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ASA statement on Salaita: An ‘assault against the Program in American Indian Studies at UIUC ‘

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As evidence the Salaita firing is a catastrophe for the University of Illinois keeps stacking up, the American Studies Association (ASA), the oldest scholarly organization devoted to interdisciplinary study of American culture and history, issued a statement from their Executive Committee characterizing the UIUC administration’s decision to rescind the offer of tenured faculty position to Salaita’s as “a de facto assault against the Program in American Indian Studies at UIUC ” that sets a “dangerous precedence”.

Here’s their full statement:

The Executive Committee of the American Studies Association, which represents over 5000 scholars of American Studies around the world, protests the decision of University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise to rescind the offer of a tenured faculty position in American Indian Studies to highly regarded ASA member Professor Steven Salaita.

Professor Salaita was offered the position in October 2013 following a national search and evaluation of his scholarship based on its merit and contributions to comparative indigenous studies. The administration’s action in rescinding the offer in August 2014, after Prof. Salaita had resigned his tenured position at Virginia Tech, and just days before his classes were set to begin at UIUC, sets a dangerous precedent. This last minute top down decision with no faculty consultation and no reason provided violates the tenets of faculty governance. Alarmingly, these actions constitute as well a de facto assault against the Program in American Indian Studies at UIUC despite its carefully earned status as one of the leading intellectual programs nationally in its field. This decision if not overturned is sure to erode the confidence of scholars and students of American Indian and Indigenous Studies that UIUC is an open and welcoming institution that values equally their social, cultural and intellectual contributions.  Additionally, if, as reported, the offer was rescinded based on Prof. Salaita’s twitter feed and opposition to the Israeli invasion of Gaza, the university’s actions constitute a clear violation of the principles of academic freedom, contravene the University’s self-proclaimed valuing of diversity, and suggest an intolerable anti-Arab bias.

We call upon you to restore faculty governance, to respect the Department of American Indian Studies and the faculty peer review process in evaluating faculty for tenured positions, and to begin to rebuild the UIUC’s reputation as an institution of academic excellence by restoring Professor Steven Salaita as a tenured associate professor of American Indian Studies at UIUC.

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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17 Responses

  1. just on September 16, 2014, 10:06 am

    Thanks Annie. Fantastic and important letter of protest! My favorite part : “and suggest an intolerable anti-Arab bias.”

    This is also interesting:

    “Email contradicts Univ. of Illinois president’s statement on Salaita firing”


  2. jaspeace2day on September 16, 2014, 11:44 am

    Money does make the world go ’round be it for good or evil; with that said, hitting UIUC in the pocket book with a boycott by the students, faculty, administration, etc. seems to be in order….

  3. ivri on September 16, 2014, 12:26 pm

    It`s amazing how much energy people devote to fighting Israel, in the region and outside it, regardless of the meager real weight of the Israeli issue in overall Arab affairs and the real high cost paid for it. Outside the region: in Europe they storm stores that keep Israeli products and in doing so come to be seen as a threat to public order. Also showing bigotry vs. Jews does not help the Muslims own problem case in this regard – it in fact undercuts that. In the US we now have this and similar cases before.
    There will come a time when somebody in the Arab world will rise up pose the BIG question: Was it really worth it? Was it that central to our problems that we had to pay so much for that? I am waiting for that moment patiently.

    • Shingo on September 17, 2014, 8:43 am

      It`s amazing how much energy people devote to fighting Israel, in the region and outside it, regardless of the meager real weight of the Israeli issue in overall Arab affairs and the real high cost paid for it. – See more at:

      It`s amazing how much energy people devote to defending Israel, in the region and outside it, regardless of the meager real weight of the Israeli issue in overall Arab affairs and the real high cost paid for it. WHy does Israel and it’s supporters invest so much time with so many lobby groups Ivri?

      In Washington they hold annual conventions where Washington paid political hacks line up to kiss Israel’s butt. What’s up with that?

      At the UN, the US ambassador boasts about all the time she spends defending Israel. The EU tried to bribe the Palestinians with recognition as a state if they promise not to refer Israel war criminals to the ICC.

      What’s up with that? Was it really worth it?

    • Walker on September 17, 2014, 4:24 pm

      There will come a time when somebody in the Arab world will rise up pose the BIG question: Was it really worth it?

      As an American I ask my country the same thing about our official devotion to Israel, which costs us so very much and gains us so very little. Without Israel it’s quite possible that there would have been no 911, no Global War On Terror, and certainly far less well-deserved opprobrium for the US from around the world.

      Ah well, I mustn’t forget that Israel sometimes bravely stands with us when few others will.

  4. lysias on September 16, 2014, 1:43 pm

    Hit UIUC where it hurts. Who has standing to make a complaint to the board that gives accreditation to UIUC?

  5. MHughes976 on September 16, 2014, 3:35 pm

    Mind you, the heart of the matter is not discrimination against Native American studies but against an individual and against his opinions on a matter rooted far from American shores. Had he entertained and expressed opinions of the most radical kind against the way in which America was colonised and conquered by people of Euro extraction, and stuck to that topic, he would be probably be admired and honoured, maybe invited to lecture in Israel.

  6. seafoid on September 16, 2014, 3:40 pm

    I would like to know WTF Zionism has to contribute to the study of Native American issues other than being the Palestinian equivalent of manifest destiny.

    • just on September 16, 2014, 3:58 pm

      Excellent question.

    • just on September 16, 2014, 4:17 pm

      Furthermore, what does Zionism have to contribute to the US, Canada or any other government and its citizens?

      (seafoid– that comment of yours really hits home!)

      • seafoid on September 16, 2014, 4:43 pm


        I would go further and ask what Zionists are doing interfering with university issues when Zionism is a total cult where no questions are tolerated- hardly the sort of background that can be expected to add anything to education. …

        I miss Neil Postman.

  7. Nina F on September 16, 2014, 7:34 pm

    You can find a number of Salaita’s writings on; although those don’t explicitly address a major area of his research, which (as I understand it) is a comparative analysis of the Palestinians’ situation and the oppression of indigenous peoples of North America.

    The more deeply we research this topic—perhaps following Salaita’s example—the more readily we can find Zionism’s connection with Manifest Destiny, as you suggested, seafoid.

    I have access to an academic library, so I can read a number of articles he’s written on the matter. Plus, you can find the books he’s written on amazon.

  8. Nina F on September 16, 2014, 7:41 pm

    When I discover more about these comparisons, I’ll let you know what I’ve found out!

    What has Zionism to do with the US, Canada, or any other government? As we know, Zionism has had a tremendous influence on policy decisions—especially in the US, but in the UK and other countries in Europe as well. Whether or not you want to consider it a “contribution” (in a positive sense) is another matter.

    If you were to really research the history of Zionism, seafoid, I think you’ll find it’s much more complex than simply a “cult,” as you assert. Especially in the early decades and years of the 20th century (pre-statehood), Zionism was conceptualized—by many prominent thinkers—in very different terms than what we’re seeing today.

    • Mooser on September 17, 2014, 3:18 pm

      “What has Zionism to do with the US, Canada, or any other government? “

      Well, if you tended toward the right end of the political spectrum, you would see Israel as a model, and the do, and Zionism as a successful venture in creating a State.

      And they do.

  9. cleo on September 17, 2014, 2:15 pm

    Has anyone concerned with this situation looked on line to see what other tenured and near-tenured professors at the U of Illinois have posting on social media about current affairs in this and other areas that are sensitive? A comparison might show what the University allows some people more freedom of speech than others.

  10. piotr on September 17, 2014, 8:10 pm

    I would like to address the issue of whataboutery: are we selectively focusing on the activity of one lobby, neglecting other lobbies that may be even more powerful? In general, is lobby simply a benign form of exercising political freedom, citizens organizing to have a collective voice in the national political discourse?

    The general answer is that why lobbies are definitely a form of political activity, it is no more benign than driving as a form of locomotion. As those of us who witness various aspects of driving know, one persons pleasant ride can be a danger to life or limb of others — even they more often than not it does not pose any dangers. Same with political activity. One type of political activity is collecting the scalps of opponents. Israeli lobby can do it, NRA can do it.
    One thing in NRA favor is a larger degree of moral and intellectual consistency. At least, I did not observe NRA supporters dwelling on utmost importance of academic freedom when they felt that it would be good for their cause.
    Like them or dislike, one has to admit that NRA knows how to stick to their guns.

  11. W.Jones on September 19, 2014, 5:41 pm


    Now faculty and students in the campus academic senate will have a chance to weigh in when the senate holds its first meeting of the semester Monday in Urbana.

    It will set aside time for a discussion of the issue, which has raised questions about academic freedom, shared governance and free speech on campus. A resolution related to the case is also on the agenda, dealing with academic hiring procedures.

    The senate is scheduled to meet at 3:10 p.m. Monday in Illini Room C at the Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., U. Wise will preside over the meeting.

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