Critics target chancellor

Critics target chancellor

American Indian Studies professor is requesting that no-confidence vote be held against Wise

URBANA — Critics of the university's decision to not hire Professor Steven Salaita have ramped up their efforts in recent days, seeking support for a no-confidence vote in the chancellor, soliciting donations for Salaita and adding names to the growing academic boycott.

Meanwhile, supporters of University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise are coming to her defense, saying the situation has gotten "out of hand."

What's your take? Tell columnist Tom Kacich here

On Monday, an American Indian Studies professor asked the Senate Executive Committee, a group of mostly faculty leaders on the Urbana campus's Academic Senate, to hold a no-confidence vote on the chancellor.

On Friday, faculty in the department that would have been Salaita's home approved a vote of no confidence and have been asking other departments to support their action.

The Senate committee did not take any action on Monday; chairman Roy Campbell said any such proposal would need to be on the agenda in advance of the meeting, per the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

"No unit or department, indeed, no individual faculty member should be treated the way Chancellor Wise has mistreated our unit and our academic field in the matter involving the hiring/firing of Professor Steven Salaita," Professor Vicente Diaz wrote to Campbell seeking the vote of no confidence.

The university's decision to not forward Salaita's appointment to the board of trustees for formal approval, after a faculty search committee recommended his hiring, was "an enormous blow" to the UI's American Indian Studies program, director Robert Warrior told The News-Gazette on Monday.

"I think our faculty, by our vote of no confidence, has certainly said what we think about the leadership of the chancellor at this point. I don't think that good decisions are being made at the top, that good advice is being sought or given," he said.

"This is shocking to me that the people who are responsible for the flagship educational institution of the state of Illinois ... have apparently decided that they don't believe in dissent," Warrior said.

Warrior did not sit on the search committee that recommended Salaita, but he was on Salaita's dissertation committee at the University of Oklahoma when he was a faculty member there and Salaita was a Ph.D. student. Warrior said Salaita has a reputation for innovative, quality scholarship in a range of areas, including Native American studies and Arab American studies, and he has an excellent record as a teacher and in developing curriculum.

Salaita, formerly a professor at Virginia Tech, has been outspoken in support of Palestinians in essays and on social media. Following Israel's invasion of Gaza, he often took to Twitter to express his anger about the invasion. His posts drew the ire of conservative bloggers and media across the country in July. In the wake of those tweets and the media attention to them, he was notified on Aug. 1 that although the UI offered him a job — and he accepted it — in October, his appointment would not formally go to the trustees next month. He was in the process of moving to Champaign-Urbana.

Since then, an academic boycott of the UI was launched and most recently his supporters created a website, http://supportstevensalaita.com, to drum up support and solicit financial donations.

Among those who have canceled talks at the UI is Allen Isaacman, a history professor at the University of Minnesota. He said he's called off his visit to campus later this month about South Africa because of the university's treatment of Salaita and James Kilgore, a nontenure-track faculty member whose future employment is being reviewed by administrators following media attention to his background as a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s.

"I had no alternative," Isaacman said. "If you believe in academic freedom, including the right to hold ideas, particularly ideas that are not necessarily popular, it's essential people speak out against the chancellor in this decision. The University of Illinois is a world-class institution. I have many colleagues and friends there. I have the highest regard for them, and it is because of them and their situation and because I support the principle of academic freedom, I had no choice but to withdraw," Isaacman said.

In response to the vote by the American Indian Studies faculty, Michael Rothberg, chairman of the UI's English Department and director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies Initiative, has written to Wise to share his concerns about the Salaita case and damage to the reputation of the university by the rescinding of Salaita's job.

"Members of the (English) department will be meeting very soon to discuss what, if any, statements we may want to make or actions we may want to take in the wake of the decision to rescind Steven Salaita's job offer. I suspect other departments will be doing the same," Rothberg said.

Wise attended Monday afternoon's meeting with the Senate and echoed her statement issued Friday. The university, she said, cannot tolerate "personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them. ... 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," she said.

Given the academic boycott and talk of no-confidence votes, Wise said she and Provost Ilesanmi Adesida plan to meet with as many faculty across campus as quickly as they can. She also has scheduled meetings with the student senate to discuss the matter.

"I welcome the views of the whole community, the academic community and the community around us," Wise told The News-Gazette after the meeting.

As for the academic boycott, she believes it will likely have some short-term effect, such as speakers canceling lectures, but "I would hope it will have no long-term effect. The University of Illinois is a great institution and we want to continue to hire the very best faculty, faculty who are smarter than I, more intelligent and wiser than I am, faculty who are ready to put all their efforts into making the university a better place," Wise said.

Kim Graber, a UI kinesiology professor who was on the search committee that brought Wise to campus in 2011, said she has had faith in Wise and her work in building a diverse student body, in terms of race, ethnicity and religion. Graber said she is troubled at how events have unfolded in recent weeks.

"This has gotten out of hand," she said. "You have my full support. I know you; I know you would never do anything to infringe on academic freedom and tenure," Graber told Wise Monday. "I have full confidence in her," Graber told The News-Gazette.

Another supporter, Matt Hill, is the undergraduate representative on the committee and said he is looking forward to Wise's upcoming visit to the student senate.

"I love talking about Middle East politics," said Hill, a junior political science major from Buffalo Grove who was in Israel over the summer. He found Salaita's tweets to be "uncivil" and "disrespectful," he said, not what he thought would come from a scholar. And as a Jewish student at the UI, he said he found them "disturbing."

But like the faculty, students appear divided on the issue. Students who support Salaita will rally outside the Swanlund Administration Building, home to Wise's office, this morning.

Comments

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GeneralLeePeeved wrote on August 26, 2014 at 7:08 am

"This is shocking to me that the people who are responsible for the flagship educational institution of the state of Illinois ... have apparently decided that they don't believe in dissent," Warrior said.

What a hypocrite!  This is the same Robert Warrior, who, just a couple of years ago, was exposed through FOIA emails as being totally against pro-Chief students being able to march in a parade.  Remember those emails?   ...and he now wants us to believe that he's a champion for dissent....what a crock!

 

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 26, 2014 at 7:08 am
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Hey, I'm glad you were able to provide a first name, and some details. 

 

Perhaps the N-G will revisit paragraph 7, and add the usual background to its "Warrior" attribution.

Mike Howie wrote on August 26, 2014 at 11:08 am
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Thanks for your note, though I'm sorry you had to send it. It is now fixed.

Mike Howie

online editor

bluegrass wrote on August 26, 2014 at 1:08 pm

In the current cultural environment, the difference between hate speech and dissent can only be defined by the left and/or current academia.  If someone in their own ranks dares to stand up for what, in this case, can only be described as common sense, the educated lemmings stamp their feet and jump off a cliff.  It is all quite amusing.

rsp wrote on August 27, 2014 at 12:08 pm

This is about a donor not wanting someone here. Are you comfortable with that?

Bulldogmojo wrote on August 28, 2014 at 9:08 am

 

"This is about a donor not wanting someone here"

 

Exactly!! 

joesuburbs wrote on August 26, 2014 at 8:08 am
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probably more about sales than politics... banning Salaita is likely to have less finanncial impact than hiring him... No parents are going to pull their students out the freshman class because Salaita was banned... but if hired... they might have... 

Illiniwek222 wrote on August 26, 2014 at 10:08 am

Would professors Isaacman and Rothberg feel the same way about instructors with neo-nazi or KKK viewpoints? How would academic freedom come into play in that stuation? 

Bulldogmojo wrote on August 26, 2014 at 10:08 am

 

This Salaita issue cannot be viewed outside of the context of free speech because this university has a long history of imposing sanctions on those who would voice their opinions. Their act of dispatching the police when the child care workers were peacefully picketing for fair wages comes to mind. 

What are the next headlines to come..."Professor/employee_______ has been censured/ fired/ denied tenure for opposing religious rationalizations for violence/ war/ wealthy donor interests" ??

What's next Chancellor Wise? Is there a McCarthyism list you are building?

Fretboy wrote on August 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

"This Salaita issue cannot be viewed outside of the context of free speech...."

Please Google "Firing for Profanity" and see about 442,000 results in (0.29 seconds).  Sometimes the reason is just so.

Dudesickle wrote on August 26, 2014 at 11:08 am

I think the tone of Salaita's comments was not representative of a professional academic, however, I agree with the theme. The American Indians should sympathize with the Palestinians, Both have had their lands stolen by outsiders and have only been given token autonomy and kept in "restraints" as far as seeking true freedom.

Lostinspace wrote on August 26, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Once again, Heather Coit is great at capturing faces and moods.

dlgreen50 wrote on August 26, 2014 at 2:08 pm

With Israel/Palestine, one must understand the rules.

When Israel bombs Gaza, it is always in retaliation to Hamas “rockets.” Moreover, Hamas’ goal is to kill every Israeli Jew. Israel never does anything except defend itself.

When academic organizations in this country propose a boycott of institutional relationships with Israeli universities, this violates academic freedom, even if it leaves Israeli academics free to participate in all scholarly activities.

However when a scholar of Palestinian background is hired, academic freedom must take a back seat to civility in all aspects of that person’s life; freedom is subordinated to the notion that all “viewpoints” must be “respected.”

Even if that individual of Palestinian background has a stellar teaching record, it is assumed that his anger at Israel is both anti-Semitic and imminently threatening to the self-esteem of prospective students. When this scholar implies in non-scholarly communication that Benjamin Netanyahu’s killing Palestinian children is ghoulish, that only confirms his/her anti-Semitism.

A corollary is that sensibilities of Jewish students—assumed to be pro-Israel—are more important than those of pro-Palestinian students, especially those who find it refreshing for the institution to hire its first professor of Palestinian background who is also qualified to address the Israel/Palestine issue in a scholarly manner.

When administrators ruin the career of such a scholar, it is understood to be for the cause of all the ideals the university stands for, which are imminently threatened by his/her presence in a classroom.

These rules are not all that difficult to understand.--David Green

Flexiblefish wrote on August 26, 2014 at 2:08 pm

"Even if that individual of Palestinian background has a stellar teaching record, it is assumed that his anger at Israel is both anti-Semitic and imminently threatening to the self-esteem of prospective students. When this scholar implies in non-scholarly communication that Benjamin Netanyahu’s killing Palestinian children is ghoulish, that only confirms his/her anti-Semitism."

 

This is not anti-semitism. That accusation is used as a veil to justify the revokation of Salaita's appointment and it is simply weak. Experts who study Jewish history and memory -- Michael Rothberg *among others* -- have stepped in to explicitly claim the Tweets are not anti-semitic and, pointedly, ask why they were not consulted. So have legal scholars. 

This decision will go to court and the University will lose. Furthermore, contrary to Chancellor Wise's hopes, this will haunt the University as an instance of flagrant assault on free speech. It is simply a profound embarrassment as the Chancellor's decision ignores both legal history of the First Amendment as well as intellectual heritage that times and again has defended the expression of dissenting opinions of the type Steven Salaita expressed on Twitter. The decision demonstrates an incredibly narrow understanding of what constitutes an acceptable expression of a controversial opinion, it has produced arguments (such as those included in Chancellor Wise's email to student) that make a theater of free speech (and this might be offense to theater) and that have no firm basis in sound reasoning. It's. Just. Sad. 

dlgreen50 wrote on August 27, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I agree. My post was meant ironically (sarcastically).--David Green

Bulldogmojo wrote on August 26, 2014 at 4:08 pm

 

"One must understand the rules"? 

 

I concur with Hitchens on the the source of the problem --> Watch

 

Jam wrote on August 26, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Academic freedom is one of the legs on the stool of liberalism.  Many times over the last 35 years or so I have read where young christian students were belittled because they believed that their God is the creator of the universe.  According to the accounts the professors not only challenged the students faith, but belittled them in front of their classmates giving the students no hope of passing the class unless they were able to conform to the professors views on tests, etc.

I doubt that Chancellor Wise had this in mind when she took this man to task for his twitter statements, but it fits the description of what she is trying to take a stand against.

Liberals in academia have used their so called "freedom" to demonize the freedom of thought of others particularly students of faith.  I think most of the uproar is about

a fear of liberals in academia of losing this "tool of academic brainwashing".

 

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

The "Stool of liberalism?" What are you even talking about?

I'm sure you've read these accounts, but I'm not sure where you've read them, nor do I trust that the accounts are fair, accurate, or real. Perhaps you could provide even one citation?

In short, you're wrong. You're very wrong.

Trailmom wrote on August 27, 2014 at 8:08 am

This isn't a debate on Academic Freedom.  It is about professionalism.  Students pay an extraordinary amount of money to attend the UI. Do they and their parents (who are frequently footing the bill) want professors who publicly use profanity to get their point across?

The professor has the absolute right to express himself, but as many have posted he is still responsible for the consequences of that speech. 

 

rsp wrote on August 27, 2014 at 12:08 pm

His students rated him as an excellent professor. There is absolutely no evidence of him swearing with his students or in the classroom. Nor is there any evidence of any Jews being made to feel uncomfortable in his classes, never a complaint against him.

spangwurfelt wrote on August 29, 2014 at 8:08 am

Then Virginia Tech should be absolutely champing at the bit to get him back. Except they aren't.

dlgreen50 wrote on August 27, 2014 at 11:08 am

He wasn't really fired for profanity, and nobody should be anyway. He was fired because the profanity was directed at Israeli child-killers.--David Green

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Judging from the statements, that doesn't seem to be the case at all.

Also, he wasn't fired at all.

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 27, 2014 at 12:08 pm

For a chancellor to be paid such a high salary for their judgement, the university spent money foolishly again.  Maybe; Nike, and Busey Bank stocks will drop also?  Look for Robert Kennedy Jr. to save the day.  Either a settlement of big bucks will be offered; or employment will be agreed on under the terms of double secret probation regarding cursing in public. 

Fretboy wrote on August 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

This is not about the professor's views. It is about his inability to convey his views in a civil, non-punishing manner. Wouldn't you want someone who can speak clearly, convincingly, and without bad-mouthing. Isn't cursing and name-calling the first signs of losing your argument? Lose your cool and lose the debate.

In the next political debate, let's encourage foul language and name-calling and call it freedom of speech.

dlgreen50 wrote on August 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

It is precisely about the professor's views, and the Israel Lobby's opposition to those views. And there is no evidence that he does not treat students respectfully in his classroom.--David Green

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

There is also no evidence that it's about the professor's views or the "Israel Lobby's" (as if there's an Israel Lobby at the University Chancellor's office) opposition to his views.

spangwurfelt wrote on August 29, 2014 at 8:08 am

But David Green wants to believe it, so he will.

The University shouldn't have hired him, but having done so, they shouldn't have fired him. They got the worst of both worlds.

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 29, 2014 at 9:08 am

They didn't hire him, either. It was a conditional offer of employment.

rsp wrote on August 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Why does the U of I have professors sign contracts, come and attend welcome parties, start classes and getting paid before the BOT rubber stamps the paper? Why?

spangwurfelt wrote on August 30, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Because very, very few professors do such idiotic things in the interim, and Salaita is, shall we say, a very, very special bird for having done so?

Just a thought.

Maybe we should all be blaming "the Jewish lobby" instead, as you have. That's much easier to comprehend than any matters of personal responsibility for speech, don't you think? 

Rocky7 wrote on August 27, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I really wonder whether all this could have been avoided if the department head of the AMerican Indian Studies Program had fully disclosed the appointment process to Dr. Salaita, including the proviso about Board of Trustees and Chancellor's approval.

This is something the News-Gazette could investigate and perhaps should.

dlgreen50 wrote on August 28, 2014 at 8:08 am

Campus administration has longstanding ties with local Jewish institutions here and in Chicago, which include much funding. Richard Herman cultivated these relationships, and I'm sure Phyllis Wise continues them. It also cultivates relationships with Israeli universities. I've documented these ties on Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss websites. You can google my name on those websites. But ultimately it's not about a "conspiracy." It's about wealthy and powerful people supporting other wealthy and powerful people at the institutional level.--David Green

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 28, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Good comment.

Rocky7 wrote on August 28, 2014 at 9:08 pm

A good Chancellor cultivates sources of funding regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or immigrant heritage.  It is therefore pointless to focus specifically on one group of donors and doing so  could be construed as borderline prejudice.

How much influence alumni and contributors have on day-to-day university decisions is difficult to say and hard to prove.In this case, the immature and odd tone of the tweets in question are enough for any responsible administrator to have second thoughts about appointing the source of the tweets to a  faculty position.  This is not so much an issue of free speech as it is about using plain common sense when tweeting.

spangwurfelt wrote on August 29, 2014 at 8:08 am

"A good Chancellor cultivates sources of funding regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or immigrant heritage. It is therefore pointless to focus specifically on one group of donors and doing so could be construed as borderline prejudice."

David Green believes money is only bad when it's Jewish, apparently.

dlgreen50 wrote on August 29, 2014 at 10:08 am

"David Green believes money is only bad when it's Jewish, apparently." And what would lead you to think that? The public university's dependence on corporate funding and rich donors is fundamental to this problem; university's have become profit centers and corrupt on that basis. Sports are a huge part of that. The role of the Israel Lobby and those donors who tie the contributions to support for Israel is only a subset of that problem, but of course it relates to corporate relationships with Caterpillar, Motorola, Intel, etc. It is the last refuge of those who are not bothered by dead Palestinian children to assert that those who do care about them "single out Israel" or "single out Jews." Of course, I happen to be Jewish. So there I am, Mr./Ms. Anonymous & Slanderous; and who are you? -- David Green

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 29, 2014 at 4:08 pm

The fact that someone uses "the Israel Lobby" or "the Jewish Lobby" in "arguments" might be what leads him to think that.

Rocky7 wrote on August 29, 2014 at 7:08 pm

The problem here is that focusing on words such as "Jewish Money" is reminiscent of the same language used by the nazis when persecuting the Jews during the 1930's and 1940's.

The following quote may explain it better:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

-George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905
US (Spanish-born) philosopher (1863 - 1952)

spangwurfelt wrote on August 30, 2014 at 8:08 am

That's a very important point. If you can't say what you think about Israel without falling into antisemitic language or imagery, what does that say about your stance?

spangwurfelt wrote on August 30, 2014 at 8:08 am

What leads me to think that? Maybe it's when you lead off with this:

"Campus administration has longstanding ties with local Jewish institutions here and in Chicago, which include much funding."

See the word "Israeli" in that sentence? Neither do I. See the word "Zionist"? Neither do I. But I do see the word "Jewish." And I see it used specifically in the context of Jewish moneybags ("much funding").

"Of course, I happen to be Jewish."

Jews have their idiots too.

rsp wrote on August 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm

The New Yorker had an interesting article about the lobby AIPAC and donors. It's long reading but I think it puts things into a different perspective. I was caught off guard when Sen. Mark Kirk of Il. was mentioned in the story. It's easy to forget how much information is controlled by governments and companies. To think that someone's life should be destroyed over 140 characters taken out of context is really sad.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/01/friends-israel

spangwurfelt wrote on August 30, 2014 at 3:08 pm

"To think that someone's life should be destroyed over 140 characters taken out of context is really sad."

What is the proper context for celebrating the kidnapping of Israeli civilians and wishing them dead?

wayward wrote on August 29, 2014 at 10:08 pm

"A good Chancellor cultivates sources of funding regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or immigrant heritage. It is therefore pointless to focus specifically on one group of donors and doing so could be construed as borderline prejudice."

Yes. Salaita's a potential public relations bomb in a time where fundraising is more important than ever. Not a reason to "de-hire" him, IMHO, but I can understand why neither UI or VT administrators are eager to have him.

If he'd said different but equally inflammatory things that had nothing to do with Israel or Zionism, that could well have resulted in a similar situation. Imagine if a strongly pro-life new hire had tweeted that bombing abortion clinics could save the lives of the unborn, and the media had picked it up.

Rocky7 wrote on August 30, 2014 at 4:08 am

Isn't it strange thatt individuals who allegedly support free speech are also supporting   an individual whose tweets can be construed as borderline "Hate-Speech." In most major university circles, including UIUC,  'hate speech' is not permitted and dealt with severely.