitment to academic freedom and as a national model of leading-edge scholarship framed in respect and courtesy.

Sincerely,

Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees

Robert A. Easter, President

Hannah Cave, Trustee
Ricardo Estrada, Trustee
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee
Lucas N. Frye, Trustee
Karen Hasara, Trustee
Patricia Brown Holmes, Trustee
Timothy N. Koritz, Trustee
Danielle M. Leibowitz, Trustee
Edward L. McMillan, Trustee
James D. Montgomery, Trustee
Pamela B. Strobel, Trustee

Paula Allen-Meares, Chancellor, Chicago campus, and Vice President, University of Illinois
Susan J. Koch, Chancellor, Springfield campus, and Vice President, University of Illinois

Donald A. Chambers, Professor of Physiology and Biochemistry; Chair, University Senates Conference

Jerry Bauman, Interim Vice President for Health Affairs
Thomas R. Bearrows, University Counsel
Thomas P. Hardy, Executive Director for University Relations
Susan M. Kies, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and the University
Walter K. Knorr, VP/Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller
Christophe Pierre, Vice President for Academic Affairs
Lawrence B. Schook, Vice President for Research
Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Treasurer, Board of Trustees

contact: kirstein@sxu.edu I chair the American Association of University Professors Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure that issued the first comprehensive statement on this matter.

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Chancellor Wise “Defends” Decision to Fire Salaita {Update}

 

Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  has just released this statement on the blacklisting of Dr. Steven Salaita for tweeting against Israeli military actions in Gaza. It comes after these preambular comments on this outrage and cruelty toward a faculty member. While she denies this is viewpoint discrimination, the facts are clearly otherwise. We have seen this before. In the Finkelstein case, it was the case of violating Vincentian values in writing books that upset readers and other academics. Here we have a similar accusation based on tweets that Dr. Salaita does not tolerate disparate views. What evidence is there that he is intolerant of different opinions?

As with the Finkelstein tenure travesty, outside groups and individuals pressured a university to destroy a career of an academic due to viewpoint discrimination on the Middle East. This is the state of play in Illinois and elsewhere. It is a state of play that must be resisted in order to preserve a century of tenure in this country and the academic freedom that buttresses it. Without it, we will devolve into an academic community without passion, risk taking and inspiring our students in search of the truth. It is our students whom we serve: not powerful interests that wish to replace the independent professoriate with a consensus ideology to preserve a monolithic narrative none dare challenge!

The chancellor then alleges that students in Dr. Salaita’s classes would be discriminated against or even more libelous, abused:

“A Jewish student, a Palestinian student, or any student of any faith or background must feel confident that personal views can be expressed and that philosophical disagreements with a faculty member can be debated in a civil, thoughtful and mutually respectful manner.”

Illinois AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, that I chair, was very clear that an institution must not draw inferences about quality of teaching based on extramural utterances. Chancellor Wise has done that in a gratuitous, indefensible manner that is vindictive and discriminatory against those very viewpoints she claims are not being purged from the university. This is an excerpt from Illinois Committee A on the unacceptable linking of extramural utterances with classroom teaching:

[I]n the AAUP 1964 Committee A Statement on Extramural Utterances it states in reference to the 1940 Statement:

[An] administration may file charges in accordance with procedures outlined in the Statement if it feels that a faculty member has failed to observe the above admonitions and believes that the professor’s extramural utterances raise grave doubts concerning the professor’s fitness for continuing service…

Furthermore, there is nothing in the Salaita statements about Israel or Zionism that would raise questions about his fitness to teach. These statements were not made in front of students, are not related to a course that is being taught, and do not reflect in any manner his quality of teaching. What one says out of class rarely, in the absence of peer review of teaching, confirms how one teaches. Passion about a topic even if emotionally expressed through social network does not allow one to draw inferences about teaching that could possibly rise to the voiding or reversal of a job appointment.

One must not conjecture about a link between extramural statements and the quality of classroom teaching, absent an unmistakable link that would raise issues of competence. None exist here. Indeed, we affirm that fitness to teach can be enhanced with conviction, commitment and an engagement with the outside world.

CHANCELLOR WISE’S STATEMENT Received on August 22, 2014

Dear Colleagues: 

As you may be aware, Vice President Christophe Pierre and I wrote to Prof. Steven Salaita on Aug. 1, informing him of the university’s decision not to recommend further action by the Board of Trustees concerning his potential appointment to the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Since this decision, many of you have expressed your concern about its potential impact on academic freedom. I want to assure you in the strongest possible terms that all of us – my administration, the university administration and I – absolutely are committed to this bedrock principle. I began my career as a scientist challenging accepted ideas and pre-conceived notions, and I have continued during my career to invite and encourage such debates in all aspects of university life.

A pre-eminent university must always be a home for difficult discussions and for the teaching of diverse ideas. One of our core missions is to welcome and encourage differing perspectives. Robust – and even intense and provocative – debate and disagreement are deeply valued and critical to the success of our university.

As a university community, we also are committed to creating a welcoming environment for faculty and students alike to explore the most difficult, contentious and complex issues facing our society today. Our Inclusive Illinois initiative is based on the premise that education is a process that starts with our collective willingness to search for answers together – learning from each other in a respectful way that supports a diversity of worldviews, histories and cultural knowledge.

The decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel. Our university is home to a wide diversity of opinions on issues of politics and foreign policy. Some of our faculty are critical of Israel, while others are strong supporters. These debates make us stronger as an institution and force advocates of all viewpoints to confront the arguments and perspectives offered by others. We are a university built on precisely this type of dialogue, discourse and debate.

 

What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them. We have a particular duty to our students to ensure that they live in a community of scholarship that challenges their assumptions about the world but that also respects their rights as individuals.

As chancellor, it is my responsibility to ensure that all perspectives are welcome and that our discourse, regardless of subject matter or viewpoint, allows new concepts and differing points of view to be discussed in and outside the classroom in a scholarly, civil and productive manner.

 

A Jewish student, a Palestinian student, or any student of any faith or background must feel confident that personal views can be expressed and that philosophical disagreements with a faculty member can be debated in a civil, thoughtful and mutually respectful manner. Most important, every student must know that every instructor recognizes and values that student as a human being. If we have lost that, we have lost much more than our standing as a world-class institution of higher education.

As a member of the faculty, I firmly believe that a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois is a tremendous honor and a unique privilege. Tenure also brings with it a heavy responsibility to continue the traditions of scholarship and civility upon which our university is built.

 

I am committed to working closely with you to identify how the campus administration can support our collective duty to inspire and facilitate thoughtful consideration of diverse opinions and discourse on challenging issues.

 

Sincerely,

Phyllis M. Wise
Chancellor

contact: kirstein@sxu.edu  I chair the American Association of University Professors Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure that issued the first comprehensive statement on this matter.

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Stanford’s Palumbo-Liu Quotes Illinois AAUP in Salaita Aljazeera Article

The University of Illinois has a clearly articulated policy that is quoted in Aljazeera:

The University of Illinois Statutes (Article IX, Section 3.a.) provide that only the Board of Trustees has the authority to make formal appointments to the academic staff.  New academic staff members will receive a formal Notification of Appointment from the Board once the hiring unit has received back from the candidate all required documents, so the appointment can be processed. {Emphasis added}

So basically the Board does housekeeping and because it frequently meets AFTER an initial appointment has already commenced, it merely affirms that paperwork is in order. It was the News-Gazette that initially released these documents that are referred to in the article. The Chicago Tribune’s Jodi Cohen probably was the first national reporter to reference them in her article on the Salaita affair, but it was the scrappy News-Gazette that published them.

I am particularly pleased that Dr. Palumbo-Liu quoted extensively from the first academic organisation statement on this academic freedom travesty: the American Association of University Professor (AAUP) Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure:

For its part, even the AAUP, which opposes the academic boycott favoured by USACBI, has taken an immediate stand against this action, stating Salaita’s academic freedom has been violated. Both the Illinois chapter of the AAUP and the national office of the American Association of University Professors have come to Salaita’s defence:

The Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors supports the honoring of the appointment of Steven G. Salaita in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Reports that the university has voided a job offer, if accurate, due to tweets on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would be a clear violation of Professor Salaita’s academic freedom and an affront to free speech that we enjoy in this country…Professor Salaita’s words while strident and vulgar were an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East…Yet the University of Illinois cannot cancel an appointment based upon Twitter statements that are protected speech in the United States of America.

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The Progressive Magazine Quotes Kirstein News-Gazette op-ed

Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive has written an analytic article on the Steven Salaita blacklisting and firing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In it the article contains references to the national American Association of University Professors (AAUP) statement of support as issued by President Rudy Fichtenbaum and First Vice President and Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure Chair Henry Reichman, as well my comments in an op-ed in the News-Gazette of Urbana-Champaign:

On August 19, the chair of the AAUP’s Illinois committee on academic freedom, Peter Kirstein, wrote in the News-Gazette: “Academic freedom requires that both substance and from are protected speech when engaging in extramural utterances.” Kirstein was especially distressed by the way in which the chancellor rescinded Salaita’s job offer.

“In their egregious dismissal letter of Aug. 1, no reason is given why a contract offered ten months ago is voided,” he wrote. “It is unconscionable that an academician would be fired in this manner. . . . The absence of an explanation is one of the worst cases of administration abuse of a faculty member I have ever witnessed.” -

Howard Zinn, my advisor and professor at Boston University, was a frequent contributor to The Progressive. He would frequently mention it as a valuable resource in his classes. It is gratifying to be included in their venerable publication on a matter of such significant public concern.

contact: kirstein@sxu.edu

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Kirstein and Burbules e-mail Exchange: Salaita Op-Eds

Nicholas Burbules

Nick Burbules, co-author of op-ed supporting the firing of Steven Salaita

Professor Nick Burbules of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign e-mailed me this morning. He co-authored an op-ed with Professor Joyce Tolliver in the News-Gazette that supported the firing of tenured Associate Professor Steven G. Salaita. I wrote an op-ed that challenged many of their assumptions and reiterated the position of the Illinois AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. I posted both of our op-eds for comparative purposes here:

In my preambular introduction to the op-eds, I wrote this sentence:

Joyce Tolliver and Nick Burbules, support the non-appointment of Steven Salaita and even asserted “there is…no evidence” that he was fired for his tweets on the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

Professor Burbules asked me to delete this sentence because he claimed it misrepresented the professors’ position. While he did not respond to two specific offers to post his entire e-mail complaint, Professor Burbules asserts their op-ed does not claim that tweets were unrelated to his contract not being forwarded for Board of Trustees’ approval.

In his e-mail, Professor Burbules claimed Salaita was not “fired” for his “controversial” positions on the Middle East conflict in Gaza. He stated many people share Salaita’s views but the University of Illinois was merely responding to the “tone and expression” that characterised his tweets. It was not his views on Israel and Palestine but the mode of expression.

User Photo

Joyce Tolliver: op-ed co-author that supports firing of Salaita

In their op-ed they wrote:

The first is the frequent assertion that Salaita’s position offer was terminated because of his stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There is, at this point, no evidence that this is the case: Many faculty hold similar views on the Middle East, and no one has suggested that they are not entitled to engage in open debate over this controversy. The real issue is with the form and substance of Salaita’s comments.

In my op-ed I responded:

They claim it is speculative to assert that Professor Steven Salaita was fired due to his comments on the Israel/Palestinian conflict: “There is, at this point, no evidence that this is the case.”

Then they undermine their stunning claim by asserting that “the real issue is with the form and substance of Salaita’s comments.”

Academic freedom requires that both substance and form are protected speech when engaging in extramural utterances. It does not differentiate between the two. It is, in fact, impossible to separate the rhetoric style from the topic. The former gives vitality and expressive force to the latter.

Well, I reiterate my op-ed claim that Salaita was fired for his tweets. They state there is no evidence he was fired for his tweets that contain his “stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

I believe I have fairly presented his concern and my response. The reader is invited to scrutinise both op-eds and determine the validity of our approaches on this epic academic freedom and free-speech case.

contact: kirstein@sxu.edu

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Competing Op-Eds in News Gazette on Salaita Academic Freedom Case

Competing opinions of three professors on the Salaita-firing case at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were published in The News-Gazette of Urbana-Champaign. It is interesting that two professors at the university, Joyce Tolliver and Nick Burbules, support the non-appointment of Steven Salaita and even asserted “there is…no evidence” that he was fired for his tweets on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. I am grateful that the paper allowed my response as the two professors repeatedly refer to the American Association of University Professors Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure statement that was issued in support of academic freedom and countering the rise of the New McCarthyism that grips many campuses in the United States.

It is interesting that the scrappy News-Gazette was the first paper under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to release the Salaita Papers. It is ironic that the University of Illinois apparently includes with each offer of an academic appointment two seminal AAUP documents including the 1940 Statement of Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure. The latter, according to our statement, was egregiously violated when tweets were used to bar a professor some ten months after he signed his contract from assuming his promised duties.

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Steven Salaita: photo courtesy of the News-Gazette of Urbana-Champaign

Illinois AAUP defends Salaita’s academic freedom

By Peter N. Kirstein

Professors Joyce Tolliver and Nick Burbules of the University of Illinois in their Sunday, Aug. 17, op-ed, “Salaita case calls for honest debate,” support the firing of tenured Associate Professor Steven G. Salaita. However, as chair of Illinois American Association of University Professors Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, I wish to offer a different viewpoint.

They claim it is speculative to assert that Professor Steven Salaita was fired due to his comments on the Israel/Palestinian conflict: “There is, at this point, no evidence that this is the case.”

Then they undermine their stunning claim by asserting that “the real issue is with the form and substance of Salaita’s comments.”

Academic freedom requires that both substance and form are protected speech when engaging in extramural utterances. It does not differentiate between the two. It is, in fact, impossible to separate the rhetoric style from the topic. The former gives vitality and expressive force to the latter.

The professors might consult the landmark Supreme Court case, Cohen v California (1971). Justice John Marshall Harlan in his majority opinion averred that, “words are often chosen as much for their emotive as their cognitive force. We cannot sanction the view that the Constitution, while solicitous of the cognitive content of individual speech, has little or no regard for that emotive function.”

While the professors twice cite Illinois AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure report’s description of Salaita’s tweets as “strident and vulgar,” we defended his academic freedom to express himself as bombs were flying into children, U.N. safe houses and mosques in blockaded Gaza. We do not make such a fine distinction as apparently Professors Tolliver and Burbules do between “substance” and “form” when assessing tweets as protected extramural utterances.

Professors Tolliver and Burbules refer to Professor Salaita’s tweets as being characterized as “incendiary and anti-Semitic.” I wonder if they are familiar with the full range of his tweets from 2014. These include:

— It’s a beautiful thing to see our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world deploring #Israel’s brutality in #Gaza. (July 18)

— My stand is fundamentally one of acknowledging and countering the horror of antisemitism. (July 19)

— Equal rights for everybody, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, etc. (July 20)

— I refuse to conceptualize #Israel/#Palestine as Jewish-Arab acrimony. I am in solidarity with many Jews and in disagreement with many Arabs. (July 27)

If there is any ambiguity concerning why Professor Salaita’s appointment was not sent to the board of trustees, the fault lies with Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre. In their egregious dismissal letter of Aug. 1, no reason is given why a contract offered nine months ago is voided. It is unconscionable that an academician would be fired in this manner. While I believe there are legal grounds for reversal from a promissory estoppel — a promise of appointment — to the suppression of First Amendment rights of free speech, the absence of an explanation is one of the worst cases of administration abuse of a faculty member I have ever witnessed.

Professors Tolliver and Burbules, with a “cri de coeur,” defend administrators from the “familiar frame of faculty victims being silenced by evil administrators.” Certainly AAUP has not used such language. It has, however, used widely accepted documents such as the seminal 1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure that affirms, “When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.”

While the sounds of silence from the University of Illinois remain deafening, only the restoration of Professor Salaita to his appointment in the American Indian Studies Program can restore academic justice to Salaita and his peers that chose him as a colleague.

Peter N. Kirstein, a history professor at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, is vice president of the Illinois Conference of the American Association of University Professors and is chair of the Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Salaita case calls for honest debate

By Joyce Tolliver and Nick Burbules

The sides are lining up over the University of Illinois’ decision not to seek board of trustees approval for Dr. Steven Salaita’s tenured faculty position. Since neither the university nor Salaita has spoken publicly about the issue, there is much we do not know. The national American Association of University Professors has rightly decided not to take a final position until all the facts are known.

However, the Illinois branch of the AAUP did weigh in, releasing a statement asserting that Salaita’s recent comments, “while strident and vulgar,” were protected by academic freedom and hence that it was not defensible for the university to withhold Salaita’s appointment. The Campus Faculty Association was quick to attack the campus administration’s decision. The faculty union up at UI Chicago has also jumped into the fray, criticizing our campus and calling for a national investigation.

There are two aspects of this public debate that are based on questionable assumptions. The first is the frequent assertion that Salaita’s position offer was terminated because of his stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There is, at this point, no evidence that this is the case: Many faculty hold similar views on the Middle East, and no one has suggested that they are not entitled to engage in open debate over this controversy.

The real issue is with the form and substance of Salaita’s comments. He has made numerous public statements over the summer that are not just “strident and vulgar,” but are, in the view of many people, incendiary and anti-Semitic.

Of greatest concern to an academic community is that many of his comments preclude any possibility of dialogue, disagreement or reasoned examination. This is not what one would expect from a thoughtful, reflective teacher and scholar.

The question is not whether Salaita has a First Amendment right to make such comments — of course he does. It is whether, in light of this new information, the university has the right to choose not to proceed with hiring someone who speaks and writes that way in public.

There is a serious policy question here of how to manage a situation in which new and damaging information comes to light about a prospective hire after an initial letter of offer is sent, but before the beginning of the appointment period and before final board approval.

At Virginia Tech, his previous institution, the university chose to publicly disavow some of his extreme comments, in order to protect its own reputation. And apparently they have made no effort to retain Salaita after he received word that board approval would not be sought for his appointment at Illinois.

The other questionable assumption of the current debate is that the university’s action violates Salaita’s academic freedom. But the principle of academic freedom is not an absolute, open-ended license; the AAUP’s own statement on principles of academic freedom emphasizes that faculty are also bound by the standards of professional ethics: “As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, (and) should show respect for the opinions of others ….” Salaita’s comments raise legitimate questions about the limits of academic freedom.

An honest debate about this case would engage these serious and difficult questions, instead of invoking the familiar frame of faculty victims being silenced by evil administrators. That framing might serve other political agendas, but it does not serve the campus or the wider academic profession well — and it does not fit the facts of this case as we know them, so far.

Nick Burbules and Joyce Tolliver, current members of the UI faculty, are past leaders of the campus academic senate.

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M.L.A. Supports Salaita: Endorses AAUP Position

The Modern Language Association (M.L.A) is one of the largest academic organisations in the world. It consists of teachers of language and literature and has supported Steven Salaita in his struggle for justice, following the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign violation of his academic freedom. Its executive committee sent the following letter to Chancellor Phyllis Wise who refused to submit his appointment for board approval, ten months after Salaita returned a written contract. This is an organisation that resists the New McCarthyism that has gripped American post-secondary education for several decades. It represents a growing awareness in post-secondary education that the right to speak for the oppressed, the downtrodden, the colonised, the occupied without coercion, suppression and blacklisting is worth defending:

Letter to the Chancellor of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The Executive Council approved the letter to Chancellor Wise in August 2014.

15 August 2014

Dear Dr. Wise,

The members of the Modern Language Association’s Executive Council strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to revoke Professor Steven Salaita’s appointment to a tenured position in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. According to the facts reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education on 7 August 2014 (http://chronicle.com/article/Denial-of-Job-to-Harsh-Critic/148211/) and Inside Higher Ed on 6 August 2014 (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/08/06/u-illinois-apparently-revokes-job-offer-controversial-scholar), your decision seems to abrogate long-established principles of academic due process and to violate the principles of academic freedom of expression to which your university expressly adheres (see art. 10, sec. 2, at http://www.bot.uillinois.edu/statutes). We urge you to submit Professor Salaita’s appointment to the board for confirmation or to allow your university’s Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure to review your decision.

Professor Salaita held a written offer from the university with the common stipulation that final approval of his appointment would be subject to the decision of the university’s board. With the encouragement of the faculty and administration at UIUC—including a written acknowledgment that he had signed your university’s contract—he resigned his tenured position at Virginia Tech and made plans to move his family so that he could begin an appointment with a starting date of 16 August 2014. You informed him in a letter dated 1 August 2014 that his appointment would not be submitted to the board, but your letter did not give a reason. Members of the UIUC faculty with varying positions on this case have observed that the abrupt withdrawal of the offer directly followed publicity over Professor Salaita’s comments on social media about Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

The members of the MLA Executive Council join with the American Association of University Professors, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and many other groups and individuals in viewing the rescinding of Professor Salaita’s offer as a troubling response to his expression of views about a significant and controversial topic. The MLA is on record as believing that “[w]hen academic freedom is curtailed, higher education is compromised,” and the MLA has for years called on “college and university administrators and faculty members to support a culture of academic freedom for all teachers, regardless of rank and status” (http://www.mla.org/academic_freedom_2009). Believing that the right to express unpopular views on important issues in various media is critical to the health of our democratic society and to its institutions of higher education, we call on you to redress what seems an unjustified decision.

Yours sincerely,


Margaret W. Ferguson, MLA president

Roland Greene, MLA first vice president
——————————————————————————————————————————————————-
I have added for the convenience of the reader the relevant Article and section that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign claim within their statutes support academic freedom and tenure. While Emerson wrote: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” in this case consistency is sorely lacking and should be adhered to:
:
Article X Academic Freedom and Tenure

Section 2.              Academic Freedom

a.       It is the policy of the University to maintain and encourage full freedom within the law of inquiry, discourse, teaching, research, and publication and to protect any member of the academic staff against influences, from within or without the University, which would restrict the member’s exercise of these freedoms in the member’s area of scholarly interest.  The right to the protection of the University shall not, however, include any right to the services of the university counsel or the counsel’s assistants in any governmental or judicial proceedings in which the academic freedom of the staff member may be in issue.

b.       As a citizen, a faculty member may exercise the same freedoms as other citizens without institutional censorship or discipline.  A faculty member should be mindful, however, that accuracy, forthrightness, and dignity befit association with the University and a person of learning and that the public may judge that person’s profession and the University by the individual’s conduct and utterances.

c.       If, in the president’s judgment, a faculty member exercises freedom of expression as a citizen and fails to heed the admonitions of Article X, Section 2b, the president may publicly disassociate the Board of Trustees and the University from and express their disapproval of such objectionable expressions.

d.       A staff member who believes that he or she does not enjoy the academic freedom which it is the policy of the University to maintain and encourage shall be entitled to a hearing on written request before the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the appropriate campus senate.  Such hearing shall be conducted in accordance with established rules of procedure.  The committee shall make findings of facts and recommendations to the president and, at its discretion, may make an appropriate report to the senate.  The several committees may from time to time establish their own rules of procedure.

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Jonathan Turley Cites Kirstein Role in Salaita Travesty

Jonathan Turley is J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law; Director of the Environmental Law Advocacy Center; Executive Director, Project for Older Prisoners at George Washington University. He is one of the nation’s leading constitutional lawyers and legal experts. Professor Turley defended Professor Sami Al-Arian with consummate skill for eight years. Dr Al-Arian was persecuted and virtually tortured in terms of gratuitous oppression, job loss and incarceration. Professor Turley has quoted me and reproduced the entire text of the Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure statement in support of Steven Salaita including the names of all the committee members.

This advocate for social justice and for the marginalised has posted an extensive commentary on the Steven Salaita firing fiasco at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On his website, he uses the Latin motto: Res ipsa loquitur (“The thing itself speaks”). Indeed, Professor Turley does speak for the application of the law in a manner that does not ignore justice and the need to restrain the powers of repression and coercion in this country.  I will reproduce some seminal statements of his balanced but clearly strong advocacy for the restoration of Professor Salaita’s position at the University of Illinois. This is the link:

Hundreds of academics have signed a petition demanding that the University reinstate the offer and pledging to boycott the university if the decision stands. They insist that he is being denied academic freedom as well as the freedom of speech outside of his employment. Peter Kirstein, vice president of the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Professors, called the action “outlandish” and “highly irregular” as well as a violation of “academic freedom, due process.” Likewise, the legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Baher Azmy called the action “unprecedented and plainly unlawful in violation of the most elementary principles of academic freedom.” She added that “It is quite transparent that they terminated him because they disliked what he was saying about atrocities in Gaza…”

Clearly, the university has a stronger legal claim based on the lack of final approval of the position. However, it has a less compelling basis under academic freedom principles which are the very touchstone of any legitimate academic institution. There are many professor with outspoken pro-Israeli (and sometimes anti-Palestinian) views who are quite outspoken on those who attack Israel. It is part of the diversity of positions that characterize universities. Students and faculty have sharply different views on the subject and a campus is where such views are expressed openly and freely.

Frankly, I find many of the sentiments expressed by Salaita to be highly disturbing. I do not like to see faculty flippantly referring to killings or disappearances even in the heat of a debate or controversy. As academics we are committed to intellectual exchanges and reason, not joking about journalists being stabbed or settlers disappearing.

However, he has also written more substantively on the Israeli issue. I am very troubled by the action taken in this case and the unclear line being drawn over statements made by academics in such disputes. Indeed, one of my greatest concern is that this decision is not being made by the faculty of his department but by the board, which has little academic standing. I have always been critical of the role of such boards which are often composed of simply big donors, celebrities, or well-connected individuals with precious little understanding of the academic mission or academic freedom.

Contact: kirstein@sxu.edu

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Full Text: University of Illinois Letter of Firing to Salaita

The following is typed word-for-word copy from a PDF letter of dismissal from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to Professor Salaita. I have excised some of the letterhead and the addresses at the bottom. Note, no reason is given for such a shattering letter for an academician to receive. Note, not one word of commiseration or affect appears. I wonder what ethical lapses could induce such a letter without demonstrating adequate cause, without allowing due process, and convening an adversarial hearing before one’s peers. This is simply a cold and calculated effort to purge, due to viewpoint discrimination, a professor for the purpose of stability and academic law and order on the UIUC campus.

As I have written elsewhere, I believe it is highly probative that the Board of Trustees meeting would not have occurred until AFTER Professor Salaita had assumed the full powers and duties of his appointment. It looks like UIUC knew this and took this action in a preemptive and indefensible manner.

Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs

377 Henry Administration Building

506 South Wright Street

Urbana, Il. 61801

Christophe Pierre

Vice President

August 1, 2014

PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL

Professor Steven Salaita

via e-mail: salaita@vt.edu

A BLACK BOX OF REDACTED MATERIAL APPEARS HERE: PNK

Dept. of English MC 0112

180 Turner Street, NW

Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

Dear Professor Salaita,

As you are aware, on October 3, 2013, Brian H, Ross, Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, wrote to you to inform you that Professor Jodi Byrd, Acting Director of American Indian Studies, had recommended you for a position on the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As Dean Ross’ letter later stated: “The recommendation for appointments is subject to approval by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.”

We write to inform you that your appointment will not be recommended for submission to the Board of Trustees in September, and we believe that an affirmative Board vote approving your appointment is unlikely. We therefore will not be in a position to appoint you to the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We write to you today so that you would be aware of this fact and would be able to act accordingly.

Thank you for your interest in and consideration of the University of Illinois.

Sincerely,

Christophe Pierre                                                      Phyllis M. Wise

Vice President for Academic Affairs                      Chancellor

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (this appears under “Chancellor” in the letter of termination.)

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Steven Salaita Appointment Included AAUP 1940 Statement

I have seen scanned pdf copies of the actual documents sent to Steven Salaita by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that range from his proffer of an appointment to the egregious notification that the appointment would not be submitted to the Board of Trustees. At this point, I am describing the stunning, hypocritical irony of this viewpoint discrimination case:

One can assume that each professor, upon receiving their written appointment letter at the University of Illinois, receives accompanying AAUP statements that allegedly affirm the university’s commitment to academic freedom. Brian H. Ross, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, included in the appointment letter of October 3, 2013 to Salaita copies of two AAUP documents.

One is the iconic, magna carta of the “higher law” in post-secondary education:                The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure

The other AAUP document included with the appointment letter was the Statement on Professional Ethics. This statement includes the obligation to search for the truth:

Professors, guided by a deep conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge, recognize the special responsibilities placed upon them. Their primary responsibility to their subject is to seek and to state the truth as they see it.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure concluded the 1940 Statement was violated when Professor Steven Salaita’s appointment was rescinded based upon tweets that were critical of the Israeli disproportionate response in Gaza to Hamas rocket attacks on some of its cities. We concluded in our report that his academic freedom was violated. This is the specific reference in our widely disseminated statement:

The AAUP 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure states in reference to extramural utterances: “When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” It affirms that “The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.” While Professor’s Salaita’s tweets are construed as controversial, the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure affirms the virtue of controversial speech. While the Statement refers to classroom teaching, the virtual classroom today has no limits. In 1970 the 1940 Statement was revised with new “Interpretive Comments.”  The second Interpretive Comment would encompass Professor Salaita’s right to be controversial: “The intent of this statement is not to discourage what is “controversial.” Controversy is at the heart of the free academic inquiry which the entire statement is designed to foster.”

Apparently without any sense of shame, the University of Illinois included, as a matter of course, AAUP documents when Professor Salaita received his appointment letter only to arbitrarily violate the same document eight months later and two weeks before Professor Salaita was to begin teaching!

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Wall Street Journal Cites Illinois Committee A Salaita Statement

The Wall Street Journal article cites the statement on the Steven Salaita firing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign of the American Association of University Professors Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. I am chair of the commitee. Subscription maybe necessary. Contact: kirstein@sxu.edu

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Washington Post References, Links ILL AAUP Salaita Statement

As the firing of Associate Professor Steven Salaita becomes one of the most widely covered education stories of the year, the Washington Post has also referenced the Illinois Conference of the AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

This is the excerpt from the article:

The Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) posted a statement to its blog defending the professor:

Reports that the university has voided a job offer, if accurate, due to tweets on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would be a clear violation of Professor Salaita’s academic freedom and an affront to free speech that we enjoy in this country.

Professor Salaita resigned his position at Virginia Tech and was about to assume his  new appointment at the University of Illinois. We stand by the appointment and by Professor Salaita and defend his right to engage in extramural utterances.

Contact for ILL AAUP: Peter N. Kirstein, kirstein@sxu.edu

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Steven Lubet’s Op-Ed Challenged in Chicago Tribune

Jodi Cohen reported in the Chicago Tribune that the University of Illinois Board of Trustees’ next scheduled meeting is September, 2014. This meeting would be several weeks after the beginning of the fall semester and nine months after Steven Salaita had a signed contract offering him an appointment as a tenured associate professor in the American Indian Studies program at the U. of I. I wonder if Professor Lubet, who wrote an op-ed claiming Salaita had virtually no legal recourse in challenging his firing, was aware of that? I believe his op-ed was submitted prior to the Cohen article. Yet he did not have all the facts.

Understand, Steven Salaita would have begun his semester; he would have met his classes; he would have been assigned an office; he would have possibly attended his American Indian Studies program meetings; he would have begun advising students; he would have assumed the full duties of his appointment. Would the board have the right, under those circumstances, to fire him because of tweets that the Israel Lobby or ardent hawkish supporters of Israel disagreed with? I aver that if a university board meets to confirm appointments after a semester has already begun, it is obvious that rubber stamping appointments is a pro forma ritualistic exercise. I believe that a good lawyer would have a field day with this latest revelation in Cohen’s significant article.

Professor Lubet, a law professor at Northwestern, claimed the American Association of University Professors Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure report misrepresented Professor Salaita’s passion for peace as babies were being slaughtered, United Nations “safe havens” bombed and children blown up on the beaches of Gaza:

A committee of the Illinois AAUP, for example, argued that Salaita had merely made “an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East.” This is manifestly untrue. Salaita has not called for an end to violence against Israelis. Quite the contrary, he has reveled in it.

I think Mr Lubet has not familiarised himself with the full scope of Professor Salaita’s tweets. As reported in the esteemed website, Mondoweiss, Salaita’s tweets were taken out of context, perhaps deliberately, by those who wish to deny a public space for the criticism of Israel:

#ISupportGaza because I believe that Jewish and Arab children are equal in the eyes of God. July 23.

@johnellsmar Equal rights for everybody, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, etc. July 20

@mikehesselmial My stand is fundamentally one of acknowledging and countering the horror of antisemitism. July 19

Furthermore, it is humanistic to feel great passion and emotion as innocents are being killed by the Israel Defence Forces. It is also egregious for rocketry to be fired on Israel’s cities. I oppose all war for any purpose, even in the case of self-defence. However, as chair of the Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, I stand by our report and maintain that the legal niceties as presented by Professor Lubet are much more complex and in my non-legal opinion, may possibly conclude with significant litigation and reversal of this outrage.

Contact: Peter N. Kirstein, kirstein@sxu.edu

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Chicago Tribune on Salaita Case and Kirstein, Illinois AAUP Role

Chicago Tribune reporter Jodi S. Cohen

This is a link to the richly sourced Jodi Cohen piece on the Steven Salaita dismissal and firing travesty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am quoted in the article as defending Professor Salaita from the latest auto-da-fé when speaking out on the Israel/Palestine conflict that challenges elite opinion in this country.

From this in depth article, I excerpt Cary Nelson and my “debate” on the limits of academic freedom, if any, in this disturbing situation:

U. of I. English professor Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors, said Salaita’s actions are not protected by academic freedom because he has not yet been hired. Instead, he said, he supports the university’s decision that Salaita was “not the right fit for the campus.”

“It was valid for the campus to basically say … we better take another look at this guy,” Nelson said.

“A lot of people have been disturbed by the character of his social media because it is in the same areas that he does his scholarship. If it was a musician saying that global warming is a bunch of nonsense, who would care? It is because the tweets are an extension of his publication, they are central to his work and many feel they cross the line into anti-Semitism,” Nelson said. “The anti-Semitism does (bother me) and what appears to be almost a solicitation of violence.”

Peter Kirstein, vice president of the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Professors, called the revocation of Salaita’s job “outlandish.”

“This is highly irregular. It is not the way a great university or any university conducts its hiring practices. You have academic freedom, due process,” said Kirstein, chair of the organization’s academic freedom and tenure committee and a history professor at Saint Xavier University.

“He could have been a little more careful in the language he used, but he had the right.”

CONTACT: Peter N. Kirstein, kirstein@sxu.edu

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Richmond Times-Dispatch Cites Kirstein on Salaita Firing at Illinois

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has run the Tonia Moxley piece that previously appeared in the Roanoke Times on the University of Illinois hiring-reversal travesty of Steven Salaita. This is the link to the article.

Professor Salaita resigned a tenured position at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. In addition to the national and international coverage of this blacklisting and persecution of the professor, Virginia media has construed it as a local story. Professor Salaita, to his credit, has defied the American exceptionalism narrative before and was known in Virginia as a critical thinker who expressed views that challenged American hauteur with pledges of allegiance prior to even understanding what type of nation demands filial obedience. His questioning the “support the troops” mantra is consistent with internationalism and peace and justice: but not in this country!

For contact information on Illinois AAUP statement and position: kirstein@sxu.edu

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University of Illinois Kaler Remains Mum on Salaita Firing

I tried what others have done with similar lack of success. I asked Robin Kaler, Associate Chancellor, Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to comment on the Professor Steven Salaita contract reversal and dismissal. Before I replicate the email, I concur with her refusal to comment substantively. In my case, and there are many similarities to Salaita, St Xavier University was all over the place trashing my character, saying I had “fallen off the deep end,” putting me on their website as a virtual F.B.I. most wanted person for five to six months and deriding my ethos as “anti-military” (Indeed! I don’t like humans killing others!). Should I be pro-military? I am a veteran and son of an army captain and, yes, anti-military. Is that a crime to hate war and militaries who fight them?

I think Robin is absolutely correct in not commenting on the Salaita apparent firing for disturbing pro-Israeli military supporters of their ruthless actions in Gaza. Although I had to ask her twice for a response, she is clearly acting in a manner consistent with university ethics in terms of release of information. I suspect if there is a settlement, my money is on it, then the two parties, Salaita and UI-UC would issue a joint statement and then neither will discuss it further. However, if Steven Salaita does not get at least three years of salary and benefits, he should walk and go for it in court in a lengthy and highly publicised trial!!

I will have a lot more to say if there is a settlement but I concur totally with Associate Chancellor Kaler. Time will allow, if necessary, other remedies in demanding answers: law suits, AAUP investigation, UIUC Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure investigation.

From: Kirstein, Peter N.
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 1:01 PM
To: Kaler, Robin Neal
Subject: RE: Silence is Golden: Speech is Super Golden

Thanks, Robin:

It is good policy! I wish all practiced it.

Peter

From: Kaler, Robin Neal <rkaler@illinois.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 12:55 PM
To: Kirstein, Peter N.
Subject: RE: Silence is Golden: Speech is Super Golden

Dear Prof. Kirstein:

As a matter of University policy and practice, we do not comment publicly upon nor discuss generally any personnel matters, including matters involving employment or tenure.

Warm regards,

Robin Kaler

From: Kirstein, Peter N. [mailto:kirstein@sxu.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 12:52 PM
To: Kaler, Robin Neal
Subject: RE: Silence is Golden: Speech is Super Golden

Is it customary to respond to requests for information? If it is, can you respond, please if you are on the job today and able to do so?

Best regards,

Peter

From: Kirstein, Peter N.
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 9:28 AM
To: rkaler@illinois.edu
Subject: Silence is Golden: Speech is Super Golden

Hi, Robin:

I would be pleased, if honoured, to make any corrections, deletions, mea culpas in this matter if you would clarify any issues concerning the Salaita “affair.”

We have been unable to penetrate the labyrinth of silence. I do feel somewhat uneasy about the role I have played in this but in addition to sending our report to the chancellor, I am clearing my conscience in also asking you for any comment you have on the situation and the AAUP role in it.

You might even ask those above you, whether they are prepared to provide some response to this. We are not on a crusade; we work on principle and seek the truth. I am pretty sure at some point, you will get permission to speak on this matter. I know at some point Steven will: who comes first unless a settlement?

Peace and with all due respect and sincerity,

Peter

Peter N. Kirstein, Ph.D.                                                                                                                               Vice President A.A.U.P. Ill.                                                                                                                     Chair: Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure                                          Professor of History                                                                                                                              Saint Xavier University  Blog/

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Kirstein in Chicago Reader on Salaita Travesty

Deanna Isaacs article on Salaita case at University of Illinois and Illinois AAUP role in supporting his academic freedom in the so-called land of the free, home of the brave! Graphic language within this post is derived from the article in The Chicago Reader. 

Did a controversial tweet cost Steven Salaita his U. of I. professorship?

The AAUP steps into a #controversy sparked by an author and pro-Palestinian activist.

Salaita-teaser-alt.jpg

Do professors have freedom of tweet?

Is it the same thing as freedom of speech?

If they tweet “Fuck you #Israel,” should they have to worry about losing their jobs?

Last week, the American Association of University Professors did something very unusual: it stepped into a situation that was still largely hypothetical, issuing a statement of support for a professor who’s said to have lost a job he hadn’t yet started, apparently because some people didn’t like his tweets.

The professor is Steven Salaita, who had given up his post as associate professor of English at Virginia Tech to take a tenured position as a professor in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was to have started this week.

The allegedly offending tweets were comments on the current bloodshed in Gaza. Like this one, posted July 20: “Fuck you #Israel. And while I’m at it, fuck you, too, PA, Sisi, Arab monarchs, Obama, UK, EU, Canada, US Senate, corporate media, and ISIS.”

The statement from the national office of the AAUP came on the heels of a similar stand taken a day earlier by the Illinois AAUP’s committee on academic freedom and tenure. The chair of that committee, Saint Xavier University professor Peter Kirstein, said in an interview last week that if reports about what happened to Salaita are correct, it would be “a clear violation of his academic freedom” and “a travesty.”

Neither the university nor Salaita (who didn’t respond to interview requests for this story) is talking about the situation. Most of what’s known about it surfaced in academic trade papers last week, in articles citing unnamed sources.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Salaita got a letter last October from the interim dean of the U. of I.’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offering him the job, pending approval by the board of trustees. Nearly ten months later, as he was preparing to make the move, he got a drastically different letter from the university. Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise and vice president for academic affairs Christophe Pierre wrote to inform him that his appointment would not be presented to the board after all, since, as the Chronicle put it, approval was “unlikely.”

In effect, job offer rescinded.

What happened? According to an August 6 article posted on Inside Higher Ed, “sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza.”

Salaita, whose scholarship focuses on colonialism, indigenous peoples, and Palestine (he’s been a leader in the BDS movement, which calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel), had been tweeting his anger over the damage Israel was inflicting on Gaza. Those tweets drew the attention of Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens, who on July 21 published a post on the conservative website under the headline “America 2014: University of Illinois Professor Blames Jews for Anti-Semitism.”

Owens characterized Salaita as a “disgusting scumbag” and “world-class Israel hater,” and posted a selection of his tweets as evidence, including this one, posted by Salaita on July 19: “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.”

The Daily Caller piece, in turn, was cited in an article published in the Champaign-Urbana-based News-Gazette on July 22. It noted that Salaita was scheduled to start work at the U. of I. on August 16 at a salary of $81,000. It also mentioned controversy over an essay he’d published on Salon last fall about the ubiquitous call to “support our troops,” and quoted a few more tweets like this one from July 21: “While Israel bombs children in #Gaza, Zionists are busy trying to get #BDS activists fired.”

When the News-Gazette contacted the university for comment for that story, spokesperson Robin Kaler confirmed that Salaita would be on board as an associate professor, adding “Faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all our employees.”

By last week, when I called Kaler, the university had clammed up. Her e-mailed response: “As a matter of university policy and practice, we do not comment publicly upon nor discuss generally any personnel matters, including matters involving employment or tenure.”

In its statement, the Illinois AAUP committee wrote that it stands by Professor Salaita’s appointment.

“AAUP has a firm position that electronic communication and social networking are protected speech,” Kirstein told me last week. “You’re speaking as a citizen on public issues.” And then there’s the matter of due process, he added: as far as we know, “This man has not been able to defend himself.”

Kirstein added that this is a pattern we’ve seen here in Illinois, “where professors are persecuted and destroyed or have a course taken away or are denied tenure because they take positions which some don’t like with regard to Israel and Palestine.”

At the end of last week, an online petition addressed to Wise in support of Salaita’s appointment was closing in on 11,000 signature

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Kirstein Illinois AAUP Report in Roanoke Times (Salaita Affair)

This is the article in the Roanoke Times on the Steven Salaita firing. Tonia Moxley has covered the Steven Salaita tweets for years and is an authority on his career and struggles against the thought police. She is one of the few reporters to have reached Salaita but he has not commented on the event. He apparently has not tweeted since August 1 which is unfortunate if he has been silenced due to apprehension of his livelihood and pursuit of his profession. It is terrible!

Posted: Friday, August 8, 2014 2:37

A former Virginia Tech English professor who sparked a national debate last year by criticizing the prolific “support the troops” slogan has apparently tweeted himself out of a job at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Steven Salaita, who writes widely on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict both in popular venues such as Salon.comand as an academic author, taught at Tech from 2006 until he recently resigned to take a job at Illinois.

The controversy began when Salaita took to Twitter last month to rail against the Israeli bombardment of Hamas-controlled Gaza.

“Only #Israel can murder around 300 children in the span of a few weeks and insist that it is the victim,” Salaita tweeted.

“If you haven’t recently been called a terror-loving anti-Semite, then I’m sorry to say that your critique of #Israel is totally weak,” read another Salaita tweet.

“#Israel’s message to #Obama and #Kerry: we’ll kill as many Palestinians as we want, when we want. p.s.: [expletive] you, pay me,” Salaita tweeted.

These and other tweets were picked up by pro- and anti-Israeli bloggers, and went viral. Soon after, Salaita’s job offer at the University of Illinois was apparently rescinded.

Salaita had already resigned from Tech, where he had taught in the English department. Tech spokesman Larry Hincker confirmed that Salaita was no longer employed in Blacksburg.

Reached Thursday, Salaita declined to comment on the employment controversy, saying he was unable to give an interview. The University of Illinois has also so far remained silent about the affair.

“As a matter of University policy and practice, we do not comment publicly upon nor discuss generally any personnel matters, including matters involving employment or tenure,” administration spokeswoman Robin Kaler wrote in an email to The Roanoke Times.

But the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Professors has publicly questioned why Salaita’s job offer was rescinded. The AAUP is a membership and advocacy organization for college and university faculty.

“I don’t approve of everything he wrote,” said Peter Kirstein, vice president of the Illinois AAUP and a history professor at St. Xavier University in Chicago.

“I think you have to be somewhat careful in what you say,” Kirstein added. “But you know this is a country that values free speech and to take away someone’s job because they don’t like what he says about Israel. It’s outrageous; it’s disgusting.”

The national AAUP issued a statement signed by President Rudy Fichtenbaum and Hank Reichman, first vice-president and chair of the AAUP’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure. It reads, in part: It “is not certain whether the job offer had already been made in writing when Professor Salaita was informed that he would not be hired and hence whether or not Salaita could be considered to have already acquired the rights accruing to a faculty member at Illinois.”

However, if he did have a contract with the university, “there is good reason to fear that Professor Salaita’s academic freedom and possibly that of the Illinois faculty members who recommended hiring him have been violated,” the statement continued.

Kirstein said that Salaita’s comments came during a military action, when heated rhetoric and knee-jerk reactions are common. But, he also suggested that the University of Illinois, after first defending Salaita’s right to his opinions may have come under political pressure.

“You had pro-Israel groups calling him an anti-Semite,” Kirstein said. “It happens all the time in this country around the Israel-Palestinian matter. Clearly there was public pressure on the university by pro-Israeli sources.”

“You don’t have to like his language,” Kirstein said of Salaita’s comments, some of which were laced with obscenities. “I believe he should have exercised better judgement …. But you have rights. And that’s the issue here. He has rights.”

On Friday, the trade journal Inside Higher Ed published a defense of the University of Illinois action written by longtime Illinois professor Cary Nelson. Nelson is also a former AAUP president.

“A decision not to present the appointment to the Board of Trustees was made by the chancellor,” Nelson wrote. It is “my understanding is that he had not received a contract,” and therefore did not have a right to a due process hearing before his appointment was rescinded.

“While universities need to study all positions on an issue, even the most outrageous ones, I see no good reason to offer a permanent faculty position to someone whose discourse crosses the line into anti-Semitism,” Nelson wrote.

Nelson also broached concern about Salaita’s tolerance for students whose views might differ from his own.

“Will Jewish students in his classes feel comfortable after they read [one of Salaita's July 8 tweets]: ‘Let’s cut to the chase: If you’re defending Israel right now you’re an awful human being,’” Nelson wrote.

Nelson also commented that he believed the university’s decision was not political because the Illinois faculty includes many who criticize Israeli policy and military actions.

Salaita’s Twitter feed has been inactive since Aug. 1.

He was set to start teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Aug. 16, according to The (Ill.) News Gazette.

The News Gazette reported last month that Salaita was to be a tenured professor teaching American Indian Studies. His salary was reported as $81,000.

In that report, Kaler was quoted as defending Salaita’s Twitter comments: “Faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees.”

But soon the university stopped commenting on Salaita.

This is the not the first time Salaita has been at the center of a political controversy. Last year he published aSalon.com commentary titled “No thanks: Stop saying ‘Support the Troops.’”

That commentary criticized the ubiquitous “support the troops” meme as a barrier to questioning of American foreign policy and treatment of returning war veterans. It caused a social media firestorm that pulled in Virginia Tech, too. Opponents called for the university to censure or fire Salaita, and the professor received death threats that were handled by Tech police, officials said at the time.

Hincker, the Tech spokesman, defended Salaita’s right to publicly express his opinion in that case, and said the university would defend his rights. But Hincker distanced the administration from Salaita’s statements, saying Tech was pro-military and pro-veterans, and that officials disagreed with the professor’s opinions. That stance caused some Tech faculty to call for stronger university support for Salaita.

Salaita is the son of immigrants from Nicaragua and Jordan. He was born in Bluefield, WVa., and raised in Bluefield, Va., and is a graduate of Radford University.

Over his academic career, Salaita has published six scholarly books that examine Middle East politics, Arab-American literature and culture and American treatment of Arab-Americans. His most recent book, a critique of Zionism titled “Israel’s Dead Soul,” was published in 2011.

Salaita is an outspoken supporter of the U.S. Campaign for the Ac

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Cary Nelson, Salaita and Speaking for AAUP

Cary Nelson and I are friends but have significant disagreement on the academic freedom limits of opposition to Israeli policy and military action related to Palestine. We disagree on the Salaita case since I wrote with Committee A (Illinois) on Academic Freedom and Tenure approval the first academic response to the egregious University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign firing of Steven Salaita.

He was quoted in an Inside Higher Ed piece on the Salaita case that broke the story in approving the firing of Steven Salaita for provocative tweets on Israel’s bombing of Gaza. Professor Nelson is the past president of the American Association of University Professors and my first thought was, “Who is he? He does not speak for the association.” Yet he does not claim to do so. He was identified accurately in the piece as “a longtime English professor at Illinois and a past president of the American Association of University Professors.” Dr Nelson does not claim to speak for anyone but himself.

While the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure contains an unnecessary and archaic burden, that professors “should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution,” it does not require such unnecessary disclaimers from A.A.U.P. members. While the initial story might have included opinion that opposed the Salaita firing, Nelson was merely responding, as he had every right, to a request for his viewpoint on the limits of academic freedom as it pertains to electronic, extramural communication. His association with the University of Illinois also contributed I am sure to his inclusion in the story.

The solid and useful A.A.U.P. statement that followed the Illinois Committee A rapid response to this mean spirited if not vicious blacklisting of Professor Salaita, appropriately distanced itself from the Nelson position and A.A.U.P. should be lauded for such a stance. Yet it stated that Cary does not speak for the A.A.U.P.:

We feel it necessary to comment on this case not only because it involves principles that A.A.U.P. has long defended, but also because Cary Nelson, a former president of the Association and a current member of our Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, is quoted as approving the Illinois Chancellor’s action. Professor Nelson is entitled to his opinions. Indeed, one of A.A.U.P.’s great strengths is our ability to bring together many differing viewpoints and ideas, including about the meaning of academic freedom. However, we wish to make clear that Professor Nelson’s comments do not reflect an official position of A.A.U.P. or of its Committee A.

I am not sure why A.A.U.P. felt it necessary “to make clear” that Dr Nelson was not speaking for the association. Admittedly his public position on Israel, opposition to BDS and support of firing Salaita certainly afforded him significant public space on this issue. I would prefer that Cary be challenged, vigorously so, as I have done but without suggesting that he has assumed a status within A.AU.P. that exaggerates his authority or position. Again, he has not.

Having said that, I am pleased that the current officers, Rudy Fichtenbaum and Hank Reichman are more zealous in tolerating disparate views on the Israel/Palestine conflict than we have seen under prior A.A.U.P. presidents. In addition, while both the Nelson and Fichtenbaum administrations opposed academic boycotts of Israel, I think the association has demonstrated greater vigilance, than during the Nelson presidency, to avoid demonizing or coercing faculty members or organisations that support the boycott of Israel. The intent behind the boycotts is noble to end the apartheid and ethnic cleansing that has prevailed for almost seventy years. The practice of boycotts does divide and lend itself to violations of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. Yes I do express my views and defend the rights of others to do so as well.

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Prior Salaita Battles at Virginia Tech Against Thought Police

Need we parrot this mantra to keep our jobs and “defend” our freedoms?

 

Professor Steven Salaita prior to his egregious termination at the University of Illinois, was frequently subjected to public outrage for his daring rhetoric in challenging American imperialism and ethnic cleansing. Similar to my own experiences in failing to be sufficiently patriotic: support the troops, pro-military, pro-war; pro-empire; pro-Zionist etc.

The Roanoke Times, in one of the loveliest regions of the country where Hollins, Washington and Lee. and Virginia Tech are located, has frequently covered Professor Salaita’s battles against the censors. Tonia Moxley, a reporter for the Virginia paper, Roanoke Times, was interviewing me on the Salaita firing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In the middle of our interview, she received a tweet from Salaita, claiming he was under a gag order She read it to me as we were talking on the phone. Yes, it is ironic that a reporter makes news in this manner!

After our conversation, I searched her prior articles on Professor Salaita and I am linking a very interesting piece here. She is obviously a very skilled and objective reporter. I find it interesting that Professor Salaita is the son of immigrants. His mother is from Nicaragua and father is from Jordan. He was born in Bluefield, West Virginia and raised in Bluefield, Virginia. How often does that occur? He graduated from Radford University, an institution that has several faculty I have known since either graduate school or previously at St. Xavier. His prolific scholarly oeuvre is well-known and need not be summarised here.

Professor Salaita is correct in debunking the notion of “supporting the troops.” I have frequently stated that such a slogan is nothing more than a diversion from the horror and  bestiality of war. By personalizing war, not with the murdered or wounded, but with the sacrifice and heroism of our troops, it makes it more difficult to oppose the actions of humans killing others. That is what war is: the human species turning on itself and killing its members. That is why Professor Salaita is apparently out of a job: for opposing THAT in Gaza!

Remember, our troops are not fighting for our freedom or liberty but for the imperial and financial gluttony of the ruling elites who benefit from war. Troops are not sacrificing themselves for your freedoms or mine, but for the shareholders of Boeing, the shareholders of ExxonMobil and the global ambitions of the hyperpower in the United States. Our troops are pawns in the game of imperial detritus and merit our empathy, and understanding but not idolatry. To think that a person with his ethos and passion for social justice and anti-discriminatory practices would be subjected to endless abuse and discrimination, is sad commentary on the fragility of freedoms ranging from free speech to academic freedom that we allegedly proclaim in the United States.

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CNN Cites Illinois AAUP Committee A Report on Salaita Case

CNN has cited Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure report on the Salaita case.  Peter N. Kirstein is the committee’s  chair and contact person for any information concerning our report. kirstein@sxu.edu

(CNN) – A pro-Palestinian college professor’s tenure offer at the University of Illinois was allegedly rescinded after he made anti-Israel tweets about the war in Gaza.

Dr. Steven Salaita’s case “is sort of unprecedented in a way,” said Baher Azmy, the legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights. The organization’s legal team has advised Salaita as they consider potential legal avenues.In October 2013, the university offered Salaita a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program, which Salaita accepted, according to Azmy. But on August 1, 2014, Salaita received a letter from Chancellor Dr. Phyllis Wise terminating the appointment.

By then, Azmy said, Salaita had resigned from his tenured position at Virginia Tech, rented his home in Virginia and was preparing to move his family to Illinois.

Virginia Tech Department Chair Joseph Eska confirmed Salaita had resigned and would not be returning in the fall. According to University of Illinois protocol, once an offer is made, the chancellor’s office must make a recommendation to the board of trustees for final authorization. Azmy said Wise rescinded the offer before it went to the board. Azmy said he believes the reason was Salaita’s “political expressions” in social media.

Salaita’s Twitter feed includes messages like “#Israel’s message to #Obama and #Kerry: we’ll kill as many Palestinians as we want, when we want. p.s.: f— you, pay me. #Gaza”Another post reads, “Only #Israel can murder around 300 children in the span of a few weeks and insist that it is the victim. #Gaza #GazaUnderAttack”

University spokeswoman Robin Neal Kaler said, “As a matter of university policy and practice, we do not comment publicly upon nor discuss generally any personnel matters, including matters involving employment or tenure.” In an open letter sent to Wise, Azmy cites “viewpoint discrimination” as the reason for the dismissal, calling it a “serious First Amendment violation.”

“He resigned from a job that gave him tenure, the pinnacle of academic achievement, with the expectation that he would have tenure at the next university and it was taken away in an unlawfully retaliatory way for his political views,” Azmy said.

CNN was not able to reach Salaita but spoke to his wife, who declined to comment other than to confirm her husband had been consulting with Azmy. CNN also was unable to reach Wise for comment. Neal Kaler did not clarify why last month she defended Salaita’s right to tweet his views during an interview with The News-Gazette, a local newspaper. She said then, “Faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom of speech rights of all of our employees.”

Salaita’s controversial views were no secret at the time the university made him an offer. He is the author of six books, including “Israel’s Dead Soul” and the “Anti-Arab Racism in the USA.” Salaita’s opinions, Azmy said, constitute the basis for his scholarly research, which was the reason he was offered the position to begin with.

Salaita believed the principles of academic freedom “would permit him to share his views without fear of censure or reprisal,” said Azmy. Wise’s move to block the appointment has drawn criticism and support. Cary Nelson, a longtime English professor at the university and a past president of the American Association of University Professors, supported Wise. He said, “I believe the decision not to offer him a job was the right one.” “I find many of his tweets quite loathsome —as well as sophomoric and irresponsible,” he said, adding that “while universities need to study all positions on an issue, even the most outrageous ones, I see no good reason to offer a permanent faculty position to someone whose discourse crosses the line into anti-Semitism.” Nelson has written on the topic of academic freedom in the past. In an essay posted on his website, he said academic freedom “is the principle that guarantees faculty members the right to speak and write as they please without interference from the university, the state, or the public.”

The Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors released a statement supporting Salaita.

“Professor Salaita’s words while strident and vulgar were an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East,” the statement read. “The University of Illinois cannot cancel an appointment based upon Twitter statements that are protected speech in the United States of America….”

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Salaita Case as a Warning for Prospective Hires

Not so fast University of Illinois!!

While the apparent firing or refusal to honour a contract based on tweets appears to be the crux of the travesty in the University of Illinois dismissal of Professor Steven Salaita, this should be a warning to others in search of employment within post-secondary education. Know your rights!

The American Association of University Professors’ (A.A.U.P.) document The Ethics of Recruitment and Faculty Appointments should be required reading for anyone seeking a job within the professoriate.

First: An oral offer means nothing unless it is in writing. Don’t rely on handshakes or other informal modalities until you receive a written contract “signed by the responsible institutional officer.” That would probably be a provost, president or academic vice president. It appears Professor Salaita did receive a contract and possibly last October.

Second: You are entitled to a written job offer within ten days of the phone call or even e-mail informing one of a successful job search. Ten days! That gives the university time to rescind or cancel the job offer. Sometimes budgets prohibit but dear reader, the university has ten days to withdraw a non-written job offer. It appears that the University of Illinois did not rescind this offer for at least nine months after it was proffered in October!

Third: A faculty member has a moral and ethical duty to resign if employed by another institution. While I suppose a leave of absence could be mutually agreed upon, AAUP does require that a resignation follow the acceptance of a written job appointment.  Most contract offers require a response within a certain period. I don’t know what was in the Salaita contract but I imagine he complied with the request for acceptance by a certain date. It would be bizarre if he did not, given the fact he honourably resigned a tenured position at Virgina Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Fourth: A contract must contain a significant welter of detail and explanations of the specific posiition and duties. Among these are:

Details of institution­al policies and regulations that bear upon the appointment. Specific information on other relevant matters also should be conveyed in writing to the prospective appointee.

If the University of Illinois voided a signed contract without explicit prior stipulation on matters unrelated to teaching, scholarship and service, it would be a violation of academic freedom and a breach of contract. There must be adequate cause, the right of an adversarial hearing and an explicit statement of charges prior to dismissal or voiding a written proffer of an appointment. If it is true that Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s letter to Professor Salaita contained no reason for his termination, that is also a prima facie violation of a multiplicity of A.A.U.P. documents and principles.

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Professor Salaita Apparently is Gagged: Free Advice

I was told while being interviewed by the Roanoke Times in Virginia that Steven Salaita had tweeted the reporter that he had been “gagged.” My guess is he has an attorney. If he is reading this, you are smart to remain silent.

I was on a gag order by my university as they were trashing me and speculating I went “off the deep end.” That will never happen again!! Since the University of Illinois has said nothing negatively about you, I see no reason for you to publicly enter the fray at this time.  If you are going for a settlement, I hope it is substantial, at least three years, and a last resort. I would also stop tweeting anything that could be used against you.

We don’t have a free country, never have had, if you count slavery and Jim Crow. I count that! So meanwhile don’t add fuel to the fire. Keep your views and positions, just cast them a little differently. I stand for principle all day long; I am giving you hard scrabble advice from one who knows what you are going through, although not identical in career implications.

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