University of Illinois Faculty Senate Endorses Faculty Panel Recommendation to Reconsider Salaita Firing

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign faculty Senate has approved a resolution recommending that the administration “promptly” adhere to and implement the recommendations of the December 23, 2014 released Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) report on the Steven Salaita firing. The vote was 51-41 at the February 9, 2015 Senate meeting. We had previously reported on the genesis of the resolution. This is a significant development. The faculty Senate endorses further consideration of Professor Steven Salaita’s summary dismissal and the spurious charge of unfitness, by an ad hoc committee of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

While I was critical of the CAFT report’s introduction of a “professional fitness” standard, nevertheless, it establishes the possibility of a subsequent finding of fitness. This would directly contravene Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise and the board of trustee’s ideologically inspired charge that Salaita’s tweets on the Israel bombardment of Gaza rendered him unfit to teach at the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system.

The battle lines, if you will, are now more starkly drawn: the U of I administration v. the faculty Senate on the propriety of a summary dismissal after a signed and returned contract of a tenured associate professor in the American Indian Studies Program. The Senate passage of the resolution demonstrates its willingness to support its own standing committee in the face of the administration’s refusal to adopt the panel’s findings. I learned of this development in the News-Gazette. This is the text of the pro-Salaita resolution:

RS.15.05 February 9, 2015


Whereas the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has completed its investigation and deliberation concerning the withdrawal and rejection by the University administration and Trustees of an offer of a tenured faculty appointment on this campus to Dr. Steven Salaita and has presented its findings of fact and policy recommendations in its December 23, 2014 “Report on the Investigation into the Matter of Steven Salaita”; and

Whereas that report finds, inter alia, that “The process by which Dr. Salaita’s proposed appointment was withdrawn and eventually rejected did not follow existing policies and procedures in several substantial respects, raising questions about the institution’s commitment to shared governance;” and

Whereas the report finds further that “the reasons given” for the withdrawal of the original offer to Dr. Salaita are “not consistent with the University’s guarantee of freedom of political speech,” adding that “civility does not constitute a legitimate criterion for rejecting his appointment”; and

Whereas the report finds further that “The Chancellor’s, the President’s, and the Trustees’ disregard for the principles of shared governance and the very specific policies and procedures of the university and the campus is a serious matter. It violates the foundational arrangements designed to assure excellence as well as the trust necessary for a complex web of interdependent relationships to function well and with integrity;” and

Whereas the report further recommends “that statements made by the Chancellor, President, and Trustees asserting civility as a standard of conduct be withdrawn”; and

Whereas the report further recommends that all questions recently raised about Dr. Salaita’s “professional fitness” be “remanded to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for reconsideration by a committee of qualified academic experts” and that Salaita “be provided the opportunity to respond to any proposed findings of professional unfitness before the body concludes its proceedings;”

Therefore, the Senate of the Urbana-Champaign Campus calls upon the Chancellor, President, and Board of Trustees to implement these recommendations promptly.

Submitted by Faculty Senators:

Bruce Levine (History)

Kay Emmert (English)

Shawn Gilmore (English)

Isabel Molina (Media and Cinema Studies)

Jennifer Monson (Dance)

Dana Rabin (History)

Kristina Riedel (Linguistics)

D. Fairchild Ruggles (Landscape Architecture)

Gabriel Solis (Music)

Mark Steinberg (History)

Anna Stenport (Germanic Languages and Literature)

Terry Weech (LISC)

Terri Weissman (Art and Design)

2 thoughts on “University of Illinois Faculty Senate Endorses Faculty Panel Recommendation to Reconsider Salaita Firing

  1. This is a positive development, but the vote 51-41 is too close, at least in my mind, to get a clear sense that the faculty at U of I comprehend basic principles of academic freedom and governance. In fact, I’m surprised with the problems in the CAFT report that so many faculty on the U of I Senate voted against the resolution. Does anyone know what the “anti’s” reasons were? Besides, that Salaita is “unfit,” because they don’t like his tweets?

    • Good points. But, for one thing, the faculty margin was actually bigger than 51-41, because the 41 includes the 5 (I think) undergraduate senators who have tended to serve as mere echoes for the chancellor and the pro-chancellor Senate leadership.

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