Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Professor fired for Israel criticism urges University of Illinois to reinstate him

    Wednesday, September 10, 2014   No comments

Steven Salaita, a university professor whose appointment at the University of Illinois was withdrawn last month after he was critical of Israel on Twitter, spoke publicly for the first time on Tuesday, saying he should be reinstated on the grounds of academic freedom.
“I am a passionate advocate for equality, a fair and open-minded instructor, and highly collegial. No legitimate evidence exists for any claims or insinuations to the contrary, which have severely damaged any reputation and my prospects for future employment,” he said.
Salaita, a former tenured professor of English at Virginia Tech, accepted a faculty appointment at the University of Illinois in October 2013 to teach in the American Indian Studies program starting January 2014. But his appointment was revoked in early August, after Salaita posted to Twitter several messages criticising Israel.

“Only Israel can murder around 300 children in the span of a few weeks and insist that it is the victim,” said one. “If Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised,” asked another.
In explaining his dismissal, university officials described his comments as uncivil, saying they represented “disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice”.
Since then, some academics have mounted a boycott of the university, saying it is not the institute’s place to dictate civil discourse. They also claim the university has become too beholden to wealthy donors who they say are informally dictating decisions involving hiring and tenure. Internal emails surfaced last week that suggested the university’s decision to drop Salaita was motivated by threats from wealthy donors.
“‘Civility’ is the new banner of what is expected on college campuses and it’s a frightening reality for those of us who have to figure out what it is to teach under that banner flying over our campuses,” said Robert Warrior, chairman of the American Indian Studies program, who is fighting to get Salaita reinstated.
Late last month, university trustees released a statement saying that Salaita was rejected for the inflammatory nature of his Twitter posts, not his views. “There can be no place for that in our democracy, and therefore, there will be no place for it in our university,” chairman Christopher Kennedy wrote.
However, emails published on Wednesday by the News-Gazette in Champaign-Urbana showed donors threatened to withdraw their financial support if Salaita’s hiring was approved. 

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