Kirstein Cited in Mondoweiss on University of Illinois Faculty Panel Report

Article is exhaustive analysis of reaction to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure report “On the Matter of Steven Salaita.”

I am mentioned as a critique of the report and its egregious failure to contact the professor but only interviewed the chancellor, Phyllis M. Wise, who fired Salaita last August because of her disapproval of his tweets during the Israel military actions in Gaza.

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Kirstein Mentioned in Jim Dey Salaita Column in News-Gazette

I had published an op-ed critical of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure report that investigated the Steven Salaita firing from the UIUC. Their dismissal of charges that outside donors and supporters of Israel had an impact on the firing and summary dismissal is hardly definitive. The CAFT failed to even contact much less seek information from the professor which is an outlandish oversight in a report that is intended to be balanced and bring to bear appropriate data from BOTH sides of the dispute.

Jim Dey, a conservative, skilled and able reporter, wrote an article in the Sunday, January 4, 2015 News-Gazette on the CAFT report that cites my critique of the CAFT report. This is the excerpt:

Jim Dey: No end in sight for UI’s Salaita controversy |

But Xavier University Professor Peter Kirstein, chairman of the Illinois American Association of University Professors, said it’s outrageous to conduct an examination of Salaita’s professional credentials as they relate to “protected political and professional speech.”

“The (committee) introduces a ‘professional fitness’ standard to determine whether Salaita’s tweets … demonstrate a lack of fitness,” Kirstein wrote in an analysis that described as Salaita as a “persecuted professor” being subjected to scrutiny that “confounds logic and vitiates the basic elements of justice.”

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AAUP Sends Third Salaita Letter to Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise

This is the third letter that the American Association of University Professors has sent to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Wise that emanated from the Salaita hiring,  summary dismissal and suspension. The first letter was sent on August 29, 2014.  The second letter was sent on September 9. The latest letter is somewhat unusual in that the AAUP is deferring the constitution and visitation of a three-person ad hoc investigating committee. Normally prior to a full-fledged investigation of violations of AAUP principles and norms, there is an on-campus visit.

I suspect the decision to bypass this procedure is due to the following reasons. There is a considerable amount of information already released by the University of Illinois administration as a result of FOIA requests, journalistic investigating reporting, and Professor Steven Salaita’s tweets that are on social media. It is also possible that the AAUP wishes to fast track a report that must precede any recommendation of censure. Once the report is published, then the Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure with the approval of the Council, could recommend a vote on censure at the annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in June. It would be difficult to complete this process within this period under the more deliberate and comprehensive process that is customarily employed.

Illinois Committee A, which I chair, played a seminal role in the process that led to the censuring of Northeastern Illinois University last June. Of course, there was an investigating committee that visited the campus and I was interviewed by the committee. The Illinois Committee also released the first professional statement condemning the firing of Salaita for tweets that were critical of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza last summer. Since our statement on August 6, 2014, the facts of the situation have only confirmed our worst fears: a professor has his signed and returned contract revoked because supporters of Israel found them to be very upsetting and provocative. We described them as “strident and vulgar” but emphasised the need to protect academic freedom and free speech in this country. We rejected a speech-code civility test.

The AAUP states in the letter that the UIUC Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure has done a sufficient amount of analysis and investigation that the AAUP need not engage in a similar exercise. I have been quite critical of CAFT both in the press and on the AAUP Academe blog. Yet the letter also states that it is not bound by the CAFT report, which is a senate standing committee at UIUC, and may reject or embrace all or any component. There has been some concern that the AAUP may recommend a further investigation of Professor Salaita’s fitness, as called for in the CAFT report. I find that very unlikely and speculation that AAUP would avoid enforcing its own principles in this matter utterly at variance with its prior actions.

December 30, 2014

Dr. Phyllis Wise

Chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Swanlund Administration Building

601 East John Street Champaign, Illinois 61820

Dear Chancellor Wise:

The approval and December 23 release by the UIUC Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) of its investigating committee’s report has certainly confirmed our belief that the issues raised by the case of Professor Steven Salaita are of the highest importance for the University of Illinois and higher education nationally, calling for an AAUP investigation and report.

The CAFT report upon its arrival was distributed to the membership of our standing Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the AAUP body responsible for the release and potential publication of investigative reports, and members of Committee A have been examining the CAFT report during the holiday break. Our staff executive director, who is responsible for authorizing investigations, has determined that in this case charging an AAUP ad hoc committee with conducting a site visit as the basis for a report would be redundant at best. The CAFT subcommittee has investigated essentially the same issues as would an ad hoc AAUP committee, assessing actions and positions taken in the Salaita case in the context of both UIUC official policies and AAUP-supported standards, which, more often than not, are identical. The executive director has accordingly asked Committee A to approve a report based on the CAFT report, including its three appendices, that will provide Committee A’s own findings and recommendations, which may agree or disagree in whole or in part with those of CAFT.

We expect within the next week or two to provide the concerned parties at UIUC with a draft text, inviting corrections and comments that Committee A will consider in approving a final text for publication.


Anita Levy, Ph.D.

Associate Secretary

Cc: Chair Christopher Kennedy, University of Illinois Board of Trustees

President Robert A. Easter, University of Illinois

Dean Barbara Jan Wilson, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Chair Roy H. Campbell, Senate Executive Committee

Robert Warrior, American Indian Studies Program

Steven Salaita

UIUC Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure:

David J. O’Brien, Chair, Fine and Applied Arts

Andrew G. Alleyne, Engineering

Melody M. Allison, Library

Matthew W. Finkin, Law

K. Gunsalus, Engineering

Christopher Roy Higgins, Education

Mark D. Steinberg, Liberal Arts and Sciences

President Harry Hilton, UIUC AAUP Chapter

Chair Bruce Rosenstock, Campus Faculty Association

Chair Henry Reichman, Members, and Consultants, Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, AAUP

Julie Schmid, Executive Director, AAUP

President Michael Harkins, President, Illinois AAUP Conference

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

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U.N. Security Council Vote on the Palestinian State and the Samantha Power Puzzle

The treatment of the Palestinians is one of the great crimes in modern history. A people dispossessed by zionism and reduced to penury and colonialism. The right of Israel to exist is not open to question or debate, but the nuclear power can afford to end the merciless oppression of these people in the open-air concentration camp of Gaza and behind the prison wall built on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Note the eight hero states that voted to end the suffering in Palestine. One more vote would have led to passage, unless the United States exercised its P-5 veto. Note Europe is divided finally with France and Luxembourg voting to accelerate the peace talks that would conclude within a year. Note the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland voted to abstain. Yes and\ abstention counts as a “no” vote or a soft “no” but it is not a “yes” vote which indicates some movement away from its “cultural and linguistic” adherence to it partner across the pond. The resolution also would require a Palestinian state and an Israeli I.D.F. military withdrawal from the Jordan Valley by the end of 2017.

Samantha Power, who portrays herself as the defender of oppressed peoples and the great crusader for the victims of genocide and state oppression, for some reason suppresses her crusading zeal when it comes to Palestine. I wonder why this privileged U.N. Ambassador or representative seems to have a double standard when it comes to Muslims in the Middle East? I wonder if politics and an innate bias toward Israel’s colonial subjects is the response? I don’t like hypocrisy and Ms Power is just a mouthpiece for continued oppression in the region. She knows that the Palestinian suffering resulted from their dispossession when the State of Israel was created in 1948, and exercises the most excruciating balance when addressing the suffering that they have endured.


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Kirstein Op-Ed in the News-Gazette on Salaita Panel at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This is the link to the op-ed I published on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure report on the Steven Salaita academic freedom travesty. In another publication, I emphasised that the committee showed a lack of balance in refusing to contact Dr. Steven Salaita or his counsel. They only consulted one side of the dispute: outrageous and simply indefensible.

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Socialism and Christmas! Eugene Victor Debs Freed and AAUP Lovejoy Years of Wartime Oppression


Christmas Day, 1921, the prison gates opened and Eugene Victor Debs was free at last! Other than Dr King and Henry David Thoreau, the great Debs is perhaps America’s beset known political prisoner. He spend a lot more time in prison that did Dr King and Thoreau during the Mexican War. Warren Gamaliel Harding, one of America’s most underrated presidents, displayed rare political courage in commuting Debs’s sentence to time served. He was liberated as a persecuted political prisoner from the American gulag that included the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. His “crime” was opposing the draft during The Great War (1914-1918). Debs was a five-time presidential candidate of the Socialist Party and while “campaigning” from prison in 1920, received his largest vote total of 914,191 votes. He garnered 3.41% of the vote which is an impressive number for any third-party candidate much less one imprisoned by corporate, militaristic America. Debs’s denunciation of war, his leadership in the rise of the labour movement during the epic Pullman Strike (1894) and his opposition to unfettered capitalism established him as one of America’s greatest figures in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Supreme Court justice that so-called liberal court historians revere, was the grand inquisitor during and after World War I. For a unanimous Supreme Court, Justice Holmes wrote the opinion that Mr. Debs’s anti-draft advocacy was an obstruction of the war effort and was excluded from First Amendment protection. As with the Charles Schenck case, Holmes frequently ignored the constitution and conducted these Supreme Court inquests to suppress brutally any expression of dissent that challenged the war-making authority of the government.

Examples abound of Mr. Debs’s riveting oratory that resulted in his thirty-two month incarceration as a prisoner of conscience during the Wilsonian, “War to make the world safe for democracy”:

I have been accused of obstructing the war. I admit it. Gentlemen, I abhor war. I would oppose war if I stood alone…. I have sympathy with the suffering, struggling people everywhere. It does not make any difference under what flag they were born, or where they live. . . . Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. . . And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.

They tell us that we live in a great free republic; that our institutions are democratic; that we are a free and self-governing; people. That is too much, even for a joke…Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship within all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. (Quotations from Howard Zinn, The Twentieth Century).

The American Association of University Professors was founded a century ago in 1915 during World War I, but two years before the United States entered the war in April, 1917. If Mr. Debs were a professor, the American Association of University Professors most assuredly would have declared his direct-action, civil disobedience did not merit academic-freedom protection. The A.A.U.P., in only its third year, released in 1918 a Report of Committee on Academic Freedom in Wartime. The report was chilling in its nationalistic deference to the U.S. government’s suppression of antiwar activism and protest. In particular the A.A.U.P. displayed an ethnocentric xenophobia when it proclaimed it “probable” that German or Austro-Hungarian born professors “desire the victory…and by implication the defeat of the United States and its allies.” It ordered them “to refrain from public discussion of the war,” and not to discuss with students or colleagues any “hostile or offensive expressions concerning the United States or its government.” It is a disgrace that the A.A.U.P. would so cravenly assault the academic freedom of academicians on the basis of national origin.

Arthur Oncken Lovejoy, along with John Dewey, were co-founders of the Association. Professor Lovejoy chaired the A.A.U.P. committee that wrote the Academic Freedom in Wartime report. Professor Lovejoy was born in Berlin, Germany in 1873. He was brought as an infant to the United States in 1875 at the age of two. His mother was German and his father was American. Yet the esteemed philosopher and intellectual historian, in a display of glaring hypocrisy, did not include himself as a potential security risk who might challenge the draft and the efficacy of marching off to war.

During World War I, Americans of German descent were hounded and persecuted either by draconian state action such as in Montana or by the national government. One can only speculate whether Professor Lovejoy’s prowar militarism was intended to escape any association with other German-born Americans that could lead to his loss of academic freedom or privileged social standing as an “elite intellectual.” Yet it is arguable that Lovejoy’s Germanic origins and his crusade against German-born academicians fueled the A.A.U.P. war against academic freedom. The A.A.U.P. co-founder joined the National Security League, a boisterous “preparedness group,” determined to get the U.S. into war and attenuate any internationalist opposition to the conflict.

The Nation magazine’s March 7, 1918 issue contained a courageous denunciation of the A.A.U.P. report as an assault on academic freedom. Titled, “The Professors in Battle Array,” it blasted the Association for delineating areas when a university could fire an antiwar professor without an initial government charge of disloyalty or disruption of the war effort. The Nation, a progressive beacon of independent judgment, charged the A.A.U.P. for undermining “the very conception of a university…The university method is freedom to discuss, freedom to differ, freedom to be in a minority.”

Professor Lovejoy responded to the magazine’s criticism in a letter to the editor on April 4, 1918. It is stunning that the A.A.U.P. co-founder attacked The Nation for supporting “complete academic anarchism.” He stated if the American university would allow unfettered speech during The Great War, it would essentially promote the spread of communism and bring to America, “the Lenines (sic) and the Trotzkys (sic).” This is almost thirty-five years before McCarthyism! Despite the persecution of professors who challenged the American entrance into an utterly senseless war, which led to 116,000 U.S. combat deaths and over 200,000 wounded, Professor Lovejoy claimed he sought limits to university dismissals related to pacifist extramural utterances.

The A.A.U.P. report episodically cautions against university dismissals during a period of almost Stalinist-type repression under the Espionage and Sedition Acts, even while refusing to challenge governmental repression of speech. Professor Lovejoy defended one professor who was fired during the war. The Report of Committee on Academic Freedom in Wartime defended an unnamed “distinguished man of science” from “an important university” who was fired after twenty-five years of service for “seditious or treasonable acts.” He had written a letter to his Congressperson challenging the draft and advocating that the army restrict its recruitment to an all-volunteer force. The A.A.U.P. described the professor’s removal as “a grave abuse of the power of dismissal.” It demanded a “trial” with academic due process and asserted that procedural safeguards are even more important during war than under “normal conditions.” Apparently professors from elite universities might qualify for academic freedom protection but not German or Austrian-Hungarian born professors or lesser lights who would take to the streets, much less the classroom, and challenge war and imperialism.

The report expresses a preference that the government and not the university sanction extramural utterances opposed to the barbaric slaughter then soaking the trenches from the English Channel down to Switzerland. Of course the A.A.U.P. should denounce, regardless of its source, any persecution of academicians resisting the barbarity and evil of war. No sanctions should be levied against antiwar protest, whether they are imposed by university administrations or the government.

While Sami Al-Arian was subjected to both governmental and university persecution that included imprisonment, the latter is more common. From Finkelstein to Chehade to Salaita, the bar has been lowered to monitor and punish research, teaching and social-media musings that criticize not only the United States but also the conduct of other nations such as the State of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Fine: remove the university from viewpoint cleansing, and the result will be far fewer academicians whom are hounded, fired, suspended and abused for exercising an irenic denunciation of war and the baby-killing tactics of collateral damage.

Many countries have truth and reconciliation commissions to recognize past wrongs. In many ways, the World War I A.A.U.P. report is a stain on the reputation of the American Association of University Professors that should be publicly acknowledged during its centennial with a reaffirmation of “never again.” The A.A.U.P.s early years reveal strict limits to its purported dedication to academic freedom. Lovejoy, an iconic, revered co-founder, leaves at best a mixed if not poisoned legacy. On the one hand there are the intrepid beginnings of codifying the parameters of academic freedom, and establishing the tenure system. There is also an intolerant, reactionary nationalism that silenced, with few exceptions, university professors who opposed the war.

The Nation challenged the A.A.U.P.s failure to respect academic freedom in time of war. We need to remember the past, thereby constructing a future with a more consistent ethic that rejects imposing a wartime exemption to academic freedom, the pursuit of the truth and the right of professors to demand peace and justice. As Debs walked free, so should professors now and forever.

I am grateful to Dr. John Wilson whose comment on an earlier post and e-mail introduced me to several of the documents cited above. Opinions are mine, of course, and this post, with some revisions, first appeared in Academe, the A.A.U.P. Blog. Long live socialism, long live freedom for the worker and for the establishment of health care as a right NOT a privilege.

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Fidel Castro and Malcolm X: great figures, great leaders

In 1960 the great liberator from Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista arrived for a United Nations General Assembly meeting. Fidel Castro, one of the great leaders of our time and certainly one of the most successful communist heads of state, was staying at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem. Malcolm X is his guest during this September gathering. Both have contributed much to national liberation movements in which subaltern, apartheid subjects were given a greater voice and hope of freedom amidst the horror of American apartheid and imperialist colonialism.

While Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 in the Audubon Ball Room in Washington Heights in New York City, Fidel went on to become the world’s longest serving president prior to his yielding the office to his brother Raul. President Obama announced last week that the U.S. would restore diplomatic relations with the island nation and attempt to puncture the blockade with or without the legislative cooperation by the dreadful haters in Congress such as Senator Marco Rubio.

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Kirstein on Iymen Chehade Academic Freedom Case at I.E.A. Higher Ed Conference

Peter N. Kirstein Illinois Education Association Higher Education Conference October 11, 2014 at Elk Grove Village

I speak today with one purpose: to demonstrate in a workshop manner why the Iymen Chehade case was successful and what is needed for similar outcomes on your campuses. The five components are union, AAUP, lawyer, publicity and administration.

The only case that Illinois AAUP has won or at least impacted that led to a positive result was the Iymen Chehade case. That alone would have made it a significant moment but the fact that Iymen is an adjunct professor at Columbia College who is ineligible for tenure and does not possess the same degree of academic freedom that tenure track or tenured faculty possess, makes the case more unique. The most vulnerable faculty member that we have investigated in an academic freedom violation wins his battle for a restoration of a course section that was removed due to a student complaint for screening 5 Broken Cameras that is vital in the area of compensation and professional work.

The first significant element was the presence of a faculty union. Some full-time faculty look at unions as undignified and more appropriate for hard-hat jobs or those who may not possess a Ph.D. While that elitism is diminishing, it is still present among many tenured faculty who see part-time faculty as part of the lumpenproletariat.

To make matters worse, NLRB v Yeshiva in 1980 was a hammer blow against full-time faculty organising on private campuses. The Supreme Court ruled in that union-busting decision that full-time faculty at private universities are managers, not employees and, therefore, don’t have the right to organise. Tell that to faculty members on non-union campuses that have no rights, no shared governance, and no effective recourse to challenge administration diktat. Tell that to a Norman Finkelstein, Namita Goswami or a Mehrene Larudee who were at non-union DePaul or to a Steven Salaita at non-union for tenured, tenure-track faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I did not feel like a manager when I was suspended several years ago for an antiwar email to the Air Force Academy. I did not feel like a boss when I was reprimanded. I did not feel like an employer when I was subjected to Gestapo tactics of abuse and intimidation from a nation clamouring to silence me and calling me as David Horowitz did in his book, The Professors, 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America one of the most dangerous professors in the US. Even a unionised faculty is not guaranteed academic freedom, free speech, shared governance and the right to challenge arbitrary administration authority. But it sure helps.

P-FAC was obviously significant in the Iymen Chehade case. It’s contract affords some measure of protection particularly among part-time faculty with the seniority of Professor Chehade. I don’t think, despite the credit that AAUP ILL Committee A received in engaging the case, that its role would have been as decisive without the careful and comprehensive summation of Professor Susan Tyma at various stages of the grievance procedures. Ill AAUP relied heavily on her conclusions of academic freedom violations and applied them to AAUP documents and reports. In January and February 2014 she filed grievance reports that were of great value to AAUP and we cited them in our March 25, 2014 report to Academic Vice President/Interim Provost Dr. Louise Love.

Professor Tyma in a significant February 19, 2014 memorandum affirmed “the union’s contention that the cancelation of the course was a denial of academic freedom… the fact that the college canceled only one and not both sections of the course establishes merely that there was a partial, rather than complete, denial of Mr. Chehade’s academic freedom.” Any denial of academic freedom is of great concern to the A.A.U.P.

Diana Vallera publicised the event on campus when Illinois Committee A needed closure and a consensus so that we would not belie our purpose by waiting endlessly for the facts. We knew the facts, moved on them and overcame some internal resistance.

Having AAUP intervention is certainly useful as well. I cite the other members of the Illinois AAUP Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure: Matthew Abraham, who left DePaul and was replaced by Iymen, Loretta Capeheart, Northeastern Illinois University, Walter Kendall, John Marshall Law School, John Wilson, Illinois Academe newsletter editor.

A third cog in this machine rolling toward academic justice was the grievant’s lawyer, Rima Kapitan. Counsel personally requested an investigation on March 19 2014 that contained a virtual legal brief and vital attachments of the P-Fac grievance, denials of grievance, and appeal of grievance denial. It also contained a sentence of considerable eloquence:

All of the complaints appear to have been politically motivated and similar to the types of obstruction experienced across the country by professors who have the temerity to present narratives that stray from the predominant political discourse in this country about Israel/Palestine.

Another significant component of a successful outcome is publicity, publicity, publicity. The Chehade case received demonstrations, panels and student protest on campus. While some professors fear public exposure, I think in the Chehade case and, just look at the Salaita case, it was a pivotal factor in the restoration of his second course on the Israeli/Palestine conflict. Get it into print, electronic media and use social media as well. The Chehade case was covered by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Chicago Reader, Arab Daily News website and podcasts and an AM radio station. I think the tipping point was the Chronicle story which, while somewhat harsh on Illinois AAUP’s Committee A report, did cause I think Columbia College’s administration’s to reverse course.

Having these four variables may induce the final piece of the puzzle: flexibility on the part of an administration to reverse course. I sent Dr Love on April 1, 2014 this email:

Dear Dr. Love:

Illinois AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure welcomes the decision to offer Instructor Iymen Chehade the opportunity to teach two sections of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict course for fall, 2014. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter and are pleased that your commitment to academic freedom that you so strongly affirmed in your e-mail of March 20 is so evident in these very recent curricular decisions.​

Best wishes,


Professor Chehade showed 5 Broken Cameras that cost him his course section. It was five components of the academic freedom struggle, union, AAUP, lawyer, publicity and administration that helped repair a broken process.

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Kirstein Remarks at Steven Salaita Columbia College Appearance

Academic Freedom Panel

Carolina Sánchez – Columbia College Chronicle: Steven Salaita speaking, Iymen Chehade and Peter N. Kirstein

Steven Salaita Panel, Sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine: October 8, 2014 Columbia College Chicago. This is a link to a post on the event on the American Association of University Professor Academe blog.

Academic Freedom is defined by the landmark American Association of University Professors 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Academic freedom gives professors the right to pursue research and publish its results. Academicians have “freedom in the classroom” to determine their pedagogy. They have the right to “speak and write as citizens…[and] should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.”

Several years ago I was suspended and reprimanded by President Richard Yanikoski of Saint Xavier University for sending an irate e-mail in response to an Air Force Academy cadet’s solicitation that I recruit students to attend a conference on that campus. Instead, I denounced American imperialism including the mistreatment of the Palestinians and the 1991 General Barry McCaffrey’s mass murder of retreating Iraqi soldiers at Basra during the Persian Gulf War.

The cadet was not a student of mine nor associated in any manner with St Xavier University. I refused the cadet’s invitation to recruit my students for a conference there and denounced violence, and the academic emphasis on killing that debases and demeans our purpose on this planet. The Wall Street Journal in two editorials supported my removal from the classroom three weeks before final examinations. The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times covered the story as did WGN radio and many television stations. The Weekly Standard, Frontpage, and conservative talk radio piled on and celebrated my suspension or demanded my dismissal. I could have been more polite and I apologised for the tone but here is the email that found its way to US military forces stationed throughout the empire who then sent thousands of e-mails to President Yanikoski seeking my firing:

“You are a disgrace to this country and I am furious you would even think I would support you and your aggressive baby killing tactics of collateral damage. Help you recruit? Who, top guns to rain death and destruction upon nonwhite peoples throughout the world? Are you serious sir?…No war, no air force cowards who bomb countries without AAA, without possibility of retaliation…You are imperialists who are turning the whole damn world against us. September 11 can be blamed in part for what you and your cohorts have done to the Palestinians, the VC, the Serbs, a retreating army at Basra. You are unworthy of my support.”

The public clamored that I could not teach effectively due to left-wing bias that was anti-American and anti-military. Mr. Yanikoski stated my e-mail was not protected by academic freedom because it was uncivil and did not respect others’ opinions. He did not respect mine and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise did not respect Professor Salaita’s opinions. Both should have simply said: “We do not agree with the statements made. They do not speak for the university. We disavow them and find them objectionable and inappropriate.” That is all that was needed. Case closed, move on!

I was tenured and was able to hang on to my job. Steven Salaita was tenured too but was caught in the web of bureaucratic technicalities when Dr. Wise and Christopher G. Kennedy, chair of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, violated his First Amendment guarantees of free speech and AAUP guidelines,  by claiming they could vacate a written contract offer some ten months earlier.

I did not suffer job loss; I did not suffer health insurance loss; I did not lose income; I was able to use the incident to advance my career both within AAUP and in lecturing and writing. Yet there are enough similarities between the Salaita case and my own to know what persecution is, what viewpoint discrimination is, what censorship is, what lying is when administrators and governing boards assert that someone whom they don’t agree with, must be an intolerant professor who discriminates against dissenting students.

Tonight and as long as it takes, I will stand by Professor Salaita and work to end this terrible injustice and vindictive treatment of a professor who displayed emotion while denouncing Israel’s violation of non-combatant immunity in response to Hamas’s rocket fire. Palestinian health officials say 2,139 people, most of them civilians, including more than 490 children, were killed in Gaza during the fifty-day war after Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8, 2014. Israel’s death toll was sixty-four soldiers and six civilians, including a four-year-old boy who died after a Hamas rocket hit a house in Eshkol.

I condemn Hamas’s attacks on Israel and the indiscriminate firing of rocketry. There is no place for violence and we need to denounce it regardless of the ends that are sought. We must abide by a higher moral law but Israel is a nuclear power with the keys to the US treasury and due to its strength, size and power should initiate concessions and confidence-building measures. It would reduce violence from both sides if Palestinians had a nation without an illegal concentration camp wall penetrating its West Bank, without the Israeli navy blockading the Gaza coastline and without illegal settlements annexing much of occupied Palestine.

Not much of academic freedom is left in this country particularly if one wishes to engage in a critical manner the founding of the State of Israel and its conduct since its establishment in 1948. We have the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The latter saved my job in threatening legal action and aggressive media coverage on WGN and elsewhere. While AAUP is improving, FIRE has a quicker response time and embraces direct-action tactics. AAUP, until recently, seemed uncomfortable in protecting speech that was critical of the prescribed narrative on the Middle East. The DePaul University Norman Finkelstein tenure-travesty case was tepidly addressed by the AAUP. The Salaita case, however, has induced a more vibrant and energised AAUP defence of its own values.

AAUP exercises soft law that emerged over decades in documents and reports in the Redbook that serves as the common law for higher education. Illinois AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure issued the first formal academic statement on the Salaita case within hours of the Inside Higher Ed article on August 6 and played a key role along with P-Fac in the Iymen Chehade controversy that many here are familiar with. The Salaita firing, the Chehade Israeli/Palestinian course-section cancellation, which was restored, and my suspension represent an assault on academic freedom both inside and outside the classroom. The three of us challenged the ruling elites of universities and colleges that wish to suppress a narrative that challenges the prevailing orthodoxy on the Middle East or American imperialism and its thirst for perpetual war and racist empire.

Academic freedom generally exists for those who don’t need it and is abandoned and marginalised for those who do. Professor Salaita had the First Amendment constitutional right as a professor at a public university to express those views as he did. He was a passionate defender of the defenceless as bombs were blasting over and among a poor and terrified population in Gaza. He expressed antiwar outrage with children being bombed, families destroyed, electric-power stations and homes leveled by American-manufactured fighter jets. While Dr. Salaita’s language was described in the Illinois Committee A report as “strident and vulgar,” the University of Illinois chose to decontextualise it from other tweets that stressed reconciliation between Muslim and Jew and that denounced anti-semitism. I have yet to hear Chancellor Wise denounce anti-Arab racialism. I doubt if Professor Salaita had aimed his tweets against Hamas instead of Israel, whether we would even be here tonight.

What is so disturbing about the Salaita dismissal case is that the University of Illinois bypassed the American Indian Studies hiring process and cavalierly made egregious assumptions about his teaching objectivity based on 140-character tweets. Neither my email to the Air Force Academy or Steven’s tweets, which are extramural utterances, have any bearing on one’s fitness in the classroom. Peer review classroom visits, asking a job candidate to give a guest lecture, examining syllabi and student course evaluations are how professionals evaluate teaching. Caving into fund raisers and e-mail campaigns from pro-Israel groups to deny students from receiving a balanced view­­­­­­ of the Middle East conflict was the real reason for the summary dismissal of Dr. Salaita.

In 1970, AAUP revised the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure that is relevant to the Salaita case:

“Paragraph 3 of the section on Academic Freedom in the 1940 Statement should also be interpreted in keeping with the1964 Committee A Statement on Extramural Utterances, which states: “The controlling principle is that a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness for his or her position. Extramural utterances rarely bear upon the faculty member’s fitness for the position. Moreover, a final decision should take into account the faculty member’s entire record as a teacher and scholar.” {Emphasis added}

As Illinois AAUP Committee A averred in its statement defending Professor Salaita’s academic freedom and right to academic due process:

We are unaware that the university has afforded Professor Salaita any due process. In the absence of due process, particularly if a contract were signed, any institutional action to reverse an offer of appointment would be a grave violation of academic due process. 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.

We shall see what happens next. I predict, speaking only for myself, there will be an AAUP investigation and a recommendation for censure of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign if there is not a restoration of Professor Salaita’s position as a tenured associate professor in the American Indian Studies Program. We need to keep the pressure on and the drean alive that justice will prevail.

Thank you

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Daily Illini on Salaita, Kirstein Panel

The Daily Illini references my blog post from AAUP Academe that I will be on an academic freedom panel with Steven Salaita and Iymen Chehade on October 8, 2014 at Columbia College Chicago. I had posted updates on Professor Salaita’s academic freedom Chicago speaking tour.

See article below:


Since breaking his silence on Sept. 9, Steven Salaita has quickly become an activist for academic freedom on university campuses. This week, Salaita will give a series of talks on his controversial rejected appointment at Chicago universities.

Salaita’s appointment to join the American Indian Studies program at the University as a tenured professor was denied by the Board of Trustees on Sept. 11.

The lectures were organized with student leaders of the organization Students Justice for Palestine. Salaita will begin at Northwestern University on Monday with a talk titled, “Academic freedom and campus censorship.”

According to a post on the American Association of University Professor’s Academe blog by Peter Kirstein, contributing writer and vice-president of the Illinois AAUP, Salaita will lead the talks, “not only to seek a reversal of the sudden cancellation of his appointment, but also to defend other critical-thinking academicians who dare challenge the ideological preferences of chancellors, presidents, and governing boards.”

Salaita’s legal attorney, Anand Swaminathan of Loevy & Loevy, could not be reached for comment.

In the post Kirstein said he will join Salaita and Iymen Chehade, professor of Humanities at Columbia College Chicago, during a talk on Wednesday at Columbia College.

Salaita also spoke to students last week in a separate lecture series organized with professors at Centenary College in Louisiana titled, “Religion Matters.” According to Kate Pedrotty, director of strategic communication at Centenary, Salaita was asked to attend the lecture before he resigned from his position as a professor at Virginia Tech.

Salaita gave a lecture on “Palestine in the American Imagination” based on his academic work, which compares Palestinians in Israel to Native Americans in the United States, Pedrotty said.

“I think it was a great opportunity for us to hear about what some of the complexities are in the question of academic freedom and how it should be protected – and not in some people’s opinion.”


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Steven Salaita to Speak on Several Chicago Campuses

Academic Freedom: The Struggle for Palestine on Campus Continues

I am honoured to be on one of the panels at Columbia College on October 8 with Steven Salaita, fired from a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for his viewpoint on the Middle East conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. Also it will be a pleasure to panel with Iymen Chehade, who had a course section removed due to a student complaint of 5 Broken Cameras: an award-nominated film on the West Bank striving of the Palestinians. Professor Chehade and I are on Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. For updates and current schedule see Facebook and AAUP Academe Blog.

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Kirstein is now Contributor to AAUP Blog Academe

Professor Aaron Barlow, editor of the the American Association of University Professors’ blog Academe, has invited me to serve as a Contributor. To my readers, regular or occasional, I appreciate the support you have provided me during my own controversies as well as my engagement with others. While my blog remains, I will be posting items on Academe too that encompass issues relevant to the Association. I will endeavor to maintain the same commitment and quality of writing that this appointment requires.

I hope you will follow me on this, going forward:

Today was my first blog post in Academe as Contributor.

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University of Iowa A.A.U.P. Supports Salaita in Letter to Phyllis Wise


2013-2014 Officers






Open Letter to Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise of UIUC Re Prof. Steven Salaita

September 13, 2014

Prof. Phyllis M. Wise


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Swanlund Administration Building

601 John Street

Champaign, IL 61820

Dear Chancellor Wise,

As the A.A.U.P. chapter at a university that, like yours, is a member of the C.I.C., we are writing to express our concurrence with the views and expectations that the national A.A.U.P. articulated to you regarding Prof. Salaita’s appointment in their letter dated August 29, 2014.1 We, too, view your decision as conveyed in your letter to Prof. Salaita of August 1, 2014, as incommensurate with A.A.U.P. policies on academic freedom, tenure, and due process.

No matter how much we all may prefer civility in discourse, we find untenable your ex post facto reason given on August 22, 2014, for your actions of August 1, that your university “will not tolerate … personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them,” a stipulation that free speech in a university community must be civil to be protected. That your position is indeed a limitation of academic freedom and the first amendment rights of students, staff, and faculty at the University of Illinois has been further demonstrated in an open letter on August 22, by Christopher G. Kennedy and the other members of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. In that letter, the Trustees state that “there can be no place for [disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice] in our democracy, and therefore there will be no place for it in our university.”

In open letters to you, numerous academic associations and scholarly experts have rightly rejected, as an impermissible constraint on academic freedom, the position that you and the Board of Trustees have asserted. The A.A.U.P. / A.A.C.U. joint 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure requires that when “college and university teachers … speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” The requirement that the speech be civil


as you define civility imposes censorship, and rescinding a tenured appointment on that ground constitutes the university’s most severe form of discipline.

Moreover, even if the standard of civility and its discernment were well defined, your discharge of Prof. Salaita would still constitute a limitation on a faculty member’s First Amendment rights that the Supreme Court has already rejected as constitutionally impermissible in a number of decisions, as several published open letters to you point out. The UIUC may find most instructive among these letters those from the American Historical Association (Aug. 31, 2014),2 the constitutional law faculty from around the country (Franke, Dorf, et al., Aug. 15, 2014),3 and the California Scholars for Academic Freedom.4 As the American Historical Association emphasizes in its letter to you of

Aug. 31, 2014, “[t]he First Amendment protects speech, both civil and uncivil. It does so for good reason.” We agree. There is no exception for public universities; on the contrary, in Keyishian v. Board of Regents 385 U.S. 589 (1967), the Supreme Court held that academic freedom is “a special concern of the First Amendment.”

We expect that the UIUC administration and Trustees will have noticed the skepticism expressed in many quarters regarding your claim that the civility of expression – itself inseparable from the content of protected speech – rather than Prof. Salaita’s specific political views was in fact what prompted his discharge. We share the conclusion that many readers have reached, on the basis of the 276 pages of emails that your administration made available on Aug. 22, 2014 pursuant to a FOIA request,5 that your decision regarding Prof. Salaita’s appointment was affected by objections from donors, alumni, students, organizations, and others to the content of his speech expressed as a citizen on an issue of public concern. Regardless of whether such a reading of this correspondence is correct, the widespread impression that UIUC is failing to honor its commitment to Prof. Salaita because of his specific political views will be difficult to erase. Precisely such treatment of faculty members was the reason for the founding of the A.A.U.P. in 1914, and it is not compatible with the joint 1940 Statement of Principles.

For at least a hundred years, then, college and university trustees and administrations have been subject to external pressures not to hire and not to retain faculty members whose intramural or extramural speech is controversial at a particular time. We urge you and the University of Illinois Board of Trustees not to yield to such passionate but temporary pressures from those who do not fully appreciate the importance for academe and democracy of defending speech with which we disagree – we do not, after all, require a First Amendment to protect the freedom to express calmly




5 The emails:; see too

and temperately views from which no one dissents. We believe that, despite your decision of August 1, 2014, and the Trustees’ ratification of it on September 11, 2014, it is not too late to reverse course and restore Prof. Salaita to the tenured position he was offered in October, 2013.

Sincerely yours,

Katherine H. Tachau


University of Iowa A.A.U.P. Chapter

Contact information: Prof. Katherine H. Tachau, Department of History, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242;

cc: Mr. Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees

Professor Roy Campbell, Chair, UIUC Senate Executive Committee

Professor Rudy H. Fichtenbaum, President, AAUP

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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James Montgomery Votes for Salaita: A Trustee With Honour

Trustee Montgomery

University of Illinois Trustee James D. Montgomery

UPDATE: the great, visionary trustee on YouTube:

On this date, September 11, 2014, the viewpoint-cleansing mob of  the University of Illinois Board of Trustees voted to fire Professor Steven Salaita by a vote of 8-1. James Montgomery cast the sole no vote. Who is this man that wears a badge of courage and is willing to defy his corporate, anti-academic freedom peers on the board? Who is this person that refused to go along with the vicious, illegal and immoral contract reversal that was executed on August 1?

Mr Montgomery taught at the University of Chicago Law School from (1994-1996; 2000-2006). He graduated from the University of Illinois and received his law degree from the University of Illinois School of Law. He has a distinguished career as a practicing attorney, scholar and lecturer. He was initially appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to the Board of Trustees in 2007. This is an appointment that the persecuted and I believe unfairly imprisoned former governor can be proud of and perhaps take some comfort in as he languishes in prison. Governor Pat Quinn reappointed him for another six-year term last year.

What is interesting is that on August 22, he did support Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise’s firing of Salaita that has triggered international condemnation of the action. Yet a month later,  demonstrating a willingness to listen and remain flexible in his thinking, he stated why free speech is not merely the protection of popular speech. This is revealing in the News-Gazette quotation of Trustee Montgomery during today’s Board of Trustees academic lynching and egregious silencing of a tenured professor:

Trustee James Montgomery expressed regret over signing a letter of support for Wise from Aug. 22. He is not saying he doesn’t support “our great chancellor.” He reflected on his challenging time on campus back in the ‘60s. Montgomery (a lawyer) said, “What makes this a great country… I can stand on a rooftop and call anybody an S.O.B.”

Boycotts, he said, are a concern. “We’ve had some bad miscues at UI in recent yrs, made some bad choices. I don’t think we need to add to that.”

His vote today to accept the appointment of tenured, associate professor Steven Salaita reminds me somewhat of the courageous intervention of John Peter Altgeld after the Haymarket Martyrs’ execution. He was a governor–with his name on a building on the Urbana campus–that pardoned the Haymarket survivors after so many were executed in 1887 for a crime they did not commit: a bomb blast in the Haymarket Square on May 4, 1886. Four were hanged for defying the union busting actions of Cyrus McCormick, advocating workers rights at the McCormick Reaper Works plant and a critique of unbridled capitalism. Altgeld never was elected again but was willing to stand for principle in an act of rare political dissent from the prevailing elite narrative that workers are expendable as are their supporters..

I am sure Mr Montgomery will not be reappointed, perhaps even be shunned by the conformist trustees that seek to preserve power and influence over principle. Perhaps Mr Montgomery will be asked to speak at student and faculty protest events to explain why he voted to accept the legal, and binding faculty and Liberal Arts and Sciences contract proffer to Steven Salaita last October. He stands alone now as a trustee who is an advocate for academic excellence and toleration of critical thinking. While his bravery and commitment to academic due process and academic freedom are in stark contrast to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign administration, let those of us who seek academic freedom and shared governance extend our praise and thanks for his vote today.

Roll Call:

Ricardo Estrada: no
Karen Hasara: no
Patrick Fitzgerald: no
Patricia Brown Holmes: no
Christopher Kennedy: no
Timothy Koritz: no
Ed McMillan: no
James Montgomery: yes
Pam Strobel: no
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Gender and Women Studies et al. Vote No-Confidence at University of Illinois

My source  on the Gender and Women’s Studies, Sociology and Geography  departments of votes of no-confidence and a demand for the restoration of the appointment of Steven Salaita was the Campus Faculty Association facebook page. It should be noted that G.W.S. students led the way. They were the first students on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus that took direct action in terms of appearing at meetings, speaking to the chancellor, Phyllis M.Wise and promoting very publicly the cause of resisting viewpoint cleansing at the Big Ten university. ‘

Here we are in the United States, sixty years after the dreaded McCarthyism Era of the big lie, suppression of critical thinking and the age of conformity, still suffering under the sword of powerful administrators destroying the careers of sensitive, more vulnerable faculty that opposed the burning of babies and the killing of civilian populations during war. Remember that is what Professor Salaita was tweeting about: the murder and strategic bombing of an open-air ghetto in Gaza in which the impoverished were being reduce to greater levels of misery and deprivation. And Dr Wise is concerned about civility? I am concerned about war and murder and harm to the vulnerable. That is my concern!:

Gender and Women’s Studies at UIUC votes no confidence, the 12th department to do so:

“The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois stands with our colleagues in American Indian Studies and calls for the reinstatement of our colleague Dr. Steven Salaita to the AIS faculty. We therefore declare no confidence in the leadership of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, President Robert Easter, and the Board of Trustees. We do not take this step lightly, but our commitment to the principles of academic freedom, shared governance, and the right of free speech in the service of social justice compels us to do so.”

And: The Department of Sociology and the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science and the Department of Education Policy and Leadership vote NO CONFIDENCE. So fifteen departments and programs have voted no confidence!! How can a chancellor remain in office, other than through elite empowerment by her president and Board of Trustees, with such a lack of support among her disparate faculties at the Urbana campus?

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A.A.U.P. Follow UP Letter to Chancellor Wise: Investigation May Follow

It is obvious that the American Association of University Professors is prepared to investigate the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. If the faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure issues a report that seeks restoration of Steven Salaita’s position and is ignored, it is clear that A.A.U.P. would investigate the summary dismissal of Professor Steven Salaita.

I would assume given the strong and dynamic letters that it has sent to U.I.U.C. Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise, if the C.A.F.T. were to support the dismissal of the professor, A.A.U.P. would still investigate given the egregious violations of numerous seminal A.A.U.P. documents and reports as contained in the Redbook–not to mention in the contract materials send to Professor Salaita last October! The issues, as Anita Levy states, are of “critical importance.” The Association should and I believe would investigate, if at the end of the day, Professor Salaita has not been restored to his position as a tenured associate professor in the American Indian Studies Program.

I received this as an e-mail attachment on September 9, 2014, Tuesday, from Dr. Levy at 1:56 P.M.:


Dr. Phyllis Wise

Chancellor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Swanlund Administration Building

601 East John Street

Champaign, Illinois 61820

Dear Chancellor Wise:

As you well know, the UIUC Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure has approved having a subcommittee “investigate the events that led to the University administration’s recent decision not to appoint Steven Salaita.” We see this as a positive step that accords with AAUP-recommended procedures for adjudicating disputes arising over issues of academic freedom and tenure.

The issues raised in this case are so critically important, and seen as such nationally, that an investigation by the Association would have commenced by now were it not for the role being assumed by the university’s committee.

We are informed that the subcommittee expects to produce a report promptly. We will continue to monitor developments closely and respond accordingly.


Anita Levy, Ph.D.

Associate Secretary

cc: Chair Christopher Kennedy, Board of Trustees

President Robert Easter

Interim Dean Brian H. Ross

Chancellor Wise

September 9, 2014

Page 2

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 Harry Hilton, President, UIUC AAUP Chapter

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Salaita Express: Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures Votes No-Confidence

Salaita Fair Treatment Express Swirls Across the Humanities at University of Illinois

This is the statement of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures that expressed no-confidence in the viewpoint-cleansing policy of the administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The wave of no-confidence votes at U.I.U.C. is reaching high tide as faculty unite behind Steven Salaita’s summary dismissal:

“On 4 September 2014, the faculty of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign cast an overwhelming vote of no confidence in Chancellor Phyllis Wise, President Robert Easter, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Through this vote, we, the faculty of EALC, express our strongest disapproval of Chancellor Wise’s decision to rescind a job offer with tenure in American Indian Studies to Dr. Steven Salaita and the endorsement of that decision by President Easter and the Board of Trustees. In our view, the university administration ignored the well-established and thoroughgoing review process for offering tenured positions at this university and disregarded long-cherished principles of shared governance by failing to consult with the academic leadership involved in the hiring of Dr. Salaita. This decision has serious ramifications for the university’s standing at home and abroad and contributes to an atmosphere of apprehension and insecurity. To prevent further damage to the University of Illinois and its reputation for scholarly excellence and inclusivity, we join other academic departments and faculty bodies across campus in voicing our lack of confidence in the leadership of Chancellor Wise, President Easter, and the Board of Trustees and in calling for the reinstatement of Dr. Salaita.”

Current tally: Eleven Programmes and Departments

American Indian Studies

Asian American Studies




Latino and Latina Studies

French and Italian

East-Asian Languages and Culture

Comparative and World Literature


Religious Studies

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Department of French and Italian Votes No Confidence at University of Illinois

The Salaita no-confidence tide has swept the humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. The latest to show courage and commitment to the university’s own statutes and policies is the Department of French and Italian that has registered a no-confidence vote in the administration in the wake of the Steven Salaita viewpoint-cleansing crusade at the flagship state university of the “Land of Lincoln.”

Clearly Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise has a problem on her hands. Her effectiveness as the academic leader of the campus, recognising the role of the provost, will be stymied with the growing faculty rebellion taking place. Were she to resign, it would  be an act of courage. Were she to reverse course and publicly endorse the reversal of the Salaita suspension without pay (summary dismissal), it would be an act of greatness especially if she were forced out by the president or the Board of Trustees.  That would represent sacrifice for the common good. Suddenly she would be seen as exhibiting uncommon reflection and the capacity to listen to her faculty and the voices of reason throughout the academy in the United States. Will she? Can she? Let us hope so because UIUC committed an inhumane act of administrative abuse of a colleague and it needs to be rectified.

This is an unofficial tabulation of departments and programmes that “got game.” The list grows quickly and I do have other endeavors than keeping a scorecard! Yet I think this is accurate. Now, I wonder when will the sciences or engineers step up and seal the deal? I will not judge a department; that is not the AAUP way. I will, however, hope that the conversation that has begun across several disciplines at the great university will continue to grow in order to address a severely wounded reputation and loss of respect among so many scholars and academics in the United States.

American Indian Studies

Asian-American Studies




Latino and Latina Studies

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Chancellor Wise v. University of Illinois Statutes

A little nomenclature. Private post-secondary institutions are governed by charters. Public colleges and universities are governed by statutes. Now that the day’s lesson has been completed, let us proceed.

Numerous reports have suggested that the decision to void a contract offer to Steven Salaita resulted from outside pressure. Inside Higher Ed, The Jewish Forward and the News-Gazette are just some of the publications that revealed efforts were made by local and national Israel Lobby groups to derail the appointment of  Professor Salaita. E-mail, letters, conferences and fund-raising pressures to fire the professor have been documented. Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise has denied that such influence played a role in her August 1 notification that he had been summarily dismissed which the American Association of University Professors has described as a virtual suspension without pay.

Yet the timing of this letter and the evidence that efforts were made from external parties to prevent Professor Salaita from teaching would be at variance with the statutes of the University of Illinois:

The  University of Illinois Statutes state explicitly that:

“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.”

Former AAUP President Cary Nelson, for example, while denying any role in the decision to revoke a written contract proffer believes that Salaita’s tweets are an extension of his scholarship and can, therefore, be adjudged in that manner. Of course it was the American Indian Studies Program that has the expertise and unit responsibility to make that decision. My point is: the statutes prohibit the coercion or sanctioning of a professor based upon “influences, from within or without the university” that impinge upon one’s area of scholarly interest. Clearly the destruction of a career, possibly; the immiseration of a faculty member who was promised a job and left a tenured position to assume it, would constitute an assault on the statutory protection of ” full freedom.” It would represent a stark attack on the protection of the academic staff.

While the term “law of inquiry” may require a more informed legal analysis, has anyone claimed that Professor Salaita broke a law? Has the University of Illinois averred that he engaged in illegal actions that constitute actions that are not protected in the paragraph from the Statutes quoted above?  The answer to both questions is “no.” While Emerson wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” I think the opposite is the case when applying statutory law or bylaws to the careers of academicians that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign claims it is obligated to defend.

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Chronicle of Higher Ed Salaita Debate Cites Illinois AAUP

‘A Growing Hunt for Heretics’? 1

Greg Kahn/GRAIN   Image of Steven Salaita from the Chronicle of Higher Education

‘A Growing Hunt for Heretics’?                            What is at stake in the Salaita affair

In a debate on the Salaita viewpoint cleansing case at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign between Department of English Professors Feisal Mohamed and Cary Nelson, the former cites the initial defence of Professor Steven Salaita by the American Association of University Professors Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. This statement on August 6 affirmed that Steven Salaita’s firing was a reprehensible violation of the basic principles and standards of the AAUP. This is the excerpt from the Chronicle of Higher Education article. See here the entire article and the excerpt below:

Chancellor Wise’s actions have been widely condemned in the academic community and beyond. A petition very quickly gathered 17,000 signatures; some 1,700 academics have pledged to boycott our campus in protest, and in the case of many English professors, that boycott extends to the writing of tenure letters. The Modern Language Association has made an official statement denouncing the decision, as have the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and the national AAUP.

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Chancellor Wise Concedes Errors in Salaita Persecution

Phyllis M. Wise told the News-Gazette:

Wise told The News-Gazette she has no plans to alter her decision, but said “there have been some errors in the process. People are on campus and working before their appointments are approved by the board. We need to correct that.”

This is an admission that the board frequently meets after a semester has started, hardly a new revelation, confirming its role is basically one of processing prior recommendations for appointments. If she intends to insert directly the Board of Trustees into assessing scholarship, teaching, service and “tweets,” then she is clearly challenging the very essence of shared governance and the primacy of faculty to determine faculty status. The current facts on the ground are that the BOT does meet after scores of faculty have begun their initial appointment and that an ex post facto reversal after unit approval cannot stand. If she is recommending that the board should meet and substantively review appointments prior to the beginning of a term, she risks even a greater crisis of mismanagement of basic principles in the appointment of faculty. It is not when the Board of Trustees meets, it is the inappropriate and arbitrary assumption of authority that it does not possess.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign chancellor stated another misgiving in the summary dismissal of Professor Steven Salaita:

But she admitted she wished she had sought more consultation before writing that letter.

“I think we need to go over the processes that I should go through in instances like this,” Wise said.”

While Chancellor Wise does not explicitly state her August 1 firing of Professor Salaita was a unilateral act as the News-Gazette claims, this is, perhaps, an admission that she acted improperly in bypassing the American Indian Studies Program and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences interim dean that had recommended and proffered Salaita a written contract in October 2013.  The “processes” that she claims need greater scrutiny and attention were clear enough at the time. If she is conceding that due process was violated in this summary dismissal, she is giving more ammunition to any legal challenge of this outrage or to any future fact-finding investigation of the American Association of University Professors.

In the News-Gazette there is a significant statement concerning academic freedom:

She also thinks university officials should review and consider spelling out what is and is not in the realm of academic freedom.

“There’s no hard and fast policy, and I think that one of the good things that can come out of that is a really active discussion, symposia, workshops, seminars on what is considered academic freedom and what is considered freedom of speech in light of digital media,” Wise said.

This is unexceptionable in principle. All postsecondary institutions should engage in self-examination and an intensive review of academic freedom and what it means. However there is a “hard and fast policy” when it comes to shared governance, academic freedom, and the powers of the Board of Trustees. Recognising there is leeway for universities to develop their own practices of academic freedom, it is not a wild west show. She chose to ignore essential documents of the AAUP that her university in its enclosures to Professor Salaita claim to honour: for example the essential 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. With regard to digital media, the AAUP has developed a comprehensive statement, Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications on the need to extend academic freedom and extramural communication into this realm.

I have no criticism of Chancellor Wise’s stated intent of opening up a dialogue. Yet it must reexamine the egregious violations on the UIUC campus of academic freedom, shared governance and denial of free speech rights under the First Amendment. It is not enough to seek possibly reform, if that is her objective, but to resolve and settle the central issue of the moment: That is the summary dismissal and monstrous firing of Dr. Salaita. This tenure travesty and viewpoint cleansing should be reversed now and then subsequently a comprehensive university-wide discussion of academic freedom and shared governance should commence.

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UIUC History Department Votes No Confidence

The History Department has joined the pro-Salaita no-confidence express at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This action represents the fifth program or department to register this action against Chancellor Phyllis Wise and the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Others are American Indian Studies, English, Philosophy and Asian American Studies.

The Department of History faculty voted overwhelmingly to approve the following resolution at its meeting on September 3, 2014.

Whereas academic freedom and a commitment to fairness and transparency in all academic procedures and practices, including faculty hires, form the foundations of the American public higher educational system;

Whereas Chancellor Phyllis Wise, on August 1, 2014, summarily and without faculty consultation, informed Dr. Steven Salaita that she would not forward his contract to the Board of Trustees, thereby voiding every preceding review by faculty and administrative personnel;

Whereas Chancellor Wise’s August 22, 2014, explanation for her action in the name of “civility” threatens to undermine the protection of tenure and the right to free speech, and obscures the role played in this decision by political pressure;

Whereas President Robert Easter and the Board of Trustees endorsed this violation of shared governance, due process, and academic freedom on August 22, 2014;

Whereas the American Association of University Professors in an August 29, 2014, letter to Chancellor Wise expressed its “deep concern,” and stated that “Aborting an appointment in this manner without having demonstrated cause has 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”;

The faculty of the Department of History 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.  We call on the Chancellor, the President, and the Board of Trustees to reverse this decision by reinstating Dr. Salaita.


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Salaita and AAUP Statement on Government

Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities is one of the seminal, classic documents of the American Association of University Professor. It was written in 1966 during the tumult of the Vietnam War when professors and students were demanding greater autonomy from the centralised, authoritarian structure of administrative control. This was the period of revisionism, of gender and ethnic studies emergence, of breaking away from the canon. One wonders since this statement was written some forty-eight years ago, whether progress has been stymied by the rise of the corporate university that is more concerned about image and public relations than the education of students.

The Statement on Government is a comprehensive exposition of shared governance which is the concept that a university, unlike a business or an autocracy ruled by a supreme leader, has various sources of authority that share the governance or decision making of the institution: the president, governing boards and faculty. Students are also part of this equation but frankly AAUP and other critical thinking groups are somewhat behind the curve in terms of student rights. The first three sources of authority have some overlapping powers where concentric circles intertwine but also a separation of powers that are uniquely dominant among a particular component. Campus rule is not contained within an entire domain of one of the major units but is shared. The sharing maybe autonomous authority equally dispersed or a shared power in which more than one of the units of authority-president, faculty, governing board-are engaged.

An area of great significance in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Steven Salaita case is faculty status. The Statement on Government is quite clear in stating that while administrations make the final appointment, the procedures in assessment and determining the qualifications of the professoriate rest with the faculty. While technically an overlapping power, the professoriate’s determination of faculty status such as an appointment of new professors should be accepted by the administration. This is the specific paragraph that I predict will continue to expand in importance if the AAUP embarks upon, as seems likely, a comprehensive investigation of the University of Illinois that could lead to censure:

5. The Academic Institution: 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.4 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. [emphasis added].

What is particularly significant about this passage is the admonition that when an administration reverses lower unit review of an appointment, it must be for “extraordinary circumstances” that could justify such an intrusion into this realm of faculty predominance in shared governance. An “extraordinary circumstance” would not justify firing a tenured faculty member for tweets that were deemed divisive by vested interest groups seeking viewpoint cleansing that challenged the indiscriminate tactics that were used by the Israel Defence Forces during the Gaza conflict.

While the university has communicated its reasons to the faculty, at least through widely disseminated e-mail, it has not in the minds of many justified that decision. It has not, however, communicated the reasons for violating a contract offer directly to Professor Steven Salaita. The August 1 letter contained no specifics and the August 22 roll out of statements was not addressed directly to the professor. It is my understanding the UIUC Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure is investigating. Their report presumably would be sent to the administration. This would constitute, of course, an example of faculty response as envisioned in the Statement on Government: “[F]aculty should, following such communication, have opportunity for further consideration and further transmittal of its views to the president or board.”

However, even if Chancellor Wise and the board of trustees allow a faculty response to the summary dismissal of Professor Salaita, the burden of demonstrating why “extraordinary circumstances” led to this decision will not be satisfied. Apparently the administration, without faculty input in determining the rubrics for faculty appointments, tenure and promotion, simply ordered that “civility” become a litmus test to determine fitness prior to board of trustees’ approval. It is obvious that the University of Illinois faculty was not consulted in this arbitrary new category beyond the classic triad of teaching, scholarship and service. It was simply proclaimed ex cathedra by Chancellor Wise and Board Chair Christopher G. Kennedy. That cannot stand and for these reasons, the very existence of shared governance is in peril at the University of Illinois.

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Better Late than never: A.H.A. Supports Salaita

The American Historical Association has written the following letter to Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign asking for the reversal of the summary dismissal of Steven G. Salaita that was initially proclaimed on August 1 and then subsequently on August 22, 2014. I am a life member of the A.H.A. since I joined in graduate school thanks to my parents giving me a membership when I completed my graduate studies. Today I feel the gift was worthwhile.

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Report: UIUC Wise to send Salaita file to Board


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) 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

“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.” 

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


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

Page 4

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.


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.

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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:


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: 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.


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