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 Additionally, if, as reported, the offer was rescinded based on Prof.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.