Statement to the AAUP By Steven Salaita

The AAUP is holding its annual meeting today, June 13, 2015, and voting on the question of censuring the University of Illinois administration over the dismissal of Steven Salaita. Salaita was unable to attend, but sent this statement that was read at the meeting.

I wish to thank the AAUP leadership for its advocacy on behalf of academic freedom, shared governance, and fair labor practices, work that seems more and more pressing in our current environment. I am grateful for your efforts.

I have no compunction to urge anybody to vote a certain way on the matter before you. Do as your conscience impels. I simply wish to contribute two points for your consideration.

First: despite the consensus view – effectively conceded by the administration – that the university’s actions contravened principles of academic freedom, due process and faculty governance, university officials have consistently refused to entertain the just remedy in this situation: my reinstatement.

Not only does Committee A’s investigation reveal wide-ranging violations of academic freedom, but so does the report produced by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s (UIUC) Committee for Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT), whose recommendations the administration disregarded, despite having followed CAFT recommendations in previous cases. The UIUC administration has likewise disregarded the will of the faculty senate, which voted in February to call on the administration to promptly implement the CAFT findings. Sixteen departments remain without confidence in the chancellor, system president, and Board of Trustees. Dozens of scholarly associations, including the Modern Language Association and the American Studies Association, have condemned my termination. Students and faculty at UIUC have been organizing relentlessly, pleading with decision-makers to reverse course and rectify their mistakes rather than merely admitting to many of them. Ultimately, absent reinstatement, the university’s proclamations of fixing the problems their actions caused ring hollow.

Second: enough time has passed that the university’s initial rationale for firing me—that I would be unfit to teach, that I would not be tolerant of the views of students, that I threaten the norms of respectable discourse—has lost any remaining shred of plausibility. Perhaps because of this, the university, through its lawyers, has since appeared to abandon the notion that they were enforcing a code of civility. Instead, they have defended their actions by claiming my presence on campus would cause “undue disruption.” They do not point to any disruption I would create, other than possibly intense objection to my views—including objections from donors. In any event, their version of supposed “disruption” is just the other side of the civility coin; it, too, has no place in an academic institution that takes ideas and debate seriously.

And, just as with the claim of incivility, the claim of potential disruption has no basis in fact. In the past ten months, I’ve visited over fifty different campuses, delivering lectures, interacting with students and employees, meeting with unions and community groups. Thousands of people have witnessed me interacting with ideological and political opponents with respect, patience, and dignity. They have also witnessed a great amount of insult and vitriol directed at me, to which I responded, as I always do, with calmness and composure. Anybody paying attention during the past year cannot in good faith say I’m averse to, or incapable of handling, disagreement. And, of course, had the administration respected the judgment of the faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who fully vetted my scholarship and teaching record, they would have known the same.

One can disagree with my viewpoints and still see that the UIUC administration made a grave mistake it refuses to redress, based on outside interference and a host of assumptions about my pedagogical capabilities entirely bereft of—indeed, contrary to—evidence.

In fact, even if one deplores my viewpoints, that person cannot reasonably support the conduct of the UIUC leadership. As you all well know, the University’s malfeasance—and your considered response—have a lasting effect far beyond this individual academic.

6 thoughts on “Statement to the AAUP By Steven Salaita

  1. Pingback: AAUP Censures the University of Illinois and Three Other Institutions | The Academe Blog

  2. — Thousands of people have witnessed me interacting with ideological and political opponents with respect, patience, and dignity.

    I’ve seen the BDS movement to which you are a leader react to their opponents almost uniformally with disrespect, insults, childishness and constant lies. Were you a person who dialogued with respect, patience and dignity Chancellor Wise wouldn’t have been horrified by your conduct in the first place and you would be on the faculty today.

    Further as far as I know, though you potentially have access to depositions I don’t, we have no idea why the board voted against you. We know why the Chancellor didn’t want to forward the recommendation but beyond that I don’t think we have much evidence. Unless these witnesses have been deposed, you don’t know what arguments are going to be put forward by board members once they testify. I certainly don’t see any evidence your academic record was fully vetted during the initial hiring process. It is entirely possible the department did a poor job in their study and it was rejected by the next level up. An entire normal situation in hirings, multiple tiers exist precisely to perform such checks.

    Obviously you won the AAUP censure. But the AAUP may find themselves in the position of having to defend their version of events in their report based on very little investigation, which is going to contradict the sworn testimony of the board members who actually performed the non-hiring. I’m not sure how the AAUP is going to handle that kind of clear contradiction on facts they are setting themselves up for.

    • Board members refused to be interviewed by either the UIUC Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure or by the AAUP investigating subcommittee. So I don’t know what sort of contradiction we will have to “handle.” Many facts about this incident remain unknown — thanks in good measure to the university’s own attempts at secrecy — but no one can deny — and the university does not deny — that both AAUP principles and UIUC’s own policies were brazenly violated. That is all that concerns the AAUP.

      • @Hank

        Well the thing I’ve been saying over and over is that the board members under oath might say they had entirely different reasons or additional reasons for voting against him than his Twitter activity. Let me give you a few things that IMHO are also going to be a problem.

        Let’s take the letter to Chancellor Wise.

        we understand that he was offered an appointment as an associate professor with tenure at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign .. The offer was made in a letter dated October 3, 2013, from Dr. Brian H. Ross

        Now that never happened. The court is likely to find that never happened. Dr. Ross’s letter over and over again states it isn’t a job offer. The court is likely to find there was no job offer. That’s going to be a problem for the AAUP since it is on the record stating there was one.

        and early August 2014, when you notified him of its termination

        He was never notified of termination. He was notified on Aug 1 Dr. Wise was not recommending his appointment to the board. The court is likely to find he was never terminated.

        the actions have been publicly seen as having been triggered by his posting on social-media websites which were condemnatory of Israeli government practices in recent months.

        I think that one is already provably false. Salaita went well beyond condemning the Israeli government. He advocated for the assassination against a named American journalist he disagreed with. He advocated for genocide towards hundreds of thousands of civilians, a majority of whom are too young to have been soldiers. He attacked the ethnics of tens of millions of Americans… A free speech due process case could have been made without minimizing (or more accurately simply lying) about the what Salaita said.

        — but no one can deny — and the university does not deny — that both AAUP principles and UIUC’s own policies were brazenly violated.

        I’ve never heard the University agree that its policies were violated except for not forwarding Salaita to the board. And that was rectified by his recommendation being forwarded. So someone can deny, I deny it.

        As for the AAUP principles that offers must be firm. It appears that the University’s entire hiring scheme violates this. The University does agree and has altered policy so that the lag between a dean level recommendation and board hiring is narrowed. That’s how they are rectifying the situation.

        Having a poor hiring practice does not require them to hire someone who has a shoddy academic record mainly consisting mainly of political activism and unlearned hyperbole. Salaita is not the first employee in the world who got through initial rounds of a hiring process and then gets stopped in later rounds. He isn’t the last. The AAUP is taking a stand that owners (or owners by proxy) don’t have the authority to override hiring managers via. the hiring process when they disagree on hiring decisions and that’s something the courts will never agree to.

  3. CD-Host: as I note in another comment, the offer letter to Salaita was clearly an offer letter, it never says it’s not a job offer, and repeatedly says it is a job offer. If it wasn’t a job offer, then no faculty at the U of I ever get a job offer, since this is it.

    It is absolutely false to claim that Salaita advocated assassination and genocide. Total nonsense.

    • @John

      Hanks claim is he had a job and was fired / terminated.

      As far as his terrorism.

      Really: http://newsbusters.org/sites/default/files/2013/salaita%201.JPG

      That was in the context of the deliberately murder by Hamas of 3 Israeli teens. How do you think he wanted the 600k people to go missing in that context? Was it a call for the tooth fairy to come and remove them. He pretty was applauding those kid’s deaths and calling for it to be applied to everyone one of those 600k people.

      Similarly he specifically requested that Jeffrey Goldberg be killed with a shiv. That’s advocating assassination.

      Cary Nelson from the AAUP did a long post when this controversy first broke about how vile Salaita outbursts were:

      https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/08/08/essay-defends-university-illinois-decision-not-hire-steven-salaita

      Salaita’s comments about Jews are worse than the comments that got those students expelled in Oklahoma. One can believe that their was excessive without pretending that the SAE chant wasn’t pro-lynching. Similarly you can believe that Salaita should have gotten the job without pretending that he isn’t an open advocate for religious, national and racial hatred. I can see a university making the decision to hire an active member of the Klan, ISIS a supporter of the Khmer Rouge, a neo-Nazi, a member of those border groups that rape and murder illegals… I can’t see any reason that the AAUP needs to pretend in such a case though that the person is anything other than what they are. Salaita is known as the leader of a hate group. That’s who he is. His academic work is mostly anti-Jewish screeds.

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