The Animal Farm Model for Running a University

Two UW Admins with Dubious Ethical Records

U. of Illinois Chancellor, Phyllis Wise, after a less than exemplary ethical record as the UW Provost, now faces faculty outrage over the dismissal of a Palestiniam American as a candidate for the UI faculty.

Steven G. Salaita  is well known as a critic of Israel.  Controversy erupted last month when the university offered a tenured professorship to Mr, Salaita and then decided not to send his appointment to the Board of Trustees for approval because of statements critical of Israel he posted on Twitter. Academics nationwide have expressed outrage at what they perceive as a blatant assault on academic freedom, and several university departments have voted no confidence in Ms. Wise as a result of her decision.

This is not new behavior for Professor Wise. UW and UI faculty should remember that Phyllis Wise’s career here was heavily compromised by similar issues where her ethics were less than stellar:

1. She accepted a highly lucrative board position at NIKE  with an apparent conflict of interest.  She did this despite a failure to have her appointment go through a review by the Medical School, claiming that as Provost  she was above the rules that apply to other faculty.

2. Along with then President Emmert, the UW Provost Wise over rode and derided a decision by a highly prestigious faculty adjudication panel that found she and the administration had broken the Faculty Code by firing Professor Andrew Aprikyan.

3. There were also allegations that she took NIH funds while not running her own lab while Provost.

Now the chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, Ms. Wise  has acknowledged that the hiring process that led to the controversial canceled appointment of Steven G. Salaita was flawed, The News-Gazette reports. Phyllis M. Wise told the newspaper that she would not reverse her decision not to put Mr. Salaita’s appointment before the Board of Trustees, but that “there have been some errors in the process” that the university is working to fix.

Ms. Wise also told the newspaper she would keep meeting with faculty members campus wide to hear their concerns. The Board of Trustees has backed Ms. Wise amid the protests.

Listen to an excerpt of Ms. Wise’s comments.


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  1. theaveeditor #

    Summary of comments from UW AAUP listserv

    on behalf of

    [email protected]

    Tue 8/26/2014 7:13 PM


    Faculty Issues and Concerns ;

    In responding to postings about the Salaita case, I would like to make three points. One is that we should be clear about what academic freedom means, especially in official AAUP language. Secondly, attention should be focused on the contractual nature of a written job offer. We should acknowledge that arbitrarily rescinding such an offer amounts to at least “bad faith,” if it is not legally a breach of contract. Thirdly, it should be recognized that in much of this discussion civility, uncivility, vulgarity or other language and rhetorical standards are now being allowed to trump generally accepted forms of free speech, or even long-standing principles of academic freedom.

    In The Academe Blog of August 6, 2014, p.1, the AAUP 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure recognizes extramural utterances of professors “when they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” Even with respect to controversial speech: “The intent of this Statement is not to discourage what is ‘controversial.’ Controversy is at the heart of the free academic inquiry which the entire (AAUP) Statement is designed to foster. While acknowledging the strident and vulgar nature of what Professor Salaita tweeted, the Illinois AAUP Committee A added that his statements “were an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East. Issues of life and death during bombardment educes significant emotions and expressions of concern that reflect the tragedy that armed conflict confers on its victims. Speech that is deemed controversial should be challenged with further speech that may abh!
    or and challenge a statement.” Thus, in the view of the Illinois AAUP Committee A, if the “University has voided a job offer due to tweets on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict it would be a clear violation of Professor Salaita’s academic freedom and an affront to free speech that we enjoy in this country.”

    In terms of ethics and common understanding, it seems to me that revoking a tenured job offer on grounds of incivility or other language being used by the University constitutes a material breach of contract. The lawyers among us can clarify that point in speculating about court proceedings. Apparently, Chancellor Wise declined to even submit the job offer recommendation to the Board of Trustees. My interpretation would be that at least the University acted in bad faith. For his part of the contract, Professor Salaito was certainly put in a world of hurt after resigning his tenured position at Virginia Tech, making housing arrangements for moving his family from Blacksburg, VA to Champaign-Urbana, IL, and making other life changes associated with a senior faculty transfer. And, by the way, something of academic importance that has been overshadowed is that he is the author of six books and has an eight-year teaching career at Virginia Tech. So he has much more to his cr!
    edit than irreverent and vulgar tweets.

    Finally, if revoking Professor Salaita’s tenured job offer stands academically, politically and legally at Illinois, it will elevate civility standards above academic freedom standards. In my view that would leave very little substance to academic freedom that would be worth claiming. More specifically, to the core of the academic freedom debate, where are we to discern that academic freedom exists, except when the speech that it affords disregards civility and criticizes Israel’s inhumane bombings and destruction in Gaza City? Given the apparent intense lobbying to revoke Professor Salaiata’s tenured job offer, we should all be reassured that at least the Illinois AAUP Committee A will hold steadfast to AAUP principles that to be real academic freedom must be exercised in the heat of controversy and dissent or it does not offer any real protection when it is most needed.

    Thaddeus Spratlen

    ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
    > Thaddeus H. Spratlen, Professor Emeritus of Marketing < > School of Business Box 353200, University of Washington, < > Seattle, WA 98195 Office: 354 Mackenzie Hall < > Tel:(206) 543-4778(206) 543-4778 Fax: (206)543-7472 < > [email protected] < vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv On Mon, 25 Aug 2014, Roberta Gold wrote: > The Salaita case does not seem so clear-cut to me, although I agree with
    > Christoph on several points. Let me start by noting our areas of agreement.
    > First, as longtime listeros are aware, I have no problem with “outspoken
    > views on Israel.” I have taken some heat on this very list for defending
    > critics of Israel’s occupation/expulsion policies, and for condemning what
    > Ellen Schrecker calls “the New McCarthyism” on American campuses, i.e., the
    > right-wing campaigns to fire such critics. I consider Israel’s current war
    > on Gaza obscene. I believe it should be condemned by all who care for human
    > rights and international law.
    > Further, I am aware that UI was lobbied by the Wiesenthal Center to can
    > Salaita because of his politics. Cf. the New McCarthyism.
    > Finally, I agree with the AAUP that “incivility” is a vague charge easily
    > abused by faculty and administators with scores to settle. I get the sense
    > that it can be used to denote anything from failure to wear a tie to a dept.
    > meeting to use of the f-word (a staple of my own lexicon). I’m told it is
    > sometimes deployed by senior white faculty who resent the hiring of scholars
    > of color, especially when the latter don’t stroke their senior colleagues’
    > egos sufficiently.
    > So why would I hesitate to rally for Steven Salaita? Because I’ve read his
    > Twitter posts, as reproduced here:
    > What struck me was neither outspokenness nor profound concern for
    > Palestinians, but monumental immaturity. People are dying, yet Salaita
    > writes as if the whole war were just an opportunity to showcase his zingers
    > and smart-ass skills. His juvenility stands out especially because this
    > summer I’ve been reading so much compelling criticism of the war, and the
    > larger Zionist project, written by _grown-ups_. Judith Butler, Robin Kelly,
    > Ilan Pappe and Walid Khalidi are a few of those who write with the gravity
    > appropriate to large-scale death and injustice. Salaita, by contrast, tweets
    > on “the pointy end of a shiv” and the UC chancellor’s baldness. What an
    > embarrassment to the left.
    > OK, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, the questions are whether
    > maturity differs from civility, and, if so, whether it is a valid hiring
    > consideration?
    > To question one, a firm yes. I can easily think of people who are mature but
    > not unfailingly civil, and vice versa. I admit that maturity is hard to
    > define, but I believe that, like Justice Stewart, I know it when I see it.
    > (My Psych 101 professor in college defined it as replacing the toilet paper
    > roll when you finish it, even if nobody would know if you hadn’t.)
    > Question two — is maturity, a.k.a. character, a valid search criterion? —
    > is what I’d really like to hear discussed on this list. Offhand, I don’t see
    > why it _shouldn’t_ count, as long search committees are scrupulous in
    > distinguishing maturity from political palatability. (Note: I am not at all
    > sure that Wise and the UI board were scrupulous in this way; more on that in
    > a minute.) Maturity facilitates (even if it does not guarantee) good
    > scholarship and teaching, but we already have peer review and evals to guage
    > those those attributes in a candidate. Where character may matter most is in
    > committee work and shared governance. Faculty committees make important
    > decisions. Having principled grown-ups (as opposed to egotists, bullies,
    > ax-grinders, etc., etc.) on those bodies enhances all of our working
    > conditions.
    > Character assessment has long played a role in search committees’
    > deliberations; people get “the scoop” on top candidates by grapevine from
    > their pals at other institutions. Is this forbidden? Should it be?
    > Especially nowadays, when there’s a plethora of excellent scholar-teachers
    > applying for every job, it seems likely that committees can consider
    > character and still “have it all.” And if it’s OK to get character
    > information from trusted colleagues, I don’t see why it’s wrong to gauge it
    > by social media posts as well. After all, people have much more control over
    > what they post on the internet than over what colleagues say about them in
    > private.
    > Now, that’s all about searches. Once a person is hired and tenured, the
    > threshold for firing should be high. Not showing up to teach classes,
    > sexually harassing students or colleagues, or academic fraud a la Michael
    > Bellesiles, would qualify as firing offenses. Braying like a jackass on the
    > internet would not. (For this reason I held my nose and supported Ward
    > Churchill when he was fired.)
    > Which brings us to the thorny question whether Salaita was hired and fired,
    > or just never fully hired at UI. Frankly I can see a reasonable argument for
    > either side. Since it’s a gray area, I don’t feel compelled to rally to his
    > cause. Fortunately, the timing details of this case are extraordinary and
    > unlikely to recur often.
    > The more interesting question for me is whether, if Salaita’s juvenile tweets
    > had been out there while the search committee was still deliberating, it
    > would have been wrong for said committee to consider them, as indicators of
    > character, alongside teaching evals and scholarship. I respect the caution of
    > those who fear that this would imperil academic freedom. But that just begs
    > the question how we define academic freedom? I always thought it was AAUP
    > shorthand for the rights to challenge scholarly orthodoxy (with appropriate
    > evidence) and to hold unpopular political views. Should it also mean the
    > right to be childish? I look back on the mental wear and tear I’ve endured on
    > other jobs because I was stuck working with a jerk, and think, if only the
    > boss there had bothered to count maturity as well as other qualifications in
    > making hires! Why would academics, who participate in hiring in their own
    > workplaces, want to forfeit this ability?
    > Finally, just because I’m not rallying for Salaita does not mean I support
    > Chancellor Wise. Her boilerplate statement on civility fails to capture what
    > is significant in Salaita’s tweets. And for all I know, she and the board
    > may simply capitulated to political pressure from the Wiesenthal Center. One
    > could deduce that with more confidence if Salaita had not left himself open
    > to legitimate reproach.
    > Roberta
    > _______________________________________________
    > [email protected]
    > Listserve guidelines and information about AAUP-UW:

    [email protected]
    Listserve guidelines and information about AAUP-UW:

  2. theaveeditor #

    More from the AAUP

    on behalf of

    Sarah Stroup

    Mon 8/25/2014 7:56 PM


    Faculty Issues and Concerns ;

     1 attachment

    ATT00001.txt528 bytes

    Esteemed Colleagues.

    Ok. I tried. I was first appalled, then amused, then increasingly peeved by what must have been a disingenuous use of an article written in the *Electronic Intifada* (!) to move the discussion from Provost Wise’s opinion on the Salaita case (which I shall not get into) to—sigh, again—a broader criticism of Israel. Again. Because goodness knows that this world has no more pressing political and humanitarian issues to occupy us (or perhaps it is merely that Israel is the only nation we feel safe about openly criticizing, which is a revelation unto itself, and its own type of shame).

    I’d thought of countering the EI article with a fair and balanced piece from AIPAC. Just to keep things fair and balanced.

    Hah! I kid.

    And you will note that I did not. Nor I am going to draw attention to the egregious misrepresentation of facts in the EI article (to wit: if one hasn’t been officially hired, one cannot be preemptively fired), any more than I am going to deconstruct its embarrassing use, and repetition, of logical fallacies (cf. “Wise’s argument is stupid and evil,” “biology professors must be fired for disrespecting creationism” et cet.: cf argumentum ad hominem, petitio principii, straw man, slippery slope—among others). I am not going to point out the fact that most of the Abunimah / EI article was actually an extended citation of the original source, a blog piece by John K Wilson (though I am somewhat interested in prof. Giebel’s decision to post the EI piece rather than the original source in the AAUP Academe blog). At any rate, I am not going to mention any of these things.

    Ah, praeteritio.

    But I will address one element of the article that first annoyed me, then angered me, then perplexed me, and finally moved me to write. And this is the repeated, crowing insistence—first in Wilson’s blog piece, and then echoed in the Abunimah piece that cites it at length—that academic civility has no place in the university.

    Let’s review this. (All quotes from Wilson—Abunimah is not an academic, and is even further out of touch with the academy than Wilson, therefore too easy a target):

    —”…this standard [i.e., that disrespectful words and actions that demean or abuse are not to be tolerated at UIUC] is ridiculous: individuals should be free to say personal and “disrespectful” things about others”

    —”Respect is not a fundamental value of any university”

    —”I am puzzled as to exactly how a free university could possibly operate when no one is allowed to be disrespectful toward any viewpoint”

    (This leads to the claim that biology professors must be fired for “disrespecting creationism.” I have learned that Wilson has a BA in philosophy. I suggest he try to get a refund on that.)

    Wilson then calls Wise’s call for academic respect and civility an “absurd approach” (to what, I am not sure) with this sentence, which I worry he feels actually strengthens his attempt at an argument:

    “A Jewish student, a Palestinian student, or any student of any faith or background must feel confident that personal views can be expressed and that philosophical disagreements with a faculty member can be debated in a civil, thoughtful and mutually respectful manner.”

    Yes. What a horrible, horrible notion. I wonder what Wilson thinks of the recent attack on a Jewish student at Temple; I suppose he’d protect the anti-semitic slurs that prefaced the actual physical violence.

    Anyway. Wilson then tries to blur Wise’s statement into one prohibiting all disagreement exposure to criticism. This is such a clear and intentional misrepresentation of Wise that it is not worth commenting upon.


    Aside from the ridiculous notion that academic freedom cannot exist in the presence of academic civility—I argue precisely the contrary: that academic freedom and academic civility are the cornerstones of our academy, and one is nearly useless without the other—Wilson is misguided at best and simply incorrect at worst.

    And between being misguided and incorrect, he betrays himself for one thing he is most certainly not, and that is a professor who works closely with students and understands the immense responsibilities involved in providing a safe, respectful, and yes—civil—atmosphere in which to foster their intellectual development.

    Wilson argues, presumably with a straight face, that individuals—presumably professors, and their students—should be—and I quote—”free to say personal and ‘disrespectful’ things about others”—presumably to *each other*, presumably while in class.

    I found this puzzling. First, I found this puzzling because as a professor who frequently fosters students in potentially uncomfortable, upsetting, frightening, and offensive topics (religious belief, sexuality, sexism, racism, slavery, xenophobia, murder, suicide, verbal and physical abuse, including rape—and that was all from this summer’s Mythology class) I make it damned clear in my classroom that in the course of such discussion we shall not tolerate personal or disrespectful comments from any of us. And we don’t. And we have some really excellent discussions, I’ll tell you that. But I also found this puzzling because I am familiar with our own Standards of Conduct, and engaging in speech that is both of a “personal” and “disrespectful” nature skates dangerously close to the edge of academic misconduct. This would depend, of course, on the nature of the speech, whether it revealed an attempt to threaten, harass, or silence, et cet.: my point is merely that our own code of conduct requires students to behave with respect and integrity precisely for the protection of all student rights and freedoms.

    Not stopping at merely tolerating personal and disrespectful statements made to our colleagues and students, Wilson appears to claim that he doesn’t understand how a “free” (?) university could “possibly operate” without the display of disrespect toward one another, and goes so far as to make the “I’m about to jump this shark!” claim that “Respect is not a fundamental value of any university.”

    Except when it is. For it is at this point that Wilson became so high on his own supply that he went from merely misguided (“people should be allowed to demean and abuse each other verbally without any correction”) to flat out wrong.

    From Berkeley Student Affairs:

    “The University of California at Berkeley is a public institution of higher education committed to excellence in teaching, research, and public service. Our student body represents the diversity of our state, and will provide its future leaders. Together, the students, faculty, and staff form our campus community, which reflects a variety of backgrounds and cultures. The quality of life on and about the campus is best served by courteous and dignified interaction between all individuals, regardless of sex, ethnic or religious background, sexual orientation, or disability.

    Therefore, the administration of this University publicly declares its expectation that all members of the campus community will work to develop and maintain a high degree of respect and civility for the wealth of diversity in which we are all fortunate to live and work together. This civility and respect for diversity ought to flourish in an atmosphere of academic freedom that is considerate and tolerant of the ideas of others. The administration of this University expects you to consult the student conduct code for specific regulations regarding respect and civility.”

    From the University of Missouri’s “Show me Respect” campaign:

    “Civility means consistently treating people with consideration and respect, valuing the culture and humanity of others. ”

    From Northwestern:





    —at which point, my point having been made and Wilson’s blunted into obscurity, I am going to stop. Whatever we might think of the Salaita case (I find it a lesson in How Not To Use Twitter), the simple, on-the-ground fact is that respect and civility are, and always have been, core values in any university worth calling itself such. It is respect and civility that allow academic freedom to flourish safely—for us, and for our charges. It is respect and civility that give academic integrity its teeth, its value, and its strength. We all know this; but at times like these it is good for us to recall it.

    As Always,

    Sarah Stroup

    Sarah Culpepper Stroup

    Associate Professor, Classics

    Classics Graduate Program Coordinator

    Director, UW Tel Dor Excavations and Field School

    University of Washington

    Seattle WA 98195-3110

    [email protected]

    On Aug 24, 2014, at 11:02 PM, J. Gallant wrote:

    Let me thank Professor Giebel for opening discussion on the issues of, as he puts it, “military occupation, illegal settler colonialism, and oppression in Israel/Palestine”. However, I am not entirely persuaded that Electronic Intifada is the most perfectly disinterested, non-partisan source for information in this area. Permit me to suggest a recent Associated Press dispatch for some important information on the current, tragic stage of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Under the headline “Hamas admits kidnapping Israeli teens”, the article reveals a key background factor, and then briefly reviews the time course by which the current hostilities developed. The details are at:

    Jon Gallant Dr. Phage
    Genetics (Genome) Department Grosser Seattle, Unltd.

    University of Washington
    Seattle, WA 98195-7360
    Phone: (206) 543 8235
    FAX: (206) 543 0754

    “I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you
    looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.”
    — Science Fiction Writer Poul Anderson

    On Sat, 23 Aug 2014, Christoph Giebel wrote:

    More on how the near-50 year-long military occupation, illegal settler colonialism, and oppression in Israel/Palestine are affecting academic freedom and faculty rights in the US.

    (Article below from Electronic Intifada, reposted on, including highly appropriate commentary by AAUP, and full text of Chancellor [ex-UW Provost] Phyllis Wise’s letter stating –incredibly– that Steven Salaita’s punitive non-hiring “was not influenced in any way by his positions? nor his criticism” re. Israel/Palestine.)

    Some thoughts:

    — Lesson for all: lest they be caught in Salaita’s cruel limbo-land, tenured lateral movers should henceforth neither resign their old position nor even disclose their new position to their old employer until fully established at their new place, bureaucratic havoc be damned. When confronted, blame Civility Inquisitors.

    — Given that, in my teachings on imperialism and colonialism in Asia, I show little if any respect for white supremacist structural violence and capitalist-driven pilfering of other people’s lands –ideas that could be seen as, you know, demeaning viewpoints embracing racial hierarchies and exceptionalism– I am so glad that AAUP-UW was instrumental in pushing for last year’s Faculty Code revisions substantially strengthening academic freedom and faculty speech rights at UW. Democratic spaces are rapidly closing everywhere.

    — To put our thus-stated fundamental commitment to defending academic freedom and speech protections into action, the UW administration and appropriate departments should immediately work together and offer Prof. Salaita tenured academic refuge.

    C. Giebel


    International Studies / History


    Published on

    Saturday, August 23, 2014

    byElectronic Intifada

    Univ. of Illinois Admits Pre-Emptive Firing of Israel Critic Steven Salaita

    byAli Abunimah

    Finally breaking its silence, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Friday claimed that the firing of Steven Salaita was ?was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel.?

    Rather, it was, in effect, a pre-emptive firing based on the assumption that his tweets would make him a bad teacher.

    This transparent use of ?civility? as a cover to fire a professor with outspoken views on Israel is almost identical to the pretext that was given by DePaul University in 2007 to deny tenure to Norman Finkelstein.

    In that case, DePaul denied Finkelstein tenure on the vague grounds that he lacked ?collegiality.?

    In a lengthy mass email to the university community (full text below), UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise makes the following statements that amount to pre-emptive accusations against Salaita without providing any specifics about what he was accused of and no due process to defend himself:

    What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them. We have a particular duty to our students to ensure that they live in a community of scholarship that challenges their assumptions about the world but that also respects their rights as individuals.

    As chancellor, it is my responsibility to ensure that all perspectives are welcome and that our discourse, regardless of subject matter or viewpoint, allows new concepts and differing points of view to be discussed in and outside the classroom in a scholarly, civil and productive manner.

    A Jewish student, a Palestinian student, or any student of any faith or background must feel confident that personal views can be expressed and that philosophical disagreements with a faculty member can be debated in a civil, thoughtful and mutually respectful manner. Most important, every student must know that every instructor recognizes and values that student as a human being. If we have lost that, we have lost much more than our standing as a world-class institution of higher education.

    When Finkelstein was denied tenure, the Illinois branch of the Association of American University Professors (AAUP) wrote that ?collegiality? was a vague, baseless and impermissible criterion in making such decisions.

    Already in Salaita?s case, the national AAUP stated that it ?has long objected to using criteria of civility and collegiality in faculty evaluation because we view this as a threat to academic freedom. It stands to reason that this objection should extend as well to decisions about hiring, especially about hiring to a tenured position.?

    At the blog Academe, a publication of AAUP, John K. Wilson points out the absurdity of Wise?s claim that not just people but ?viewpoints? must not be ?demeaned?:

    Of course, this standard is ridiculous: individuals should be free to say personal and ?disrespectful? things about others (for example, everyone should be free to say that Wise?s argument here is both stupid and evil, without facing punishment from the respect police). Respect is not a fundamental value of any university, and being ?disrespectful? is not an academic crime. But it?s notable that Salaita really didn?t say anything personal about anyone. So here Wise greatly expands the concept, declaring that not only persons but ?viewpoints themselves? must be protected from any disrespectful words. I am puzzled as to exactly how a free university could possibly operate when no one is allowed to be disrespectful toward any viewpoint. Presumably, Wise will quickly act to fire anyone who has ever disrespected or demeaned Nazism, terrorism, racism, sexism, and homophobia. Since all ?viewpoints? are protected, then biology professors must be fired for disrespecting creationism!

    as false, along with any other professor who is found to believe or know anything.

    The decision to fire Salaita has prompted a growing boycott of UIUC, with more than 2,400 scholars from around the country pledging not to engage with the university.

    In a concrete manifestion of this, the Education Justice Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has announced that it is canceling an upcoming conference.

    Mass email from Phyllis Wise [Note: a copy is also posted on Wise?s official blog]:

    22 August 2014

    Dear Colleagues:

    As you may be aware, Vice President Christophe Pierre and I wrote to Prof. Steven Salaita on Aug. 1, informing him of the university?s decision not to recommend further action by the Board of Trustees concerning his potential appointment to the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since this decision, many of you have expressed your concern about its potential impact on academic freedom. I want to assure you in the strongest possible terms that all of us ? my administration, the university administration and I ? absolutely are committed to this bedrock principle. I began my career as a scientist challenging accepted ideas and pre-conceived notions, and I have continued during my career to invite and encourage such debates in all aspects of university life.

    A pre-eminent university must always be a home for difficult discussions and for the teaching of diverse ideas. One of our core missions is to welcome and encourage differing perspectives. Robust ? and even intense and provocative ? debate and disagreement are deeply valued and critical to the success of our university.

    As a university community, we also are committed to creating a welcoming environment for faculty and students alike to explore the most difficult, contentious and complex issues facing our society today. Our Inclusive Illinois initiative is based on the premise that education is a process that starts with our collective willingness to search for answers together ? learning from each other in a respectful way that supports a diversity of worldviews, histories and cultural knowledge.

    The decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel. Our university is home to a wide diversity of opinions on issues of politics and foreign policy. Some of our faculty are critical of Israel, while others are strong supporters. These debates make us stronger as an institution and force advocates of all viewpoints to confront the arguments and perspectives offered by others. We are a university built on precisely this type of dialogue, discourse and debate. What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them. We have a particular duty to our students to ensure that they live in a community of scholarship that challenges their assumptions about the world but that also respects their rights as individuals.

    As chancellor, it is my responsibility to ensure that all perspectives are welcome and that our discourse, regardless of subject matter or viewpoint, allows new concepts and differing points of view to be discussed in and outside the classroom in a scholarly, civil and productive manner. A Jewish student, a Palestinian student, or any student of any faith or background must feel confident that personal views can be expressed and that philosophical disagreements with a faculty member can be debated in a civil, thoughtful and mutually respectful manner. Most important, every student must know that every instructor recognizes and values that student as a human being. If we have lost that, we have lost much more than our standing as a world-class institution of higher education.

    As a member of the faculty, I firmly believe that a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois is a tremendous honor and a unique privilege. Tenure also brings with it a heavy responsibility to continue the traditions of scholarship and civility upon which our university is built.

    I am committed to working closely with you to identify how the campus administration can support our collective duty to inspire and facilitate thoughtful consideration of diverse opinions and discourse on challenging issues.


    Phyllis M. Wise Chancellor

    © 2014 Electronic Intifada

    Ali Abunimah is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and a fellow with the Palestine Centre in Washington, DC. Abunimah is Executive Director of The Electronic Intifada.

    [email protected]
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  3. theaveeditor #

    Could I Have Been Steven Salaita? Could You?

    August 25, 2014, 1:08 pm

    By Claire Potter


    Why is nobody inquiring about UI Board chair Christopher Kennedy’s role in the Salaita affair? Photo credit

    Probably not. Of course. Maybe? Sure! Look at the number of distinguished people who have signed the general letter of support vowing not to engage with the University of Illinois until Steven Salaita is reinstated as an associate professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. We are talking about 1500 potential tenure referees who will not be available, for starters. Look at the impressively large number of faculty making a similar pledge under the rubric of “Un-tenured and Un-tenurable Faculty.” Go here to find and sign a letter.

    What is responsible for this kumbaya moment in academia, one in which conservatives, liberals, libertarians and radicals, the contingent and the distinguished chairs, are in solidarity? Regardless of our other differences, all of us understand that our non-academic utterances –whether in social media, an op-ed, a talk or in the college alumni magazine — could easily have bite us in the behind under such policies.

    This is a school that believes in civility and protecting students from harm so much that it defended its risibly offensive and racist faux Native American mascot until 2007, two years after that that famously progressive organization, the NCAA banned the mascot as “hostile and abusive,” banning UIUC from hosting post-season play. In the Salaita case, we are seeing the same strategy: through Wise, the UIUC Board of Trustees has decided to insist that it is right and hope the whole thing goes away. By doubling down on their decision to rescind a job offer that was made and accepted almost a year ago, Chancellor Phyllis Wise and the University of Illinois Board of Trustees have managed to accomplish what no one else has. They have united thousands of faculty, many of whom quarrel regularly and nastily about Israel-Palestine, in defense of a common understanding of academic freedom.

    Congratulations, guys! It’s a miracle!

    For academics who have been without an Internet connection for the last few weeks, Steven Salaita, formerly an English professor at Virginia Tech, was offered and accepted a tenured associate professorship at UIUC in October 2013, negotiating a fall 2014 start to fulfill his commitments at VT. In mid-August, however, having cut his ties in Virginia (which included his resignation from a tenured job, his spouse quitting her job, and the couple renting their house) Salaita was informed that the final hurdle of his appointment, approval by the Board of Trustees, would not occur. This group of wealthy business people who are entirely unqualified to judge his scholarship, teaching and collegiality may have feared that Salaita’s presence on campus would put them in the position of upsetting other rich people. Evidence has emerged today that he was potential Donor Kryptonite.

    The stated cause for rescinding the offer is a public relations problem masking itself as an intellectual/teaching/collegiality problem (those at UIUC opposing the appointment can’t seem to decide where the danger lies): pro-Palestinian Tweets that Salaita broadcast during the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and the invasion of Gaza this summer. In fact, had the Israeli teens been kidnapped in October, and the invasion of Gaza not occurred until fall, it is quite likely that Salaita would have been a fully tenured member of the UIUC faculty. You can read my initial report on the matter here. Corey Robin of Brooklyn College has been following developments in the case closely: all of his posts have links to important documents and news stories.

    I hope this settles out of court for the sake of the Salaita family. However, I also long for a lawsuit that would give us a full accounting of the back channeling at UIUC; I want to know how many, and whose, fingerprints are on this. Wise is taking most of the heat at this point, including a storm of racist and misogynist tweets, because no one ever said Twitter was a classy place. Take the heat is what Wise is paid to do unless she resigns, which she should have done if, in fact, she really cares about academic freedom as she claims.

    However, one person who deserves further scrutiny is Christopher Kennedy, the chairman of the Illinois BOT and son of Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy was also responsible for leading the campaign to deny emeritus status to University of Illinois – Chicago education professor Bill Ayers, a highly respected scholar in the field of education, in 2008. Why? Right wing bloggers and “news” sources created a campaign around the fact that Prairie Fire, a collective publication authored by Ayers and other members of the Weather Underground Collective in 1973, had listed the RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan as one in a long list of 200 political prisoners and radical activists they admired. Kennedy could have chosen the path of good sense and Christian forgiveness rather than the low road of pointless revenge, but he didn’t.

    Denying a retired guy access to the university library was a classy move, Chris, particularly since your own family history argues that people make terrible mistakes and make massive errors in judgment, none of which are purely rhetorical, and still go on to live productive lives in service of the public, as Ayers did.

    Looking back on it, Kennedy’s successful and pointless vendetta against Ayers paved the way for what happened to Steven Salaita. Other than the principles at stake (free speech, academic freedom, and UIUC’s utter failure to respect the spirit of its own institutional policies), the time to raise questions about this appointment had long since passed. Any of us who have ever changed jobs at the senior level are probably feeling a high degree of empathy for Salaita. Changing jobs is a tense moment, even if it goes well. There is nothing like coming up for tenure the second time around, which most of us have to do when we move as associate or full professors. It isn’t a terrible thing: I found assembling the packet a terrific opportunity to think about what I had done in the first part of my career, and failure to be awarded tenure would not have left me unemployed, thanks to the unpaid leave from Zenith. It did take a long time: about sixteen months, to be exact, from the time I accepted the job offer to final approval by the board.

    However, this blog was part of my tenure case. Warts and all. While that is unusual, throughout the interview process, it was clear that my blogging would be under scrutiny for its role in my work as a publicly engaged scholar. Had some trustee gotten huffy about one or more of the numerous steamy episodes at Tenured Radical, not to mention a few ill-fated Twitter wars in which I have participated, questions of academic freedom would have been quite explicit. It was a risk I chose to take, but looking back on it, I don’t think I ever seriously believed that it would be a problem. Now I feel very, very lucky that I am not looking for a job in 2014.

    So could I have been Steven Salaita? Yes, and, in a very important respect, no, because the blog had become an official part of the process and was subject to the rules. So in addition to staying on the University of Illinois’ case about their chilling effect on free speech and academic freedom, we academics who are on social media need to create a longer term mobilization on our campuses and in our professional associations to re-interpret current university regulations to take account of Facebook, blogging and Twitter. Under what conditions do they, or do they not, become part of our profile as intellectuals?

    If we don’t, they will.