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professors says the University of Illinois is violating academic freedom and standards of free speech, if it has withdrawn its pending appointment of Steven Salaita.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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