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September 03, 2014

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David B

I don't think Salaita should have been unhired because of his tweets, but it's not clear why he was hired as a professor of Native American studies except that they liked his politics, as his research is only tangentially relevant to the field. The chancellor could have and perhaps should rejected his appointment for that reason. Here are his six books: http://treelinewebdesign.com/steven_salaita/Pages/books.html. None of them have anything to do with Native American Studies.

twbb

Of course UIUC is utterly desperate to pay him because they probably figure there's no way to hire him now because it would be a colossal embarassment. It will be curious to see what he does; I suspect they will be throwing a lot of money at him over this.

Barry

From what others have said, Salaita does have a great employment law case against the U, and also has a great First Amendment case against the U.

In addition, it's been pointed out that the discovery phase of the lawsuit would turn over many stones, and reveal the names of the donors who seem to give orders, and perhaps what other things they've ordered.

And, of course, at this point the U can't hire any tenured people (save those who are desperate), unless the Board approves them *before* they resign from their current institution.

Anon

Dan, the willingness to excuse or rationalize Salaita's tweets as not anti-semitic is striking. Imagine that the tweets refered to any other ethnic, racial, religious or gender preference group and used sterotype imagery. The hue and cry against the tweets would be deafening. For example, Larry Summers was pilloried and forced out of the Harvard presidency for sterotypical, but less hateful statements. GW's ex-president is being skewered for suggesting that there is a relationship between campus sexual violence and women's alcohol consumption. Those statements pale in comparison to Salaita's.

Alexander Tsesis

Dan,
Tweets like the following are not simply post-colonial criticism. This one justifies antisemitism: " “Zionists: transforming 'anti-Semitism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1948”.

Steven Salaita (@stevesalaita) July 20, 2014

Alex

MacK

Alex:

I want to raise a serious question with you. You assert that the possibility that Salaita (based on your twisted reading of his twitter posts) is an anti-Semite and that this could lead to a hostile environment for Jewish students, making them uncomfortable.

However, it has been observed that Israel's apologists and supporters in academia and elsewhere fling around the charge of anti-semitism like, well "snuff at a wake." Any statement that is less than mealy mouthed support for Israel, any criticism of Israel attracts a reflexive accusation of anti-Semitism. Given that someone deemed an anti-Semite faces a serious risk of social ostracism, that the term linked to their name could make it hard for them to get a job, that professors might be expected to give them bad grades, that they might be subject to tenure bait-and-switches, it seems to me that a lot of students might feel very uncomfortable and indeed chilled by the presence on faculty of someone who flings around that sort of anti-Semitism accusation so easily and is so willing to distort comments to support it.

So my question is - should someone with a track record of flinging the anti-Semitism accusation based on distorted and dubious evidence be denied tenure? Should they perhaps have their tenure revoked? Is the discomfort they cause their students, the sense that they might brake a students criticism of Israel into account in say grading, the very serious personal consequences of such a false accusation a basis for saying this person should be denied tenure?

Personally I think so. I wonder what you think?

Barry

Anon: "Larry Summers was pilloried and forced out of the Harvard presidency for sterotypical, but less hateful statements. "

Wrong, but do go on.

Barry

Anon: "Larry Summers was pilloried and forced out of the Harvard presidency for sterotypical, but less hateful statements. "

You are aware that Summers remains a professor at Harvard, right?

Dan Filler

Anon and Alex, you are absolutely correct that this tweet, standing alone, could only be read in support of anti-Semitism. BUT, as I write in the post, if the goal is to look into his head (rather than to look at, for example, the consequences of his action...i.e., whether that tweet might cause others to feel OK about anti-Semitism) I think you need to situate that one tweet with the others around it. I found this analysis pretty convincing: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/reading-salaita-illinois-1.html.

On the other hand, one could certainly argue that even though Salaita is not himself anti-Semitic (which is of course only a guess - I can't know his actual thoughts), his Twitter activity might cause others to be, or to feel better about being, anti-Semitic. After all, not everyone will delve into the context or read enough of his work to see him in the way that I have described. In that sense, one could certainly say he is very reckless with his words and his advocacy. That is deeply troubling, and may reflect his minimal concern about anti-Semitism more generally. But it doesn't convince me that he is, himself, anti-Semitic.

As to the broader point about others being pilloried for their statements,I'd agree that Steven Salaita might make a poor administrator because this tweet would lead to distrust among many constituents. But I think teacher/scholars should be judged differently, because embedded in the notion of academic freedom is, among other things, an entitlement to have your work evaluated in context, writ large, over time - rather than based on individual statements, tweets, or even publications.

Alexander Tsesis

Dan,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

To me, an antisemitic statement carries the same semantic value whether it is stated opportunistically or because of hatred. It matters not, therefore, whether a person’s justifications for harassing, killing, or discriminating against Jews is done out of spite or simply as a means of getting ahead. There have been many politicians, beginning with Adolf Stoecker and most recently Recep Erdogan, who have found antisemitism helpful for drumming up support.

To recognize the deplorableness of Salaitas statement and its potential to create a hostile environment on campus, let me first quote it again and then make some equally reprehensible hypothetical statements:

“Zionists: transforming 'anti-Semitism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1948”.

Steven Salaita (@stevesalaita) July 20, 2014

Now, I make the following substitutions to show how reprehensible Salaita’s statement is:

1) “Feminism: transforming 'chauvenism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1973”.

2) “Civil Rights Organizations: transforming 'racism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1954”.

3) “Gay Liberation: transforming 'homophobia' from something horrible into something honorable since 1969”.

I could go on with this nauseating list, but I think my point is clear enough with these three. Indeed, we can substitute nationalities as well for the passages to read as justifications for attacks, slaughter, or simply discrimination against Germans, Japanese, Khurds, Palestinians, Iraqis, Serbs, Armenians, Afghans, or any other self-determinating group on the basis of their nationalistic movements.

In any such case, if a candidate for an academic position were to openly espouse these or comparable statements, I would think it legitimate for university administrators to regard such an individual as incompatible with a pluralistic educational environment and refuse the candidate for a position at the university.

Alex

MacK

Alex:

How did I know you would dodge answering my question - just as you dodged answering my questions from a week ago. Again I ask, if an academic casually throws around the allegation of anti-Semitism, is that a basis for denying them tenure. Surely they are not a collegial and congenial character? Should they lose tenure for it.

It is a simple question. I know it is one you don't like, like questions about Lehi, Irgun, and their terrorism and dealings ... but surely you have the intellectual honesty to address it. Or do you....

You new post ignores the basic issue - Israel's supporters have been throwing the anti-Semite allegation around very casually, spraying it in fact, while using it as a reason to deny people tenure and jobs and making it a very serious allegation to say show up on a Google search of a job applicant. You cannot be ignorant of how serious an allegation it is today - it is up there with calling someone a pedophile. So answer the question - should making casual or unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism be a basis for denying tenure - for revoking it?

It is a fair question, if very close to [your] bone.

MacK

"I could go on with this nauseating list, but I think my point is clear enough with these three. Indeed, we can substitute nationalities as well for the passages to read as justifications for attacks, slaughter, or simply discrimination against Germans, Japanese, Khurds, Palestinians, Iraqis, Serbs, Armenians, Afghans, or any other self-determinating group on the basis of their nationalistic movements."

Alex, do you know who did not make the list of substitutes you proposed - Palestinians and Arabs. Interesting that....

Jeff Redding

Alex: My recent work on the politics of same-sex marriage could be reduced (in a Tweet) to your "Gay Liberation: transforming 'homophobia' from something horrible into something honorable since 1969." Sure, it's an uncomfortable position for people in the so-called middle (whether left or right leaning), but it's not an unreasoned position.

Anon

David B: my understanding is that Salaita was expressly recruited to add a comparative dimension to the Native American studies department -- in other words because of his work on Palestinian issues not in spite of it.

Anon 2

Anon, if you are correct that Salaita was hired for a "comparative dimension" in Native American Studies, then the Chancellor should have rejected the hire on academic grounds as his work was not comparatist and the choice to hire for his Palestinian positions would have been purely political.

twbb

Anon 2, "adding a comparative dimension" is not synonymous with adding someone who's work is comparativist. You give your students an opportunity to compare A and B when you have two teachers, one specializing in A and one in B. You don't need either to actually do the comparativist work themselves. And it's not the Chancellor's job to involve herself at a level of scholarly analysis that she is not equipped to do.

Anon and only

As one Vice Chancellor who works directly under Chancellor Wise wrote of Salaita in approving his appointment:

"After closely reviewing Dr. Steven Salaita’s dossier, I support the Department of American Indian Studies’ (AIS) request to grant him the rank of Associate Professor with indefinite tenure at the University of Illinois. The uniqueness of his scholarship on the intersection of American Indian, Palestinian, and American Palestinian experiences presents a rare opportunity to add an esoteric perspective on indigeneity to our cultural studies programs on campus.

"Again, I support offering Dr. Salaita a tenured position because of the obvious intellectual value that his scholarship and background would bring to our campus. His presence would elevate AIS internationally and convey Illinois’ commitment to maintaining a leading academic program on the historical and sociopolitical intricacies of American Indian culture."

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