AAUP Salaita report
May 5, 2015 4:10 PM   Subscribe

"The administration of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, in rejecting Professor Steven Salaita’s appointment without demonstrating cause, and in doing so only after the appointment had been approved and courses had been assigned to him, acted in violation of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the university’s own stated policies on the subject." The American Association of University Professors has issued its report on the Salaita case.

The AAUP report doesn't address any legal issues surrounding Salaita's appointment at UIUC, but is part of the process by which the organization decides whether to subject the university to official censure.

The report rejects Chancellor Phyllis Wise's contention that "civility" is an essential element of fitness for an academic position, and outlines the history of conflict between the UIUC American Indian Studies department and alumni over the use of "Chief Illiniwek" as the schools' athletic mascot. The report compares the Salaita case with that of Leo Koch, fired from UIUC in 1963 for writing a letter to the newspaper advocating premarital sex.

A faculty committee at Illinois issued its own report in December, finding that "the Chancellor has raised legitimate questions about Dr. Salaita’s professional fitness that must be addressed" and recommending that the University bring back Salaita's case for reconsideration, in order to answer these questions.

Coverage from Inside Higher Ed.

(Previously on MetaFilter.)
posted by escabeche (87 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
When someone identifies themself as a professor at a university, that university is seen as endorsing the opinions of that person. I can see the university not wanting that.

"MIT professor tweets December 2015 for Doomsday".

I'd be all, "MIT sucks ass at science". So from an HR perspective, I can see the university not wanting that. But, THE PROCESS u of i used to resolve the issue was unfair. U of I should get fucked over for that.

Also, GO IU! u of i has always sucked, this just makes them worse.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:33 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


When someone identifies themself as a professor at a university, that university is seen as endorsing the opinions of that person.

I don't think so. It's a university. (And a public university at that.) Professors have traditionally enjoyed having individual academic freedom.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 4:38 PM on May 5, 2015 [39 favorites]


I'm far from convinced this guy's career should be ruined over a bunch of offensive tweets. I definitely think UIUC handled this phenomenally badly and that needs to be addressed. Some of his behavior over the longer term seems to point toward saying provocative things for the sake of being provocative, which is concerning in and of itself.

But I also think it is absurd, even taking into account the benefit of time and changing sexual morals, to liken "At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza" to writing a letter to the newspaper advocating premarital sex.
posted by zachlipton at 4:39 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, people might mistake an individual prof's opinion for the Official Position of the university — but if they do, it's because they've got no clue how university research works.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:42 PM on May 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


The sentence is too long.
posted by rankfreudlite at 4:43 PM on May 5, 2015


I love the University criticizing AAUP for “failure to conduct a thorough and detailed investigation."
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 4:50 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


"But I also think it is absurd, even taking into account the benefit of time and changing sexual morals, to liken "At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza" to writing a letter to the newspaper advocating premarital sex."

From the reaction, it's eminently comparable.

But more to the point was that UIUC didn't censure a fucking white supremacist. Come on.
posted by klangklangston at 4:56 PM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


In the subcommittee’s interview with her, the chancellor repeated what she had told the CAFT subcommittee: she saw no distinction between Salaita’s extramural utterances (contained in the tweets) and his probable classroom demeanor. <-- Weak.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 4:59 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


From the Academe Blog: (Un)Doing the Work of the Faculty at the University of Illinois
By Michael Rothberg [Head of the Department of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Director of the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies]

I will be speaking tonight from my experience as a member of a campus committee that was charged with considering Hiring Policies and Procedures, and I will also draw on my experience as a department head and my professional identity as a scholar in the fields of Jewish and Holocaust studies. I want to offer some general thoughts on the implications of the Salaita case and then give a brief account of some features of the Hiring Policies report. I want to emphasize that I was just one member of this committee and—although we ended up with a very strong consensus regarding our recommendations—I am speaking here tonight only for myself....

My point is not that the fact that many people worked hard on the hiring of Salaita means that their collective decision is by definition infallible or beyond question—though the fact that it was collective and passed through so many levels of review should mean something. My point is rather that the undoing of that work happened with a speed and casualness that is the very opposite of the care that went into the hiring. While the process of hiring Steven Salaita was based on principles of scholarly expertise and democratic decision-making grounded primarily in faculty labor, the unhiring of Steven Salaita took place completely outside either scholarly expertise or democratic decision-making procedures. Indeed, the unhiring was the very negation, discounting, and undoing of precisely those factors of expertise and shared governance that define what a university is.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:19 PM on May 5, 2015 [29 favorites]


When someone identifies themself as a professor at a university, that university is seen as endorsing the opinions of that person. I can see the university not wanting that.

No, not at all.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:54 PM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


He is a moron who said dumb and offensive things, but he still deserves to have the university behave appropriately and consistent with procedures and policies.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:04 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Michael Rothberg's point is reasonable, but you might say the same thing about other discretionary powers, such as when the US President or State Governors exercise their powers of clemency. Those acts overturn days (if not months or years) of deliberation; they ignore courts' findings of fact and seek no new evidence. None the less, leaders are justly criticised when they refrain from exercising this power: that's their job, just as it's the Board of Trustees' job to step in when an academic committee's actions are about to bring disrepute on the University.

I read through a lot of Salaita's written work the last time this came up. I don't think much of him as a writer and thinker, although that's not the point at issue. His defenders said that the Tweets complained of are too short to be contextual; I think it's the reverse: he embeds anti-Semitic taunts in them precisely because he can get away with it. In a more substantial work he'd be pulled up by people asking why he suggested that (the Jewish actress) Scarlett Johanssen drank "Palestinian blood orange juice"; by using Twitter he can evade questions, block people, or simply claim that he was taken out of context. That's evasive and cowardly and, IMO, means that he lacks the frankness and intellectual honesty that is expected of an academic.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:10 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


If the U of I agrees to rehire him, then includes him the mass layoffs that will very shortly hit the University from Rauner's new budget, will that satisfy the AAUP?

I recognize and sympathize with the underlying principle here (even though I think Salaita's terrible), but all I can think is that this is about to be turned into GOP stalking-horse for talking about ivory-tower liberals who hate Israel so OF COURSE we should serve them with $209 million in funding cuts for FY2016* (and, incidentally, bust their unions and drastically reduce their pensions), because look how they want to spend taxpayer money.

Ugh, okay, I guess we can think about two things at once and worry about academic freedom AND university funding at the same time. But I really think this is going to turn into a super-ugly way to attack U of I's funding in the upcoming budget slugfest.

*For those who need context, this is about 1/3 of the state appropriations for UIUC; total operating budget is around $1.7 billion.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:13 PM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


When someone identifies themself as a professor at a university, that university is seen as endorsing the opinions of that person. I can see the university not wanting that.

Actually people seem to be pretty clear that professor's opinions are separate from their University.

There are limits though. A professor's behaviour *does* reflect on the University: lying, trolling, being abusive(*) ... there is a large grey area that sits between academic freedom and unprofessional conduct. If the University tolerates a lot of borderline stuff from one professor and none at all from another it can look like the University is enforcing a viewpoint.

* basically commenting on YouTube
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:13 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Some of his behavior over the longer term seems to point toward saying provocative things for the sake of being provocative, which is concerning in and of itself.

You mean he has a habit of making people think?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:22 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


He is a moron who said dumb and offensive things, but he still deserves to have the university behave appropriately and consistent with procedures and policies.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:04 PM on May 5
[+]     [!]


What is your basis for calling him a moron? a lot of very distinguished scholars have have hailed his work as excellent and significant. Generally morons do not produce notable scholarship. Do you bring a scholarly expertise to the discussion that undercuts what a lot of scholars have concluded are his work's merits?
posted by jayder at 6:40 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


You mean he has a habit of making people think?

I mean he appears to have a habit of acting like a troll. It's a lazy and unthinking form of argument that contributes little to a discussion yet produces vast amounts of noise. How about an example of one of his tweets:
The @IDFSpokesperson receives money to justify, conceal, and glamorize genocidal violence. Goebbels much?
Or:
#IsraeliIndependenceEquals sustenance of the European eugenic logic made famous by Hitler.
That does nothing to make people think. It's literally textbook trolling behavior. All statements like these do is entrench people more firmly in their hardline positions, which is exactly the kind of thinking that has perpetuated and worsened this conflict.

(Those two tweets are from two months apart, by the way, so it's not like he simply got drunk one night and banged out some ill-thought-out comments over a couple hours.)

I don't know his body of his work remotely well enough to judge the extent to whether these are isolated incidents, but this kind of rhetoric is not remotely productive and is not the kind of discourse I expect of a university professor.
posted by zachlipton at 6:53 PM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


I really think this is going to turn into a super-ugly way to attack U of I's funding in the upcoming budget slugfest.

Actually, the governor plans massive cuts for the U of I even though they did what he wanted and fired Salaita. So there's no real evidence that appeasing the politicians and restricting academic freedom ultimately saves money for the university. But even if it did, is that we should do? Should universities fire every controversial professor who offends a politician, a corporation, or rich donor? Why not ban all the books from public libraries that legislators don't like? The whole point of the AAUP's principles is that the people are best served by having universities that respect academic freedom, even if some people don't like some of the things these professors tweet.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 6:54 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh come on, it's not "making people think," it's fucking blood libel.
posted by KathrynT at 6:57 PM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


His defenders said that the Tweets complained of are too short to be contextual; I think it's the reverse: he embeds anti-Semitic taunts in them precisely because he can get away with it.

Which defenders said that the tweets were too short to be contextual? People (including me) did make the case that selecting a single tweet from a series of tweets removed it from the context that Salaita himself provided, but I don't recall seeing the argument you are reporting his defenders made.

And given that he lost a tenured position based on perceived anti-Semitism in the tweets, I don't understand how you can make an argument that the form lets him "get away with it." What it is you think he got away with?
posted by layceepee at 7:00 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


To expand on my comment a little, if we make comparing people and philosophies to Nazism totally off limits, if we don't pay attention to whether we are about to make the same mistakes, it only opens the door to more genocide and ethnic cleansing and horror, it does not shut it.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:02 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's a longer-form piece from Salaita: Colors: the new-new anti-Semitism

The context of this was a criticism that the yellow stickers used by "pro-Palestinian" activists to mark Israeli produce was reminiscent of the yellow badges and signs used by anti-Semites to mark Jews and their property. That mark has a long history; it goes back to at least the 1200s in Europe although most people today associate it with the marks that the Nazis made Jews use. I think the activists' use of the stickers was fundamentally misguided and that contextually it was utterly inappropriate. I guess you could argue that it was inadvertent, but that doesn't mean that the complaint itself was unjustified.

Salaita doesn't engage with any of this at all. He trivialises the complaint and makes a joke out of it. He doesn't even confine himself to the stickers: his florid and hyperbolic response denies the existence of anti-Semitism and accuses Jews of trying to
create a world that is [...] awash in semiotic paranoia, beholden to exaggeration, disseminating imaginary victimhood, and doggedly resistant to any form of justice.
That is: the complainants are not only wrong, but they are liars; they are not merely fearful, but paranoid; they do not complain because they want justice themselves, but because they want to deny it to others. The man is an anti-Semite.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:15 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


To expand on my comment a little, if we make comparing people and philosophies to Nazism totally off limits, if we don't pay attention to whether we are about to make the same mistakes, it only opens the door to more genocide and ethnic cleansing and horror, it does not shut it.

On the Internet, at least, the practice of comparing someone (or a group of people) to the Nazis is generally considered to be an especially weak form of rhetoric. Godwin's Law says that as soon as that happens, the person who did it loses the argument and the other side wins. Whether that's a reasonable position to take (I happen to think it generally is, though I can absolutely see the value in being allowed to include the discussion of Nazism in the context of alleged genocide), I think that if you're honestly trying to have a discussion/argument on the Internet, you might think twice before name-dropping Goebbels or Hitler.

Given that he doesn't seem particularly interested in exercising that kind of choosiness in terms of how he frames his tweets, I don't see how the rest of us should be expected to bend over backward to accommodate it or even assume much good faith on his part. He just does not come off as the poster boy for reasoned, measured discussion. He comes off like an asshole, so you'll have to forgive me for treating him like one.
posted by axiom at 7:20 PM on May 5, 2015


Zalzidrax, I hardly think that choosing a different oppressive regime than Naziism to compare Israel to will bring about genocide.
posted by KathrynT at 7:21 PM on May 5, 2015


To expand on my comment a little, if we make comparing people and philosophies to Nazism totally off limits, if we don't pay attention to whether we are about to make the same mistakes, it only opens the door to more genocide and ethnic cleansing and horror, it does not shut it.

Funny thing is, no one thinks that comparing people to Nazis is off limits. People think comparing the wrong people to Nazis is off limits.

And, hey -- comparing the wrong people to Nazis is pretty uncool! When the wrong people get compared to Nazis, I get genuinely het up! The Nazis, after all, were very un-chill.

I don't think Salaita comes off great in his tweets or his scholarship. In crotchetier moments, you might get me to condemn the whole scholarly enterprise he's embedded in. But that's not what matters here, I think. My judgments about value may happen to coincide with the political instincts of the university administrators, in this case. But what's at stake is, should the political instincts of the administrators control everything? Should they not only be able to influence hiring, but be able to cut in at the last minute after a professor has tenure as far as anyone knows, and countermand that? Is there anything that shouldn't be made subordinate to their discretion?

What's at issue is not the value of Salaita's scholarship, which I would not be tempted to defend on its own (even if I had no opinion about it!). What's at issue is whether, when disciplinary experts in an academic department determine that his work is valuable and interesting and worthy of appointment, all of this can be subject to backsies at the instance of a politically cowardly administration.

The model of the university as generic service provider is not worth anything. Universities today are earning rents from the long and rich history of self-governed, independent centers of learning. University management is spending down that reputational capital and soon it will be zero.
posted by grobstein at 7:25 PM on May 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


JohnKarlWilson: "Actually, the governor plans massive cuts for the U of I even though they did what he wanted and fired Salaita."

Different governor.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:26 PM on May 5, 2015


Incidentally, that quote is typical of Salaita's very limited eloquence: "beholden" means "owing an obligation", not "inclined"; and "disseminating" means "spreading widely", not "proclaiming" (or whatever he thought he meant). He's not much of a writer.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:27 PM on May 5, 2015


I have never understood why he was hired in the American Indian Studies department. Given the U of I's fraught relationship with Native Americans, you'd think they'd make some effort to hire an actual American Indian scholar, or at least someone who'd spent his life specializing in the field.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:29 PM on May 5, 2015


I'm usually beheld by magic mirrors and fireworks.
posted by clavdivs at 7:31 PM on May 5, 2015


Wasn't he not technically an employee when they found the tweets?

My U of I friends are justly terrified of Rauner. He's a Neanderthal.
posted by persona au gratin at 7:32 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


What is your basis for calling him a moron?

Making antisemitic public comments qualifies as moronic, in my world.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:38 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Given the U of I's fraught relationship with Native Americans, you'd think they'd make some effort to hire an actual American Indian scholar, or at least someone who'd spent his life specializing in the field.

I wouldn't be surprised if UI's history of disrespect toward Native Americans & culture makes it hard to recruit Native American scholars.
posted by Westringia F. at 7:43 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Different governor.

Rauner wasn't governor when it happened, but he publicly praised the decision and denounced his opponent for failing to endorse the decision to fire Salaita.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 7:47 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have never understood why he was hired in the American Indian Studies department. Given the U of I's fraught relationship with Native Americans, you'd think they'd make some effort to hire an actual American Indian scholar, or at least someone who'd spent his life specializing in the field.

The AAUP report includes relevant detail on this subject. Dr. Robert Warrior, the director of the American Indian Studies Program at U of I, reported that Salaita, who has a doctorate in Native American Studies would expand the purview of AIS and “engage with the broader implications of comparative indigeneity within and beyond the scope of US imperialism and militarism in North America and the Pacific to include the Middle East.”

Warrior is a member of the Osage nation. Dr. Jodi Byrd, who was the interim director of the AIS during the search that yielded Salaita's appointment, is a Chickasaw scholar. Perhaps "actual American Indian scholars" are less provincial than some expect them to be.
posted by layceepee at 8:03 PM on May 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


I have never understood why he was hired in the American Indian Studies department. Given the U of I's fraught relationship with Native Americans, you'd think they'd make some effort to hire an actual American Indian scholar, or at least someone who'd spent his life specializing in the field.

Here are a few reasons:
1) It's illegal to hire (or not hire) based on race.
2) The American Indian Studies department unanimously chose to hire Salaita.
3) Salaita is a specialist in the field. His dissertation (which is in English, but with a Native American Studies specialization) and first book focused on Native American issues, and he has continued to be active in the field.
4) As explained above, the "field" here is a very broad term. The position Salaita was hired for was in comparative colonialism. If you hire someone in a comparative literature position, you don't complain that he's published outside of the field of English literature, because that's exactly what you're looking for.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 8:05 PM on May 5, 2015 [14 favorites]


Godwin's Law says that as soon as that happens, the person who did it loses the argument and the other side wins.

Uncharitably, it is an argument by ad hominem, i.e. you were crude enough to compare someone to Hitler, so you're wrong.

More charitably, it's a useful heuristic. Most people who compare Hitler do so because he's the most famous and readily known evil person, not because of any other relevance. The people who have developed it into an internet rule seem to not really get the concept, though.

Regardless, I can see an American Indian studies scholar seeing parallels between the settlement of the American West--which resulted in the genocide of the people already living there--and the Israeli settlements in Palestine, which are supported by right wing groups that sure as hell aren't interested in the well being of people already living there.

The arguments about the quality of his scholarship aren't really relevant - he was hired on the quality of his scholarship. He was 'unhired' by a different group of people for other reasons. And yeah, he's can be a provocative asshole and outspoken, and there are clearly some things he just doesn't get. But that describes a pretty large proportion of tenured professors, if we're being honest. Given the amount of racism that that white academics seem to get away with just fine, it looks to me like he's getting a disproportionate amount of crap because he's siding with brown people over white people. He's got a point of view that instinctively sides with who he perceives as the oppressed people, and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

Look, if he's actually going out and saying bigoted things to Jewish students, then, yeah, fire his ass. If he has actually said anything condemning Jewish people because of their ethnicity or religion, I'll turn my position right around. But fiery rhetoric and even the ability to say things that piss people off and might be dumb and maybe are going to be regrettable later, that is necessary for academic freedom.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:08 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most people who compare Hitler do so because he's the most famous and readily known evil person, not because of any other relevance.

People are not just accidentally comparing Jews or Israelis (two entirely different groups of people) to Hitler because they can't think of anyone else.
posted by jeather at 8:18 PM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


I once delivered (delivered!) a geography paper at UIUC. I got a ticket for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Got an award though. . . (Not for the ticket but for the paper)
posted by rankfreudlite at 8:35 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


If he has actually said anything condemning Jewish people because of their ethnicity or religion, I'll turn my position right around.

When he made his tweet about Netanyahu wearing a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, that was not just a random piece of wound-up rhetoric intending to paint Netanyahu as a bloodthirsty leader with callous indifference towards the lives of innocents. It was blood libel, specifically drawing upon the belief that Jews use the blood of children to make matzoh, which has been used as the justification for antisemitic violence for hundreds of years. Does that qualify?
posted by KathrynT at 8:37 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Zalzidrax, people compare don't compare Israelis to Nazis accidentally or because the world lacks other evil regimes: they're doing it for a reason. Salaita didn't talk about a Jewish actress drinking "Palestinian blood oranges" accidentally: he did it for a reason. Salaita consistently uses anti-Semitic metaphors himself and trivialises or excuses anti-Semitism in others. And we don't even have access to the full Salaita online oeuvre: a large part of it disappeared as soon as it was drawn to public attention.

it looks to me like he's getting a disproportionate amount of crap because he's siding with brown people over white people

Your statement implies that Salaita's critics are dishonestly using accusations of anti-Semitism as a cover for their racism. It's a very strong accusation and I would like you to back it up.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:40 PM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Some of his behavior over the longer term seems to point toward saying provocative things for the sake of being provocative, which is concerning in and of itself.

You mean he has a habit of making people think?
Whenever anyone asked him about Zen, the great master Gutei would quietly raise one finger into the air. A boy in the village began to imitate this behavior. Whenever he heard people talking about Gutei's teachings, he would interrupt the discussion and raise his finger. Gutei heard about the boy's mischief. When he saw him in the street, he seized him and cut off his finger. The boy cried and began to run off, but Gutei called out to him. When the boy turned to look, Gutei raised his finger into the air. At that moment the boy became enlightened.
(The parable of Gutei's Finger)
posted by traveler_ at 10:15 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Your statement implies that Salaita's critics are dishonestly using accusations of anti-Semitism as a cover for their racism. It's a very strong accusation and I would like you to back it up.

Racism is insidious and implicit. It's not a matter of intention or honesty. Being accused of being an anti-semite in our society simply has more rhetorical power in our society than anti-arab despite their being equally odious forms of bigotry.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:42 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whenever anyone asks me about Zen, I take a chainsaw and cut off both their legs at the kneecaps. Then they are enlightened.

Sometimes people ask if there is a better path, one that does not involve screaming and diesel fumes. I cut off their legs too.

Lately I don't wait for them to ask. I know what people are thinking. They are thinking "What is Zen?" or "Why are you in my bedroom?" I just slice and slice, bringing peace to the world with my chainsaw of enlightenment.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:43 PM on May 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


it looks to me like he's getting a disproportionate amount of crap because he's siding with brown people over white people

The assumption that Palestinians are "brown" and Jews are "white" (and that that difference is the driving force of either conflict or bigotry) really demonstrates the problem with using race in this conversation rather than a much more nuanced understanding of the limited parallels betwen ethnicity and religion, even when discussing a (sort of) ethnic religion like Judaism.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:12 AM on May 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Guys a dick. But if you don't think that this has a chilling effect on academic speech, than you are fooling yourself. He also could have said similarly offensive things about any other group and would still have his job. This type of outside interference in academic affairs is much more likely to happen when the subject is Israel than when it is other subjects. That doesn't mean of course that what Salaita said wasn't racist, but of course the issue isn't Salaita: it's another message to scholars to shut your fucking mouth when it comes to Israel.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:25 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Zalzidrax wrote: Racism is insidious and implicit. It's not a matter of intention or honesty. Being accused of being an anti-semite in our society simply has more rhetorical power in our society than anti-arab despite their being equally odious forms of bigotry.

What has this to do with your allegation that Salaita is "getting a disproportionate amount of crap because he's siding with brown people over white people"?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:39 AM on May 6, 2015


Joe it's not brown va white, but if he said similar things about Palestinians instead of Israelis he would still have a job.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:42 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think that's the case. As it happens, there's presently a campaign against another US professor, Andrew Pessin, who reportedly wrote this on Facebook:
“One image which essentializes the current situation in Gaza might be this. You’ve got a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape.”
He and his defenders (e.g.) say that he was talking about Hamas, not Palestinians generally, but that hasn't stopped him being given a very hard time: he's currently on stress leave. His college has also organised a forum "on free speech, equity and inclusion", with the college President pointedly saying that "the comments stemming from Pessin's Facebook post have posed larger questions about the nature of free speech and the values of a diverse community." I have no doubt that if Pessin were in between jobs, as Salaita was, that his job offer would have been withdrawn.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:01 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well as an American academic who is intimately involved in these matters, I can comfortably report that your perception is completely at odds with every American academic that I have discussed this with.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:06 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have no doubt that if Pessin were in between jobs, as Salaita was, that his job offer would have been withdrawn.

I think it's safe to say that, were that to happen, the AAUP would write a critical report on Connecticut College and eventually subject it to censure.
posted by escabeche at 5:47 AM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


For argument's sake, I will accept that saying similar things about Palestinians would not have led to the job loss. But I am fairly sure that using similar racist things against Black American culture or Chinese immigrants or other similar groups would have led to the same thing. Is this also a problem? I'm not totally clear if it's "no matter what he said in his tweets, he should have gotten the job" or if it's "some things would be not ok, these are not those things".
posted by jeather at 6:57 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have no doubt that if Pessin were in between jobs, as Salaita was, that his job offer would have been withdrawn.

I have quite a bit of doubt about that claim. First of all, Salaita was not "in between jobs"--as the AAUP points out, he was in fact hired by the U of I. Second, unlike in the Salaita case, Pessin's job has not been threatened at all. In fact, the petition against Pessin specifically declares, "We firmly believe and uphold the principle of free speech -- free speech, moreover, that entitles one to their racist, homophobic, sexist, bigoted or violently hateful opinions. We do not believe censoring the professor to be the answer. That we are in disagreement with his opinions does not mean we wish to silence them…."
That's an admirable sentiment, and one that I wish the critics of Salaita would embrace.

Let's not engage in false equivalency. What happened to Pessin is really what ought to happen to Salaita: he should be criticized by those offended by his comments, but his job should not be threatened.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 6:57 AM on May 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


The notion that Salaita is a solid scholar is nonsense. Google his critics and you will see how he is not. That said, I believe that a dept. and the dean for the college, should suggest tenure, and that it is inappropriate for a provost or president to reject that suggestion. In this, the
AAUP is affirming the due process that should take place.
posted by Postroad at 7:39 AM on May 6, 2015


Please inform us as to why Salaita is not a good scholar. I don't know his work so I can't tell. But just going off that he has published in at least one series that I am familiar with and also got tenure at TWO! good universities in the humanities fields suggest that he is no slouch. But if you have criticiisms by all means let us know them.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:48 AM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Whether Salaita was hired is very much an open question.
posted by jpe at 9:06 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whatever the merits or demerits of Salaita, I find it fascinating that a line of argument in this thread is to suggest that "googling his critics" is a failsafe method of determining whether he qualifies as a "real" or "solid" scholar or not.
posted by blucevalo at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


jpe, that there isn't much precedent in this case is agreed upon. That's the whole reason many people are very worried. But saying that he may not have been hired, without additional qualifications on that statement, really seems like a bad-faith statement to make.
posted by halifix at 10:54 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dip Flash: He is a moron

jayder: Do you bring a scholarly expertise to the discussion that undercuts what a lot of scholars have concluded are his work's merits?

Dip Flash: Making antisemitic public comments qualifies as moronic, in my world.


So ... that's a no.
posted by jayder at 11:27 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whether Salaita was hired is very much an open question.

I don't think this is a bad-faith statement. But I think it is mistaken. Whether Salaita has a legally-enforceable contract is indeed an open question. But whether he was hired or not seems pretty clear-cut to me (and to the AAUP). In the academic world, if you are given a signed offer approved by the entire administrative apparatus and sign that contract, then you are hired, even if there's a clause about it being subject to Board approval a month after you start teaching. Obviously, the AAUP is going to reject any system where a professor is given a job, resigns his previous tenured position, and then has the rug pulled out from under him. No one can say with certainty whether this morally enforced AAUP rule about when a professor is hired will be legally enforced.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 12:56 PM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh come on, it's not "making people think," it's fucking blood libel.

Poe's law in effect.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:02 PM on May 6, 2015


Does Poe's law really apply? It doesn't seem that Saletia was parodying antisemitism. However, he doesn't come off to me as authentically antisemitic either. I doubt he believes Israeli jews use the blood of children to make matzoh. I think he decided to throw an allusion to blood libel out of anger at what he saw as the slaughter of innocent people in Gaza and the powerlessness of Palestinians to do anything stop it or their mistreatment in Israel and the occupied territories. It was an awful thing to do that was obviously gross and offensive and did him and his cause tremendous harm. He should be condemned for it but shouldn't have been fired, imo.

If there is a lawsuit, I wonder if the donors who pushed for him to be fired will kick in additional funding for the University's defense.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:40 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Salaita has already filed a lawsuit, naming U of I officials as well as, I believe, two donors who are alleged to have tortiously interfered with his contract with the university.
posted by jayder at 1:55 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Saletia Salaita
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:58 PM on May 6, 2015




@stevesalaita:
Meet Ayelet Shaked, Israel's new Justice Minister:

-On Palestinian kids: "little snakes."
-On African migrants: "they're all infiltrators."
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:57 PM on May 6, 2015


Golden Eternity: That's a political message, and I don't really have a problem with it. What concerns me are things like this.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:58 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


A seven-figure payout. Wow.
posted by persona au gratin at 8:03 PM on May 6, 2015


That's a political message, and I don't really have a problem with it.

Do you have a problem with Ayelet Shaked?
posted by layceepee at 8:11 PM on May 6, 2015


"But I am fairly sure that using similar racist things against Black American culture or Chinese immigrants or other similar groups would have led to the same thing."

Except that as recently as 2012, UIUC had a poli-sci professor who regularly spoke at neo-Nazi rallies and compared whites and blacks living together to having a chronic disease.

So, nope.
posted by klangklangston at 8:24 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Layceepee asked: Do you have a problem with Ayelet Shaked?

Can we not do the "you must immediately denounce X" thing?

If you're really interested in my opinion on Israeli politicians - about whom I probably know as much or as little as you - then you can ask me by email. Otherwise, Ayelet Shaked isn't the subject of this FPP; why clutter the thread up with this nonsense?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:28 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Except that as recently as 2012, UIUC had a poli-sci professor who regularly spoke at neo-Nazi rallies and compared whites and blacks living together to having a chronic disease.

If you are talking about Weissberg, this is misleading. Weissberg retired from UIUC in 2003, and only started spouting his vile racist BS after retiring.
posted by Westringia F. at 8:38 PM on May 6, 2015


To be fair, emeritus status can be revoked (see e.g. the Walter Lewin case at MIT.) I don't know what UIUC's policies are, but what I found from Penn State:

"At the sole discretion of the University, Emeritus Status may be revoked at any time. Without limiting such discretion, revocation may occur when it is determined that the individual's conduct, before or after receiving the Emeritus designation, conflicts with the intent and spirit of the designation and/or causes harm to the University's reputation. The President is authorized to make the decision to revoke Emeritus Status. The President shall inform the affected individual, and shall notify the Board of Trustees, for information purposes, as well as the appropriate dean or administrative officer. A determination specific to the position of President shall be made by the Board of Trustees. This section is intended to confirm the existing "at will" nature of Emeritus Status and thus applies to all individuals who currently hold Emeritus Status or may be granted such status in the future."

UIUC has chosen not to revoke Weissberg's emeritus status. If they did so, I wonder what the AAUP's position would be? A quick scan didn't turn up any situations where a university was censured for removing emeritus status.
posted by escabeche at 8:57 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Professor Emeritus is not exactly the same thing as fully retired. He is still listed on UIUC's faculty page, and still taught classes there until 2012(?). He's probably still collecting ~80% of his original salary from Illinois taxpayers.

The Racist Professor at the University of Illinois
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:07 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I did find this case where the AAUP placed Brigham Young under censure. In this case, the professor in question, Gail Turley Houston, was denied tenure after being recommended by her department and her dean because of public statements she'd made which were deemed to be in contradiction with LDS doctrine. So the AAUP's stance on these matters, if I understand it correctly, isn't just "professors can't be stripped of tenure for public statements that offend the community," but the stronger "professors can't be denied tenure for public statements that offend the community." Given that, I think it's pretty clear they'd oppose any action by UIUC against Weissberg. It also explains why the issue of whether Salaita was already tenured or not doesn't figure largely in their report; it's relevant to the legal question, but not relevant to the academic freedom question as the AAUP sees it.
posted by escabeche at 9:08 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


AAUP is not technically a labor union, but it consists of a large number of affiliates that are unions. Their views on academic freedom should absolutely be listened to because professors have an important perspective on the issue. But as a labor organization, AAUP is going to support the continued employment of its members with little regard for the consequences or the situation, just as police unions will reflexively leap to the public defense of their members when they are accused of misconduct.

And workers, professors and policemen alike, should be entitled to a vigorous defense from their unions and professional organizations when things go wrong. That's why the union exists after all. But it means we have to keep in mind that AAUP's primary interest lies in preserving the employment of its tenured/tenure-track faculty members, which means advocating for as expansive a view of academic freedom as possible. They aren't wrong to serve as strong advocates for their members, but their views have to be viewed through this lens.
posted by zachlipton at 10:34 PM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think Leiter's point that this will not go to court is probably right.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:36 AM on May 7, 2015


Looong comment. Sorry.

Golden Eternity's link to The Racist Professor at the University of Illinois is well worth reading and, I think, it clarified the issues for me.

University of Illinois emeritus professor Robert Weissberg is absurdly, almost comically, racist. That makes him a bad person. But it also made him a bad professor. As the essay says,
Weissberg himself admitted that to avoid criticism from students, he removed some important topics from his lecture class: “Rather than risk being accused of covering up racism or telling lies, I dropped the topic [the three-fifths compromise] altogether. I similarly removed all discussion of slavery…” Weissberg added that he also removed “most references to crime (no small accomplishment in a course covering the Supreme Court)” and “anything else that might remotely prove an ideological fire hazard.”
Weissberg's course on Political Science (!) was irredeemably compromised by the fact that the lecturer was a lazy coward with indefensible beliefs. I suppose that a better sort of racist might have been able to teach a coherent course on Political Science: it would be controversial (which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing) and it wouldn't be appropriate at a basic level, but at least it would help students examine their own beliefs. That's not what happened here, though, and given the academic constraints of honesty I'm not at all sure that an appropriate course could even be constructed.

I appreciate that the question of Salaita's decency isn't relevant; nor is the question of whether he has the academic chops to be a professor. None the less, it's interesting to ask whether his personal beliefs injure his ability to teach students about colonialism. I think they do. It isn't just that he's an anti-Semite; he's apparently both ignorant about anti-Semitism and incapable of recognising it in himself or others.

The Middle East is obviously and notoriously a place shaped by colonialism, but there's colonialism of many sorts. Leaving Salaita's bête noire out of it for a moment, there's the surviving colonialist government of Jordan, the post-colonial governments of Egypt and Lebanon, and the post-post-colonial chaos that is Syria. Then there's the fact that the formerly-ruling Ottomans were the proximate cause of European colonialism in the Middle East and were a classic colonialist empire themselves. Turning to Israel, and Jews; the fact that most of Israel's Jewish population actually comes from the Middle East requires an explanation, which appears to be that their position vis-à-vis the dominant Arab population was in itself the position of a minority group versus a hegemonic majority; they were distinguished from groups such as the Yazidis by the fact that they had somewhere to flee.

The assertion of national rights of Jews in Israel is also something that cries out for contextualisation. To what extent is it similar to the former Alawite State, the (former?) power of Alawites in Syria, or the dominance of Hashemites in Jordan? I think the Jewish state is a good deal more legitimate than any of those, but the comparison deserves to be made.

I think all these things are very relevant to an analysis of colonialism in the Middle East. I don't think you can make a meaningful course without them! But I also think that Salaita's prejudices and lack of insight mean that he's incapable of doing that: he cannot recognise the force that drove Jews to Israel, or the prejudices that make him imagine that Arabs are native to the whole of the Middle East. His racist Tweets don't just show that he's a bad person; they demonstrate that he's a shallow thinker.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:03 PM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


"or the prejudices that make him imagine that Arabs are native to the whole of the Middle East."

Since his introduction to "The Holy Land in Transit: Colonialism and the Quest for Canaan" explicitly compares the complicated inter-ethnic relationships of what he terms "the American Near East" with those of the relationships between indigenous American nations before and during American colonial contact, I think that your criticism here doesn't show a fair appraisal of his scholarship.
posted by klangklangston at 10:22 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, I have read a lot of Salaita, far more than he deserves.

Here's what he says about Jews and Palestinian Arabs in the notes to the first chapter:
I capitalize the word Indigene in order to distinguish between birth location and a cultural and historical origin in a particular locale. [...] an Israeli Jew of European origin born in say, Haifa, is indigenous to the Near East but is not a Near Eastern Indigene. This designation is reserved largely for the Palestinians who have a cultural and historical origin in the Holy Land ...
As a factual matter, even using his definitions, this is nonsense. Jews' cultural and historical identity originates in Israel. He doesn't attempt to refute that; he just baldly asserts it. And this is using his own Blut und Boden ideology; I think any sane and decent person would reject it. He does admit that "a portion of Israeli Jews ... cultural and physical origins lie in the Holy Land", but he asserts that they are "marginalized", and he ascribes that to "Judaization (de-Arabization)". So Jews can't win: they don't come from there, and even if they did they don't count, because they're not Arab enough.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:56 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


None the less, it's interesting to ask whether his personal beliefs injure his ability to teach students about colonialism. I think they do.



You are not a scholar though. Other scholars disagree. How do I know? They hired him.

Whatever, though. Because I don't really care about Salaita. I care about academic freedom, and the mountain of pressure all academics face, especially if they are untenured, to shut the fuck up about Israel is a real thing. Its also very effective. Salaita's firing sends a very clear message.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:50 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


"As a factual matter, even using his definitions, this is nonsense."

So a Boere born in Johannesburg is indigenous to South Africa?

"He does admit that "a portion of Israeli Jews ... cultural and physical origins lie in the Holy Land", but he asserts that they are "marginalized","

Isn't the political history of modern Israel primarily controlled by Ashkenazi Jews, and weren't the Mizrahi and Sephardim subject to ethnic discrimination, putting strong pressure on them to adopt the cultural norms of the Ashkenazim? I mean, even after the Arab expulsions in the '50s and '60s, didn't the Ashkenazim still control most of Israeli politics even as they became an ethnic minority relative to the Mizrahim? And since Salaita describes the intra-Arab ethnic conflicts as fractious, wouldn't you expect significant cultural differences between Jews from all over the Arab-speaking world as well as a shift from cultural norms of e.g. Jews from Egypt and Jews from Yemen to those of Ashkenazi Jews (relatively privileged) versus the Mizrahim (relatively underprivileged)?

"So Jews can't win: they don't come from there, and even if they did they don't count, because they're not Arab enough."

Or, the dominant power structure of Israel was established by Jews predominantly from Europe, and even Jews from other places in the Arab-speaking world would not necessarily share the same cultural markers as Jews who were indigenous to Mandatory Palestine. Jews who were indigenous were marginalized — this happened even before Israel was a modern state, where New Yishuv Jews marginalized Old Yishuv Jews after the First Aliya.

I kind of hope pointing out that there's been intra-Jewish Israeli colonialism will help you separate out some of your legitimate complaints about Salaita from your "Lookit this bitch eatin' crackers" antipathy.
posted by klangklangston at 2:45 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Quick legal analysis of the way it should work under of minimally fair contract law: The person in Salaita's position is entitled, at least, to contract damages because he relied on what everyone (all parties) knew was being treated as a contract. Here, contract damages (which are ordinarily considered modest) are very high. Because Salaita gave up his prior contract of being a tenured professor. As everyone knew. And these contracts are valuable. So, his claim should have a high value. But then the value of the contract is all tangled up with the politics. (But the breach of contract would not have happened but for the politics.) *My view might not be adopted by your local arbiter.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:15 PM on May 9, 2015


**If a court found an actual contract then there are probably due process rights of some sort that are even more significant. Insert analysis of local and subject matter experts here.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:36 PM on May 9, 2015


ClaudiaCenter: I understand that from the university's perspective (spelled out in their operating procedures that may or may not have been correctly followed), the University extended an invitation to treat, not an offer. Salaita was the one who made the offer, and the only ones with actual or ostensible authority to accept it were the Board of Trustees. I don't think this procedure is unreasonable: if academics had the authority to create tenured appointments they could bankrupt the university.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:52 PM on May 9, 2015


Joe-i-A -- Agree that that is the response to the "actual contract" issue, my ** add. But there is still the claim of detrimental reliance.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:01 AM on May 10, 2015


I don't know - I understand that US law differs from Australian and UK law on this point. Wouldn't Salaita have to show reliance on a representation made by someone with (at least ostensible) authority?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:56 AM on May 10, 2015


if academics had the authority to create tenured appointments they could bankrupt the university.

To be fair, if trustees had the authority to cancel tenured appointments, they could intellectually bankrupt the university.
posted by escabeche at 12:15 PM on May 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


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