Trending Topics:

As Salaita’s case becomes a cause, U of Illinois issues declarations on ‘civility’

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
on 61 Comments
Steven Salaita with his son

Steven Salaita with his son

There have been several developments in the Steven Salaita firing case at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The university is obviously concerned that Salaita is becoming a cause celebre. Yesterday it issued two long statements describing Salaita’s alleged infraction as a violation of “civility.”

Salaita is now without a job, a home, and health insurance. His wife also quit her job to move to Illinois. Colleagues have formed a support group that urges folks to “Fight Back” and seeks donations to help his family.

Students at the Illinois campus will be holding a demonstration on Tuesday to demand:

The immediate reinstatement of Dr. Salaita with as a tenured faculty member in the Department of American Indian Studies.

University of Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise

University of Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise

Phyllis Wise, the chancellor of the university, finally published a letter on the case (in full, below), saying that Salaita’s views on Israel and Palestine had nothing to do with the case; but the university will not tolerate “disrespectful words… that demean and abuse… [others’] viewpoints.” An interesting standard if you are also going to encourage robust, provocative and intense discussion, as Wise also claims.

Board members at the university also issued a letter fully supporting Wise’s decision and expressing the same concern:

“Our campuses must be safe harbors where students and faculty from all backgrounds and cultures feel valued, respected and comfortable expressing their views.”

Some of the background: Salaita signed a contract with UIUC last October to teach American Indian studies, after receiving an offer from the dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences saying, “I feel sure that your career can flourish here, and I hope earnestly that you will accept our invitation.”

This summer Salaita left his job at Virginia Tech to move to Illinois. But then the Gaza slaughter began, and Salaita’s angry twitter comments about Gaza became controversial, because Israel supporters called attention to them. On August 1, the university chancellor used the fact that Salaita’s contract had not yet gone before the board of trustees to reverse the decision to hire him. That approval is generally a “rubber stamp,” the Chicago Tribune says.

Here is Chancellor Wise’s letter:

Dear Colleagues:

As you may be aware, Vice President Christophe Pierre and I wrote to Prof. Steven Salaita on Aug. 1, informing him of the university’s decision not to recommend further action by the Board of Trustees concerning his potential appointment to the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Since this decision, many of you have expressed your concern about its potential impact on academic freedom. I want to assure you in the strongest possible terms that all of us – my administration, the university administration and I – absolutely are committed to this bedrock principle. I began my career as a scientist challenging accepted ideas and pre-conceived notions, and I have continued during my career to invite and encourage such debates in all aspects of university life.

A pre-eminent university must always be a home for difficult discussions and for the teaching of diverse ideas. One of our core missions is to welcome and encourage differing perspectives. Robust – and even intense and provocative – debate and disagreement are deeply valued and critical to the success of our university.

As a university community, we also are committed to creating a welcoming environment for faculty and students alike to explore the most difficult, contentious and complex issues facing our society today. Our Inclusive Illinois initiative is based on the premise that education is a process that starts with our collective willingness to search for answers together – learning from each other in a respectful way that supports a diversity of worldviews, histories and cultural knowledge.

The decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel. Our university is home to a wide diversity of opinions on issues of politics and foreign policy. Some of our faculty are critical of Israel, while others are strong supporters. These debates make us stronger as an institution and force advocates of all viewpoints to confront the arguments and perspectives offered by others. We are a university built on precisely this type of dialogue, discourse and debate.

What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them. We have a particular duty to our students to ensure that they live in a community of scholarship that challenges their assumptions about the world but that also respects their rights as individuals.

As chancellor, it is my responsibility to ensure that all perspectives are welcome and that our discourse, regardless of subject matter or viewpoint, allows new concepts and differing points of view to be discussed in and outside the classroom in a scholarly, civil and productive manner.

A Jewish student, a Palestinian student, or any student of any faith or background must feel confident that personal views can be expressed and that philosophical disagreements with a faculty member can be debated in a civil, thoughtful and mutually respectful manner. Most important, every student must know that every instructor recognizes and values that student as a human being. If we have lost that, we have lost much more than our standing as a world-class institution of higher education.

As a member of the faculty, I firmly believe that a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois is a tremendous honor and a unique privilege. Tenure also brings with it a heavy responsibility to continue the traditions of scholarship and civility upon which our university is built.

I am committed to working closely with you to identify how the campus administration can support our collective duty to inspire and facilitate thoughtful consideration of diverse opinions and discourse on challenging issues.

Sincerely,
Phyllis M. Wise
Chancellor

But a “philosophical” standard for discussion of others’ “viewpoints” would seem to bar angry denunciations of the Soviet Union for invading the Ukraine, or of Communism for limiting human freedom, or of the United States for bugging millions of citizens and killing thousands of Muslims. That sounds absurd, of course; because this sensitivity really seems to go only one way, protecting the feelings of Zionists. Salaita is a Palestinian-American, who was expressing rage on twitter about the occupation of the West Bank and the massacre of hundreds of civilians of his ethnicity, by a foreign country supported by the U.S. He lost his job after pro-Israel folks made an issue of his comments.

Here, by the way, are two of the strongest tweets Salaita issued (and cited by the Chicago Tribune):

In June: You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.

In July: Every time my twitter feed updates, it seems there are new deaths in . kills civilians faster than the speed of 4G.

And here are two of my favorites. Salaita agrees with me on national interest:

1. Rednecks need a new slogan. Instead of “kick their ass and take their gas,” how about “ is a disaster, but Netanyahu is my master”?

2. Republicans are such tough guys, eager to kill 4 God and country. slaps around the US of A, though, and all they do is ask for more.

Notice that he insulted Republicans and rednecks. Somehow I don’t think Chancellor Wise was concerned about their feelings.

Here is a description of Salaita’s situation from the group formed to support him:

Salaita now has no job nor does his wife who quit her job in Virginia to support the family’s move, no personal home to live in, and no health insurance for their family, including their two year-old son…

100% of funds collected will go to Steve’s support and defense; funds are being collected on his behalf by friends, with his knowledge. Thank you for your generosity!

And this endorsement from Columbia professor Bruce Robbins, from “Why This Jewish-American Can’t Visit Urbana-Champaign”

“I will not rehearse for you the reasons why this firing is an outrage to anyone who cares about academic freedom or simple human decency. I’m sure you will already see them very clearly for yourselves…In punishing him for speaking up by taking away his job, Chancellor Wise has inscribed her name in a shameful list that includes Joseph McCarthy, among others.”

Here’s the letter from UIUC board members. I wonder if all of them signed.

Earlier today, you received a thoughtful statement from Chancellor Phyllis Wise regarding the university’s decision not to recommend Prof. Steven Salaita for a tenured faculty position on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

In her statement, Chancellor Wise reaffirmed her commitment to academic freedom and to fostering an environment that encourages diverging opinions, robust debate and challenging conventional norms. Those principles have been at the heart of the university’s mission for nearly 150 years, and have fueled its rise as a world leader in education and innovation.

But, as she noted, our excellence is also rooted in another guiding principle that is just as fundamental. Our campuses must be safe harbors where students and faculty from all backgrounds and cultures feel valued, respected and comfortable expressing their views.

We agree, and write today to add our collective and unwavering support of Chancellor Wise and her philosophy of academic freedom and free speech tempered in respect for human rights – these are the same core values which have guided this institution since its founding.

In the end, the University of Illinois will never be measured simply by the number of world-changing engineers, thoughtful philosophers or great artists we produce. We also have a responsibility to develop productive citizens of our democracy. As a nation, we are only as strong as the next generation of participants in the public sphere. The University of Illinois must shape men and women who will contribute as citizens in a diverse and multi-cultural democracy. To succeed in this mission, we must constantly reinforce our expectation of a university community that values civility as much as scholarship.

Disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice is not an acceptable form of civil argument if we wish to ensure that students, faculty and staff are comfortable in a place of scholarship and education. If we educate a generation of students to believe otherwise, we will have jeopardized the very system that so many have made such great sacrifices to defend. There can be no place for that in our democracy, and therefore, there will be no place for it in our university.

Chancellor Wise is an outstanding administrator, leader and teacher. Her academic career has been built on her commitment to promoting academic freedom and creating a welcoming environment for students and faculty alike. We stand with her today and will be with her tomorrow as she devotes her considerable talent and energy to serving our students, our faculty and staff, and our society.

We look forward to working closely with Chancellor Wise and all of you to ensure that our university is recognized both for its commitment to academic freedom and as a national model of leading-edge scholarship framed in respect and courtesy.

Sincerely,

Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
Robert A. Easter, President
Hannah Cave, Trustee
Ricardo Estrada, Trustee
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee
Lucas N. Frye, Trustee
Karen Hasara, Trustee
Patricia Brown Holmes, Trustee
Timothy N. Koritz, Trustee
Danielle M. Leibowitz, Trustee
Edward L. McMillan, Trustee
James D. Montgomery, Trustee
Pamela B. Strobel, Trustee

Paula Allen-Meares, Chancellor, Chicago campus, and Vice President, University of Illinois
Susan J. Koch, Chancellor, Springfield campus, and Vice President, University of Illinois

Donald A. Chambers, Professor of Physiology and Biochemistry; Chair, University Senates Conference

Jerry Bauman, Interim Vice President for Health Affairs
Thomas R. Bearrows, University Counsel
Thomas P. Hardy, Executive Director for University Relations
Susan M. Kies, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and the University
Walter K. Knorr, VP/Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller
Christophe Pierre, Vice President for Academic Affairs
Lawrence B. Schook, Vice President for Research
Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Treasurer, Board of Trustees

Thanks to David Green and Bill V. Mullen.

Correction: This post originally stated Salaita left a job at the University of Virginia. It was Virginia Tech.

philweiss
About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

61 Responses

  1. JeffB
    JeffB
    August 23, 2014, 9:49 am

    Well first off this kills the argument that he wasn’t submitted to the board. Now he was submitted to the board and rejected for cause. I think the key line is, “Most important, every student must know that every instructor recognizes and values that student as a human being.” It appears the board has made a definitive statement that his comments crossed the line into hate speech (“disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice”) and indicated an intent to engage in discriminatory behavior.

    I can’t imagine an Illinois court faced with someone in a position of authority whom they believe has expressed intent to discriminate by promoting malice not seeing that as a legitimate reason not to move forward on a contract. If they are willing to say what they said in that letter when deposed I have a hard time seeing how Salaita can win more than moving costs. Contract law only requires good faith after a letter of intent.

    I don’t agree with the decision on not offering the position. I can see a rationale for lesser discipline, like probation, and not granting tenure immediate tenure.

    But a “philosophical” standard for discussion of others’ “viewpoints” would seem to bar angry denunciations of the Soviet Union for invading the Ukraine, or of Communism for limiting human freedom, or of the United States for bugging millions of citizens and killing thousands of Muslims. That sounds absurd, of course;

    More generally I’m not sure how angry denunciations advance anything in academia. Academics should not be political activists. They should be studying phenomenon primarily not taking moral positions on them. That is answering true / false type questions not right / wrong type questions. So I agree with your analogy but disagree with your conclusion.

    • Xpat
      Xpat
      August 23, 2014, 12:28 pm

      “Academics should not be political activists.”

      The institution of the public intellectual is a vital one in society. Anyway, academia is packed with former senior government people.

      Why start to undo that with Prof. Salaita, of all people?

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        August 23, 2014, 6:15 pm

        @Elliot

        Anyway, academia is packed with former senior government people.

        Former is fine. Current not so good.

        Why start to undo that with Prof. Salaita, of all people?

        They aren’t starting with him. The issue of activist professors has been coming up for decades and their have been plenty of cases in other fields and on totally unrelated issues.

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      August 23, 2014, 12:46 pm

      They should be answering true/false type questions, not examining moral positions.

      I don’t think that I’ve ever read a more rigid, nonsensical definition of what academics ‘should’ be doing. Thank god I had professors with more profound interests. One of the most thought provoking courses I took as an undergraduate was on the history of trade unions in New England. My professor was a die hard lefty, who never hid his passion. And yet his bias (it’s stupid to pretend professors and the institutions they work in don’t have biases. See the commentary of one Hincker below) didn’t retard debate or learning. In fact I’d say it was a catalyst for deeper inquiry. Maybe students have changed and become fragile, thin-skinned babies as exemplified by whining zionists of the ‘that SAT question hurt my feelings’ variety. I hope not. If so, we’re truly screwed.

    • justicewillprevail
      justicewillprevail
      August 23, 2014, 1:28 pm

      “not taking moral positions on them”

      that should bar people like Dershowitz and his like-minded rabid zionist self-appointed censors then. Or most of the economics faculty. Not to mention the philosophy and arts, and the politics department.

      • adele
        adele
        August 23, 2014, 5:13 pm

        I rarely take JeffB seriously anymore. He has over and over and over again made completely inane statements and has been continuously taken to task for making unsubstantiated and/or outlandish claims.

        The fact that he can state “Academics should not be political activists” is another typical and outlandish JeffB comment that doesn’t in any way enrich or further our discussions. It is an absurd statement that defies and denies the historical importance of academic discourse in our political life. One may as well just say people who don’t support my political point of view should not be political activists.

      • jon s
        jon s
        August 24, 2014, 1:02 am

        Adele,
        (Comments have been discontinued on the other thread, so I’ll reply here.)

        I was in Gaza during my service in the IDF. Not pleasant.

        I was active in a group called MECA (Middle East Children’s Association) , which brought together teachers from both sides. Unfortunatley, it went belly-up. (Not to be confused with “Middle East Children’s Alliance”)
        Also I participated in encounters organized by IPCRI:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPCRI_%E2%80%93_Israel/Palestine_Center_for_Research_and_Information

        I don’t know why you accuse me of being “hostile” to Palestinians.

      • pjdude
        pjdude
        August 24, 2014, 1:32 am

        Maybe because it’s your open hostility to the idea of them being afforded their natural rights has human beings. And the fact your more than likely living a cushy lifestyle on property stolen from them

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 24, 2014, 12:07 pm

        “I was in Gaza during my service in the IDF. Not pleasant.”

        “I don’t know why you accuse me of being “hostile” to Palestinians.”

        ROTFLMSJAO!!!

      • just
        just
        August 24, 2014, 12:55 pm

        “Not pleasant”?

        Did you shoot and leave, only to buzz around buying goodies pre- Shabbat?

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 24, 2014, 11:55 am

        adele, you might as well get used to the fact that Zionists know everything.

      • jon s
        jon s
        August 25, 2014, 1:05 am

        Just,
        I hated serving there.
        I’ve never shot anyone .

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 24, 2014, 12:12 pm

        “He has over and over and over again made completely inane statements and has been continuously taken to task for making unsubstantiated and/or outlandish claims.”

        Zionism brings omniscience! And unlimited credibility!

      • Donald
        Donald
        August 23, 2014, 5:18 pm

        “that should bar people like Dershowitz and his like-minded rabid zionist self-appointed censors then. Or most of the economics faculty. Not to mention the philosophy and arts, and the politics department.”

        Add to this the climate scientists, the environmental studies people in general, physicists and engineers who fall on one side or the other of the nuclear power issue, scientists who intervene in debates about the effectiveness of this or that weapons system, etc….

        People who teach evolution and advocate for teaching it in public schools without having to give equal time to creationists should also keep their mouths shut, by JeffB’s standard. There’s a lot of intemperate language and behavior on that subject. There’s are fairly well known biology professors like PZ Myers and James Coyne (I think) who go beyond defending evolution and attack religion in general. Myers once somehow obtained a consecrated Host from a Catholic Church and desecrated it. (I don’t remember the details). I don’t care for that sort of behavior, but should he be fired? Lots of people out there who are ripe for firing if the JeffB principle takes hold and I don’t doubt a lot of people wish to see professors muzzled on all sorts of issues.

      • Philip Munger
        Philip Munger
        August 23, 2014, 5:24 pm

        Donald – I posted this to an earlier Salaita thread, in response to one of JeffB’s earlier rulings on his “standard.”

        Six years ago, I had a student in my music history class who was an excellent student, but was a fundamentalist Christian of the young creationist variety. She came to my office in tears one morning. Paraphrasing:

        Her: Prof. Munger, could you possibly help me?”

        Me: Any time I can [she was a close friend of my daughter]

        Her: My anthropology professor is LYING to us!

        Me: Oh dear. What kind of lie?

        Her: He is saying the earth is BILLIONS OF YEARS OLD!!!

        Me: It most likely is.

        Her: Oooohh!

        Me: It isn’t to early to drop. Maybe you can take geology instead.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        August 23, 2014, 6:25 pm

        @Donald

        Add to this the climate scientists

        Climate scientists who present information about climate science are answering true / false questions. That is within their domain. What they shouldn’t be doing is advocating for specific approaches to the environment. They can freely advise on the impact of various approaches to to the environment.

        physicists and engineers who fall on one side or the other of the nuclear power issue

        I’d have problems with physicists or engineers using their academic position to advocate for particular nuclear power approaches. Again they can freely comment on costs, benefits… But they shouldn’t be activists.

        scientists who intervene in debates about the effectiveness of this or that weapons system

        That’s absolutely fine. That’s answer a true / false type question not a good / bad type question.

        There’s are fairly well known biology professors like PZ Myers and James Coyne (I think) who go beyond defending evolution and attack religion in general.

        Again that’s fine. The existence or non existence of supernatural beings and whether they did or did not influence the history of this planet is a true / false type question.

        Myers once somehow obtained a consecrated Host from a Catholic Church and desecrated it

        And that I’d have no problem with him being disciplined for. That’s activism.

      • jon s
        jon s
        August 24, 2014, 6:16 am

        pjdude,
        I’m one of those around here who advocates two states, which is the solution which provides for a Palestinian state. So I certainly don’t deny their natural rights.
        I don’t know what you would consider a “cushy lifestyle”. I’m pretty much middle class. And I don’t live on stolen property .

      • pjdude
        pjdude
        August 24, 2014, 11:42 pm

        “pjdude,
        I’m one of those around here who advocates two states, which is the solution which provides for a Palestinian state. So I certainly don’t deny their natural rights.” do you advocate that be allowed to have a military? do advocate for them to have their legal right to return? thats right no you don’t. I’ve seen what you advocate as a 2″state” solution. one where the palestinians aren’t allowed to have to have the same things all other states have.

        “I don’t know what you would consider a “cushy lifestyle”. I’m pretty much middle class. And I don’t live on stolen property .” so cushy. and you by your own addmission live in sderot so don’t tell me your not living on stolen property cause you are. that you feel entitled to it doesn’t make it not stolen.

        so please don’t lie to me about how your for the palestinians. you have a proven track record of your wholesale support of your thug government,.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        August 23, 2014, 6:20 pm

        @justicewillprevail

        that should bar people like Dershowitz and his like-minded rabid zionist self-appointed censors then.

        With Dershowitz I wouldn’t say the biggest problem is his Zionism, because he’s in the law school and there is nothing particularly interesting in criminal defense law regarding Israel. The biggest problem I have his having run a large private practice while being a professor. I think you should either be a law professor or a lawyer. That kind of criss crossing is a clear conflict of interest.

        So yes I would agree that Dershowitz should have to quit one job or the other.

    • August 23, 2014, 3:36 pm

      Academics should not be political activists.

      No. We should leave that solely to rich Zionist Jewish donors.

      You hypocrite

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 24, 2014, 12:11 pm

        “No. We should leave that solely to rich Zionist Jewish donors.”

        And we are only weeks away from Zionists telling us that Rabbi’s should not be activists. They are just hired religious factotums who are obligated to adhere to the convictions of the Temple Board or owner. And should be fired if they don’t.
        I’ve already seen this argument and we’ll be seeing more of it. They are going to have to put the fear of God into some Rabbis.

      • jon s
        jon s
        August 25, 2014, 1:10 am

        pjdude,
        I never said that I live in Sderot. I live in Beersheva.
        If I did live in Sderot I’d be proud to say so.

        Are you sure that you don’t live on stolen property?

    • pjdude
      pjdude
      August 23, 2014, 6:57 pm

      um no he was rejected for cause. he was rejected for upsetting zionists. but naturally you’s say what ever bullshit is needed to protect yourself from admitting he is right and the university was wrong. cause jewish and zionist profs say far worse things everyday and they are never fired.

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        August 23, 2014, 7:12 pm

        @pjdude- Yep. This goes to the whole notion of supporters of Israel feeling “uncomfortable” by some angry-talk, while Palestinians have to live with those same supporters of Israel expressing unfettered, mainstream, administrative approval of their families being killed.

        It’s bizarre.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 24, 2014, 9:48 pm

        You know some day a Jewish person is going to make that “don’t make me uncomfortable” whine, and a person with a dark skin will let them have it.

        Let’s just say that people who are worried about getting even their inalienable rights respected are not going to have a lot of patience with somebody’s feeling entitled to be made “comfortable”.

        They have no shame, none.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        August 23, 2014, 8:43 pm

        @pjdude

        um no he was rejected for cause. he was rejected for upsetting zionists.

        Termination for cause is a legal term. It means an employee has committed a serious acts or act of omissions committed that adversely affect the company’s business in a material respect. Or in the case of a potential employee there assertion that they believe he intended to engage in such acts.

        Things like: substance abuse, unreasonable absences, falsification of documentation, misuse of company property. But it also includes misconduct in the workplace: sexual harassment, workplace violence, sabotaging a coworker’s work product. By making a positive assertion of cause rather then say a budget reason they make Salaita’s conduct admissible if there is a lawsuit. It also eliminates the claim that this was supposed to be a rubber stamp. For Salaita’s is going to have a high bar to climb to prove the University did not act with good will.

        There were multiple ways the University could have gone with a defense. For example they could have argued they eliminated the position for budgetary reasons and then Tweets would have been irrelevant. Or they could have argued he was unqualified, that not enough of Salaita’s work was in Indian studies. That they picked one is highly relevant and is something newsworthy in the announcement.

        BTW if you see my posts on this from the start; I’ve said the University was wrong multiple times especially with regard to the paperwork sequence. So now let’s see if you can admit you were wrong. :)

  2. ritzl
    ritzl
    August 23, 2014, 9:50 am

    How can one “reaffirm a commitment” to something one’s actions show that you have not commitment to in the first place. Aarrgh.

    I think if Keith (MW commenter) had a “Globalistan” (h/t Annie, Pepe Escobar) view on this I’d probably agree with it. In my college days jobs were relatively plentiful and people had options should their protest activities result in this type of treatment. Now jobs are scarce and public acts of courage and mild outspoken-ness like Salaita’s are dealt with with an iron fist. Engineered lack of economic options goes hand in hand with cramming down dissent.

    Just ruminatin’…

    Thanks for the donation link.

  3. just
    just
    August 23, 2014, 10:10 am

    Chancellor Wise made things worse with her “explanation”, imho.

    From 2013 UVA (Cavalier Daily managing board) editorial:

    “To take academic freedom for granted in the U.S. — where free speech is codified in our constitution’s first amendment — is a comfortable pose. But at American universities, academic freedom is not always a guarantee. Peking University’s lukewarm commitment to academic freedom comes in part from China’s distinct national priorities (protecting dissenters doesn’t make the list). But we in the U.S. have our own blind spots. For an example of national commitments overriding a concern for academic freedom, we need not look all the way to Beijing. Instead we can turn to Blacksburg.

    Steven Salaita, an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, published an Aug. 25 essay for salon.com in which he argued that the phrase “support our troops” stifles criticism of American military actions. Appeals to “support the troops” do little for the men and women who serve in the military. Such appeals do, however, help corporations that profit from war, Salaita contended.

    Salaita’s jeremiad against jingoism drew death threats, racist emails and demands for his firing. A few days after the article was published, Lawrence G. Hincker, the school’s associate vice president for university relations, issued a statement that acknowledged Salaita’s right to express his views, but joined decisively with the professor’s critics.

    “Institutionally and honorably, we support our nation’s troops,” Hincker wrote in the statement sent on behalf of the university. “While our assistant professor may have a megaphone on salon.com, his opinions not only do not reflect institutional position, we are confident they do not remotely reflect the collective opinion of the greater university community.”

    A letter published last Wednesday in the Collegiate Times signed by nearly 40 Virginia Tech faculty members expresses unease with the school’s eagerness to join Salaita’s critics.
    ….
    When faculty members are exposed to public attack, as Salaita was, their home institutions should stand by them instead of distancing the offending faculty member from the university community. The University of Virginia’s defense of climate scientist Michael Mann in the face of subpoenas from then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is an example of how an institution ought to act in accordance with academic freedom.

    Ironically, Virginia Tech’s response supports the central claim Salaita made in his article: that the mantra “support our troops” has become a sacred cow, something that you must endorse unquestioningly unless you wish to become a pariah.

    The merits of Salaita’s arguments, however, are beside the point. The point is that the role that intellectuals play in society is often a messy one. Thinkers and writers test received wisdom; they ferret out ideological blind spots; they offer opinions that are sometimes inconvenient to people in power. In short, they make trouble: and this is a good thing. In condemning Salaita’s views, Virginia Tech went a step too far. ”

    http://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2013/11/academic-freedom-from-beijing-to-blacksburg

    “This summer Salaita left his job at the University of Virginia to move to Illinois.”

    His job was at Virginia Tech as far as I know.

    • ritzl
      ritzl
      August 23, 2014, 6:57 pm

      Aye, just.

      The Earth is flat. Discuss, but always remember that the Earth is flat. What a ludicrous mentality for a modern engineering school (VT) to adopt. Steam powered ships…What the hoosis…?

      Expanding out a bit, this obsession with total conformity at home and abroad is going to bite Israel in the ass. It is not possible for homegrown, groundbreaking researchers to come out of such a coercive, conform-or-else society. There just isn’t a large enough “gene pool” of original thought in Israel to foster and grow them.

      I have to believe that the same concern must certainly apply to UIUC or VT or any other major university as Salaita’s firing becomes a larger issue. Given a choice, which of the best and brightest (and most innovative and energized) would attend a school with such a regimented, and again coercive, academic structure? I wouldn’t. It’s just a recipe and advertisement for mediocrity as the upper achievement limit. Why would anyone set mediocrity as a goal early on?

      That has to be “worst nightmare” kind of stuff for the UIUC trustees.

      • just
        just
        August 23, 2014, 7:23 pm

        “Given a choice, which of the best and brightest (and most innovative and energized) would attend a school with such a regimented, and again coercive, academic structure? I wouldn’t.”

        I was blessed, early on, with eyes wide open to the global situation (thanks to my parents and grandparents, etc). I would not, and did not, attend that kind of school, never mind pay for it!

        PS– I don’t consider myself one of the ‘best or brightest’, but I was and am fairly innovative and definitely energized.

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        August 23, 2014, 7:28 pm

        Exactly. And your vibrancy shows.

  4. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw
    August 23, 2014, 10:15 am

    Professor William Robinson of UCSB was a target of the Israel lobby, with a campaign of intimidation, silencing and political repression, in contravention of academic freedom and University rules, he describes his experience here…http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/25587-as-repression-escalates-on-us-campuses-an-account-of-my-ordeal-with-the-israel-lobby-and-uc

  5. Jim Holstun
    Jim Holstun
    August 23, 2014, 10:31 am

    Among the many contemptible things about Wise’s letter, this stands out for me: she doesn’t say A SINGLE THING about her reasons for breaking the contract. Just some assurances that it had nothing to do with Palestine-Israel (a lie, of course), and some nondescript academico-thuggish words about civility, etc., hoping people will intuit some connection.

    A deeply contemptuous and cynical performance. If there’s any justice, Professor Salaita will be employed by the end of the year, and Good Chancellor Wise will be seeking gainful employment elsewhere.

  6. seafoid
    seafoid
    August 23, 2014, 11:19 am

    How come the Mensches now are mostly Palestinian ?

    Maysoon Ziyad interview in Ha’aretz

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.611807#
    “Zayid has clear answers about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The supremacists want superior status to be granted, based on faith, and the indigenous population refuses to be subjugated … We all know the wall lets through thousands of Palestinian laborers without permits, daily. If security allows these people to be the workforce, I see no reason they shouldn’t be granted equal rights. Everyone would get along just fine if the Palestinians were granted equal rights and let out of their cage. There are extremists everywhere, including America … Once everybody is granted freedom and equality, the extremists will no longer wield any power.”

    The solution to the conflict, in her view, lies in establishment of a single secular democratic state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. She addressed this issue on the Daily Beast website last year. “I support one secular state, and … doing so does not make me anti-Semitic, delusional, or genocidal,” she wrote, adding that “being a secular state with equal rights does not deny the Jewish people their identity… Many will say, ‘But one state denies Israel’s right to self-determination’ … If your right to self-determination means denying the lion’s share of the indigenous population equal rights then it is not an internationally recognized human right …”

    She adds, at the end: “Make it crystal clear that I am not a normalizer, that I believe there is an oppressed and an oppressor. I am an advocate for equal rights and one secular state that is a safe haven for all its citizens. I am against the killing of civilians by anyone at any time. I am a hardcore advocate for nonviolence.” ”

    Hatred makes Zionism’s ass look enormous

  7. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    August 23, 2014, 12:20 pm

    I think a distinction should be drawn between what a professor says in a professional capacity, especially in teaching, and what s/he says as a private person. A high standard of objectivity, sensitivity and respect is desirable in the professional role, but that does not negate the right to a more passionate expression of views outside of the work role. Twitter messages to friends belong to the private sphere and it is illegitimate to use them to discredit someone’s professionalism.

    In practice, of course, it is often difficult to keep the two roles separate, and there is certainly a double standard. It is hard to imagine a professor getting into trouble for expressing “malice” toward Hamas, for instance.

  8. Xpat
    Xpat
    August 23, 2014, 12:33 pm

    If the Board of Trustees’ approval was intended to be more than a rubber stamp, they would have scheduled hearings of new hires way before August 1. Would Chancellor Wise have fired Prof. Salaita over his Twitter comments if Israel had attacked Gaza three months later and he was already on staff? If the answer is no, then she should have the decency to make Salaita whole. This is like a very late term abortion.

    • just
      just
      August 23, 2014, 12:43 pm

      Good point.

      “This is like a very late term abortion.”

      +1!

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 24, 2014, 11:59 am

        “This is like a very late term abortion.”

        It’s more like infanticide trying to excuse itself as a necessary-for-the-life-of-the-mother termination.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      August 23, 2014, 5:03 pm

      Good points, Elliot. Thanks for sharing them.

    • JeffB
      JeffB
      August 23, 2014, 6:51 pm

      @Elliott

      Would Chancellor Wise have fired Prof. Salaita over his Twitter comments if Israel had attacked Gaza three months later and he was already on staff?

      Almost certainly not. The bar for firing an employee is much higher than the bar for not hiring someone.

      If the answer is no, then she should have the decency to make Salaita whole.

      I love this idea. So anytime a client says to me they intend to buy XYZ service but they need approval I just go ahead and enforceably bill for the service. Wow sounds awesome. I’d probably triple my billings. Heck I could give some low level employee $10k and he’d commit to a $1m contract and then…

      Seriously. Think about what you are saying here. Contracts exist for a reason. Salaita was not under contract. The university issued a letter of intent. Salaita engaged in acts which caused them to change their mind. He incurred costs associated with preparing for the contract and he’s entitled to be compensated for those immediate costs.

      Adults in the USA are expected to understand contracts they sign. People with far less education and life experience than Salaita have signed brutal one sided contracts and then gotten screwed. Salaita is a terrible negotiator to have put himself in this position where he was expected to be this far out on a limb before the contract was signed. No question. But I’ve done things like that too with clients and with employers. Sometimes you decide to throw you money in the middle and take your chances. If things don’t work out you don’t get to keep the pot because most of the time you would have won the hand.

      • Xpat
        Xpat
        August 24, 2014, 8:43 pm

        “Salaita is a terrible negotiator to have put himself in this position where he was expected to be this far out on a limb before the contract was signed.”

        From what I have read, universities are notorious for mistreating junior faculty. Untenured lecturers are underpaid and overworked. The U of I is the behemoth. What “negotiating skills” was a junior professor supposed to bring to get the Board of Trustees to finalize the contract in a timely manner?
        What were his options in such an imbalanced situation? And how was he supposed to know that while this system has always worked in the past, he would be singled out because of his Twitter account about war crimes.

        You really sound heartless.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 24, 2014, 9:51 pm

        “You really sound heartless.”

        Oh yeah, when JeffyB is behind his keyboard, fighting for Zionism, he’s omnipotent!

      • Xpat
        Xpat
        August 24, 2014, 10:15 pm

        @ Mooser
        :)

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        August 24, 2014, 11:41 pm

        @Elliot

        Salaita isn’t junior faculty that was an associate professor position. I don’t know what you do for a living but as an employee I’ve negotiated with large companies for contracts before. If they want you, you have options. If they demand an unequal contract then you assume everything they say is a definite is a maybe until they hand you a check. Hell I’ve had big companies sign contracts with me and then break them, with a “what are you going to do take on our legal team?” As an adult you have an obligation to play your hand well, not stupidly.

        I can feel sorry he was overly harshly punished but he most certainly had options. For example the I9 is a problem. Mail it to them, it is on the IRS website don’t wait till you get there. If you have to fly down and complete the paperwork before the start date. Have the effective date of the contract be well after his start date. Or if you can’t swing it what is quite common, take an unpaid leave from his current position but don’t quit until the final contract is signed. Do not bank your life on a letter of intent. If they aren’t signing a contract yet, there is a reason it isn’t signed.

        What were his options in such an imbalanced situation?

        The same as any American dealing with an institution. See if they are flexible and if not protect yourself as best as possible against an unbalanced contract.

        And how was he supposed to know that while this system has always worked in the past

        It hasn’t always worked in the past. All the time tenure gets recommended by assistant deans and gets killed at higher levels. Every year thing like this happen. Rare yes, unheard or, no. Educated Americans are expected to be better negotiators than that. He’s both older and more experienced than my wife was when she went through the moving process and she handled it better. And before she was tenured she always counted votes at every level.

        You really sound heartless.

        If you mean I’m not a moron damn straight. Everyone has been promised stuff and had it fall through. There are people in his situation who signed unbalanced contracts with less than a high school education who can barely read, without the means to hire attorneys who then got taken to the cleaners. I feel sorry for them. A guy at Salaita’s level more of expected of.

  9. Dani
    Dani
    August 23, 2014, 1:56 pm

    It’s not about what it is about

    Recalling a maxim made famous by Irish journalist Claud Cockburn – believe nothing until it has been officially denied-, I’d like to provide some historical context to the explanations presented by the University of Illinois for not hiring a professor critical of Israel.

    (1938) A document Sigmund Freud was forced to sign by the Nazis in order to be allowed to flee Austria for England with his family: “I am pleased to confirm that up to this day, June 4, 1938, neither I or my family were under any pressure. Rather, Party officials have always properly and respectfully assisted me and my family.”

    (2013) State Attorney Angela Corey, special prosecutor overseeing the trial of George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin: “This case has never been about race”

    (2013) Reply of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, when asked whether the NSA collects any type of data on hundreds of millions of Americans: “No, sir.”

    (2014) NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton on the death of Erick Garner after several white policemen took him to the ground in a chokehold for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes: “I don’t think the issue of race entered into this at all.”

    (2014) University of Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise in a letter explaining her decision to rescind the hiring offer to Steven Salaita after strong objections surfaced about his tweets critical of Israel: “The decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel.”

  10. Pixel
    Pixel
    August 23, 2014, 8:34 pm

    .
    American Indian Studies Votes NO CONFIDENCE on Chancellor Wise!

    At an afternoon retreat today, the faculty of the American Indian Studies Program, which was to be Steve’s home on the University of Illinois campus, took a vote of NO CONFIDENCE on Chancellor Phyllis Wise for her blocking of Steve’s appointment and subsequent refusal to explain her position beyond nebulous talking points.

  11. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    August 23, 2014, 9:50 pm

    RE: “Here’s the letter from UIUC board members. I wonder if all of them signed.” ~ Weiss

    ANSWER: It appears that all of them signed, except for the governor.

    ~ ~ ~ University of Illinois ~ ~ ~

    ~ Board of Trustees ~

    Home » About the Board of Trustees

    Meet the Trustees

    The University of Illinois Board of Trustees consists of 13 members, 11 who have official votes. Nine are appointed by the Governor for terms of six years, and three student trustees (one from each campus: Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield) are elected by referenda on their campuses for one-year terms. One of these student trustees is appointed by the Governor to have an official vote. The Governor serves as an ex-officio member.

    [PHOTOS]
    • Estrada
    • Fitzgerald
    • Hasara
    • Holmes
    • Kennedy
    • Koritz
    • Estrada
    • Fitzgerald
    • McMillan
    • Montgomery
    • Strobel
    • Cave
    • Frye
    • Leibowitz*

    • Honorable Pat Quinn, Governor

    * Student trustee assigned official vote

    Officers of the Board

    Chair: Christopher G. Kennedy
    Treasurer: Lester H. McKeever, Jr.
    Comptroller: Walter K. Knorr
    University Counsel: Thomas R. Bearrows
    Secretary: Susan M. Kies

    Reference
    A list of current trustees by terms

    SOURCE [screen capture] – http://www.bot.uillinois.edu/meet-the-trustees

    • DICKERSON3870
      DICKERSON3870
      August 23, 2014, 10:25 pm

      P.S. ALSO SEE: “University of Illinois Repeals the First Amendment for Its Faculty”, by Brian Leiter, HuffingtonPost.com, 8/23/2014

      [EXCERPTS] Late Friday afternoon (August 22), the University of Illinois broke its three-week long silence on the controversy regarding the Chancellor’s revocation of a tenured offer to Steven Salaita, who had accepted a faculty position in the American Indian Studies Program at the flagship campus at Urbana-Champaign. Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy both issued statements explaining the revocation, but in terms far more alarming than the original decision itself. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees have now declared that the First Amendment does not apply to any tenured faculty at the University of Illinois. . .

      . . . At moments like this, one wonders: Where are the lawyers? Chancellor Wise and Chairman Kennedy have made statements that commit the University of Illinois to illegal because unconstitutional courses of action. They should resign, or be removed from office, before doing further damage to one of the nation’s great research universities. Their public statements make clear they are unfit to lead academic institutions in which both freedom of speech and freedom of research and inquiry are upheld.

      ENTIRE BLOG POST – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-leiter/university-of-illinois-re_1_b_5703038.html

      P.S. Brian Leiter is the Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the Center for Law, Philosophy and Human Values at the University of Chicago

  12. scott9854958
    scott9854958
    August 23, 2014, 10:10 pm

    How odd that I haven’t heard a peep about this story until I came here. Thanks Philip.

    I also think it’s a bit odd how much media coverage the St. Louis riots have gotten in the last 10 days. It’s almost as if someone wanted us to change the channel from dead kids in Gaza to looters and Al Sharpton. I’d call this an intentional conspiracy, but that would imply some folks actually got together on this, when of course they wouldn’t need to.

  13. wes
    wes
    August 23, 2014, 10:13 pm

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/08/06/u-illinois-apparently-revokes-job-offer-controversial-scholar

    Salaita says

    “West bank settlers go missing”

    If that what he says on twitter what does he do and say away from the public eye.

    obviously there is more here than meets the eye.
    also what were the reasons for leaving his original post

    • annie
      annie
      August 24, 2014, 7:57 pm

      what were the reasons for leaving his original post

      he got offered a tenured position at illinois university.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      August 24, 2014, 9:53 pm

      “also what were the reasons for leaving his original post”

      See? Amnesia! I told you. The poor schnooks. They’ll forget their own names next.

      • wes
        wes
        August 25, 2014, 3:14 am

        Mooser and annie great team,you guys would make a great couple,great

        This from the link i provided,must be the amnesia

        Salaita’s writing last year, while at Virginia Tech, drew fierce attacks (including death threats). In a piece in Salon, he questioned the idea that people should be asked in various ways to “support the troops.”

  14. Xpat
    Xpat
    August 23, 2014, 10:17 pm

    U of I is very popular in the Chicago Jewish community. I know of at least one department that received a hefty donation – including naming rights – from a Jewish family. Given that most of the Jewish community is Zionist, certainly the older and more affluent ones, it would be interesting to “follow the money.” It’s unlikely that many people outside of Jewish Zionists would agitate for revoking the job offer.
    Who are the alums with deep pockets who might have made the phone calls to Chancellor Wise?

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      August 24, 2014, 12:01 pm

      “Who are the alums with deep pockets who might have made the phone calls to Chancellor Wise?”

      More likely e-mails? And people are famously careless about their CC lists, too.

  15. CBC banned me for commenting on Israels genocidal extremists

    Respect Dr. Salaitas AND his views.

    A wilfully oblivious, shamelessly biased ‘university’ that can’t figure out what’s wrong with an American university serving the political agenda of a foreign nation, NEEDS healthy, intelligent minds.

    Desperately.

    Furthermore, the ‘university’ should be sued for fraud for weeding out professors of integrity, like Steven Salaitas. In return for their tuition, the students are supposed to receive an education; not an indoctrination.

  16. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    August 24, 2014, 9:02 am

    When someone is offered a job at a second university, he relies on that offer to give up his job at the first university — in common decency, and universal practice, he offers the first university a resignation and thus a (kind of a) chance to replace him.

    If an offer of a tenured job cannot be relied upon as a definite offer (as here, apparently), unuiversity professors will begin to demand the complete “rubber stamp” (or otherwise, as here) BEFORE tendering their resignations.

    Professors, particularly pro-Palestine professors: check with your lawyers before giving up any tenured job. Do not, repeat do not, accept a job (and resign a job) on the basis of an incomplete job offer.

    On the other hand, if the offer of a tenured position as actually THAT (and not merely an offer to seek such an offer from the tenure committee or trusttes, or AIPAC), and such offer were accepted, the university should be “stuck” and he could sue for consequential damages of their renigging (including damages arising from reasonable reliance on their offer — the giving up of remunerative jobs by himself and his wife).

    I sure hope the university has dug itself a deep hole, and not merely a deep hole from him and his family.

    • ritzl
      ritzl
      August 25, 2014, 3:00 am

      Exactly, pab. What UIUC did to Salaita is wrong on every level. It changes everything about the way professors are hired there. Bad faith MUST be assumed to be in effect. But then what prospect would even entertain a job at an institution where the initial relationship and ongoing operative principle (to conclusion of the hiring process, but ultimately in every single subsequent discussion with UIUC admin) is that necessary assumption of bad faith? What a poisoned relationship from the get go.

      In the process of harming Salaita, UIUC mangled its reputation beyond recognition and significantly harmed itself.

      Yet another example of how Zionism corrupts everything it touches.

  17. Stogumber
    Stogumber
    August 24, 2014, 1:09 pm

    By the way, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) gave Wise’s letter a critical treatment; here:
    http://www.thefire.org/u-illinois-totally-blows-salaita-defense/

    Interestingly, the rightwing and the leftwing camp have arrived at a certain level of networking or even cooperation in foreign affairs (because they depend on each others’ informations, I suppose); read for that the http://www.unz.com or the http://www.antiwar.com.

    But in matters of civil liberties, the two camps are today much more insular than ever before. You wouldn’t expect a rightwing organization to support a leftwing case and vice versa. This insularity is not only ineffective, it undermines the mere concept of civil liberties – because liberty can only exist where opposing camps grant each other the same degree of freedom as they demand for themselves.

Leave a Reply