Kirstein Illinois AAUP Report in Roanoke Times (Salaita Affair)

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

Posted: Friday, August 8, 2014 2:37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Soon after, Salaita’s job offer at the University of Illinois was apparently rescinded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But soon the university stopped commenting on Salaita.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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