41 Executive Officers at UIUC Call for the Reinstatement of Steven Salaita

August 23, 2015

Dear President Killeen and Acting Chancellor Wilson,

We the forty-one undersigned Executive Officers and campus leaders from departments and academic units across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign urge you to help end the crisis that has plagued our university for more than a year. It has increasingly become clear that the decision to rescind Dr. Steven Salaita’s appointment as an associate professor with indefinite tenure in the American Indian Studies Program violated the principles of shared faculty governance and may also be legally liable. The decision has also inflicted harm upon the reputation and standing of our university.

The AAUP has censured the Urbana-Champaign campus for the violation of academic freedom. An ongoing academic boycott against our campus continues to adversely affect an important dimension of our intellectual livelihood. More than 5,000 scholars around the world, many of them prominent intellectuals, refuse to participate in talks or conferences at the University of Illinois. Such events are part of the exchange of ideas for which our campus has always been known, and their cancellation impoverishes the conversation on campus to the detriment of students and faculty alike. Over the long term, it threatens our competitiveness in bringing in external funding and recruiting distinguished scholars.

We are therefore asking you to use the authority of your offices to recommend to the Board of Trustees that they reverse their previous decision and reinstate Dr. Salaita at the next board meeting in September. We firmly believe that this step will help put the university on track toward ending AAUP censure and regaining its place among the most respected public institutions of higher education in the country. The decision to reinstate Dr. Salaita will also make it easier to resolve pending litigation and save the university community and state taxpayers from the high costs of defending a wrong decision in the court of law.

We ask for a meeting to discuss our request to restore the rightful stature of the University of Illinois.

Sincerely,

James Anderson, Head, Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership

Matthew Ando, Chair, Department of Mathematics

Antoinette Burton, Interim Director, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities

C.L. Cole, Head, Department of Media and Cinema Studies

David Cooper, Director, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center

Clare Crowston, Chair, Department of History

Jerry Dávila, Director, Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies

Anna Maria Escobar, Director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Michael Finke, Head, Slavic Languages and Literatures

Stephanie Foote, Chair, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Interim Director, Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Greg Girolami, Head, Department of Chemistry

Waïl Hassan, Director, Center for Translation Studies

Stephanie Hilger, Head, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures

Valerie Hoffman, Head, Department of Religion

Valerie Hotchkiss, Director, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Jonathan X. Inda, Head, Department of Latina/Latino Studies

Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, Head, Department of Theatre

Lilya Kaganovsky, Director, Program in Comparative and World Literature

Brett Kaplan, Director, Program in Jewish and Culture and Society

Marcus Keller, Head, Department of French and Italian

Edward Kolodziej, Director, Center for Global Studies

Susan Koshy, Director, Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory

Soo Ah Kwon, Head, Department of Asian American Studies

Jean-Philippe Mathy, Director, School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics

David O’Brien, Chair, Art History Program

Robert B. Olshansky, Head, Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Andrew Orta, Head, Department of Anthropology

Jesse Ribot, Director, Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy Program

Michael Rothberg, Head, Department of English

Kirk Sanders, Chair, Department of Philosophy

Spencer Schaffner, Director, Center for Writing Studies

Douglas Simpson, Chair, Department of Statistics

Anna W. Stenport, Director, European Union Center

Eleonora Stoppino, Director, Program in Medieval Studies

Andrew Suarez, Head, Department of Animal Biology

William Sullivan, Head, Department of Landscape Architecture

Jonathan V. Sweedler, Director, School of Chemical Sciences

Ariana Traill, Head, Department of the Classics

Robert Warrior, Director, Program in American Indian Studies

Assata Zerai, Director, Center for African Studies

19 thoughts on “41 Executive Officers at UIUC Call for the Reinstatement of Steven Salaita

  1. This is great, but (without seeming to be picky), it’s a pity they didn’t also call for full disclosure of facts that, to date, remain not-fully-disclosed.

    The most recent of those is what I’m calling the “mind the gap” fact. To whit: Since Wise first learned about Salaita on July 21 (Monday), why do the “supplemental” emails UIUC released on Salaita only cover personal emails sent by Wise, Burbules, Tolliver, Aide etc. starting on the JULY 24, that is on the day of the Board of Trustees meeting?

    Is UIUC claiming that personal emails weren’t used for the Salaita affair PRIOR TO the morning of the BOT meeting? Are they claiming that there are NO emails from Wise and her friends discussing Salaita on their personal emails from the 21st, the 22nd, and the 23rd?

    Mind the gap!

    Soon to be a poster near you. And you heard it here first, folks.

    Andrew Scheinman
    samizdat-startups.org

  2. And then of course, UIUC claimed that they didn’t know until this April that personal emails were being used for university business on Salaita, the College of Medicine (COM) and Kilgore. And yet Scott Rice, UIUC counsel, was getting emails from Wise’s personal account in August 2014, and especially that poison-pill email from Andrew Wise to Phyllis to (by her personal email) Scott. The one about … Salaita and Kennedy.

    So let’s get Scott out in public to tell us how UIUC didn’t know about the personal email use.

    ***

    What’s needed is a consortium of involved parties DEMANDING these actions. There are so many inconsistencies in UIUC’s story I can’t even count them. Dr. Nick (Burbules) says the use of personal emails is okay (see the Daily Illini from last Friday) and of course he’s correct.

    But hey, Dr. Nick, you took the FOIA training course I presume, and I believe that in that course they tell you personal emails aren’t exempt. So when UIUC contacted you to ask for all your materials on Salaita, on what basis did you think it was okay to withhold the stuff you sent on personal emails? Because they didn’t explicitly ask you for them? Because you were the decider about relevance?

    ***

    A consortium. Disparate groups with different bones to pick. Together an agglomeration of people seeking full disclosure and that thing not produced lately at UIUC: the truth.

    AOS

  3. Where were they one year ago, before Salaita ‘s legal action and before the resignation of the Chancellor? Note that science (except for chemistry–good for them) and engineering aren’t represented here. Mathematics is, which is something. Computer Science is not. I suppose the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at UIUC has something to do with the relative absence of science and engineering. Anyone who needs to work with the NCSA is going to find it difficult to join the UIUC boycott. But perhaps this is a narrow view. The humanities, represented here, are the most important disciplines for the education of human beings as such.

  4. Regarding the absence of science types (apart from math and chemistry) … I agree it’s a pity, on the other hand I do think that there’s quite likely sympathy from that quarter, it’s just that the “Call for Reinstatement” is beyond what anyone of that camp would endorse, regardless of their sympathies.

    Remember that the CAFT committee itself didn’t call for reinstatement; what they called for was reconsideration of the issue by the FACULTY, in keeping with principles of shared governance. This sort of middle-of-the-road approach obviously isn’t satisfying to those who feel that Salaita should have been hired PERIOD, but middle-of-the-road may be the best way to build consensus across the campus.

    Or of course we could build consensus by calling not for Salaita’s reinstatement (at least not at this point), but rather for a FULL AND OPEN investigation, which, I think, would appeal to “the sciences” people every bit as much as it would to the non-sciences pockets on campus.

    AOS

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  6. It is ironic that multiple signatories never consulted with their faculty yet signed as Executive Officers of their respective units (Ando, Girolami, Sweedler, etc.). So I guess they really do value faculty governance! Most faculty in those departments and across campus are strongly opposed to hiring Salaita.

    • It is not ironic. Nowhere do they claim to speak on behalf of their units. They simply express their views from their particular perspective as Chairs, Heads, Directors faced with the consequences of the shameful injustice perpetrated against Dr. Salaita.

      • Chairs, Heads, and Directors speak for and represent their units in everything that they do. That is university 101. If what you say were true, then they would have added a statement to the effect that they are not speaking on behalf of their units, nor consulted with their faculty on this matter. Regarding your comment on Salaita, it is indeed unfortunate what happened. His poor scholarship and anti-semitism should have been caught earlier. But the University of Illinois is far better off without him.

    • One year ago I wrote to Secretary of the Board of Trustees and of the University to honor their commitment to Salaita. I work in research computing and have decided not to participate in research activities with the NCSA at UIUC on principle. Last year I turned down four opportunities to participate in NSF grants, and so far this year I have turned down three. If academic freedom is to mean anything at all, more of us will have to take the hard line worthy of the hard sciences.

      • This reply is for Ben geri, criticizing israel for their genocides and crimes against defenseless women and children is not anti-semitism. You would know if you had a shred of humanity in you. Nice try, as a matter of fact, criticizing zionism is not anti-semitism. zionism does NOT represent Judaism. Since we are on Academia 101, grab a book and educate yourself instead of spreading false propaganda. Reinstate Dr. Salaita now…

  7. I hope this uproar will encourage angry history and poli sci depts with integrity in universities nationwide to begin including honest classes on the history of Israel’s ethnic cleansing, colonization, racism, brutality and suffocating occupation of Palestine, classes now sorely lacking due to the implicit extortion and intimidation this incident has clearly exposed.

  8. I do think that the substantial financial settlement sends a message, and, even more, the widespread mobilization of resistance and the AAUP Censure send a message. However, I am concerned about dangerous lessons this will send to university adminsrations and trustees and to their economic and political backers.

    On a personal note, I had a similar experience, not on the Salaita level, but still very big. I was on tenture track at Southern Illinois University, where I taught for 5 years, and I was fired by the trustees (actually twice) for blatantly political reasons (relevant to the biggest Vietnam War Center in the US). This became a big national case, with widespread student and faculty and union support, with numerous professional associations investigating and supporting me, with the AAUP censure of SIU, and with an ACLU suit in federal court. In my case, this dragged on for years, with very severe consequences for SIU. We finally arrived at an out of court settlement in which the SIU decision was reversed (without having to admit guilt) and I received $25,000 or $35,000 (a lot at the time). We declared victory. Perhaps the biggest difference with the Salaita resolution concerned reinstatement since I could have returned to SIU, but I think that they knew that that was unlikely since I was happy at the University of Maine which at that point quickly granted me tenure. It seems imperative to keep demanding Salaita’s reinstatement and the continuation of the AAUP Censure, even if it does not mean what it did decades ago.

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