Steven Lubet’s Op-Ed Challenged in Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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