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Why the Salaita Firing Violates University of Illinois Statutes

Most of the debate about why the firing of Steven Salaita by the University of Illinois was wrong has centered on three areas: contract law (he already had an effective contract), Constitutional law (he was punished for his political views by a government entity), and the principles of academic freedom (he was punished for his extramural utterances in violation of AAUP principles). But there is also a fourth area where the University of Illinois infringed upon Salaita’s rights: the firing also violated the University of Illinois Statutes. To understand why, it’s useful to examine some misunderstandings of the AAUP principles and then explain how the University of Illinois Statutes are even more protective of extramural utterances than the AAUP.

George Leef of the Pope Center argues,

In its 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom, the American Association of University Professors said there should be some limits, in particular that professors should not introduce into their classes “controversial matter which has no relation to his subject” and when speaking as a citizen, showing “appropriate restraint” and “respect for the opinions of others.” But many professors have taken advantage of the perceived lack of boundaries, behaving like children eager to see how much they could get away with.

This is not a “perceived” lack of boundaries, but a very real lack of boundaries (otherwise known as “freedom”) for speech as a citizen. The only perception problem here is that some people, like Leef, mistakenly think that professors can be punished for a lack of “restraint” or “respect” under AAUP standards. This is an incorrect interpretation even of the original document. The 1940 Statement declares, “When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations.” Note that the “special obligations” part is in the very same sentence as “free from” censorship or discipline, which means that these “obligations” cannot be used to justify firing (or not hiring) a professor. Instead, the “obligations” are moral ideals for professors rather than disciplinary rules.

To clarify this, the 1940 Statement was immediately accompanied by an “interpretation” stating that discipline could only be justified if there were “grave doubts concerning the teacher’s fitness,” and not merely for showing lack of respect. Then the section was overruled by the 1970 Interpretive Comments, which effectively amended the original 1940 Statement of Principles. The 1970 Interpretive Comments declare that this “obligations” section must be interpreted by incorporating the 1964 Statement on Extramural Utterances, which has the line that any extramural utterance, to be punishable, “clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness” for the position and also take into account the professor’s “entire record as a teacher and scholar,” which is an extraordinarily high standard.

Unfortunately, many universities still use the language of the 1940 Statement of Principles as their enforceable rules. But because the 1970 Interpretive Comments are a formal interpretation of the 1940 language, and not simply an amendment, these 1970 comments are binding upon universities that enforce the 1940 words even without any mention of the 1970 language. However, we don’t need to go down that interpretive rabbit hole in this case because the University of Illinois provides a very clear-cut definition of academic freedom that fully protects extramural utterances.

According to the University of Illinois Statutes on Academic Freedom (Section X):

2b. As a citizen, a faculty member may exercise the same freedoms as other citizens without institutional censorship or discipline.  A faculty member should be mindful, however, that accuracy, forthrightness, and dignity befit association with the University and a person of learning and that the public may judge that person’s profession and the University by the individual’s conduct and utterances.

2c. If, in the president’s judgment, a faculty member exercises freedom of expression as a citizen and fails to heed the admonitions of Article X, Section 2b, the president may publicly disassociate the Board of Trustees and the University from and express their disapproval of such objectionable expressions.

Here we notice some very important differences from the 1940 Statement, and the University of Illinois Statutes are in fact much better written than the AAUP statement. Instead of the ambiguous “should,” the University of Illinois says “should be mindful” which removes any confusion about whether it is an enforceable directive, as does the fact that accuracy, honesty, and dignity “befit association” rather than being compelled. In fact, the University of Illinois Statutes contain no mention of the AAUP’s exceptions for an extramural utterance that “clearly demonstrates” a professor’s “unfitness”; they provide an absolute protection for speech as a citizen.

Then, the University of Illinois Statutes go even further to protect extramural utterances by declaring that the only allowed response to a violation of “dignity” is criticism by the administration. It is very clear from these Statutes that the University of Illinois does not allow formal punishment for faculty “freedom of expression as a citizen,” and strictly limits the power of the administration to being only able to “disassociate” the University from those comments and “express their disapproval.”

Of course, some defenders of the administration will be quick to claim that these rules only apply to faculty members, and Salaita was not yet a faculty member (which is a matter of dispute). But it would be an absolutely bizarre interpretation to assert that even though the University of Illinois Statutes contain a complete prohibition on using extramural utterances to evaluate current faculty, these Statutes would allow extramural utterances to be the sole basis for evaluating a professor who had been formally hired except for the routine, final approval of his contract by the Board. The only reason why the section for extramural utterances mentions “faculty members” is that no one imagined that the administration would need to disassociate themselves from someone who wasn’t employed by the university, not because anyone thought that completely different criteria would be used for hiring a tenured professor than would be utilized for granting tenure to an existing professor.

But the University of Illinois Statutes also make it clear that they are not limited to existing faculty members. The section of the Statutes on academic freedom begins, “It is the policy of the University to maintain and encourage full freedom within the law of inquiry, discourse, teaching, research, and publication” and only then mentions the protections for academic staff. So the University of Illinois policy is to “maintain” complete “freedom” of “discourse,” without regard to employment status, and that is the guiding principle of its Statutes. That first section of the Statutes applies to Salaita because it applies to all actions by the University. And the other sections clarify that extramural utterances cannot be punished by the University of Illinois without violating freedom of discourse. In firing Salaita, the administration was not only breaking a contract, infringing upon the First Amendment, and breaching the core principles of academic freedom, it was also violating the fundamental Statutes of the University of Illinois.

About John K. Wilson

Author of "Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies."

22 comments on “Why the Salaita Firing Violates University of Illinois Statutes

  1. BR
    August 28, 2014

    Great analysis. Well done. My only comment is that the members of the Board of Trustees just don’t care about the larger implications of what they have done. As long as a university lawyer has given them the green light, they’re going to do what they want to do. The only way to fight back against the amoral mindset is to wage a political and economic war against each and every trustee who voted the wrong way. We have to attack them, politically, on all fronts, simultaneously. That’s the only language they understand. In the meantime, someone should focus on getting the university lawyers removed from office.

  2. Guestus Aurelius
    August 28, 2014

    “Of course, some defenders of the administration will be quick to claim that these rules only apply to faculty members, and Salaita was not yet a faculty member (which is a matter of dispute). But it would be an absolutely bizarre interpretation to assert that even though the University of Illinois Statutes contain a complete prohibition on using extramural utterances to evaluate current faculty, these Statutes would allow extramural utterances to be the sole basis for evaluating a professor who had been formally hired except for the routine, final approval of his contract by the Board. The only reason why the section for extramural utterances mentions “faculty members” is that no one imagined that the administration would need to disassociate themselves from someone who wasn’t employed by the university, not because anyone thought that completely different criteria would be used for hiring a tenured professor than would be utilized for granting tenure to an existing professor.”

    Well, those rules DO “only apply to faculty members,” but there’s also the question of what constitutes “institutional censorship or punishment.”

    Let me start by pointing out that whether the *tenured position* was already Salaita’s isn’t at all “a matter of dispute.” No BoT approval, no formal appointment.

    Now, the timing of BoT approval/refusal in relation to the start of the semester DOES raise some interesting legal questions. Certainly if Salaita had started teaching before the BoT vetoed his appointment, he’d need to be paid for his work, and it would be indisputable that he had already been hired *in some capacity*.

    But the BoT would still be within their rights to veto his appointment if they felt that his public statements sufficiently called into question his “special fitness … for the work demanded in the position” (Article IX, Section 3b). More to the point, their doing so would NOT be a violation of the Statutes, because deciding not to hire someone to a permanent position—even someone already working for you in a contingent capacity—doesn’t constitute “institutional censorship or discipline.”

    Of course, the chancellor revoked the offer *before* Salaita started teaching, so all of that is probably irrelevant. I could be wrong, though. I’m not a lawyer, just a concerned citizen. I’ll grant that if Salaita was indeed already technically part of the “academic faculty,” then yes, he may have been fired from his contingent position (NOT from a permanent position) in a way that violates the Statutes. It’s a side issue, but a relevant one.

    (While we’re citing the Statutes, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that many people have ignorantly and falsely accused the chancellor of breaching contract by not recommending Salaita’s appointment to the BoT. From Article IX, Section 3a: “All appointments, reappointments, and promotions of the academic staff, as defined in Article IX, Section 4a, shall be made by the Board of Trustees on the recommendation of the chancellor/vice president concerned and the president.”)

    In your final paragraph, you selectively quote only the first part of this sentence from the Statutes (Article X, Section 2a), stopping after “publication”: “It is the policy of the University to maintain and encourage full freedom within the law of inquiry, discourse, teaching, research, and publication and to protect any member of the academic staff against influences, from within or without the University, which would restrict the member’s exercise of these freedoms in the member’s area of scholarly interest.”

    Sloppy phrasing? Perhaps. But to interpret this language as protecting job candidates is… well, it’s “an absolutely bizarre interpretation.”

    What bothers me most about this case is that there are plenty of good arguments one could make that the administration made the wrong call here. You could say, “Look, here are Salaita’s controversial tweets, and this is why I don’t think the University of Illinois should have revoked the offer over them.” Or you could say, “I don’t think the administration should even have the power to do this, and here’s why.”

    Instead, many of Salaita’s defenders seem intent on distorting the facts and finding ways to avoid addressing the tweets. For example:

    –calling BoT approval “pro forma,” as if veto power is lost if it’s rarely used (it’s not; also, ask yourself: would you prefer it if hires were vetoed *more* frequently?)

    –insisting that Salaita was FIRED from a tenured position (he indisputably wasn’t, since the BoT never approved his appointment)

    –insisting that the revocation of Salaita’s offer was a breach of academic freedom (it wasn’t, though one could argue that it went against the [non-binding] *spirit* of academic freedom)

    –insisting that Salaita’s offer was revoked because of his political BELIEFS (i.e., a violation of the First Amendment), as opposed to other aspects of the tweets that might speak to his “special fitness … for the work demanded in the position” (of course, Salaita’s defenders may be right about this, but it’s extraordinarily dishonest to insist on it without engaging with the tweets themselves or at least drawing the reader’s attention to them)

    –insisting that the tweets are irrelevant distractions, when really the tweets are of central importance. For instance, Salaita publicly declared that anyone defending Israel is an “awful human being.” If you were a student who supported Israel and were interested in taking a class in the American Indian Studies department, might you think twice about taking it if you knew he’d be teaching it? And if you were a student in his class, might you think twice about voicing disagreement if the topic of Israel (one of his areas) came up? These aren’t unreasonable questions to ask. What he wrote matters a great deal.

    • John K. Wilson
      August 28, 2014

      I think it is more likely that the Statutes say what they mean, rather than being “sloppy phrasing.” Otherwise, according to your interpretation of the Statutes, the Trustees could announce a ban on hiring critics of Israel, and this would be perfectly acceptable under the Statutes’ definition of academic freedom, if they only apply to existing faculty.

      Thank you for finding that important line, “Appointments shall be made solely on the basis of the special fitness of the individual for the work demanded in the position.” And Salaita was found, by both the faculty and the administration, to have the special fitness for that academic work. Since polite tweeting has nothing to do with the work of a professor, nothing about Salaita’s tweets could have affected his special fitness for the work of teaching, research, and service. What it did affect was the desire of the administration and the Board to hire a controversial figure. But since that had nothing to do with the academic “work” of this job, they cannot use it to veto an appointment. Remember, the Statutes are binding rules placed upon the administration and the Board, and the Statutes don’t say that appointments are made on the basis of “whatever the Board thinks is special fitness,” but based “solely” on an objective understanding of fitness to the work. Some people might think that Salaita’s tweets did affect his “fitness” to teach; I think these people are clearly wrong. But more importantly, the Statutes say that those people are wrong because the Statutes declare that faculty cannot be punished for their extramural utterances, which means that the Statutes are saying that extramural utterances cannot be relevant to academic work.

      I do insist that Board approval is pro forma, because it always was. That doesn’t mean their veto was lost, it means the veto can only be used in extraordinary circumstances of an illegitimate hire, and disagreement with a professor’s tweets does not come anywhere close to that exceptionally rare example of a justifiable veto.

      I do insist that Salaita was fired, because he was according to common sense and moral definitions of the term. Since the law often has nothing to do with common sense or morality, a court might say he wasn’t legally fired, but that has nothing to do with this intellectual argument.

      I do insist that the firing of Salaita was a breach of the Constitutional right of academic freedom, of the University Statutes protecting academic freedom, and of the moral right of academic freedom.

      I do insist that Salaita’s offer was rescinded because of his political beliefs. Let me prove it here: if Salaita had tweeted the exact same criticism of, say, the Chicago Cubs rather than Israel, does anyone in the world believe that he would have lost his job over a heated discussion on Twitter about sports?

      I do insist that the tweets are irrelevant to a judgment of his academic work, because they are. Faculty appointments are not made (or unmade) based on the fear of students about disagreeing with their professors. Otherwise, no one could be hired who ever expressed a belief in anything.

      • Guestus Aurelius
        August 28, 2014

        “Thank you for finding that important line, “Appointments shall be made solely on the basis of the special fitness of the individual for the work demanded in the position.” And Salaita was found, by both the faculty and the administration, to have the special fitness for that academic work. Since polite tweeting has nothing to do with the work of a professor, nothing about Salaita’s tweets could have affected his special fitness for the work of teaching, research, and service. What it did affect was the desire of the administration and the Board to hire a controversial figure. But since that had nothing to do with the academic “work” of this job, they cannot use it to veto an appointment. Remember, the Statutes are binding rules placed upon the administration and the Board, and the Statutes don’t say that appointments are made on the basis of “whatever the Board thinks is special fitness,” but based “solely” on an objective understanding of fitness to the work. Some people might think that Salaita’s tweets did affect his “fitness” to teach; I think these people are clearly wrong. But more importantly, the Statutes say that those people are wrong because the Statutes declare that faculty cannot be punished for their extramural utterances, which means that the Statutes are saying that extramural utterances cannot be relevant to academic work.”

        Your declaring that “nothing about Salaita’s tweets could have affected his special fitness for the work of teaching” doesn’t make it so.

        In any case, your distinction between “whatever the Board thinks is special fitness” and “an objective understanding of fitness to the work” is one without a difference. It is indeed the Board (and the chancellor, and the hiring department, and whoever else is vested with the authority) who gets to decide what constitutes “special fitness.” You clearly don’t like that. So argue that it shouldn’t be so. No need to deny reality.

        The same applies to your last several paragraphs: it is possible to make a case without distorting reality.

        If the board’s veto power is real, then they’re allowed to use it. You don’t like that they used it in this case. Fine—argue that they made the wrong call. Don’t imply that they don’t have veto power by dismissing board approval as “pro forma.”

        For the sake of an intellectual argument, you insist that he was “fired” from a tenured position, even though you know that he wasn’t actually fired from a tenured position? The only thing “intellectual” about that argument is that it’s intellectually dishonest.

        Academic freedom isn’t a “Constitutional right.” But if you’d like, insist away that the revocation of Salaita’s offer was a violation of academic freedom and of the Statutes. Of course, since the position wasn’t yet his, it’s not true.

        I’m starting to think that your definition of “insist” is “keep saying something that’s self-evidently false until enough people believe it that it helps my cause.”

        “I do insist that Salaita’s offer was rescinded because of his political beliefs. Let me prove it here: if Salaita had tweeted the exact same criticism of, say, the Chicago Cubs rather than Israel, does anyone in the world believe that he would have lost his job over a heated discussion on Twitter about sports?”

        Which “exact same criticism,” now? If, say, a Cub was hit by a pitch in the temple and died, and a job candidate tweeted, “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I hope all the Cubs take a fastball to the head,” then yeah, that would raise a serious red flag if I were a potential employer.

        It’s not a great comparison because the Cubs are a single baseball team rather than a historically oppressed group, and the Cub’s death was unambiguously an accident. The offensiveness wouldn’t have anywhere near the same impact.

        So how about if he’d tweeted last week: “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I hope all the hoodlums in Ferguson are stopped dead in their tracks.” Sure, being stopped dead in one’s tracks doesn’t literally mean to be killed, but would you hire someone who’d said that? I wouldn’t.

        “I do insist that the tweets are irrelevant to a judgment of his academic work, because they are. Faculty appointments are not made (or unmade) based on the fear of students about disagreeing with their professors. Otherwise, no one could be hired who ever expressed a belief in anything.”

        I disagree. And that’s okay.

    • Steve Harris
      August 29, 2014

      “Or you could say, ‘I don’t think the administration should even have the power to do this, and here’s why.'”

      I don’t think the administration should even have the power to do this, and here’s why: The only ostensibly legitimate reason to revoke Salaita’s offer of hire, was that his public media remarks bring into substantial question his ability to teach classes (such as by making students afraid to be known to oppose his political opinions). But it is not the job of the Chancellor to make that judgement; it is the job of the department considering him for hire. That is the point of shared governance.

      The department did make a judgement on this matter back in October, having at that time all relevant information about Salaita: not only his political views and his tendency to broadcast them, but also his teaching record to date–clearly a crucial element in judging whether or not his teaching, in general, has been compromised by his well-known expression of political views.

      So it is illegitimate, on the understanding of shared governance–of letting only those who are experts in the matter of teaching students in the relevant department, i.e., the members of that department–for the Chancellor to substitute her judgement on teaching fitness for the already-expressed views of the department.

      One might ask, what if the tweets of this summer, not taken into consideration by the department back in October, 2013, could make a difference in this judgement? Is there no recourse? Yes, there is recourse: The Chancellor would be within her proper orbit to ask the department that question–is there, in July, 2014, reason for the department to rethink its judgement, on an emergency-basis, to prevent a compromised teaching experience in the fall of 2014? But in point of fact, the department has stood by its judgement from the fall of 2013.

      It is not job of the Chancellor to make judgements on ability of faculty to teach; that is the job of experts–those who do the teaching in that department.

      I note that this is a moral argument I am making, not a legal one: Why the administration *ought not* to act in the way it has: Because it is bad for the University to substitute ill-informed judgement for professional judgement, on who is or is not capable of teaching; and it is bad for the entire system of higher education for a prominent university to grandly violate basic principles of shared governance.

      The Chancellor plainly acted out of fear of ill publicity, possibly thinking of the effect on donors of a having a political liability on the faculty. But the Illinois statutes are clear: The only legal recourse of the University is to disassociate itself from unpopular opinions expressed by faculty. That is what should have happened.

      • Guestus Aurelius
        August 29, 2014

        Thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful response. Much appreciated.

  3. Guestus Aurelius
    August 28, 2014

    “I think it is more likely that the Statutes say what they mean, rather than being “sloppy phrasing.” Otherwise, according to your interpretation of the Statutes, the Trustees could announce a ban on hiring critics of Israel, and this would be perfectly acceptable under the Statutes’ definition of academic freedom, if they only apply to existing faculty.”

    That wouldn’t be a violation of academic freedom. It would just be a bad thing.

    Come now—you don’t really think that the sentence in question protects job candidates, do you? You’re just “insisting” on it, right?

    • John K. Wilson
      August 29, 2014

      The sentence here is a broad statement of academic freedom that includes freedom of discourse. And the Board violated that in its actions. It’s not a question of special protections for job candidates. It’s a philosophy that protects everyone.

      And the Board doesn’t get to control the meaning of words and pretend that anything they do is by definition in accord with the statutes. You may believe in a Nixonian interpretation (if the Board does it, then it’s not illegal) of the Statutes, but that’s simply not true from a legal or moral perspective.

      According to the Supreme Court, academic freedom is a “special concern of the First Amendment,” which means it is a Constitutional right.

      I’m not making an intellectual argument here. I’m saying that Salaita was actually hired. You seem to think that something is only real if a court says it is, and I’m saying that we can make a moral judgment that Salaita was hired even if a court rules otherwise.

      • Guestus Aurelius
        August 29, 2014

        Sorry for any perceived snark.

        I don’t think it’s the Board that’s playing with the meanings of words. I think it’s people in your camp.

        When you say that you’re making a “moral judgment” that Salaita was actually hired to and fired from a tenured position, I honestly don’t know what you’re trying to convey. Whether he was hired to and fired from a tenured position isn’t a question of morality. It’s a question of fact. You seem to know this, yet you keep repeating the falsehood.

        On the one hand, you (or at least many in your camp) dismiss relevant facts as legal technicalities when you don’t like them. On the other hand, you’re happy to discuss policy and law when you think they help your cause.

        What gives?

  4. Mike
    August 29, 2014

    Reblogged this on This Got My Attention and commented:
    Political correctness and lawlessness at the University of Illinois.

  5. John K. Wilson
    August 31, 2014

    In response to Guestus, this is very simple: critics of the University of Illinois administration are making both a legal argument and a moral argument against Salaita’s firing. Obviously, if the U of I is violating the Constitution, its Statutes, and contract law, these are major issues to critique them about where legal rulings need to be argued. But at the same time, we can (and should) make a moral judgment about the U of I’s actions, apart from whether it’s legal. And when we make a moral judgment, we are not bound by legal technicalities, such as whether a court would rule that Salaita had an enforceable contract. We can, as the AAUP does, find that the situation in his case meets the professional standards for a hiring. This is a question of fact, but not all questions of fact are legal facts.

    • Guestus Aurelius
      August 31, 2014

      Thanks for the reply.

      I hear what you’re saying, and I think Steve Harris above made a solid case for your side. I agree with some of his points (and some of yours).

      My criticism is that you (though not just you) seem to be conflating “is” and “ought” an awful lot when it comes to this issue.

      Whether somebody was fired from a given post is an “is” question: either they were or they weren’t. Salaita wasn’t fired from a tenured position—the job offer was revoked before his appointment was finalized. Whether the university made the right call is an “ought” question.

      And either someone really does have veto power or they don’t. If they do, then labeling their approval “pro forma,” a “formality,” or a “rubber stamp” is equivocatory at best. Whether they were right to use their veto power in a given situation is, of course, an “ought” question.

      Haven’t you yourself often (and often rightly, I’m guessing) called out public figures for being rather loose with the facts?

      • BR
        August 31, 2014

        What you don’t seem to want to acknowledge, Guestus Aurelius, is that Salaita *was* hired — in the moral sense. So if I were writing this a little while back I could say that he *is* hired, in the moral sense. You ought to be able to understand that.

  6. Guestus Aurelius
    August 31, 2014

    @BR: Touché! Made me smile.

    But no, what I don’t want to acknowledge—or rather, what it is that I object to—is that words suddenly mean whatever you want them to mean when it’s politically advantageous. It’s called doublespeak.

    How can someone be hired or fired “in the moral sense”? It’s a construction devoid of meaning. It’s “not even wrong.” Job status is a question of fact, not a question of morality. It’s paradigmatically amoral: “being neither moral nor immoral; specifically : lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply” (Merriam-Webster).

    Sometimes there’s (factual) ambiguity about someone’s job status. Here, for instance, there’s some ambiguity over whether Salaita was already (factually) hired *in some contingent capacity*, but since the BoT never approved his appointment, there is no ambiguity over whether he was already tenured faculty at the University of Illinois when the offer was revoked. He simply wasn’t.

    And if I know that someone has veto power, then dismissing their approval as a “formality” is textbook equivocation: depending on the definition of “formality” you prefer, I’m either outright asserting or merely implying exactly the opposite of what I know to be the truth. In fact, I’m simultaneously doing both, exploiting the word’s polysemy to suggest a provocative falsehood on the one hand and to leave myself wiggle room to retreat on the other. I might not even be doing it on purpose, but it is equivocation, and it is doublespeak.

    Of course, you can still judge the morality of relevant actions and actors. You can argue that the chancellor acted immorally in vetoing Salaita’s appointment. And you can even take facts like Salaita’s job status into account when you do. What you can’t do—well, I suppose you can—is insist that up is down, or that down is immoral.

    (While I’m on the subject of BoT approval, consider this: if a higher-up high enough up at the university had assured Salaita that BoT approval was just a “formality,” then he’d have a solid promissory estoppel case right now. Why? Precisely because BoT approval is NOT a “formality.”)

    • BR
      August 31, 2014

      Aw, come on, Mr. Aurelius! We’re not choosing what color shirt to wear or whether or not to wear a tie. This is certainly not something that falls outside the scope of morality. Marcus would chide you for such foolishness.

      • Guestus Aurelius
        August 31, 2014

        I like your style, BR.

        Happy to agree to disagree.

        Now who is this Marcus?

    • John K. Wilson
      August 31, 2014

      Being hired or fired “in the moral sense” means in contrast with the legal sense. One kind of moral judgment about hiring is according to professional standards, and the AAUP is the clearest example of this. On Friday, the AAUP sent a letter to the University of Illinois declaring that according to long-standing AAUP standards, Salaita was hired, he should be paid, and he has the status of “a faculty member suspended from his academic
      responsibilities pending a hearing on his fitness to continue.” Now, in writing that letter, the AAUP was not declaring that Salaita had been hired in a legal sense and that his contract would be upheld in a court of law. The AAUP was declaring that Salaita had been hired in a moral sense, which is to say a professional sense. Those of us who are not the AAUP are also free to express a similar opinion about the moral status of Salaita’s hiring. Whether or not you accept the AAUP’s professional standards is a issue fraught with morality. The AAUP has no legal authority over the University of Illinois, but it does have moral authority within the academic profession to make moral judgments about the university’s decisions. But under AAUP standards, being (factually) hired as Salaita was can sometimes be different from being legally hired.

  7. BR
    August 31, 2014

    OK, I get it now. So you’re a libertarian. So why don’t you just put your cards on the table and tell us you’re against the concept of the public university? What’s your goal here, fighting about what must be only tangential points for you?

    • Guestus Aurelius
      August 31, 2014

      Come again?

  8. Adam Albrett
    September 1, 2014

    Prof. Wilson your writings on this topic are one of the main reasons I started commenting about this matter at the blog of Corey Robin and at UNZ. I really think you, Prof. David Palumbo-Liu and possibly Ali Abunimah should take over the boycott of UIUC advocacy in support of Prof. Salaita. I am very concerned with 1) Corey Robin handling it after seeing how he censors comments discrediting people attacking Prof. Salaita’s scholarship, 2) his not defending Prof. Salaita from those who had clearly started preparing to attack illegitimately and misleadingly his scholarship in the manner to which Zionist activists are known to engage long before this dispute materialized and 3) Prof. Salaita’s support in at least one academic community being hindered by the fact that one academic (e.g., J Otto Pohl) collecting boycott signatures confessed that according to him leftist academics “don’t really believe in free speech” and “would rather see Salaita get screwed than have any association with somebody like” Pohl.

    http://coreyrobin.com/2014/08/31/salaita-by-the-numbers-5-cancelled-lectures-3-votes-of-no-confidence-3849-boycotters-and-1-nyt-article

    I also believe that Palestinians, their supporters, and anyone who wants to liberate humankind from Zionist tyranny should reject and condemn the support of Robin, Bonnie Honig, Jonathon Judaken, and others like them who seem to support Salaita but have a problem with some of Salaita’s almost banal tweets (something I wrote about at length when Bonnie Honig’s offensive letter was published and a view I have had from the instant I became aware of his tweets). We, including Prof. Salaita, don’t need their support and we don’t want to give them any opportunity to launder themselves or use this incident to establish some type of legitimacy. If I were to run for president of the US or any office, I would insist on subtracting from the votes in my favor the votes of people whose views I disagree with materially, and if it means I would lose, then so be it. I hope Prof. Salaita is this type of person even at a time like this. He must show courage. If he believes that his tweets are the floor as to what a Palestinian or a human, even the Pope*, should be saying, he needs to stand up and be counted now. If he believes that the Palestinians should be made WHOLE, he needs to stand up and be counted now. He should not need me to tell him to be confident and act boldly, but it that’s what necessary to get him to do what is right then there is no excuse for him not acting confidently and boldly given my entreaties.

    The proper context in which to evaluate Prof. Salaita’s tweets and his case is described in my comment to the article at the following URL:

    http://www.unz.com/proberts/the-israel-lobby-eliminates-another-critic/

    In my haste to cut and paste my comment, I neglected to include the portion that commended you and Prof. David Palumbo-Liu. I am boycotting Aljazeera, Salon, and a few other websites, but I made an exception for Prof. Palumbo-Liu at Aljazeera. That’s an enormous endorsement, because I still have not read Prof. Salaita’s article at Salon that created a ruckus last year. I take boycotts very seriously.

    *I have lost faith in the Pope because of his failure to express himself adequately with regards to bloody crises including the one in the Ukraine.

    • John K. Wilson
      September 1, 2014

      First, let me note that I’m not a professor, and second let me say that I don’t agree with you. I don’t see any problem with Corey Robin’s work on an academic boycott, and I believe that we should have a big tent approach of welcoming people who support academic freedom (and debating those who don’t in this case) regardless of their other views. I cannot criticize those who “have a problem with” some of Salaita’s tweets because I also have a problem with some of them, in the sense of disagreeing with their tone or content. But that has nothing to do with whether Salaita should be fired. Finally, I am probably not the right person to “take over” the boycotts of the University of Illinois because I don’t believe in academic boycotts and I hope to speak at the University of Illinois on the Salaita case later this month.

      • Adam Albrett
        September 1, 2014

        Thank you for the clarification and prompt and candid reply. Corey Robin’s work on the academic boycott cannot be a means to allow Robin to let Zionists attack Prof. Salaita and have those attacks go unchallenged except by those who allow the attackers to appear to have succeeded in their mission. Furthermore, Robin is not doing things in good faith if he doesn’t get someone other than J Otto Pohl to get involved in order to get the support that is being withheld because J Otto Pohl is in his own words someone with whom some in his academic discipline do not want to be associated.

        Finally, you cannot distinguish an economic boycott from an academic one, but do try to amuse me. If you are the same person who wrote a book on Obama (possibly praising him), not only will you not succeed, but you will not even appear to have succeeded to fools who are easily impressed.

        If Prof. Salaita welcomes the support of people like you and would need it to prevail, Inshallah (God willing) he will lose in a spectacular manner. While his case is a slam-dunk and I believe he should win, I think it is highly unlikely that his lawyer(s) will handle it properly. For several weeks, due to the nonsense I have been reading, I have been thinking that his case is one that needs to go to a proper appeal by a lawyer who thinks like me and be handled de novo with new depositions and this may just happen.

        Bonne nuit, monsieur.

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This entry was posted on August 28, 2014 by in academic freedom, centennial and tagged , , .
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