UI releases Salaita correspondence

UI releases Salaita correspondence

In a letter dated Aug. 1, Chancellor Phyllis Wise informed Professor Steven Salaita that the University of Illinois "will not be in a position to appoint you to the faculty."

Here is correspondence between the UI and Salaita, released by the UI.

Salaita, a professor at Virginia Tech, recently drew attention for his pro-Gaza, anti-Israel rants on Twitter. His behavior on social media led to Illinois reversing its decision to hire him.

On Oct. 3, 2013, Salaita was offered a full-time position as an associate professor of American Indian Studies at a salary of $85,000 a year. The offer included "indefinite tenure" but was subject to approval by the UI's Board of Trustees.

Both letters were obtained by The News-Gazette on Wednesday via a Freedom of Information Act request.

In her letter. Wise said, "We write to inform you that your appointment will not be recommended for submission to the Board of Trustees in September, and we believe that an affirmative Board vote affirming your appointment is unlikely."

Thoughts? Let Tom Kacich know here

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rsp wrote on August 13, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Letters say he would start working Aug.16th and be approved by the Board afterwards on Sept 11th at the Board meeting. Has the U of I explained this discrepancy?

jlc wrote on August 14, 2014 at 9:08 am

That's the way faculty hiring usually works at the U of I. You put in a whole month of work before you're officially hired. Makes it harder to say this wasn't a firing, IMO.

Illinimac wrote on August 14, 2014 at 6:08 am

I support Chancellor Wise in this decision.  It's not just a matter that this professor is anti-Semitic, which seems acceptable these days among liberal-chic college faculties.  The professor's twitter comments reflect a shallow, puerile analysis that calls into question whether he is capable of sober and objective analysis of an extremely complex problem of history, sociology and politics.  Would his "scholarship" in the native American studies program consist of letters to the editor whining about suburban white boys wanting to dance in fringed buckskin?  We have plenty of such malcontents already.

wayward wrote on August 14, 2014 at 8:08 am

If UI had just declined to hire Salaita and had not sent him any kind of offer letter, that would have been OK with me. But given the timeline and the way they expected him to accept in writing last fall, it does look like UI made him an offer.

Salaita not joining the faculty here probably won't be any great loss. But there could be other faculty that UI wants a lot more, and it would be unfortunate if this situation made any of them nervous about accepting an offer.

danrice56 wrote on August 14, 2014 at 9:08 am

Whatever one thinks of this man's opinions,  or the way he expressed them, it is chilling to see firsthand how academic freedom means nothing to the u of I. College is meant to expose people to the world, and let them pick and choose what paths they will ffollow,  not to churn out indocrinated puppets subscribing to one narrow viewpoint.  

Also, despite its history as victim, Israel is not above error or even injustice.  They along with any nation should be called on the carpet when needed. 

I think this man has the right, and should, sue the university. 

Sancho Panza wrote on August 14, 2014 at 10:08 am

I think most would agree that Dr. Salaita's comments did not meet the ethical standards outlined in the Academic Freedom information packet which states that professors should "accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge" and "show due respect for the opinions of others".

The U of I is lucky that he made these statements prior to approval by the Board of Trustees.  However, I also agree that the hiring situation is not fair to the individual in that the approval of appointments occurs after the start of the school year.

Regarding the comments of danrice56, I do not feel that this professor would expose students in American Indian Studies to anything other than "one narrow viewpoint" due to the similarity of his viewpoint to those of others within his department.

Lostinspace wrote on August 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I think most would agree that Dr. Salaita's comments did not meet the ethical standards outlined in the Academic Freedom information packet which states that professors should "accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge" and "show due respect for the opinions of others".

Exactly right.

tominmadison wrote on August 14, 2014 at 10:08 am

Sadly, I'm not surprised.

Academic freedom has long been an illusion at uiuc. 

But I thought the First Amendment was still in place. These were comments made on an open and legitimate political question by a private citizen.

This further diminishes uiuc.




SaintClarence27 wrote on August 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

And one can be fired for a comment made on an open and legitimate political question, even as a private citizen.

This has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

Joe American wrote on August 14, 2014 at 12:08 pm

As an attorney/radio host said on Chicago radio this morning, and I paraphrase:

"The guy is a Native American Studies professor and no one knew that he was an extreme left wing ideologue?"

Is it appropriate to wish good riddance if he's never arrived?

Bulldogmojo wrote on August 14, 2014 at 3:08 pm

"Native American Studies professor... extreme left wing ideologue"

Is that by definition?

HMM these statements could be considered racially divisive to post on here. Maybe Joe American should have his free speech rights on the NG website removed... 

See how that works?


Conveniently they left out the reason in his rejection letter because they knew it was a 1st amendment violation.


SaintClarence27 wrote on August 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

No. Just no. You obviously do not get what the First Amendment means.

Bulldogmojo wrote on August 14, 2014 at 9:08 pm

In regard to Steven he was hired to teach American Indian studies which goes without saying would make him a professional expert on the subjects of, genocide, , nationalism politics. The NG reports "His behavior on social media led to Illinois reversing its decision to hire him"... "Behavior"?? I went through his tweets and retweets and they were bitingly on point SPEECH and did not advocate violence and he is hardly alone among other U of I academics in his condemnation of Israel's imprisonment and disproportionate slaughter of civilians in Gaza. Would you have Phyllis Wise endorse a wholesale liquidation of those academics for their condemnations of those lethal aggressions as well? Aggressions and imprisonment that can only be equated with N. Ireland, E. Berlin and Soweto just to name a few.

This is also a public institution and to hold one person to one speech standard while giving a pass to others for their concurring published opinions would be a first amendment violation. If he is not allowed to criticize the triangulations of a theocracy and its oppression of others publicly then this University is on a dire course.

The expectation that any professor show "due respect for the opinions of others" is a sound expectation but when the respect is no longer "due" because the circumstance requires condemnation of violence it is perfectly just to speak out in the harshest of terms. We also have an ethics standard that speaks to punitive retaliation which I suspect is being overlooked and it wouldn't be the first time. If he leveled his criticism at a non-religious target such as hostilities in Eastern Ukraine I don't think he would have heard a word of contradiction.

Salaita also tweeted a link to this prophetic archival letter from Albert Einstein and fellow concerned Jews about political developments in Israel politics. That didn't seem to get mentioned here.

You can't just have the speech that makes you comfortable.

"The First Amendment ... presupposes that right conclusions are more likely to be gathered out of a multitude of tongues, than through any kind of authoritative selection. To many this is, and will always be, folly; but we have staked upon it our all."  United States v. Associated Press" Judge Hand

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 15, 2014 at 10:08 am

And was he put in jail? No? There was no law against his speach, correct? 

His free speech rights were not violated. Freedom of speech does *NOT* mean freedom from consequences.

Timewilltell wrote on August 15, 2014 at 11:08 pm

You went through his tweets. So did we. Do you feel schooled by such erudition? Humbling isn't it?  Well no. But you seem so bent on pretending he's not a fraud. 1000's of people also read them and he called for a Jewish journalist at a Jewish publication to be stabbed--did you catch that? What about the blood libel—the settlers, (they) should “go missing” meaning like the 3 teenagers—shot in cold blood and left in shallow graves—And that is exactly what he meant.

It was not "political" or an analysis it was hate and rage. All within his rights. He did it. He was not "fired." He never worked there. So he was not hired. Let him get an attorney and file.  I’m also an academic at another university so I know the drill and bull crap. Here’s what you are telling the good folks, that he presented an idea whose time has come, a radical important thought-- that calls for a journalist to be stabbed because he is a Jew--very very progressive.

Now let me ask—he is against oppression correct? Isn’t stabbing someone oppressive? Or is it diff with Jews?

Nothing you can say, or anyone can will dress this up into anything other than what it is. A normal person would have apologized weeks ago—but not him. He is a hairs breath away from violence himself. Find a better hill to die on this guy is crappy scholar also. What a cause to have--tell me when we hit bottom.

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 18, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Bulldogmojo;  Good comment.  The U of I appears to have chosen the politically correct path rather than the harder choice of distinguishing between anger toward a country, and a religion.  Israel's military actions toward civilians including children has sickened many observers across the globe.  

thinks wrote on August 18, 2014 at 11:08 pm

The First Amendment does not grant absolute freedom of speech without qualification. There are forms and conditions of speech that are limited in the law, including labor law. For example, sometimes employees who deal with intellectual property at companies or universities sign non-disclosure agreements, to protect their employer's IP. Employees in health care and mental health care also have limited free speech, as they must preserve the confidentiality of their clients.

Universities, like many employers, also limit free speech in ways that are viewed as being in the best interests of their mission and the institution (that is, to protect their public image). That mission includes fostering the open and constructive debate of ideas, and that assumes a debate being conducted in a civil manner (to sustain and further the dialogue). Under academic freedom policies, faculty are generally given the ability to express their opinions even more freely than many private employers would allow, but there are still limits on this, and these were detailed in the UI's definition, which was provided to Prof. Salaita when the UI mailed his contingent offer. He was mailed this policy to communicate a condition of employment. His tweets over the summer seem to have violated the third paragraph* of UI's academic freedom policy, which may be at least in part why UI released these employment documents.

*"...When they speak or write as citizens...they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinion of others..."

C in Champaign wrote on August 14, 2014 at 2:08 pm

The University extends a conditional offer of employment to an individual which is subject to approval by the Board of Trustees. Said individual takes to twitter, which is a public forum, to unleash an obscenity laden, some would say anti-semetic, tirade against Israel and the United States.

Based on his comments, the administration concludes that it is unlikely that the BoT will approve the hiring, and decides that rather than subject everyone involved to a process which is likey to end badly for all parties, it simply recsinds the offer before more damage is done.

This is a story of poor judgement... Had he made the same points in a more academic, more appropriate way, perhaps in the form of a non obscenity laced academic paper or article for publication, we would likely have never heard of him.


basset wrote on August 14, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Had he accepted the offer with the original starting date of January 2014, this would be a very different situation and discussion.

rsp wrote on August 15, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I'm also curious why they never contacted him to resolved the issues they had before they did this. I know his tenure would have been an issue but why not try to find a solution?

bluegrass wrote on August 18, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Wonder where all these folks were/are as it's being revealed that the federal government systematically and illegally used the Internal Revenue Service to stifle the free speech of hundreds, maybe thousands of citizens.  Tea Party Patriots.  

For the sake of clarity, and for those who do not pay attention, please read the following, and then re-read it after your done, and then re-read it again.  NOT getting hired somewhere for making ridiculous public comments isn't trampling on first amendment rights.  Having one of the most powerful arms of the United States Government bear down upon you, and require you to reveal what you pray about, and then audit you, IS trampling on first amendment rights.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm

It is about tax free status to do political organizing rather than good works for non-profit.  "Tea Party Patriots", or Progressive Citizens United use tax free status which does involve the Internal Revenue Service.  Sadly, both were not subjected to the same amount of investigation.  Both sides should be scrutinized regarding "freedom of speech" versus political organizing when "educational" becomes propagandizing.  Of course; no one would feel picked on for funding political ideologies, and dodging taxes.  It would be the evil government collecting taxes from all of the "patriots".