Another department votes no confidence in UI trustees, Wise

Another department votes no confidence in UI trustees, Wise

URBANA — Another department has added its name to the list of units casting votes of no confidence in University of Illinois leaders following the decision to not hire professor Steven Salaita.

Earlier this week faculty in the Department of Asian American Studies cast a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Phyllis Wise and the UI Board of Trustees. The philosophy department and American Indian Studies Program have taken similar action in recent days.

Junaid Rana, professor and acting head of the Department of Asian American Studies, issued the following statement:

"In response to the firing of Professor Steven Salaita by the chancellor, an act that undermined shared governance and unit autonomy, and the recent suggestions reported in the media of external pressures from donors and alumni in the hiring process well after the standard vetting process was concluded, we no longer have faith in the chancellor and the board of trustees who are implicated in this highly irregular action. Additionally, we are suspicious of the recent move by the Senate Executive Committee to aid the administration in regularizing these processes for undermining unit autonomy.

"Although the recent statements of the chancellor and the board of trustees on Friday, August 22nd, affirm the values of dialogue and diversity, we believe this decision has done enormous harm to our campus and has created a climate that does not honor dissent. Set in the context of the recent Israeli bombing of Gaza, the chancellor claims to have made this decision based on tweets with an inappropriate tone of incivility. We believe her actions exceeded the bounds of the rules and policies that govern our university. Furthermore, the firing of Salaita has created an atmosphere of fear and retaliation for unpopular academic, political, and personal pursuits.

"The administration's claims to honor diversity are at odds with the marginalization of academic units that represent the teaching and research of topics related to racialized populations. These units serve as the face of diversity on this campus, yet their autonomy is willfully disregarded. Thus, the University continues a superficial endorsement of diversity through its contradictory actions regarding issues of racial injustice and violence.

"In solidarity with the American Indian Studies program and thousands of scholars and organizations around the world, we see the chancellor's decision and the approval by the board of trustees as a violation of academic freedom and the First Amendment right of freedom of speech."

A faculty search committee last year recommended that the UI hire the American Indian Studies and Arab American Studies scholar, and Salaita was expected to arrive on campus this month. But a few weeks before the start of the semester, Wise and Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre told Salaita that they would not forward his appointment to the board in September for formal approval.

That decision came after a backlash to angry tweets Salaita posted in July about Israel. Among his tweets: "Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just (expletive) own it already. #Gaza" and "At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza."

His case has since attracted widespread attention in the media and among academics.

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GeneralLeePeeved wrote on August 29, 2014 at 12:08 pm

"the McCarthy era was wonderful ! "......really? .....petulant AND ignorant.

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 29, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I thought it to be sarcasm.  McCarthy targeted what were supposedly communists.  People were labeled communists until they could prove their patriotism to capitalism.  Now, people are labeled anti- Jewish if they criticize Israel.   The student, donor, BOT, and Chancellor's emails need to be published to allow transparency regarding the employment offer.  If the professor's tweets are open for interpretation, so should be the protesting e-mails.

GeneralLeePeeved wrote on August 29, 2014 at 2:08 pm

perhaps it is, but it isn't done well......whomever made up the sign needs to stick to teaching.

Jam wrote on August 29, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Chancellor Wise is a good administrator, a fellow faculty member of those chastising her, an esteemed researcher.  She is pursuing an initiative that would advance the well being of the university and the community by working to combine the engineering school with medical research.  She is a valuable commodity to this university and to this state. Keep up the good work Chancellor.

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

Amen to that (comment by Jam)!!

wayward wrote on August 29, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Overall, I've been pleased with Chancellor Wise. For example, I liked the response she wrote to the nasty Tweets some students posted last spring. But I have serious concerns about the decision to "de-hire" Salaita this way.

Hobbes wrote on August 30, 2014 at 6:08 am

I do not agree with the Chancellor's decision, but calling her a "commodity" is uncivil and in really poor taste. Women, dear sir, are not items you buy and sell!

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

If after more than a week of this bruhaha, it is telling that only two departments plus the prospective home department of Dr. Salaita, have filed motions of no confidence.  That's hardly a trend.

Other departments, I assume, appear to be more prudent to see what new facts emerge and how the UIUC Senate responds to the issues raised.

Hobbes wrote on August 30, 2014 at 6:08 am

The Uiuc  Senate? Do you know how senators are elected? More often than not you are elected when you are too ambitious to say no to such a pointless chore. The representatives have no program and the result of the ballots are not always public. I heard of senators directly appointed by the Head of the department. 

Who waits for the Senate? I do not expect reforms from the US senate, imagine if we can expect anything from the Uiuc senate...

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

His hiring was never confirmed, so he was not "fired" as stated in the first sentence of the statement.  From the start, the statement presents a false premise. 

Does anyone at the University of Illinois just stick to the facts when making arguments, or is that no longer expected of academics? 

Is it now standard operating procedure at the university to change facts to fit the purposes of the statement? 

And why doesn't the NG post the most offensive tweets?

Rocky7 wrote on August 30, 2014 at 1:08 am

Its an emotional and personal issue so don't expect a reasoned response.

Consider these quotes::

"When personal issues are involved, reason takes a holiday." - Cardinal Richelieu.

"The reason there is so much politics in academe is because there is so little at stake." - Henry Kissinger

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


Kissinger really? That war criminal? While you're at it why don't you quote his compatriot in murder Pinochet? Ugh

Asian Studies no confidence, that one must really sting.

I found Wise suspect all along. She gives speeches about equal pay for women while her labor negotiators tear down pay structures guaranteeing that very pay equality, She presides over  a university in dire financial straits but wastes her time sitting on boards of companies we already have established financial relationships with. Why? She's feathering her financial nest after she gets done soaking this university like her admin predecessors did. Her visioning of hiring 500 academics is just fodder for the easily swayed apologists for university administration. I guess she only wants professors who are docile, sit quietly and don't have opinions of their own. Especially anyone who challenges the notion of rationalized genocide by the "godly".

Once again there is something rotten in the vetting and search processes for administrators.

I am also disappointed at Kennedy's support of this silencing with his father having been tragically silenced for his views.

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

Well, I did write that this is an emotional issue and the opening paragraph of the last comment by Bulldogmojo confirms my interpetation.

I do find it curious that learned and respected scholars in their fields are overlooking the fact that some of Dr Salaita's tweets could be construed as "Hate Speech." As I understand it, hate-speech is a no-no at UIUC and other Tier I research universities.

Jam wrote on August 30, 2014 at 6:08 pm

I apologize for the use of the word "commodity".  It certanly was not used by me to offend anyone..

She is a valuable ambassador of the UIUC campus.


all for civility wrote on August 31, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I find it sad that both faculty and students would support someone that creates a hostile environment for students.   Why should a person that is a potential hire at the university be supported when he makes statements that foster a culture of hatred that would make students of Israeli and Jewish descent feel unwelcome and unsafe?     Salaita could certainly have found a way to express his views without making hateful and incendiary comments.   If the department of Indian studies was truly in support of an inclusive and welcoming culture on campus, they should have rescinded the offer themselves.   Given the history of racism experienced by Native Americans, I would have expected that the department would be more sensitive to the impact of Salaita's tweets on students of Jewish descent.

mjerryfuerst wrote on September 02, 2014 at 10:09 am

I have only read reports that Salaita had an exemplary teaching record.    All accounts of and excerpts from his tweets indicate his concern is with the Israeli government, not with Jews.    Do you have any documentation that indicates otherwise?