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University of Illinois trustees vote to reject Salaita reinstatement

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The University of Illinois Board of Trustees met today to vote on whether or not to reinstate Professor Steven Salaita to his position with the American Indian Studies department at UIUC. Despite a sizeable turnout of students, faculty and community members in support of Salaita’s reinstatement, the Board of Trustees voted not to reinstate Professor Salaita.

Only one Trustee, James Montgomery, broke rank. Montgomery commented before the vote that he felt he had made a mistake by initially supporting the chancellor’s decision to rescind Salaita’s appointment. He reflected on his time as an undergraduate at UIUC, remarking that, as an African American, the campus often felt hostile to people of color, and that he was likely as vocal as Professor Salaita about issues of injustice. Montgomery also wondered aloud how the board’s pending decision would shake the foundation of shared governance on UIUC’s campus. Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Montgomery was alone among his fellow board members in these opinions.

The board meeting adjourned amidst chants of “Shame on you!” from the crowd. Soon after, a large rally formed outside the student union. Students, faculty, community members and union supporters gathered first around the Alma Mater statue and later in the quad to insist that the fight for academic freedom and for Salaita’s reinstatement would not end today.

Protest in support of Steven Salaita. (Photo: Twitter)

Protest in support of Steven Salaita. (Photo: Twitter)

Immediately following the board’s decision, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released a statement expressing profound disappointment. Maria LaHood, Salaita’s representative at the CCR Salaita said, “[The board’s] failure to rectify the University’s actions today and reinstate Prof. Salaita is more than a personal hardship for him; it is a blow to principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech that will have far-reaching consequences for the future of scholarship and the First Amendment. Worst of all, it means that these principles – invaluable to faculty and students everywhere, not to mention to the functioning of our democracy – can be trumped by the whims of wealthy donors.”

Professor Salaita also released a statement following the board vote:

I am disappointed in the majority of the Trustees and the action they took today. Being at the school on Tuesday surrounded by so many supportive students and faculty was a professional high point for me and reinforced how rewarding it would be to work in that community. I have offered to meet with both the Board and the Administration, but not one of them has spoken with me or ever heard my side of the story. They have no reason to doubt the high standard I have always maintained in the classroom. As I said in a less-notorious tweet, ‘I refuse to conceptualize #Israel/#Palestine as Jewish-Arab acrimony. I am in solidarity with many Jews and in disagreement with many Arabs.’ If they had cared to learn, they would have seen this and other tweets reflecting a similar sentiment. Given the Board’s vote, I am speaking with my attorneys about my options.

Samantha Brotman
About Samantha Brotman

Samantha Brotman is a Visiting Lecturer & Arabic Specialist at the UIUC's Intensive English Institute. She also works as a project coordinator with The Arab Studies Institute. She is an alumna of University of Oregon and of Georgetown University's MA in Arab Studies, where she researched Christian and Jewish Zionism. She drafted the Jewish Community Letter in Support of Professor Salaita in September 2014. Samantha has also helped to establish a chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace in Champaign, IL.

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26 Responses

  1. September 11, 2014, 4:03 pm

    This is a state school. They cannot get away with this crap. Fight on.

    • ckg
      September 11, 2014, 11:12 pm

      Indeed. That’s a key constitutional point, Giles.

  2. pabelmont
    September 11, 2014, 4:29 pm

    Very sad, but not unexpected. BoD people, like members of Congress and others, live in a sheltered world were things ordinary human beings value — like ivil rights, academic freedom, decency, etc. — are mere slogans, of no weights, and are brushed aside in favor of oligarchic interests — the things big money values, things like the possession and rough exercise of power.

    • W.Jones
      September 12, 2014, 12:28 pm

      I thought that they probably wouldn’t reinstate him, because people on Mondoweiss talked before about who is on the board, and a few of them sounded like religious nationalists. The other thing is that Wise likely already made her first decision in consultation with the board informally.

      Still, I had a hope that they might see the light after there was a campaign for his reinstatement and they learned more about constitutional academic freedom rights.

  3. seafoid
    September 11, 2014, 5:46 pm

    Very disappointing. The funding system for US universities is the problem.

    • ritzl
      September 11, 2014, 6:38 pm

      Yep, seafoid. It’s amazing how self-reinforcing this whole power cycle is.

      Fight another $T war (pick your starting point), de-fund education, make universities more reliant on outside donors, outside donors who also support another $T war…

      • seafoid
        September 12, 2014, 12:01 pm

        95% of income growth 09-13 went to the top 1%
        But it can’t go on forever. It never does in the US.

      • W.Jones
        September 12, 2014, 12:30 pm

        Welcome to capitalism.

  4. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    September 11, 2014, 6:48 pm

    Ali Abunimah was there. He interviewed a number of people, including an unforthcoming Chancellor Wise. Here he is interviewing Trustee Montgomery, who voted to reinstate Dr. Salaita:

    • seafoid
      September 12, 2014, 12:06 pm

      Thanks Philip

      Very impressive interview and points of view.

  5. michelle
    September 11, 2014, 10:46 pm

    test failed shameful
    now the only people who will feel safe attending
    this establishment will be those who support ‘Israeli oppression’
    every and all others will feel muted surpressed unsupported
    maybe they should rename it ‘little israel’ shameful
    G-d Bless

  6. Blownaway
    September 12, 2014, 12:51 am

    Sue the bastards. The emails alone make a compelling case

  7. DoubleStandard
    September 12, 2014, 2:26 am

    Good riddance. I’m so sick of these professors using “academic freedom” as a cover for forcing leftist propaganda down their students’ throats.

    Salaita has no legal or moral case.

    He was hired to teach American Indian Studies — his comments about Israel are unrelated to what he was hired to teach, and are certainly not academic in character. He decided to air his political views in a brash and offensive way that calls into question his ability to interact with students who don’t agree with him. Academic freedom protects his right to publish and teach controversial material; it doesn’t give him a free pass to say whatever he wants. If a professor commented on Twitter that he believes blacks shouldn’t have the same rights as whites, you would be (rightly) demanding his removal. I am not saying Israel/Palestine is as straightforward, but making the point that a professor cannot say whatever he wants in whatever he context he sees fit.

    Legally I believe the contract wasn’t yet finalized so it can be withdrawn. The judiciary tends to run conservative on labor stuff — and his tweets will be seen as offensive outside the BDS cult — so I doubt he will be able to compel his reinstatement, especially since the University has offered some financial compensation since he quit his other job.

    • Pretext
      September 12, 2014, 9:14 pm

      Funny. I don’t recall hearing his past students accuse him of lacking the ability to “interact with students who don’t agree with him.” Fer crying out loud, he was being brash on TWITTER and outside of the classroom. Context matters.

      Anyhow, that is besides the point. This is obviously really all about a state institution trying to exercise viewpoint discrimination in an unrelated public forum. If his lawyers can prove that in court, he’ll have 1st and 5th amendment grounds against UIUC.

    • Shingo
      September 13, 2014, 12:32 am

      ’m so sick of these professors using “academic freedom” as a cover for forcing leftist propaganda down their students’ throats.

      I’m sick of right wing Zio fascists lying about and misrepresenting the actions of Israeli critics. Salista forced nothing down anyone’s throats. He posted Twitter comments which no one w2as forced to read or even pay attention to.

      So yes, Salaita has both a legal and moral case.

      his comments about Israel are unrelated to what he was hired to teach

      And so were his actions when he posted those comments. He did not post then in the capacity as a teacher, nor was any student of his forced to read them, left alone accept them.

      The claim that his comment calls into question his ability to interact with students who don’t agree with him is debunked by his illustrious career and having been thoroughly vetted the UOI. His references were full of praise and his reputation beyond reproach.

      So again you are lying – like all hasbarats do.

      f a professor commented on Twitter that he believes blacks shouldn’t have the same rights as whites, you would be (rightly) demanding his removal.

      And if Salita had posted anything to that effect, we would be demanding his removal too. That’s not what Salita posted and nothing he posted was remotely that offensive let alone racist.

      Legally I believe the contract wasn’t yet finalized so it can be withdrawn.

      Wrong. His contract as indeed finalized or he would not have tendered his resignation from his previous job. And contrary to your claims, his tweets are not seen as offensive outside the BDS movement. They are only seen as offensive from within the right wing Zionist cult.

      • ziusudra
        September 13, 2014, 3:49 am

        Greetings shingo,
        Very well put.
        We remember my Catholic Church, who for generations blacklisted intellectuals, be it Copernicus, Galileo & many more till Martin Luther began the process of limiting their temporal prowess & Napolean severed them finally, ironically, we here in Germany are still paying for the losses they received till today at the sum of 500 mn Euro annually. Only Henry the VIII did it thoroughly, God bless the beast!

  8. Talkback
    September 12, 2014, 9:03 am

    Go Salaita, teach those opinion fascists a lesson in free spech!

  9. John Salisbury
    John Salisbury
    September 12, 2014, 6:31 pm

    Ali Abunimah’s series of interviews very revealing.Noble Montgomery aside nobody looked anything other than shameful and embarrassed.

  10. MHughes976
    September 13, 2014, 6:20 am

    I’ve had a lot of experience of university disputes. In the UK universities, at least those with royal charters, have statutes which explicitly prohibit dismissal or disciplinary action on the basis of unpopular opinion. This protection is not confined to a ‘tenured’ subset and non-renewal of a contract would count under UK law as dismissal. Presumably the situation in publicly funded US universities is not too different? Or is the distinction between tenure and non-tenure more emphatic?
    That said, I can see that the trustees would have thought that if they voted for Salaita they would more or less be asking Wise to resign and would have counted on ending the problem by persuading Salaita to accept a ‘generous’ settlement – a bit like the Palestinians come to think of it. They have top lawyers and top lawyers can get you out of (almost!) any predicament, particuarly if public opinion is reasonably supportive of your case. Most people in Illinois will, if the media have done their normal job, be thinking of Salaita as an anti-Semite or at least an annoying eccentric.
    When the next case of this kind arises, who will be more deterred? The individual who wants to express solidarity with the Palestinians in fairly sharp terms or the institution that doesn’t want bad publicity and a substantial payout?

    • Prof Ethan
      Prof Ethan
      September 14, 2014, 5:36 pm

      He wasn’t dismissed. The hiring process–corrupt on the Departmental level grounds of personal favoritism (the Chair was on Salaita’s dissertation committee), political collusion (they were close allies in BDS) and the fact that Salaita was not an expert in American Indian Studies–was stopped.

      • MHughes976
        September 15, 2014, 3:42 pm

        You probably know the legal terminology better than I do but to my mind there is a dismissal, in the morally significant sense, if someone is being paid and the payment stops – especially if the reason is not that funding for the work has dried up. If the original appointment was contrary to the rules of the institution (which may not have been properly explained) then I suppose we shall – or certainly should – see disciplinary action against those responsible. The person appointed is not particularly responsible for such things and the fair response would be to reopen the appointment process with that person as a candidate to be considered objectively.

      • LeaNder
        September 16, 2014, 12:56 pm

        You know what, Prof, this is–psychologically speaking–the most interesting part of your contributions here.

        Are you in essence suggesting that he is transferring his own human flaws or character deficiencies on “the Jews” out there? At least this seems to be a turn in the usual dirt that may well stick.

        What’s your field? Read any Patterns of Prejudice lately?

        That asked, as an afterthought, when I stumbled across Mondoweiss I was stunned by the sexual innuendo as last resort, usually when rational argument failed. Guess by whom? Surprise, surprise by the fierce defenders of the WOT and the defensive wall guarding Western Values against Arab hoards, or as they were called then :camel drivers, sand niggers as they were called at the time. I guess that may a basic pattern too. No?

      • LeaNder
        September 16, 2014, 1:00 pm

        “then camel drivers, sand niggers as they were called at the time..

        I wasn’t aware, I have to proofread now. Hopefully this is the correct html tag.

  11. Fritz
    September 13, 2014, 6:53 am

    New York Times has a Report about Salaita under the rubrique “Middle East” . Telling isn’t it?

    • Pretext
      September 13, 2014, 7:45 am

      Thank you Fritz. So predictable. Students need the Board to enforce the Palestinian exception to the 1st Amendment or else they can’t feel safe on campus. What a smokescreen.

  12. Prof Ethan
    Prof Ethan
    September 14, 2014, 4:27 pm

    The fact is that Salaita is an antisemite.

    Here is a collection of evidence.

    In “Israel’s Dead Soul” (his book in 2011) in the chapter on the Anti-Defamation League, Salaita wrote that “It is worth noting that numerous cases of antisemitic valdalism in 2007 and 2008 were found to actually have been committed by Jews” (p. 45).

    A very serious accusation, no? (and he’s not talking about israelis, or the israeli govt–he’s talking about JEWS.)

    There were about 630 cases of antisemitism reported in 2007 and 2008. Salaita cites a total of four. First of all–is that “numerous”?

    But second, in two of those four cases in the footnotes (pp. 146-147), Salaita INVENTS nefarious sneaky Jews. In one case, a girl had carved a swastika into her own leg. But the BBC report which Salaita cites says she was a German (and the incident had nothing to do with Jews at all). [The Tablet article last Saturday said that the ethnicity of the girl wasn’t mentioned on the BBC; this is incorrect.] Salaita here simply invented a sneaky nefarious Jew.

    A second case is Ivan Ivanov. Salaita describes it this way: Ivanov, “a Bulgarian Jew in Brooklyn was arrested in January 2008, for numerous instances of spray painting anti-Semitic graffiti on houses, vehicles, and synagogues. The New York Times reported that Ivanov was trained by the Mossad.”

    In fact, what the Times reported was that Ivanov told police that he was ITALIAN by birth, raised in Bulgaria and CLAIMED to have been trained by the Mossad. Here, too, Salaita had created a sneaky nefarious Jew –this time by falsifying a Times story in order to use the prestige of the Times to support his general thesis of Jews concocting antisemitic incidents– as if the Times had reported as a fact that Ivanov had been trained by Mossad. In fact, what the Times reported was merely the likely delusional account of a troubled man.

    Inventing false nefarious Jews in order to support a general accusation against Jews–that’s Exhibit A of antisemitism.

    And then there’s THIS, first pointed out by Martin Kramer:

    Salaita in “Israel’s Dead Soul”, writes the following: “It is well known by Palestinians that anytime one of them enters or exits Israel, regardless of nationality, he or she will likely undergo an anal or vaginal probe. These probes… aren’t intended to be pragmatic. They are acts of psychological domineering and political assertion.”

    This accusation is sheer invention. And the sexual imagery is traditional antisemitism: right out of Der Sturmer or “Jude Suss.”

    Those who read Salaita’s tweets smelled a rat. They were right. The antisemitism here is the *context* from which the over-the-top tweets come.

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