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.

Sincerely,

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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