Wise: 'Disappointed' over AAUP's censure recommendation for UI

Wise: 'Disappointed' over AAUP's censure recommendation for UI

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As expected, a national academic panel has recommended that the University of Illinois be censured for its handling of the Steven Salaita case.

The American Association of University Professors’ Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure took the vote Saturday morning. The vote tally will not be released, said Anita Levy, associate secretary of the AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance.

The panel’s recommendation will now be forwarded to the full AAUP for consideration at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on June 13.

In a statement, Chancellor Phyllis Wise said the UI was disappointed and reiterated the UI's "longstanding commitment to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech."

 "We have taken several key steps to address the concerns raised by AAUP, including making serious efforts to reach a settlement with Dr. Salaita. We are disappointed to be the subject of an AAUP censure vote, and we will continue to move forward by demonstrating our commitment to the principles of academic freedom," the statement said.

Levy said committee members took into account the information forwarded earlier this week by Wise outlining those efforts since the outcry over Salaita’s case.

The panel spent some time crafting the exact language for the censure recommendation, which won’t be made public until the annual meeting, she said.

“There was a considerable amount of discussion,” Levy said. “It was collegial.”

Salaita, a former English professor at Virginia Tech, was hired for a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program in October 2013, subject to UI trustees’ approval, and planned to start teaching this past August. Wise revoked the offer Aug. 1 after Salaita posted a series of angry, profanity-laced tweets about Israel during its bombing of Gaza, before trustees approved the hire. Trustees later upheld Wise’s decision. Salaita sued the university to get the job back.

The decision, and the UI’s defense of “civil” discourse on campus, sparked faculty outrage and a national debate over academic freedom. An investigative report by Committee A concluded earlier this spring that the UI had violated Salaita’s due-process rights and academic freedom. The UI argues he was never an employee.

In the documents sent to AAUP, Wise said the UI has made significant settlement offers to Salaita, reiterated the UI’s commitment to academic freedom, further clarified her comments on civility, and highlighted policy changes adopted or under consideration to prevent similar problems in the future.

“I didn’t expect it to be enough to forestall censure,” said Committee A member Cary Nelson, a UI professor emeritus who voted against Saturday’s resolution. “On the other hand, the resolution is reasonably narrowly focused,” he said, declining to elaborate.

While he has publicly supported Wise’s decision to withdraw Salaita’s appointment, Nelson had problems with the UI’s more sweeping statements on civility last summer. He also said the university has a “moral responsibility” to provide a settlement to Salaita because the job was revoked so late in the process.

Nelson said the chancellor’s most recent statement to the AAUP was “a step in the right direction.” 

Professors familiar with censure cases say it would likely take a settlement with Salaita, and perhaps additional clarification of the UI’s position on “civility” by trustees, for the UI to get off the censure list.

The current AAUP censure list includes about four dozen colleges and universities, mostly small, private or religiously affiliated institutions.

Opinions vary about what censure would mean for the UI. Some faculty members fear damage to the UI’s reputation and their ability to recruit new talent. Others say the UI has already taken the hit from the controversy, or that censure would affect certain areas on campus, such as the humanities, more than others.


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Gordon wrote on May 30, 2015 at 2:05 pm

looks a lot like the ole " double sercet probation"

Alex M. Mobley wrote on May 30, 2015 at 3:05 pm
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The AAUP had previously reported about the particularly chilling effects l'affaire Salaita has had on the job security of the already precarious position of non-tenure track faculty and adjuncts. Instead of a robust atmosphere of "academic freedom," we have a reactive system that only defines violations rather than freedoms. When I taught seventh grade, if a student was not performing well, I would call her parents and we would work out a learning strategy. In this current atmosphere of students groomed to expect "civility," if as an instructor of a course titled "Sex, Gender, and Popular Media," a student is not performing well and does not like a grade they receive, he could go to the chair, dean or Board of Trustees and question my fitness to teach based on a curricular choice. It's not a very effective pedagogical strategy and is in fact counter-productive to the student's education. 

Rocky7 wrote on May 30, 2015 at 4:05 pm

After the UofI BOT held its vote. this action by AAUP was to be expected because the AAUP appeared to have made up its mind and telegraphed its opinions from the get-go.

IMPACT ON FUTURE HIRING? - Probably only in departments where "outrage" over the incident is high. It likely will be minor.  Academic jobs are scarce in many of those fields and the advantages of a job at UIUC even with an AAUP censure will far outweight an offer from 'east overshose state university.'

Bulldogmojo wrote on May 30, 2015 at 6:05 pm


Well it actually already has had an impact on hiring because in addition to this scandal which demonstrates that the Chancellor will unethically allow an anonymous donor to reach into the human resources apparatus and pull the plug on someone's employment over unpopular speech, there are also the matters of a governor and U of I admin threatening funding cut backs in education in wages, pension viability, health care, tuition waivers and other benefits. So it is another log on the fire in the bonfire of scandal that has made this university a poor choice for everyone but Administration. They remain flush with opportunities of their own design, promising to put up buildings they can't afford to put employees in.

This tweet popped on my timeline today...

"People who violate personal space should be shot on sight."

It's hyperbolic to the Nth degree, she didn't actually mean that someone who walks up to her should have an actual firearm discharged in their faces. Get it? It's an exaggeration to illustrate a point like saying Israel should take a long walk off of a short pier for killing 1000's of people in Gaza. Intelligent people don't have to be told, well NOT REALLY every time something shocking is said.

Saying "that's offensive" is just a whine, it means nothing, it doesn't carry your points.

as I write this there are armed men marching on a Mosque in Texas, you know actual guns trying to provoke a reason to open fire. I don't hear any of you "well Israel is just defending itself" whiners. defending those muslims who had nothing to do with that drawing killing (don't you just love how the "godly" love to kill each other? UGH)


Phyllis Wise has sent a message to Palestinians that offending donors is a higher crime at this university than speaking out harshly against massive human loss and suffering. She took her position now let her legacy suffer the consequences.

Rocky7 wrote on May 31, 2015 at 2:05 am

The governor's budget proposals are in no way related to the Salaita incident and to suggest otherwise defies logic as taught at UIUC's (or any other university's) philosophy department.

BruckJr wrote on May 30, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Do you mean to say that we might have trouble attracting world class faculty to our American Indian Studies program?  How will the university survive?

Rocky7 wrote on May 30, 2015 at 10:05 pm

The university will survive very well as it did during the time before the program was even established.

andrewscheinman wrote on May 30, 2015 at 7:05 pm

The fact is, the emails I posted (and that the Gazette finally got around to releasing WEEKS after I'd been sending them this information) presents a prima facie case for illegal actions by UIUC in response to those 27 FOIA requests made in 2014 for emails and other documents relating to Salaita.  They responded to 12 of them, they produced 1,600 pages, the first question EVERYONE should be asking is whether it's okay for a great public unversity to engage in what sure seems illegal behavior about withholding documents.

This isn't to say other things didn't go on that were ... non-the-usual-course-of-business, but let's just start with withholding public documents.

fuddrules wrote on June 01, 2015 at 5:06 am

They are simply following Obama administration guidelines.  You're lucky you got them when you did. 

OldIlliniFan wrote on May 30, 2015 at 8:05 pm

The AAUP has about 50,000 members, out of approximately 1.5 million professors in the US, so that it represents about 1 out of every 30 faculty, most of whom are in the humanities.  An AAUP committee, a small minority of the AAUP, voted censure over the Salaita case, but is unwilling to say how close the vote was.  It is a big stretch to say that this censure will materialy affect faculty hiring at Illinois, or the University's reputation, or the value of an Illinois degree, or even donations to the University.  In the meantime, candidates for hire to the Illinois faculty, particularly those in the sciences, engineering and mathematics, see the University of Illinois as an amazing career opportunity, and will justifiably simply ignore the AAUP and its unquantified censure vote.

Rocky7 wrote on May 31, 2015 at 12:05 am

50,000 AAUP members out of 1.5 million professors?  That's 0.03333..%

Definitely a small outraged minority of the professoriate.

Alex M. Mobley wrote on May 31, 2015 at 8:05 am
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It is really disheartening to imagine the sciences without the humanities. I don't know of any scientist on this campus who disagrees with me on this point. While some commenters here are sanguine about censure and go so far as to ridicule American Indian Studies, I would ask that people get the opinion of students first.

BruckJr wrote on May 31, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Be careful what you ask for.  You aren't going to like what most students have to say about those required humanities courses.  They are 'required' for a reason.

tominmadison wrote on May 31, 2015 at 8:05 am

Without the humanities the very idea of a university vanishes.

Great universities have great humanities departments.

The censure will hurt U of I's reputation.

What it does now will determine how much.

The original sin was bad enough, but it is, as is most always the case, the coverup that brings people and institutions down.

Try: we did it; we were wrong, we are sorry, and we won't do it again. We now get it.


truth is a good thing. 

fuddrules wrote on June 01, 2015 at 5:06 am

I know 2 science based professors well enough to get their true opinion. One a department head, neither care about this issue. Much to do about nothing. 

Alex M. Mobley wrote on June 01, 2015 at 8:06 am
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Which issue fudd? Salaita specifically or academic freedom as well? The humanities?

Faculty Member wrote on May 31, 2015 at 10:05 am

Professor Salaita has done nothing whatsoever to damage UIUC.  Nor has the AAUP done any damage.  It is simply responding to and registering the outrageous violations of academic freedom that university administrators carried out.

Make no mistake:  ALL of the damage has been done by Wise, Easter, and the Board of Trustees.

Rocky7 wrote on May 31, 2015 at 4:05 pm

I'd say ALL sides in this dispute are at fault.

giannitufolli wrote on June 06, 2015 at 12:06 am

Agreed ...

andrewscheinman wrote on May 31, 2015 at 7:05 pm

I think Salaita's comment a week after the three Jewish teens in Israel were kidnapped and murdered that "more settlers should go missing" was horrible, and even worse was his later claim that by "missing" he meant missing from Israel in the sense of decolonization, rather than missing as in dead.

I don't think that tweet was illegal, I do think it was disgusting and ought have been roundly condemned.  I also think Salaita should have apologized for it.  The deaths of Gaza children were horrible; this was too.  Neither one is fodder for incindiary comments.


That said, if skepticity is so exercised over the tweets, what about the fact that UIUC almost certainly BROKE THE LAW in not disclosing those FOIA results I disclosed that the Gazette finally picked up on (after I'd emailed them multiple times).

To be clear, 27 FOIAs were filed on Salaita with UIUC in 2014, UIUC responded to 12, and produced 1,600 pages of documents, mostly emails.

NOWHERE in that 1,600 page were the emails between Wise and Adesida and Burbules and Tolliver.  NOWHERE.  That's either explicilty an illegal withholding of documents in response to FOIA if the withholding was intentional, or almost certainly rises to the level of criminal negligence if the witholding was "merely" because of sloppy practices at UIUC.


The significance of the above is that you can certainly be no fan of Salaita (I'm not), you can go either way on his unhiring (I think the unhiring was wrong), you can argue about whether his tweets were anti-Semitic or if he's qualified.


And that fact should incense EVERYONE.

Rocky7 wrote on May 31, 2015 at 11:05 pm

It seems that within the state of Illinois, FOIA are turned down at all levels.  I filed one about health insurance and was declined.

andrewscheinman wrote on June 01, 2015 at 9:06 am

Hey, Rocky, I can try to help you with your FOIA if you'd like.  I've sent enough appeals to the attorney general's office ... never rolled up my sleeves on health insurance. :)

Actually I'm aiming to have a FOIA filing workshop at the Urbana Free Library, FOIA filings shoudld be part of every schoolchild's civils lessons, so that they can learn how to be a good informed citizen.


chief21 wrote on June 01, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Wow..looks like we join BYU and LSU on the list. My o my....is there a wave of faculty going to leave now...and how in the world will we ever recruit anybody here to the U of I.  Guess we'll have to close the doors pretty soon...

byrdslover wrote on June 06, 2015 at 7:06 pm

I don't know of a single faculty member who finds Salaita's tweets "acceptable."  What are the names of the faculty you think find his tweets acceptable?

What I feel, as do most of the faculty members who are against his firing, is that individual citizens have the right to express their political views, in whatever language they choose.  The fact that I feel Salaita has the right to say what he said doesn't mean I necessarily agree with what he said or the way he said it -- just that it is his right as an American citizen to express it without being punished by the government, or an agency of the government.  The U of I in this case is the government.  Ultimately the courts will decide.  I hope he doesn't settle so the courts can make a ruling on this.