Questioning the AAUP’s Objectivity on Salaita

By Sharon Ann Musher

In the aftermath of the board of trustees’ vote at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to terminate Steven Salaita’s conditional job offer, the scholar of Arab-American literature is pursuing two options. He has engaged the Center for Constitution Rights to sue the university. And he has requested that the American Association of University Professor’s (AAUP) investigate the case.

The AAUP is perhaps the most influential organization to condemn Illinois in this instance on the grounds of academic freedom. It has already declared the university’s decision to terminate Salaita’s appointment to be “tantamount to summary dismissal, an action categorically inimical to academic freedom and due process.” If it takes up Salaita’s case, we can expect a decision favorable to the professor. And should Illinois decline at least to grant him a hearing, we can anticipate the AAUP censuring the university.

That would be just if the AAUP investigation were objective, but recent communications suggest otherwise. When the AAUP wrote to university chancellor Phyllis Wise on August 29 requesting information about Salaita’s claims, it badly misrepresented the precedents cited in Salaita’s defense. Indeed, the problems with that letter undermine the organization’s credibility and raise serious questions about whether political activism is replacing deliberation in the nation’s oldest professional association committed to academic freedom. How did this happen?

The day the news broke in an Inside Higher Ed article that chancellor Wise would not forward Salaita’s appointment to the board of trustees, the Illinois state conference of the AAUP’s Committee A issued a statement condemning Illinois for voiding his job offer without due process based on extramural, controversial tweets on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The following day, August 7th, Rudy Fichtenbaum and Henry Reichman, the AAUP president and vice president, expressed serious concern that the university’s actions might have violated both his academic freedom and that of the faculty members who recommended his appointment.

Their statement explicitly distanced the AAUP from Cary Nelson’s defense of the Chancellor’s actions. An English professor at Illinois, a past president of the AAUP, and a current member of the AAUP Committee A that hears such cases, Nelson argued that Salaita was not fired for his speech but rather his conditional hiring had been aborted in part as a result of his tweets.

People can and do disagree about many of the key issues in this case: Was Salaita’s job offer final or contingent? Were his tweets extramural or part of his scholarly output? Were there anti-Semitic dimensions to his social media presence? And if so, could a university legitimately withdraw a job offer on those grounds?

Historically the AAUP has drawn on past examples – the cases the organization has pursued before – in investigating instances like Salaita’s. Unfortunately, the AAUP’s recent misrepresentation of its own precedents suggests that it has already made up its mind on the case. On August 29, Anita Levy, a staff member of the AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Shared Governance, sent Chancellor Wise a letter expressing the AAUP’s grave concern and acknowledging Salaita’s request for an investigation.

In replaying the events leading up to the denial of Salaita’s preliminary job offer, Levy disturbingly conflated a conditional appointment with an unequivocal one. Last October, Brian H. Ross, the interim dean of the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, notified Salaita of the faculty committees’ recommendation for his appointment. The dean’s letter noted that “this recommendation for appointment is subject to approval by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.” The letter clearly did not accord with A AUP policy that formal offers include “an unequivocal letter of appointment signed by the responsible institutional officer.”

Only in passing, however, did Levy recognize that Salaita’s letter was not a final offer, noting near the end of her letter: “We understand that an issue has arisen regarding the legitimacy of Professor Salaita’s tenure absent board of trustees’ approval.”(3)

Rather than plainly stating that Salaita’s position was conditional on board approval, the AAUP attempted to substitute its unenforceable professional judgment. Its letter sympathetically concentrates on the ten months between Salaita’s conditional offer and its termination, during which time Salaita corresponded with the university about what classes he should teach and “made arrangements for a place to live for him and his family.” Most people who have moved – particularly with a family – can empathize with someone in such a situation. But, contrary to the letter’s implications, this position marks a significant departure from past precedent. The AAUP appears never to have conducted an investigation of a case based on the withdrawal of a conditional offer of permanent employment with tenure.

Even more disturbing is The AAUP’s misuse of precedent. Levy’s letter refers to only one AAUP case, in which the University of South Florida revoked a one-year contract offered to a Dr. Fleming in 1962. In this case, the investigating committee determined that South Florida’s president had a “moral and professional obligation” to support Fleming’s appointment and his failure to do so constituted summary dismissal without due process. The AAUP imposed a censure on the university at its 1964 annual meeting, which the 1968 annual meeting removed “after the university provided redress to the professor and adopted procedures consistent with the Association-supported standards.” (3)

But here’s the rub: The job offer in the South Florida case was final. In neither of the dean’s letters to the candidate “was there any suggestion that the offer was tentative or that further steps were necessary to make the appointment official” (AAUP Bulletin, Spring, 1964, 44). Furthermore, although no one administratively higher than the dean offered the professor a job, the university’s president approved a press release announcing his appointment prior to the reversal. In contrast, in Salaita’s case the dean’s offer was expressly provisional upon board approval.

The AAUP’s obvious misapplication of its own precedent raises serious concerns about its neutrality. Thus, we should be very wary of trusting it to deliberate fairly on Salaita’s case.

 

Sharon Ann Musher is Associate Professor of History at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and a member of the executive committee of the Academic Advisory Council of Ameinu’s Third Narrative. Her forthcoming book is Democratic Art: The New Deal’s Influence on American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

29 thoughts on “Questioning the AAUP’s Objectivity on Salaita

  1. Prof. Musher is wrong on several points. First, the AAUP letter to the University of Illinois does explicitly quote the fact that Salaita’s contract included a provision about being “subject to approval by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.”

    Second, the AAUP does not need a precedent to act (and the absence of an identical case cannot be regarded as “a significant departure from past precedent,” unless the AAUP has previously endorsed firings similar to Salaita’s, which it never has). The AAUP sometimes deals with cases that are unprecedented, and AAUP values and procedures are what prevail, which is what the AAUP’s letter clearly expressed.

    Third, the AAUP letter is an accurate summary of the values expressed by the AAUP in the University of South Florida (USF) case as a precedent for the Salaita case. It is inconceivable that anyone could read the 1964 AAUP report on USF and imagine that its authors would condone the firing of Salaita. Consider this statement from the USF report: “after a position has been offered and accepted, only grave charges supported by compelling evidence would justify even a reconsideration of the agreement before the appointee has had a chance to demonstrate his ability in the classroom. Such reconsideration should not culminate in cancellation of the appointment without adequate cause and without the professor’s having been given an appropriate opportunity to defend himself.” Surely that statement, which refers solely to the acceptance of an offer and not the approval of a contract by trustees (which USF also required), reveals a clear precedent for the Salita case.

    Nor is USF the only AAUP precedent. In 1968, the AAUP investigated Northern State College (South Dakota) when a professor was fired by the regents shortly after he started teaching classes because he offended some students by criticizing the US government and using profanity. Because his contract included a proviso about being subject to the regulations of the South Dakota Board of Regents, and because his contract had not yet been formally approved by the regents, the university argued that he had never been an employee. The AAUP report noted, “the conception of academic freedom as dependent upon a technically or formally entered contract is completely unacceptable.”

    The key AAUP principle made clear in the University of South Florida and Northern State College cases is that an academic appointment system cannot work if professors are offered a position during the normal appointment season and then after accepting the position suddenly have it revoked by trustees without any evidence of misconduct.

    By the standard Musher is apparently endorsing, all new hires and all adjunct faculty (which are almost always conditional job offers) can be freely fired for their political beliefs by trustees, without any hearing, shortly before or even after they have started teaching. And if the AAUP makes any objection, it will be regarded as evidence of “political activism” and a destruction of the AAUP’s “credibility.” The AAUP’s letter has absolutely nothing to do with Salaita’s politics, and the implication that the AAUP is only defending Salaita’s academic freedom because it agrees with his political views is completely false and Musher does not offer even the slightest bit of evidence to support this ridiculous charge.

  2. Prof. Wilson is wrong about Prof. Musher being wrong.Though the AAUP’s Salaita letter mentions the conditionality of Salaita’s offer it proceeds to argue as if the offer were not conditional. Prof. Wilson does the same thing when he writes of Salaita being “fired”; one cannot be fired if one doesn’t have a final job offer. And while it’s true that no precedent is needed for the AAUP to support Salaita, it should not be using precedent falsely; it should rather admit that its defense of Salaita is unprecedented and not in keeping with past AAUP policy. There is of course a world of difference between an explicitly conditional offer and an explicitly unconditional offer. It is proper and admirable for the AAUP to allow criticism on its own blog, and in this case it should be examined whether the organization is being improperly politicized.

    • No, the AAUP letter mentions the conditionality clause and then proceeds to argue as if the conditionality clause does not matter. And that’s because, under AAUP rules and principles and precedents, conditionality clauses do not matter. A university’s board of trustees is not entitled to fire faculty for political reasons who have gone through the normal hiring procedures, and then be free of criticism by the AAUP simply because the university utilizes a conditionality clause and warns faculty that they can be arbitrarily fired. The USF and Northern State College cases make it even clearer that the AAUP’s problem is when trustees intervene to fire faculty without due process. Whether or not that power to fire faculty (which existed in all of these cases) was fully disclosed in a job offer is a minor footnote. And under AAUP’s guidelines, a job offer is a job offer; there is no such thing as a “conditional” job offer. The key issue, and the violation of AAUP rules, comes from the dismissal, not from the presence or absence of a conditionality clause.

      • In addition:

        1) The alleged final approval of his hiring was to come after he started work there, according to the university. This is an interesting position for the university to take.

        2) Faculty hirings where the faculty member leaves their former job and starts the new one before the board votes are the norm in academia.

  3. The guest blogger, whether she has understood each of the invoked case precedents accurately or not, has indeed put her finger on a major problem: the objectivity and neutrality of Committee A appears to have been compromised in this case.

    Two members of Committee A made statements to the press of a categorical nature when such statements could have been made by the AAUP President alone or by (if AAUP had one) a General Secretary, leaving the investigatory Committee A on its former pedestal of objective integrity.

    The guest blogger’s points are similar to the critiques this commenter has made concerning the role of unionization in the Association. Collective bargaining is an important means to the ends of academic freedom and tenure; collective bargaining is not the ends to be sought. The current AAUP leadership has compromised the Association’s past “gravitas” by this unionization “ueber Alles” emphasis which can undermine the role of Committee A in investigations — especially where a collective bargaining agent is in place and the AAUP is perceived as either having no standing or as interfering with exclusive CB rights of union and employer.

    Academic freedom cases, no matter how much they may resemble earlier case precedents of the AAUP arsenal of censures, etc., are never cookie cutter replicas of each other. There are always twists and turns from the specific circumstances of the case which often involve differing legal status issues for boards of trustees, administrations, unions, etc. Some of those twists and turns, as in the case of Prof. Salaita, may indeed undermine parallels with cases which advocates hope to cite.

    If AAUP learns anything from this incredible debacle — where the current Chair of Committee A (an AAUP vice-president) and a member of Committee A (a former AAUP president) both have made national pronouncements on opposite sides of the matter — it should be that the Association has one hundred years of history carved painstakingly through the legal and academic expertise of some of the greatest minds of the profession, and that such painstakingly objective processes must never be compromised in an advocacy grab for media attention by the organization’s leadership — especially a leadership that has publicly admitted the limits of its personal legal expertise.

  4. Professor Sharon Ann Musher refers accurately to the quick response of Illinois AAUP Committee A to the Inside Higher Ed revelation of the Salaita case on August 6. However, I think it important to quote one of the sentences from our statement: “Reports that the university has voided a job offer, if accurate, due to tweets on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would be a clear violation of Professor Salaita’s academic freedom and an affront to free speech that we enjoy in this country.” Our statement was conditioned on the facts as we knew it then, and we recognized that additional information might contravene our initial response. Two months and a day later, the unusual amount of information that has been released through Freedom of Information Act (F.O.I.A.) requests and public statements by Chancellor Wise and Board Chairperson Kennedy, have only confirmed our worse fears. A professor was fired in this country for viewpoints expressed in social media and was denied due process.

  5. Professor Musher has accused Anita Levy of conflating a conditional offer with “an unequivocal letter of appointment signed by the responsible institutional officer.” This charge ignores the reality that the Board typically meets to approve such appointments a month after the semester has begun.

    How is it possible that the University of Illinois would offer someone a position, allow him or her to be teaching for over a month, and believe that such an offer is a conditional offer? When was the last time that the University’s Board did not approve such an offer? Can the Board unilaterally change the terms and conditions in such a letter before approving it? For example, can a Dean write an offer letter with a salary, have a faculty member teach for a month and then inform him or her that the salary in his or her offer letter will not be honored, because it was subject to Board approval? Would faculty really take jobs at an institution where they are expected to teach for a month before they find out whether they actually have a job? Otherwise, although the words may say that the offer is subject to Board approval, any reasonable person would interpret such a letter as “an unequivocal letter of appointment signed by the responsible institutional officer.”

    If the University had truly intended the offer to be conditional then it was incumbent upon them to make a final decision well before the official start date (August 16, 2014). Indeed, since Steven Salaita was already tenured and being offered a position with tenure, it would seem that if the offer were conditional, it should have been submitted for approval before he and his wife resigned from their previous positions and made arrangements to uproot their family and relocate to Illinois.

    Ultimately, whether or not what a reasonable person believes will prevail will likely be determined by a court of law. Until such time, it is not unreasonable for the AAUP to contend that Professor Salaita did in fact receive “an unequivocal letter of appointment signed by the responsible institutional officer.”

  6. The most important” point that Prof. Musher is making — and it is the title of her posting — is that it is inappropriate for “the AAUP” to contend anything at all until a thorough investigation has been launched by a neutral and objective Committee A guided by the AAUP principles and the rule of law. Regardless of the accuracy of her interpretations of the facts of the case (or those of any commenter or blogger), her perception of this compromise of neutrality and objectivity is shared by many.

    Because and since Committee A has compromised itself by its Chair’s and one of its member’s issuing of conclusory statements before any formal committee-commissioned investigatory examination of all of the complexities (including but not limited to those in the comment above), “the AAUP” is now a part of the problem rather than potentially a part of the solution.

  7. To ban everyone involved with the AAUP from expressing opinions on important cases would be a terrible mistake, and an infringement on their freedom to speak. The fact is, if an investigation is conducted it will be made by a subcommittee without predetermined conclusions, it will be approved by Committee A, and then censure would be determined by a vote of the AAUP members at the annual meeting. So the precious neutrality and objectivity is still there.

    I seriously question whether the pretense of a neutral and objective AAUP was ever useful, but it had some merit a century ago when accurate information was difficult to obtain and it was wise to send an investigative team to get the facts before making conclusions. That’s no longer necessary. There’s a mountain of information on the Salaita case, and most facts are very clear.

    If, as you argue, the AAUP should be part of the solution, then it needed to inform the UIUC administration of its obligations under AAUP policies, and not wait a lengthy time to censure the administration after the fact. If informing universities about AAUP policies, as this letter does, is a violation of neutrality, then the AAUP would be paralyzed and unable to act on behalf of professors except by censuring universities, which the AAUP tries to avoid whenever possible by instead educating administrators about AAUP policies to reach better outcomes.

  8. It is the role of the President and General Secretary to be the vocal advocates for academic freedom and to express reasoned views consistent with the principles of the Association. There is no real room for “personal” views when one holds an office and when the media are questioning a person because s/he holds that office.

    In other words, the AAUP leadership should take care to always distinguish which of their comments are pursuant to their office and which are personal views. Further, the age of information does not relieve the investigation committee and Committee A from their role as pure arbiters of the principles in accordance with established fair and equitable procedures. The information age simply makes their work easier; it does not change the nature of their work.

    The problem is that members of Committee A have undermined the perceived objectivity of the Committee by seeking to propagate personal opinions about cases for which they may ultimately sit in judgment. They should not use their role as committee members to provide a blessing or a curse which is the purview of the committee and, in the case of censure, of the membership. In other words, as a first ground rule, eschewing the use of the royal “we” when expressing personal opinions is highly recommended.

    Let me draw an analogy from history: In 1985 the Austrian defense minister greeted a former Nazi released from prison at the airport and there was an uproar that he had given an official welcome to a questionable personage (cf. http://articles.latimes.com/1985-01-26/news/mn-13689_1_austrian-officials). Among the discussion at the time was a response that he went to the airport as a private citizen — which, of course, the government did not accept as a worthy excuse. Once one has attained certain positions of office, one cannot act in public without the office coloring or being colored by one’s actions.

  9. For Ms. Musher the AAUP is objective only when it follows the line of Cary Nelson who went out of his way to witch hunt Prof. Salaita, and who is so active, like her, in opposing the boycott of Israel, which Prof. Salaita has been active in promoting the boycott in part to end the silencing and black listing on American campuses. Who is being objective here?

    • Musher’s blog reminds me of the following from Through the Looking Glass:

      “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

      “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

      “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”

    • I would add that Cary Nelson’s objectivity is far, far more compromised than anybody else associated with the AAUP. He went from being a strenuous supporter of academic freedom to a strenuous opponent (when, of course, it clashed with his politics).

      Ms. Musher, there’s a beam in your eye, named Carey.

  10. Professor Musher would, it seems, have us believe that any comment by members of AAUP’s Committee A on a case in advance of a formal investigation of that case amounts to a violation of the organization’s “objectivity.” Hence, as the Chair of Committee A, I shall refrain from any comment on the Salaita case itself, the facts of which are now generally well known and their meaning widely debated. But I will take this opportunity to clarify two matters concerning this “objectivity.”

    First, as the historian Thomas Haskell wrote in a response to the late Peter Novick’s magisterial 1989 book, That Noble Dream: The Objectivity Question and the American Historical Profession, “objectivity is not neutrality.” Wrote Haskell:

    “I see nothing to admire in neutrality. My conception of objectivity . . . is compatible with strong political commitment. It pays no premium for standing in the middle of the road and it recognizes that scholars are as passionate and as likely to be driven by interest as those they write about. . . . There is nothing objective about hurling imprecations at apostates or catechizing the faithful, but as long as the polemicist truly engages the thinking of the enemy he or she is being as objective as anyone. . . . The powerful argument is the highest fruit of the kind of thinking I would call objective, and in it neutrality plays no part.” (http://digitalhistory.concordia.ca/courses/historicalmethods/wp-content/uploads/haskellobjectivity.pdf)

    In this light only a fool would believe that, when it comes to academic freedom, the AAUP is some sort of neutral arbiter. We are not. We defend the principles of academic freedom, are constantly alert to their possible violation, and seek to come to the aid of those who have been victims of their denial. In this sense we are more like the police officer who may come upon a purse-snatching and does not pause to judge whether the purse is being snatched or whether it is being offered as a gift, but instead intervenes. But the AAUP does strive to be objective in Haskell’s sense, meaning that in our work, and especially our investigations, we strive to investigate all relevant facts thoroughly, patiently (some might say too patiently), and judiciously, and we seek to address as much as possible the arguments of our opponents in a calm, rational, measured and, hopefully, convincing manner. In short, a careful, fair, and honest investigation is hardly precluded by our advance conviction that apparent violations of academic freedom are a serious matter worth investigating — and resisting.

    Second, I should stress that Committee A is not a jury nor is it an appellate court rendering a verdict. Under AAUP procedures investigations — which are but one of many ways AAUP seeks to defend academic freedom and address violations of our principles — are authorized by the Executive Director upon advice of staff. An investigating body is chosen and this group weighs all the available information and produces a report. Only then does Committee A consider the report (although obviously it would be ridiculous to assume that committee members have somehow previously been sequestered from publicly available information concerning the case and are hence entirely devoid of informed opinion before they receive the report). The Committee may then RECOMMEND action, including placement of the investigated administration on our censure list. That recommendation goes to the June meeting of the AAUP Council, which may also make a recommendation, including for or against censure. But the issue is finally decided only by those AAUP members present at the annual membership meeting. CENSURE MAY ONLY BE IMPOSED BY A MAJORITY VOTE OF THE JUNE ANNUAL MEETING. All members are eligible to attend that meeting, speak to the issue, and to vote on the matter, including, if she is an AAUP member, Professor Mushler. And nothing, of course, compels those who vote to be “objective,” although we would hope that they would formulate their views on the basis of their own response to the investigation report.

    • “In this sense we are more like the police officer who may come upon a purse-snatching and does not pause to judge whether the purse is being snatched or whether it is being offered as a gift, but instead intervenes. But the AAUP does strive to be objective in Haskell’s sense, meaning that in our work, and especially our investigations, we strive to investigate all relevant facts thoroughly, patiently (some might say too patiently), and judiciously, and we seek to address as much as possible the arguments of our opponents in a calm, rational, measured and, hopefully, convincing manner.” – AAUP VP Reichmann

      The police officer analogy must only apply to pronouncements of policy by officers or staff who will not be sitting on Committee A or its investigating committees — that is the advocate’s role to perceive, to intercept, to interject.

      Committee A, on the other hand, must be like a jury which, while not sequestered, swears allegiance to the principles of the Association but seeks to review the assembled evidence from all sides of the issue in its search for truth. True, Committee A is not neutral in the purest sense just as a jury may not choose to deviate from a law or principle; the Committee is to be as objective as possible in order to deserve the respect of both complainant and administration in their review of a case.

      Very little in the public pronouncements of Committee A members Reichman and Nelson reveals a commitment to that “gravitas” of the past traditional Committee A.

  11. Professor Reichman, the chair of Committee A, has confused objectivity with professional responsibility. My understanding is that Committee A chairs have traditionally served as neutral moderators of committee discussions withholding their own judgments until late in the process. By letting everyone know where he and Rudy Fichtenbaum, AAUP president, stand in their August 7th letter, Reichman politicized and compromised the process. Can he still serve as a neutral moderator? Will he now recuse himself from a vote? What about Fichtenbaum?

    In addition, the AAUP’s letter of August 29th presumes that Salaita’s academic freedom was violated when that is precisely the question the committee is asked to judge. No investigation of fact that intends to arrive at a formal judgment should prejudge the case as egregiously as the AAUP’s Committee A has done with Salaita. To use Reichman’s purse-snatching analogy, if the AAUP is acting as a policeman, we should recall that policemen have to give testimony in trials that are settled by judges, not by the police department itself. Of course, Committee A is intended to judge academic cases, not to be an interested party.

    Moreover, the threshold question for the AAUP (acting as judge) should be whether or not a final offer was made to Salaita by someone empowered to do so at UIUC. If the answer is no, than the AAUP could (and should) weigh in on the procedural issues. AAUP policy for example dictates that final job offers should be made by May 1 so as to assure time for relocation, course preparation, and the hiring of new faculty at one’s former institution.

    Furthermore, John K. Wilson seriously misrepresents the powerful role that precise precedent plays in AAUP decisions about whether to investigate and whether to recommend censure. The case histories of investigations and censure, in effect, offer the body of case law that demonstrates how to apply AAUP Recommended Institutional Regulations. Wilson both misinterprets past precedent and also dismisses its relevance in the interest of pursuing what he calls AAUP “values.” The 1968 University of South Dakota case he cites is no more analogous to Salaita’s case than the University of South Florida one raised by Levy. In both instances, the appointment letters never specified that the positions were subject to Board approval and the universities’ presidents either signed or publically endorsed both appointments. Salaita’s case was different in that the Dean’s letter clearly stipulated that his position would be subject to board approval. One can only be fired from positions one’s actually been offered. The failure to distinguish between a conditional and final offer raises serious questions about Committee A’s ability to review the case impartially.

    • Points of clarification:

      AAUP President Fichtenbaum does not sit on Committee A and therefore will not be voting as part of Committee A on any case formally investigated by Committee A and its investigatory committees.

      However, as AAUP President, Prof. Fichtenbaum hand-picks all of the members of Committee A, with very few exceptions which are ex officio positions (e.g., the AAUP General Counsel and the elected Member from the Assembly of State Conferences, cf. http://www.aaup.org/about/committees/standing-committees#ComA).

      Thus, the AAUP President has already stacked the deck of the committee to his taste. Please do not misunderstand this: the AAUP Constitution grants him that authority (cf. http://www.aaup.org/about/organization/aaup-constitution). Should the AAUP Constitution be changed? Obviously, but that process is long and can be stalled and stalemated by the Council under an AAUP President’s leadership.

      The other member of Committee A who has spoken to the press, strongly taking sides in this case is Prof. Cary Nelson. While a cynic might say that the votes of Profs. Reichman and Nelson cancel each other out (and perhaps the Chair might not vote except in the case of a tie), nonetheless, Prof. Musher’s points are well taken given all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the current AAUP Committee A.

    • I am now going to go back and read my dog-eared copy of Orientalism, since this blog underscores Said’s thesis about power/knowledge and the way the view from nowhere works. “whether or not someone fired someone at U of I.” The claim that the Board of Trustees represent the truth on whether Salaita was hired will be decided in a court of law with parties other than the AAUP President. That the AAUP President can voice his opinion on matters of academic governance and freedom was something that Cary Nelson fought for, claimed for himself and opened up the possibility of when he became President.

    • Musher cites absolutely no precedents to support her bizarre theory that the AAUP cannot criticize “conditional” job offers, nor does she identify any AAUP principles that state this. There are only two choices here: either there are no AAUP precedents for the Salaita cases and so AAUP “values” (a concept Musher mocks) are the only thing that can be applied, or the two precedents I mentioned are highly relevant precedents that express AAUP principles under which “conditionality” clauses cannot justify political firings.

      The only person misrepresenting AAUP precedents, and the role of AAUP precedents, is Musher herself. I quoted clear precedents from these two cases that apply to Salaita’s case, and she simply ignores them because they don’t fit her predetermined conclusions. She keeps citing the “conditionality” clause as if it were the only issue in this case when it is, in fact, irrelevant under AAUP principles and practices.

    • “In addition, the AAUP’s letter of August 29th presumes that Salaita’s academic freedom was violated when that is precisely the question the committee is asked to judge. No investigation of fact that intends to arrive at a formal judgment should prejudge the case as egregiously as the AAUP’s Committee A has done with Salaita. ”

      ‘Prima fascie’ is the applicable term. Just as a police officer may actually make statements independent of the findings of a judge and/or jury.

  12. To the best of my knowledge, every letter that the AAUP’s staff sends in a “case” presumes, based on the evidence that it has received so far, that a violation of some AAUP principle has occurred. The purpose of such a letter is mediative. The hope is that the offending administration will withdraw whatever action is claimed is in violation of these principles. Just as with the letter in this case and similar to the letter sent by Profs. Fichtenbaum and Reichman, these letters usually indicate that the AAUP is open to receiving additional information that may clarify the situation. That is, they express concern over an apparent violation based on the available evidence. This process is described in detail, not just for cases of discrimination, in the statement On Processing Complaints of Discrimination: http://www.aaup.org/report/processing-complaints-discrimination

    Two procedural clarifications: the president of the AAUP serves ex officio, and thus with vote, on every committee, including on Committee A. Under Robert’s Rules of Order, chairs of committees with fewer than 12 or so members may vote and thus do not have the same expectation of impartiality in the meeting as the presiding officer of a large meeting.

    • As for “presuming” that violations have occurred, the operative concept of “probable cause” is not a presumption of violation but rather a statement of cause to believe that a violation _may_ have occurred. These distinctions are crucial for a committee to act responsibly yet appear not to have been understood by a former member of Committee A — thus further confirming the guest blogger’s concerns.

      Finally, please take steps to ensure that the AAUP Website is updated at the link provided in my previous comment so that at last the accurate and complete membership of Committee A may be reported truthfully to the public. The AAUP Website has been constantly manipulated in the past by the leadership, suppressing information every year — and the “new” Website became an occasion for the elimination from public consultation of even more AAUP history.

  13. Prof. Musher,

    You seem to think that the views expressed by some AAUP members on the Salaita case will prevent them from fairly investigating the matter. Do you have some concrete examples from the past to illustrate exactly what you think could go wrong?

  14. I wonder if Sharon is concerned about Cary Nelson’s lack of objectivity given his membership on Committee A? He was the first person in AAUP to take a position on the Salaita contract revocation when he appeared at length in the IHE August 6 revelation?

    • I too found it interesting that Prof. Musher did not include Nelson in her comments, but then the overly principle of neutrality is being used rhetorically as a vehicle for another agenda, which appears to be defending the position of the U of I’s Board of Trustees, Cary Nelson, and Chancellor Wise.

  15. Pingback: 2014 Through the Academe Blog: October | The Academe Blog

  16. Well, some time has passed and it turns out the bias Dr. Musher noted with the Committee and AAUP’s leadership has played out as she predicted.

    Yet, the fact Salaita’s contingent offer was never approved by the board remains as true now as then.

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