University of Iowa A.A.U.P. Supports Salaita in Letter to Phyllis Wise


2013-2014 Officers






Open Letter to Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise of UIUC Re Prof. Steven Salaita

September 13, 2014

Prof. Phyllis M. Wise


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Swanlund Administration Building

601 John Street

Champaign, IL 61820

Dear Chancellor Wise,

As the A.A.U.P. chapter at a university that, like yours, is a member of the C.I.C., we are writing to express our concurrence with the views and expectations that the national A.A.U.P. articulated to you regarding Prof. Salaita’s appointment in their letter dated August 29, 2014.1 We, too, view your decision as conveyed in your letter to Prof. Salaita of August 1, 2014, as incommensurate with A.A.U.P. policies on academic freedom, tenure, and due process.

No matter how much we all may prefer civility in discourse, we find untenable your ex post facto reason given on August 22, 2014, for your actions of August 1, that your university “will not tolerate … personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them,” a stipulation that free speech in a university community must be civil to be protected. That your position is indeed a limitation of academic freedom and the first amendment rights of students, staff, and faculty at the University of Illinois has been further demonstrated in an open letter on August 22, by Christopher G. Kennedy and the other members of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. In that letter, the Trustees state that “there can be no place for [disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice] in our democracy, and therefore there will be no place for it in our university.”

In open letters to you, numerous academic associations and scholarly experts have rightly rejected, as an impermissible constraint on academic freedom, the position that you and the Board of Trustees have asserted. The A.A.U.P. / A.A.C.U. joint 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure requires that when “college and university teachers … speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” The requirement that the speech be civil


as you define civility imposes censorship, and rescinding a tenured appointment on that ground constitutes the university’s most severe form of discipline.

Moreover, even if the standard of civility and its discernment were well defined, your discharge of Prof. Salaita would still constitute a limitation on a faculty member’s First Amendment rights that the Supreme Court has already rejected as constitutionally impermissible in a number of decisions, as several published open letters to you point out. The UIUC may find most instructive among these letters those from the American Historical Association (Aug. 31, 2014),2 the constitutional law faculty from around the country (Franke, Dorf, et al., Aug. 15, 2014),3 and the California Scholars for Academic Freedom.4 As the American Historical Association emphasizes in its letter to you of

Aug. 31, 2014, “[t]he First Amendment protects speech, both civil and uncivil. It does so for good reason.” We agree. There is no exception for public universities; on the contrary, in Keyishian v. Board of Regents 385 U.S. 589 (1967), the Supreme Court held that academic freedom is “a special concern of the First Amendment.”

We expect that the UIUC administration and Trustees will have noticed the skepticism expressed in many quarters regarding your claim that the civility of expression – itself inseparable from the content of protected speech – rather than Prof. Salaita’s specific political views was in fact what prompted his discharge. We share the conclusion that many readers have reached, on the basis of the 276 pages of emails that your administration made available on Aug. 22, 2014 pursuant to a FOIA request,5 that your decision regarding Prof. Salaita’s appointment was affected by objections from donors, alumni, students, organizations, and others to the content of his speech expressed as a citizen on an issue of public concern. Regardless of whether such a reading of this correspondence is correct, the widespread impression that UIUC is failing to honor its commitment to Prof. Salaita because of his specific political views will be difficult to erase. Precisely such treatment of faculty members was the reason for the founding of the A.A.U.P. in 1914, and it is not compatible with the joint 1940 Statement of Principles.

For at least a hundred years, then, college and university trustees and administrations have been subject to external pressures not to hire and not to retain faculty members whose intramural or extramural speech is controversial at a particular time. We urge you and the University of Illinois Board of Trustees not to yield to such passionate but temporary pressures from those who do not fully appreciate the importance for academe and democracy of defending speech with which we disagree – we do not, after all, require a First Amendment to protect the freedom to express calmly




5 The emails:; see too

and temperately views from which no one dissents. We believe that, despite your decision of August 1, 2014, and the Trustees’ ratification of it on September 11, 2014, it is not too late to reverse course and restore Prof. Salaita to the tenured position he was offered in October, 2013.

Sincerely yours,

Katherine H. Tachau


University of Iowa A.A.U.P. Chapter

Contact information: Prof. Katherine H. Tachau, Department of History, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242;

cc: Mr. Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees

Professor Roy Campbell, Chair, UIUC Senate Executive Committee

Professor Rudy H. Fichtenbaum, President, AAUP

Professor Michael Harkins, President, Illinois AAUP Conference

Professor Peter Kirstein, Chair, Illinois AAUP Conference Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure

Professor John Prussing, President, UIUC AAUP Chapter

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