News Local/State

Professors’ Panel Criticizes Reported Dismissal Of Salaita


A committee of university professors says the University of Illinois is violating academic freedom and standards of free speech, if it has withdrawn its pending appointment of Steven Salaita.

The online publication Inside Higher Ed cites anonymous sources in reporting that Salaita lost his appointment to teach this fall in the university’s American Indian Studies program on the Urbana-Champaign campus, after controversy arose over statements he made on Twitter critical of Israel’s policies in Gaza.

Professor Peter N. Kirstein of Saint Xavier University in Chicago says he’s seen persecution of professors who criticize Israel before. But he says if the news reports are accurate, the U of I’s action is a rare one, “where they would be so cruel to a professor, and essentially render him possibly destitute. I heard he resigned from Virginia Tech, so I assume he has nothing. Nothing. For tweets? Unbelievable.”

Kirstein is vice president of the Illinois Conference of the American Association of University Professors, and chairs its Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.  

In a statement released Wednesday, the committee stated that while Salaita’s tweets may be “strident and vulgar”, they are protected speech under the U-S Constitution. The statement says that while off-campus speech can be valid grounds for dismissal, university administrators need to make and defend their charges through appropriate channels.

A spokeswoman for the University says they don’t comment on personnel matters. Salaita has not returned calls from Illinois Public Media seeking comment.