Readers of this blog who have been following developments in the case of Professor Steven Salaita, whose appointment to a tenured position at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana was revoked, apparently in response to his controversial Twitter postings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, may find a recent analysis of the case by Michael C. Dorf, Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School, enlightening. Here’s a brief excerpt:
The case is rich in irony and apparent hypocrisy on both sides. Less than a year ago, Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise reaffirmed the university’s commitment to academic freedom as a “core principle” in touting “the critical importance of the ability of faculty to pursue learning, discovery and engagement without regard to political considerations.” That statement was issued to explain why the university opposed an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. Salaita, for his part, has been an outspoken supporter of that boycott.
Nonetheless, Salaita’s case is—or should be—relatively easy. Academic freedom and freedom of speech protect all viewpoints, even those that are hostile to academic freedom or freedom of speech. Moreover, as I explain below, none of the peculiarities of Salaita’s case justifies the university’s revocation of its offer.
The entire piece, which provides a nuanced and clear discussion of the legal context, is well worth reading. It is available here:
UPDATE: Here’s another fine piece on the implications of the Salaita case, focusing on how the case provides further evidence of the corporatization of the university, by Lennard Davis of the University of Illinois, Chicago: