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Hundreds of scholars say they won’t engage with University of Illinois unless decision to block Salaita is reversed

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Steven Salaita

Steven Salaita

In the last 24 hours, sociologists and scholars of composition and rhetoric have organized two new statements of refusal regarding the Steven Salaita affair.

1. The sociology statement reads as follows:

Dear Chancellor Wise:

We are members of Sociology departments from around the world who write, regretfully, to inform you that we will not engage with the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign as speakers, or as participants in conferences or other events at Illinois, until you rescind the decision to block Professor Steven Salaita’s appointment to the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Many prominent academics have written eloquently about the chilling effect your decision will have on the free expression of dissident ideas by academics; legal scholars have argued that it is a violation of academic freedom and more fundamentally, of freedom of speech.

Diverse and discordant voices, voices that some find “difficult,” are key to the survival of our schools as living institutions. Critical thinking of the kind that can lead directly to political dissent is exactly what any faculty in any college or university worthy of the name must teach.

Please reconsider your decision. Until then, we will not engage with a university we otherwise admire in so many ways.

If you are a sociologist, and wish you to add your name to this statement, you can sign it here.

2. The composition and rhetoric statement is being organized by University of Arizona professor Matthew Abraham. It reads as follows:

Whereas academic freedom is an essential aspect of academic life and campus climate;

Whereas UIUC’s has violated the academic freedom of Professor Steven Salaita and the UIUC faculty who served on the hiring committee which approved his appointment;

Whereas parties external to the University of Illinois have influenced the administration’s disposition toward Professor Salaita’s appointment by bringing in irrelevant considerations, such as the content and tone of his Twitter messages, at the last minute and at the conclusion of the academic process;

Whereas the right to free expression as enshrined in the First amendment extends to all US citizens;

We the undersigned will not step foot on UIUC’s campus until Professor Salaita’s appointment is reinstated and Salaita is issued a public apology by you, the Chancellor.

If you are a scholar or professor of composition and rhetoric, and you wish to sign the statement, please email Professor Abraham at [email protected]

3. In the meantime, we now have 103 signatures on our political science statement, including William Connolly, Bonnie Honig, Adolph Reed, Vijay Prashad, Jacob Levy, Arang Keshavarzian, and many more. If you wish to add your name, please email Joe Lowndes at [email protected]

4. We have 122 signatures on our English statement, including Michael Bérubé, Priscilla Wald, Lisa Lowe, Bruce Robbins, and Moustafa Bayoumi. If you are an English professor and wish to add your name to the statement, please email Elaine Freedgood at [email protected]

5. We have 46 signatures on our philosophy statement, including Judith Butler, Jason Stanley, Hartry Field, Jennifer Saul, Paul Boghossian, Johanna Oksala, and Tamsin Shaw. If you are a philosopher and wish to add your name to the statement, please email John Protevi at [email protected]

As of now, more than 275 scholars have publicly declared their refusal to engage with the University of Illinois, in a variety of ways, until the university reinstates Steven Salaita.

Update (12:30 pm)

We finally have a statement organized by historians. Here it is:

As members of history departments from around the world we are deeply concerned by the recent decision to prevent Steven Salaita from assuming his appointment to the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. We believe that the university’s revocation of an already accepted offer due to the tone and content of political statements on social media about recent events in Gaza is a violation of academic freedom and sets a very negative precedent for intellectual diversity in academia. Until such time as the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign decides to allow Dr. Salaita to take the position he was offered and accepted we refuse to participate in any events on its campus including academic conferences. Listed institutions are for identification purposes. The individual scholars signing this petition represent only their own personal views and not those of their employers.

If you are a historian and wish to sign it, please email Otto Pohl at [email protected] or leave a comment on his blog post.

This blog post originally appeared on Corey Robin’s website.

Corey Robin
About Corey Robin

Corey Robin teaches political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin and Fear: The History of a Political Idea.

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8 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    W.Jones on August 14, 2014, 10:29 am

    Excellent.

  2. just
    just on August 14, 2014, 11:05 am

    This will be interesting in the extreme. Bravo to the scholars!

  3. Citizen
    Citizen on August 14, 2014, 1:20 pm

    Good move!

  4. Neil Schipper
    Neil Schipper on August 14, 2014, 4:26 pm

    To get perspective on Salaita, make a few simple substitutions to his public statements:

    “At this point, if Cheney appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Iraqi children, would anybody be surprised?”

    “Hamas, take responsibility: if your dream of a theocratic Palestine is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already.”

    “Note how the Germanic soul was pure and uncorrupted until it encountered Poles. Same old colonial discourse, different geography.”

    What do these all demonstrate? Deep complacency about reducing complex human affairs to cartoons; embracing a single narrative whole-hog; hipsterish, sanctimonious showboating.

    These are not desirable qualities for the university classroom.

    Amazingly, here’s part of his actual, verbatim “Pinned Tweet”: “it’s better to teach than to berate or shame.”

    That’s a fine slogan, but I don’t see much evidence that Salaita has the slightest notion of what it means to engage with someone who doesn’t already share his deeply held biases.

    • tree
      tree on August 14, 2014, 4:56 pm

      That’s a fine slogan, but I don’t see much evidence that Salaita has the slightest notion of what it means to engage with someone who doesn’t already share his deeply held biases.

      And you figured this all out from reading 4 or 5 tweets and nothing else he’s produced, and having never attended his classes, nor listened to him in person. How deep of you. I’ve deduced from your one comment here that there is little evidence that you are either qualified to do your job, whatever it is, or comment on any one else, as this comment of yours shows you are guilty of “deep complacency about reducing complex human affairs to cartoons; embracing a single narrative whole-hog; hipsterish, sanctimonious showboating.” It would only be fair and well considered of me to demand that you be fired.

      And yes, that’s sarcasm, but I’m pointing out that in your comment here you are doing the exact same thing that you are accusing Salaita of doing. But I’m sure you think that its A-OK when you do it.

      • Mooser
        Mooser on August 15, 2014, 5:28 pm

        tree, every one of them comes on like Schipper. Like Truth has finally arrived with them, and they will dispense it to us. Every damn one of them. And, of course, they are qualified to hand down a judgement on anything, from Twitter liability to “what a government does”.
        If an ideology could be maintained on pure presumption, Zionism would rule the world.

      • Neil Schipper
        Neil Schipper on August 15, 2014, 5:44 pm

        Steven Salaita = Caroline Glick

        Escalate! Escalate! Escalate!

        Many more dead babies on the way.

  5. Keith
    Keith on August 14, 2014, 7:48 pm

    I think that it is nice that Salaita is receiving this type of support, however, I would be surprised if it makes a difference. The decision to rescind his employment was based upon power considerations. Things are starting to get ugly, and the power elite are in no mood for compromise.

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