Nelson’s assertion that “I believe this was an academic, not a political, decision” strains all credulity. No one can seriously believe that the political consequences of hiring a controversial professor had no role in the administration’s decision.
Nelson also comes dangerously close to embracing the position of the Supreme Court in Garcetti v. Ceballos, where the Court ruled that government employees have protection for their statements as private citizens, unless those statements are related to their work. Nelson is arguing that a math professor can freely tweet about Israel without retaliation, but because Salaiti has done scholarly work about the Middle East, Nelson claims that anything he tweets on the subject is part of “the whole Salaita package.”
As I note in my essay, academics should be judged on their academic work, not on every public comment they’ve ever made. Most important of all, they should be judged by their peers, not fired without any due process by administrators over controversial statements.