Chicago Tribune on Salaita Case and Kirstein, Illinois AAUP Role

Chicago Tribune reporter Jodi S. Cohen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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