Home / General / Yes, Steven Salaita Was Fired, And No, It’s Not Defensible

Yes, Steven Salaita Was Fired, And No, It’s Not Defensible

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Via Corey Robin, Inside Higher Ed has an essay by current opponent of academic freedom Cary Nelson giving an extended defense of the firing of Steven Salita, along with a counterpoint from current supporter of academic freedom John K. Wilson.  It’s a close call which one ultimately makes the stronger case against the firing, and that’s not because Wilson fails to do the job.  Let’s start with the most important way in which Nelson and other supporters of the firing are trying to obfuscate the issue:

I should add that this is not an issue of academic freedom. If Salaita were a faculty member here and he were being sanctioned for his public statements, it would be. But a campus and its faculty members have the right to consider whether, for example, a job candidate’s publications, statements to the press, social media presence, public lectures, teaching profile, and so forth suggest he or she will make a positive contribution to the department, student life, and the community as a whole. Here at Illinois, even the department head who would have appointed Salaita agreed in Inside Higher Ed that “any public statement that someone makes is fair game for consideration.” Had Salaita already signed a contract, then of course he would have to have received full due process, including a full hearing, before his prospective offer could be withdrawn. But my understanding is that he had not received a contract.

To be clear, what Nelson is doing here is trying to bullsh…wait, I don’t want to put my academic career at risk by using bad words on a widely read public forum, so let’s say “sell a bill of goods” to people who don’t understand how the academic hiring process works, and “insult the intelligence” of those that do. I’ll turn things over to Wilson here:

One thing should be clear: Salaita was fired. I’ve been turned down for jobs before, and it never included receiving a job offer, accepting that offer, moving halfway across the country, and being scheduled to teach classes.

The remaining administrative approval necessary for Salaita to be hired was pro forma. He didn’t resign his position and move because he was a crazy risk-taker but because he had every rational reason to believe the job was his. Whether he had signed all the paperwork might be relevant to his legal remedies, but from that standpoint of norms and ethics the job was his, and if you believe in the principles of academic freedom they clearly apply in this case.

In addition, as Wilson effectively points out even if one assumes for the sake of argument that the strong protections of academic freedom shouldn’t apply here, this is still a terrible argument, an Ivan Tribble argument. People don’t have due process protections when they’re turned down for a job, but this still doesn’t mean that “does the candidate disagree with Cary Nelson about Israeli policy too stridently?” is a criterion that any responsible hiring committee should be taking into account. The “I would choose to have him as a colleague” line gives away the show here — this is supposed to be a professional process, not a consideration of who you’d like to be sharing cognac with at the 19th hole of the country club.

Most of Nelson’s bill of particulars consists of selected tweets. While they sometimes express ideas I don’t agree with in language I would be disinclined to use, they can’t possibly be firable offenses. To add to this, he asks whether “Jewish students in his classes [will] feel comfortable” with his Tweets. At least here we’re talking about something (teaching) that is relevant to whether someone should be fired, as opposed to something that isn’t (whether someone disagrees with Cary Nelson’s political views too vehemently.) But leaving aside his obviously erroneous assumption that no Jewish student could agree with the substance of Salaita’s views, this is again a remarkably poor argument. First of all, as many people have pointed out, this proves too much; it’s just an argument that no faculty member should ever express a view on a controversial topic. And, second, it’s not as if this was Salaita’s first job out of a British PhD program; if he had any record of treating students who disagree with him about Israeli policy unfairly this would, presumably, come out in the evaluation of his teaching. If it didn’t, it’s not relevant.

As part of the LGM community we needn’t dwell on the fallacies of arguing that a retweet constituted an “incitement to violence”; let’s leave the War On Metaphor with Michelle Malkin’s lickspittles, please. Grasping at another straw Nelson asserts that Salaita’s “discourse crosses the line into anti-Semitism.” If there was evidence that Salatia was an anti-Semite, this might justify an exception to the principle of academic freedom. But the case for this hinges almost entirely on this one tweet:

Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.

Conveniently, Nelson provides the context of a previous tweet that makes it clear what Salatia was trying to argue here: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say anti-Semitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Now, I don’t actually agree with this argument, and I think we can reaffirm that Twitter is a poor medium for making too-clever-by-half points with potentially inflammatory terminology. But as evidence of anti-Semitism, this is nothing, unless you think Nathan Glazer is an anti-Semite.

And, finally, the punchline:

I also do not believe this was a political decision.

Clearly, when I gave the Bush v. Gore Award For Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Bad Faith to another candidate earlier in the week, I acted prematurely. If you’re trying to sell this argument, it’s probably best that your column not focus mostly on how you disagree with the person’s political views.

I’ll leave the final word to Berube:

Nothing in Professor Salaita’s Twitter feed suggests a violation of professional ethics or disciplinary incompetence. The University of Illinois is therefore clearly in violation of a fundamental principle of academic freedom with regard to extramural speech; moreover, your decision effectively overrides legitimate faculty decisionmaking and peer review in a way that is inconsistent with AAUP guidelines regarding governance. Those faculty members who engaged in the process of peer review for Professor Salaita cannot be said to have been unaware that he has strong opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict– as do many millions of people. To overturn faculty peer review on the basis of a Twitter feed, therefore, is to take a page straight from the Kansas playbook.

UPDATE: Nelson’s argument was not only sloppy and tendentious but in one instance relied on a falsehood. Nelson’s assertion that Salaita “had not received a contract” is demonstrably erroneous.

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  • John Protevi

    Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.

    Conveniently, Nelson provides the context of a previous tweet that makes it clear what Salatia was trying to argue here: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say anti-Semitic shit in response to Israeli terror.”

    I would stress the scare quotes and say Salaita is saying “Zionists have been calling critics of their violence ‘anti-semitic’ for a long time; I wear that as a badge of honor.”

    That reading doesn’t rule yours out of course.

  • John Protevi

    As for saying that Goldberg’s essay should have ended at the point of shiv, that’s readable as saying it wasn’t a serious essay, but a crudely fashioned street weapon wielded by a thug.

    • matt w

      I don’t think it is–it surely refers to Goldberg’s time as a prison guard in Israel.

      OTOH it was a retweet, not a tweet. That is to say Salaita didn’t say it, he quoted it. I’m not going to buy that RTing isn’t endorsing line here, but it’s not as severe as tweeting it yourself.

      And again, this is only relevant to the question of whether Salaita is a bad guy, which has no bearing on whether it was OK for U of I to fire him, because you can’t fire professors for being bad guys on Twitter.

      • mikeSchilling

        I want a job where it doesn’t matter how badly I embarrass my employer in public.

        • John Protevi

          Good. All you got to do is get a PhD, get hired TT, and then do good enough research, teaching, and service to get tenured.

          • mikeSchilling

            Nice snark (really), but do you honestly consider “I can be a complete douchebag and no one can touch me” a perk?

            • matt w

              “I can’t be fired just for expressing my opinion, no matter how much it pisses people off” is a perk. Because organized pressure campaigns to get professors fired aren’t just for people who say possibly douchey things about Israel; if universities can can professors who make powerful people mad, say goodbye to Herb Needleman and Michael Mann.

              • efgoldman

                Not to mention Erik Loomis, for suggesting heads should go on pikes. In a blog post unrelated to hi job. Even though he was right.

              • Right.

                It’s not a perk, it’s an essential part of how universities are currently constituted. Many people find it advantageous or pleasurable, of course.

                • John Protevi

                  Yes. It’s not a perk. It’s supposed to provide a free space of opinion that society can benefit from, not professors (only). This is my boilerplate on the issue:

                  The purpose of academic freedom is to provide a protected sphere of opinion so that society as a whole can benefit. It has nothing to do with the range of opinion within academia; it protects the process of producing opinion, whatever the results of that process. Whatever the range of opinion in academia regarding the role of Israel in the Gaza war, even one percent disapproval would still provide to society a greater range of opinion than did the US Senate with its 100-0 approval vote. This exaggeration illustrates the way academic freedom exists to provide a counterbalance to the conformist pressure exerted by concentrations of political and economic power.

                • DrDick

                  Exactly!

                • FlipYrWhig

                  John, I appreciate the way you spell this out, but I truly think it goes too far. And I’m a professor too. I feel like it strains the definition of “academic.” “Academic freedom” can’t mean that “academics” get to opine freely about anything and everything and never be held responsible for the repercussions. I can see “academic freedom” being invoked for discussions of anxiety-producing topics like, say, sex work and pornography, or imperialism, or theological controversy, etc. But I can’t see how “academic freedom” should cover a case like, for instance, a geology professor going public with what kind of porn he likes to watch. That’s not “academic” anymore. He’s just being creepy.

                  It seems to me that Salaita, whose work I don’t know, COULD square the circle by saying “the relationships between colonizer and settler peoples have been my life’s work, and the situation in Gaza reminds me of that horrible dynamic.” So I think he could probably pull off the conversion from “random angry opinion” to “germane academic polemic.” And that’s why I don’t think the record indicates that his stuff is so outrageous as to be a firing offense.

                  But I’m very skeptical that “academic freedom” really means, or is meant to be, something other than the freedom to research and speak out intelligently and in an informed way on controversial subjects. I spoke out under my own real name a fair amount about the awfulness of the Hobby Lobby decision, and I’m a professor in a field that has nothing to do with those issues. If my school wanted to fire me for that, I think it would be _wrong_, but not because of “academic freedom,” but rather because we all, academics and non, value the public sphere as a space for the interchange of opinions. I don’t think “academic freedom” is a good name for that.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  But I can’t see how “academic freedom” should cover a case like, for instance, a geology professor going public with what kind of porn he likes to watch. That’s not “academic” anymore. He’s just being creepy.

                  Hey, who better than he to have academic expertise on the subject of getting one’s rocks off?

                • FlipYrWhig

                  Well played, Lee. We would also have accepted “eruption.”

                • John Protevi

                  Thanks, FlipYrWhig, that is a very good, thoughtful comment and I’m going to think about it a little more before I respond. But I wanted to acknowledge the comment and make the promise so you know I saw it.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  Thx, John, looking forward to it.

                • John Protevi

                  Hi FlipYrWhig, I think you’re right. I think that there’s an implicit assumption on my part that academic freedom is bound to academic discourse. I should make that explicit in future discussions.

                  However, I don’t agree that academic freedom should be extended only when we speak on our specialities, which I think your comment gets close to implying. My speciality is 20th century French philosophy, and while I certainly *could* show how my position on I/P relates to Deleuze and Foucault and Derrida, et al., I’m not a poli sci prof but I still want want I say on US foreign policy to be protected.

                • anon1

                  Moving the hands of the clock back:

                  The piece was written by Arthur Schlesinger in the WSJ. He wanted people to understand the distinction between freedom and license. At the time we were quietly moving into a landscape where Be thyself was being replaced with Just Do it. Academicians thought they had the freedom to say anything they wanted. The people running the money knew different.
                  Moving the clock ahead to now, nothing has changed. The baby sea turtles hatch out from graduate school and are eaten by the hovering administrator sea gulls overhead. If you believe in dissent recognize that universities are not “user friendly” and never have been to their employees. You’re “overhead” to them. And your students are now customers.

                • Hi FlipYrWhig, I think you’re right. I think that there’s an implicit assumption on my part that academic freedom is bound to academic discourse. I should make that explicit in future discussions.

                  I think FlipYrWhig is wrong and you’re wrong to concede this much. There’s no principled way to draw this line and no way to draw a line without severely damaging that which academic freedom is intended to protect.

                  Part of academic freedom is the freedom to change specialty or to add additional areas.

                  Furthermore, at least in my institution, engagement with society is a key promotion criterion. Once you open that up you just can’t easily set content constraints.

                • John Protevi

                  Hi Bijan, I’m having a lot of trouble finding the right position here! I see what you’re saying. How about this: “in limiting academic freedom to ‘academic discourse’ I mean the latter covers anything other than the mere expression of taste in personal matters.” Though I guess that’s never really going to get anyone in trouble: “I don’t like strawberry ice cream” isn’t covered by academic freedom but it doesn’t have to be.

                  I certainly agree that being able to talk outside your speciality on matters of public concern and still be protected is essential to academic freedom as I see it.

                • DrDick

                  I am completely with Bijan on this. Academic freedom is meaningless if it is confined to professional academic speech/writing.

                • Hi Bijan, I’m having a lot of trouble finding the right position here!

                  It ain’t easy.

                  I see what you’re saying. How about this: “in limiting academic freedom to ‘academic discourse’ I mean the latter covers anything other than the mere expression of taste in personal matters.” Though I guess that’s never really going to get anyone in trouble: “I don’t like strawberry ice cream” isn’t covered by academic freedom but it doesn’t have to be.

                  Unless you are the Bassett’s Chair of Gastronomic Science at UPenn, of course.

                  I certainly agree that being able to talk outside your speciality on matters of public concern and still be protected is essential to academic freedom as I see it.

                  C’est cool, then.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  I certainly agree that being able to talk outside your speciality on matters of public concern and still be protected is essential to academic freedom as I see it.

                  If it’s protected, I think “academic freedom” is a poor name for the policy that protects it.

                  I think what we both mean is that universities should be sites where the public sphere is robust and where we take on trust that strongly held opinions may clash but that those who hold out-of-mainstream views _on issues of public importance_ will be protected.

                  But “academic freedom” as a catchphrase isn’t capturing that very well. It kind of seems like “I get to be a dick because I’m a professor and no one can stop me, nyah nyah.” But we know that’s not how it works. There are still plenty of things you can’t do or say.

                  IMHO views on Israel/Palestine are on the right side of the line, even if they’re expressed obnoxiously. Why? Because colleges are full of opinionated people who are, whether they like the label or not, public intellectuals. I should be able speak out against a coal plant in my county (which has nothing to do with anything I study) and feel like my college shouldn’t jack me up for it even if the coal company is a major donor to the college. I should be able to speak out for sex-work decriminalization or take the side of Bashar Assad or whatnot, because colleges thrive on heterodoxy. Or they should. That’s why people like to work there and live around them.

                  IOW, going by what I know, it’s wrong to mess with Salaita and his career over this. I just don’t think it’s wrong because of “academic freedom” per se.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  BTW, I just discovered today that Salaita is a contributor to this book: The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent. Which I looked up in a different context entirely. Synchronicity, n’est-ce pas?

                • If it’s protected, I think “academic freedom” is a poor name for the policy that protects it.

                  Really? That’s weird.

                  The main problem with “academic freedom” is that it’s construed too narrowly. For example, if it’s held to only be for the tenure elite, that’s not good. Tenure should be one mechanism for preserving academic freedom not a way of excluding people from having it.

                  I think what we both mean is that universities should be sites where the public sphere is robust and where we take on trust that strongly held opinions may clash but that those who hold out-of-mainstream views _on issues of public importance_ will be protected.

                  This takes us right back to the thorny issue of what is public importance. Should novelists be barred from writing personal memoirs? or should *only* novelists, hired as such, be so allowed?

                  We have to be super careful about using demarca such as forum, style, speciality, or public importance because a key impulse behind academic freedom is that all such line themselves should be subject to inquiry and that expanded, unanticipated notions of where the lines are drawn are to be expected given healthy inquiry *and* such lines are not just subject to abuse wrt inquiry but prone to it. Even without formal misuse, such lines have a tendency to harden informally.

                  But “academic freedom” as a catchphrase isn’t capturing that very well. It kind of seems like “I get to be a dick because I’m a professor and no one can stop me, nyah nyah.” But we know that’s not how it works. There are still plenty of things you can’t do or say.

                  Actually, I think “I get to be a dick blah blah blah” is precisely both an annoying side effect and a central goal. It’s an annoying side effect because “mere” annoying dicks who like being assholes for the sake of it get protected, perhaps even celebrated. On the flip side, Socrates was, in essence, an asshole. Just because every annoying loser who can’t get published because their work is crap like to claim that they are Galileo doesn’t mean that we should lose sight of the fact that suppressive structures are bad (if the natural tendency).

                  Now yes, there are limits. Part of the hard task of university governance is how to set and enforce limits without destroying free inquiry. This means struggling with those who would draw tight limits (formally or informally) as well as those who use their freedom poorly (e.g., climate denialists) as well as the normal forces of entropy and indifference (we with such freedom have greater duties to speak out).

                  On the flip side, while one might be protected if one advocates unwilling human experimentation, if one *does* it that is a legitimate firing offence *in spite* of it 1) restricting free inquiry and 2) echoing bad limits like those against dissection of corpses.

                  IMHO views on Israel/Palestine are on the right side of the line, even if they’re expressed obnoxiously. Why? Because colleges are full of opinionated people who are, whether they like the label or not, public intellectuals. I should be able speak out against a coal plant in my county (which has nothing to do with anything I study) and feel like my college shouldn’t jack me up for it even if the coal company is a major donor to the college. I should be able to speak out for sex-work decriminalization or take the side of Bashar Assad or whatnot, because colleges thrive on heterodoxy. Or they should. That’s why people like to work there and live around them.

                  I think there’s both positive and negative academic freedom. Colleges should nurture inquiry and they should also protect it. I don’t know why this isn’t academic freedom. It sure sounds like it.

                  IOW, going by what I know, it’s wrong to mess with Salaita and his career over this. I just don’t think it’s wrong because of “academic freedom” per se.

                  I have no idea why :) I mean, I don’t see at all what the problem is with appealing to academic freedom. You seem to be doing so even if you don’t like the term.

                • This is an interesting historical perspective:

                  But the AAUP in 1960 was deeply divided about whether extramural utterances should receive the full protection that all citizens are entitled to, or if extramural utterances must meet the standards of “academic responsibility.” Eventually, the AAUP reached a strong consensus: the 1964 Committee A Statement on Extramural Utterances declared: “a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness to serve.”

                • FlipYrWhig

                  Well, I think we’re getting back to the overlap between academic freedom per se and free speech per se. Of the top of my head, I’d say that university environments are, or ought to be, places where speech is “freer.”

                  But it seems like “academic freedom” means something else, kind of like “certain things that might get you disciplined or fired at other workplaces won’t get you disciplined or fired if you’re an academic.” Maybe that’s so, but… not without limits.

                  Can a person invoke “academic freedom” to say he shouldn’t be disciplined for posting disgusting things at Stormfront? I don’t know about that. There’s being an inflammatory jackass, and then there’s being destructive and despicable. The flip side to comity as a value is that destruction of comity ends up being a fairly serious transgression, IMHO.

                  So whatever academic freedom is, it isn’t total, and, as usual, the devil is in the details.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  Eventually, the AAUP reached a strong consensus: the 1964 Committee A Statement on Extramural Utterances declared: “a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness to serve.”

                  I have no issue with this. Academics are public citizens too! Academics shouldn’t somehow end up with _fewer_ protections than everyday citizens do.

                  I just don’t think the phrase “academic freedom” reflects it very well. I feel like “academic freedom” per se should be limited to cases of teaching, research, and writing on volatile subjects, like, say, black-bloc anarchism, S&M, or the biological basis of homosexuality.

            • Snarki, child of Loki

              “I can be a complete douchebag and no one can touch me”

              We’ll let you know the next time there’s a vacancy for a conservative on the USSC, m’kay?

              • mikeSchilling

                This is so typical of this place. I have a different point of view on some issue from the majority here, so I must be The Enemy.

                • cpinva

                  oh please, don’t flatter yourself. making someone the “enemy” requires a significant expenditure of time and energy, actions reserved solely for well deserving people. sorry pal, you haven’t (and probably never will), reached that pinnacle of douchebaggery. but, you keep trying.

                • Snarki, child of Loki

                  You offer him a great job, and where’s the gratitude?

                  Guess that should be expected from a “complete douchebag”, but SOME of us still hope for better.

                • If you were looking to burnish your douchebag credentials…good job and carry on!

        • mch

          Well, yes. There’s a good argument there. Maybe support the idea of academic freedom as a model for all discourse (whatever the legal niceties).

        • cpinva

          “I want a job where it doesn’t matter how badly I embarrass my employer in public.”

          Pfft! I’d much rather win the mult-bazillion dollar lottery, be filthy, stinking, independently wealthy, buy companies, and embarrass my employees in public. I would own 51% of all my companies, just enough so the other sh’s and the BofD couldn’t do squat about it.

  • DrewB

    Lemieux thought that the firing of Brendan Eich for being a “homophobe” was fine but thinks it’s an outrage that Steven Salita has been fired for Anti-Semitism. Why the double standard?

    • efgoldman

      New troll (or old troll in new clothes – see the Nixon thread below.)
      Give him a pancake supper and send him on his way.

    • Warren Terra

      Do try to retain a tenuous connection to the real world, dear:
      1) Eich resigned. He wasn’t fired.
      2) Eich’s job was to be the inspirational leader and public face of Mozilla. This is rather different from being one of many professors.
      3) Eich funded efforts to enforce discrimination against his Gay neighbors, which is a rather more extreme action than saying unkind things.
      4) Salaita had agreed to a tenured position, to be a professional academic encouraged to openly debate controversial issues.

      • drkrick

        Proposed: 5) Identifying Salaita as anti-Semitic requires a fairly strained if not bad faith reading of his comments.

        • Jose Arcadio Buendia

          Are you serious?

          If I said I wanted everyone in the ‘hood to go missing after a black kid was kidnapped would you refrain for a minute from calling me a racist?

          • Scott Lemieux

            If this neighborhood was an illegal settlement that is substantially damaging any potential peace process in an international conflict, your analogy would be much less dumb.

            If he said that he wished everyone in Tel Aviv would “go missing,” it would be fair to call the tweet anti-Semitic. This is a (very tastelessly expressed) argument against the West Bank settlements, which you really don’t have to be anti-Semitic to oppose.

            • mikeSchilling

              “Since 1948” means the West Bank settlements? I am skeptical.

              • John Protevi

                Try to keep up. 1948 was in the “anti-semitism” tweet — and please, note the scare quotes. “Go missing” was in the settlers tweet.

                • mikeSchilling

                  Can’t tell the offensive shit without a scorecard.

                • matt w

                  Well, “settlers” means settlers. That seems pretty straightforward.

                • Hogan

                  More like a decoder ring. Let’s see, “settler, “settler,” does that mean “rootless cosmopolitan” or “international banker”?

      • ThrottleJockey

        If we’re getting technical–as it seems we are–let’s point out that Salaita wasn’t fired.

        He was never hired.

        As far as #3 is concerned, well you’re making an awful lot of the difference between funding bigots and saying bigoted things. To paraphrase Obama I’d say that’s a distinction without a difference.

        As far as #4 is concerned, what, exactly, does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have to do with Native American studies, and which one of his tweets brought up those parallels?

        • Warren Terra

          “He was never hired” is a bit thin when he has been offered the job, has accepted the offer, he’s moved, his class has been scheduled, they’ve probably agreed on the terms, etcetera. The paperwork hadn’t been signed – that, I’d argue, is the distinction without the difference.

          As to my #3: I’m making the distinction between encouraging (by giving money, though that’s not the crucial distinction) a specific and concrete use of state power to enforce and impose bigotry, versus allegedly saying bigoted things.

          RE #4: (a) your attempt to impose narrow categories on academics is not in keeping with the normal academic tradition; and (b) sticking within those narrow categories you prize so highly, if you really can’t see possibilities for the formal study of parallels between the European dispossession of Native Americans and the Israeli dispossession of Arab inhabitants of Mandatory Palestine, you should try a bit harder.

          As I say in a comment below, I don’t really have an opinion about the content of Salaita’s expressed views. It’s quite possible I’d despise him if I looked into it – but that’s not what’s important here, my complaint is about process.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Gillete would call itself lucky to patent the razor you use to split hairs, lol…I’m not going to get my shorts in a twist over this but my major point is that both pro- and con- arguments hang on technicalities.

            I’ve been offered jobs–in writing–that were contingent on background checks, even if the checks were considered a formality. Though we scheduled meetings and travel before the results came back, I didn’t pack my bags until the background check came up positive (misbegotten youth :-)

            The principles involved in this issue may be huge, but the details of this particular case makes this a pretty “gray” case–no black and white here.

            • Hogan

              This had nothing to do with a background check. There was an article on the Daily Caller that made the UIUC administration panic about eight hours after the last minute. I don’t want to live in a country where Tucker Fucking Carlson has a veto on all academic appointments. I admit that it would probably suit you fine.

              • ThrottleJockey

                If I don’t agree 100% with you I’m a minion of Tucker Carlson? Whatevs brotha!

                • Hogan

                  He’s probably not paying you enough to qualify you as a minion. Or even a minyan, if there were ten of you.

        • Scott Lemieux

          He was never hired.

          Bullshit.

          As far as #3 is concerned, well you’re making an awful lot of the difference between funding bigots and saying bigoted things. To paraphrase Obama I’d say that’s a distinction without a difference.

          There is a difference, but more importantly Salatia didn’t say any bigoted things.

          As far as #4 is concerned, what, exactly, does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have to do with Native American studies, and which one of his tweets brought up those parallels?

          So your position is that academic freedom is protected as long as people fired for using Twitter aren’t tweeting their precise academic specialty? This is wrong in principle, in addition to being inapplicable to this case.

          • Jose Arcadio Buendia

            Salaita didn’t say any bigoted things.

            Thanks for gentilesplaining that to me. Sorry I took offense at him wanting a bunch of people to be kiidnapped and killed on the basis of their religion and nationality.

            Check your fucking privilege.

            • DrDick

              Check your fucking privilege.

              Take your own advice.

            • Scott Lemieux

              The war on metaphor continues!

            • matt w

              Hey, Jewish commenter here: Wrong. “The settlers” aren’t a religious or national group, they’re a group of people who’ve chosen (or whose parents have chosen) to serve as the civilian vanguard of an illegal military occupation.

              • MAJeff

                That’s the most offensive thing anyone has ever said.

          • ThrottleJockey

            If he was actually hired then his lawyer will have a field day. I won’t hold my breath.

            My position is not that academic freedom exists only to protect commentary related to your specialty (though perhaps Northwestern wishes that were the case). My position is that suggesting that declining to hire angry-prof-dude will retard academic research is absurd.

            And, given Northwestern’s experience with its own anti-semite, why wouldn’t IL avail itself of a technicality to avoid a similar situation???

            • DrDick

              Because there is absolutely no evidence that Salaita is actually an antisemite, as opposed to someone who opposes Israeli policies and actions toward the Palestinians?

              • A Wade

                If he’s not an Anti-Semite why does Stormfront support him?

                • Lee Rudolph

                  Perhaps the ability of Stormfront’s proprietors and commenters to read for comprehension is subpar?

                • junker

                  And Hitler was a vegetarian! If vegetarians aren’t Nazis, why does Hitler agree with them?

                • Hogan

                  You should consider the possibility that it’s because they’re as dumb as you are.

                • DrDick

                  Why do they support the indiscriminate slaughter of Arabs?

              • ThrottleJockey

                You know, DrDick, I don’t know that he is anti-semitic, but I know that if a TeaBagger skirted the same fine line in making comments about blacks I’d call him a bigot & would sleep comfortably having called him so. I very much oppose Zionism but given the history of anti-semitism and his deliberately peculiar word choice Salaita comes too close to the line for me. There is, for instance, a big difference in Jimmy Carter calling Israel an Apartheid State (a statement I agreed with) and what Salaita has said in his tweets.

                • DrDick

                  There is, for instance, a big difference in Jimmy Carter calling Israel an Apartheid State (a statement I agreed with) and what Salaita has said in his tweets.

                  We disagree on that. There is nothing even borderline anti-semitic about what he has said, though it was poorly phrased and intemperate, certainly not what I would have said.

        • cpinva

          “If we’re getting technical–as it seems we are–let’s point out that Salaita wasn’t fired.”

          I’m not a lawyer, I don’t play one on tv, but I did take the class on contracts. my guess is that he (and his attorney) will have a pretty good argument in court otherwise, especially if the offer & acceptance were made in writing. even if they weren’t, there should still be sufficient documentary evidence to prove the only thing missing at that point was a formal contract awaiting signatures.

          this isn’t a real property transaction, so the contract needn’t be in writing, to be enforceable.

        • junker

          what, exactly, does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have to do with Native American studies, and which one of his tweets brought up those parallels?

          The problem with this is that following this view allows the administration to use unrelated and possibly unpopular political views to fire someone whose scholarly work they dislike.

          I teach psychology. Let’s say that I get tenure and five years down the line the school thinks my research is a waste of time. They know they can’t fire me because they dislike my research, so they go through my twitter feed to find my views on some other subject and use that as a pretext instead.

          The argument that “You can lose your tenure job for your views, as long as they aren’t the views on which you do your work” undermines the notion of academic freedom because your so-called unrelated views can be used to attack you in cases where they can’t attack you for the stuff relevant to the position.

          This is obviously not completely absolute – if for example he spent a week tweeting how awful U of I is, then it would make sense to punish him for that. But academic expression cannot be so narrowly limited, as you have described here.

          • cpinva

            actually, no connection between Native American studies, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is necessary, though I can certainly see some obvious parallels. whether there are or not is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is a supposed bastion of academic freedom embarrassing itself, by kowtowing to those who take umbrage at said academic freedom. shame on UI.

        • DrDick

          There are actually strong parallels between the two topics, which can be fruitfully explored in classes. I had the students in my capstone NAS class read selections from Orientalism for that very reason.

        • Gwen

          I am fairly certain… although it has been about 10 years since I sat in Contracts, that you can’t revoke an offer after the counterparty has accepted and begun to take actions in reliance on the assumption that a contract exists.

          If a contract exists, which it does once there is agreement + offer + acceptance, then the only way to back out of the deal is to terminate said contract.

          In the context of an employment agreement, a termination means being fired.

          • Denverite

            The offer letter probably has language saying that the offer is contingent on final approval by the trustees. The argument would then be that this approval requirement is illusory, because it’s granted as a matter of course (because it would be impossible to hire a lateral candidate if the appointment really did wait until trustee approval, which might not happen until long after the candidate starts teaching).

            • matt w

              Indeed, as I mentioned, in this case the trustees don’t even meet until after the candidate starts teaching.

              …also it seems to me the refusal to submit the appointment to the trustees could be dicey. If the offer said “contingent on a background check” it surely couldn’t be withdrawn on the grounds that the employers had refused to run the background check, could it?

    • Scott Lemieux

      firing of Brendan Eich

      What?

      • John Protevi

        I think you mean “lolwut”

      • DrewB

        http://lawyersgunsmon.wpengine.com/2014/04/the-case-of-brenden-eich

        he was technically forced to resign, but he didn’t have choice in the matter

        • efgoldman

          I warned you guys, but do you listen to me?
          Nooo-ooo.
          I’ll go yell at the clouds some more.

          • You only have to be concerned when the clouds yell back.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              more than once I’ve looked up at a cloud formation and decided the damn thing was giving me the finger

              • Ahuitzotl

                nono, Jim, it was giving all Iowa the finger

        • Ronan

          Yeah, Im not getting into it but ‘he resigned’ is a little disingenuous(like saying Salaita just had the offer rescinded.It’s leaving out a good bit of context)

        • cpinva

          “he was technically forced to resign, but he didn’t have choice in the matter”

          one always has at least two viable choices. in mr. eich’s case, he could have chosen to stay on. his term would probably have been very uncomfortable, and eventually resulted in a “no confidence” vote by the board. but, he did have that option. he chose the least unpleasant way out.

        • The board asked him to stay and he refused. Unless we’re going to take it as a given that the board and Eich are all lying, it’s not defensible to claim he was fired.

          • cpinva

            “The board asked him to stay and he refused.”

            which gives you an idea of just how clueless the board was in this case.

    • elm

      Brendan Eich, not being an academic, is not protected by the principles of academic freedom. It’s not a double standard. You want to argue that academic freedom should not exist or should not apply in this case, fine, we can have that argument. But bringing up Eich as some sort of gotcha just demonstrates that you don’t understand the issues at play.

      • DrewB

        Why should academics have more freedom than the rest of us? The first amendment applies to everyone.

        • MAJeff

          In the Nixon post below, Scott linked to a piece by Jeff Shesol laying the contemporary politics of white racial resentment at Nixon’s feet.

          Nice of jenny to stop by and illustrate.

          • DrewB

            Who’s Jenny? I’m the one who’s opposed to bigotry while all the liberals here are defending anti-semitism.

            • MAJeff

              Who’s Jenny?

              You always give up the game, cracker.

              Go spread your bugfucking mendacity elsewhere.

        • elm

          Because Scott is not criticizing UI for violating Salaita’s free speech rights (as they are not doing so.). He’s criticzing them for violating the principles of academic freedom. Try to keep up with the conversation that’s actually going.

          • Robert M.

            This came up over at Crooked Timber, too, and I still don’t get why so many people are confusing the two. Eich didn’t have academic freedom when he made his donations, and his new position also didn’t offer it.

            Additionally, making a donation to a political cause really is different from saying nasty things on Twitter (that is, political donations and political speech really aren’t equivalent, just like a political protest isn’t equivalent to committing vandalism against a political opponent).

            If Salaita had abruptly lost a private-sector job because his new boss’s boss’s boss discovered that he’d donated money to Hamas, the analogy would be on firmer ground. But here in the real world, the parallels between Eich and Salaita end where they begin: both are people who lost their jobs.

            • Ronan

              “Additionally, making a donation to a political cause really is different from saying nasty things on Twitter ”

              Well we do know of people who were fired specifically for saying nasty things on twitter, which was then excused by plenty of people, (ie Pax Dickinson at Business Insider.)

              “This came up over at Crooked Timber, too, and I still don’t get why so many people are confusing the two. Eich didn’t have academic freedom when he made his donations, and his new position also didn’t offer it.”

              People arent really confusing the two. People(or at least my position) dont say Eich was a free speech case but instead have a personal problem with someone being pressured to resign for taking a political position
              (or, as per this fella and dickinson, saying something nasty on twitter)
              I think we’re seeing quite clearly where this kind of politics is getting us, an endless stream of feigned outrage, twitter mobs and then these sorts of outcomes.

              • Warren Terra

                Pax Dickinson was not fired for “saying nasty things on Twitter”. iirc, he presented over the course of months and many, many tweets a portrayal of his personality and behavior (and iirc including claims relevant to th performance of his duties and to hiring decisions he made at work) that was blatantly crude, discriminatory, and replete with sexual and other harassment. If his tweets were an accurate depiction of his behavior in the office environment, they were obvious grounds for immediate firing; if untrue, the tweets represent a campaign of slander against his employer that was obvious grounds for immediate firing. True or untrue, the tweets amounted almost to an automatic forfeit should any female or minority employee or job candidate decide to sue Dickinson’s employer alleging discrimination or harassment. Wankings of an anti-Civil Rights Acts libertarian at Popehat aside, once his collected tweets were disseminated Dickinson was inevitably toast.

                Note this is also true had he been a tenured professor; the personality displayed in those tweets was sufficiently vile and sufficiently public that it’s likely he’d not have retained an academic post with them in the open.

                • Ronan

                  could you lose tenure under those circumstances ? (genuine question?)

                • John Protevi

                  Tenure means you are not an at-will employee; it thus means you can’t be fired without a process, sometimes put into a faculty handbook, sometimes in a union contract. There is boilerplate about the grounds for dismissal that the process must judge. “Moral turpitude” is a common catch-phrase; it usually means sexual misconduct. Academic misconduct (e.g., egregious plagiarism) is usually listed too. Failure to perform assigned duties (not showing up to teach) is usually on the list too.

                  I’m really not sure that “being a public asshole” would count, though if your tweets constituted a hostile work environment under Title IX maybe they could try to make that stick. But you’d have to name co-workers I would think. But IANAL, though I have been in academia a long time.

              • ThrottleJockey

                I thought you said you weren’t going to comment on anything American anymore?

                (I’m glad you didn’t stick to it :-)

                • Ronan

                  The Brendan Eich is my Hamburger hill, I just cant help myself.
                  Good to see you back TJ, my man!

              • Hogan

                an endless stream of feigned outrage, twitter mobs

                None of which happened in Eich’s case, so there’s another failure point for the analogy.

            • Barry_D

              “This came up over at Crooked Timber, too, and I still don’t get why so many people are confusing the two. Eich didn’t have academic freedom when he made his donations, and his new position also didn’t offer it.”

              They are ‘confusing the two’ in the sense of deliberately trying to confuse others.

        • The First Amendment applies to Congress interfering with free speech – and by extension through the 14th amendment, to the states. How exactly does that apply to Eich?

          • cpinva

            “How exactly does that apply to Eich?”

            oh sure, bring facts into it! there’s always one in every crowd!

        • rea

          And of course, the first amendment does not apply to everyone, at lest not in terms of whose conduct it constrains. Mozilla is not the government, the University of Illinois is.

        • cppb

          No, actually, the First Amendment applies to Congress (and state governments through the 14h Amendment). It doesn’t apply to private conduct at all.

          Edit: That should teach me to comment without checking all the responses.

    • UserGoogol

      I was somewhat ambivalent about the matter of Brendan Eich, (although I’m inclined to think him stepping down may have been for the best) but the biggest reason for the double standard is because CEOs and professors fundamentally need to be judged by different standards. It’s called academic freedom for a reason.

      The job of a CEO is to represent the interests of the company and engage in some level of managerial tasks. The people who hold that position deserve some general freedom of belief, but the job itself doesn’t really deserve special treatment, and if someone doesn’t represent the company that’s a legitimate area of concern. On the other hand, the job of a professor is to engage in independent research and teach information to people. The job fundamentally requires that professors be free to study what they feel like with as little constraint as possible, so that research can discover new things.

      • DrewB

        If you were a Jew would you feel comfortable in a class thought by a guy who says that he considers being called and Anti-Semite a badge of honor?

        • John Protevi

          See my first comment above. It really all depends on who is doing the calling and for what action. For instance, being called “anti-Semite” by you for denouncing Netanyahu for launching a war of choice would definitely be a badge of honor.

          • DrDick

            Indeed. While I disagree with Salaita’s comment (nothing justifies antisemitism or any other form of racism), but the Likudniks and their supporters have rather seriously debased this term. If it is antisemitic to oppose Likud’s genocidal policies, then I guess I am one.

            • cpinva

              “If it is antisemitic to oppose Likud’s genocidal policies, then I guess I am one.”

              I recall one of our presidents, who also started an unnecessary war, who’s supporters claimed that anyone who even so much as questioned this decision, was not just being un-American, but was a traitor who deserved to be shot. for the briefest of moments, some people actually took them seriously.

              my memory could be wrong.

              • Hogan

                You may be thinking of Netanyahu’s supporters, actually.

                • DrDick

                  The two groups share something in common.

          • Warren Terra

            I really haven’t looked into this, because I don’t think it’s terribly relevant to the question at hand (I figure that if they wanted to fire him for bigotry, the thing to do was to fire him though the formal process for firing a tenured professor, not just drop him, so I haven’t delved all that deeply).

            Still, while the little I have seen from Salaita makes me uncertain about him, the one line referenced here could easily be an utterly unobjectionable point about holding it a bade of honor to be smeared with the name of antisemite – not because you think “antisemite” is anything but a vile thing to be, but because your opponents saw your position and, unable or unwilling to engage substantively or in good faith, they have instead chosen to falsely smear you as a bigot.

            • Scott Lemieux

              And the previous tweet makes it clear that he thinks anti-Semitism is bad but that it’s been debased.

              Again, I don’t think he’s making a very good argument here, and making it in tweet form is a really dumb idea, but the idea that it’s a firable offense is absurd.

              • mikeSchilling

                And the previous tweet makes it clear that he thinks anti-Semitism is bad but that it’s been debased.

                That is, that anti-Semitism is bad but that the term “anti-Semitism” has been debased, right? It’s pretty much the point TNC made when he used to refer to himself and his blog’s readers as “Team Commie”.

                • John Protevi

                  Yes, that’s how I read both Scott and Salaita.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Right, I meant (describing his argument) that the term has been debased.

                • Snarki, child of Loki

                  Strangely enough, many on the right side of the political spectrum think the same way about the term “racist”.

                  But self-awareness has never been their strong suit.

    • Ken

      If it’s something you really need, Google can point you to some websites where you can chat with people who will degrade and humiliate you. You can even choose a man or woman as the dom.

      Also if you’re anywhere near a large city, there will be bars and clubs where you can get your jollies live. With props. There may not even be a charge, depending on what you’re willing to let them do to you.

      • efgoldman

        Also if you’re anywhere near a large city, there will be bars and clubs where you can get your jollies live. With props.

        That would require leaving the comforts and shelter of his mom’s basement; maybe even buying his own pizza and Cheetohs.

    • Sly

      Why the double standard?

      Steven Salaita never gave money to Hamas, as far as anyone knows, and was not fired on the basis of his giving money to Hamas.

      Eich gave money to Prop 8, and was forced to resign on that basis.

      • Just to be picky, though this was hashed out a bit above:

        Eich gave money to Prop 8, and was forced to resign on that basis. resigned after a fair bit of rather mild protest

        If people would like to organize a protest campaign against Salaita, I’d think they were doing so on problematic grounds but that it’d be perfectly ok.

  • efgoldman

    The University of Illinois is therefore clearly in violation of a fundamental principle of academic freedom

    Is there such a thing anymore?

    • wengler

      In the corpocracy everyone’s opinion will be bland in the service of the greater good.

  • Oh, and via Robin:

    Your offer letter expressly stressed the University’s adherence to the American Association of University Professors’ Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure….

    They’d better get their act together.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Did he check the back of the letter, to see if they had their fingers crossed?

  • brugroffil

    pretty disappointed in my alma mater over this whole episode.

    • DrewB

      Are you also disappointed that they don’t allow student to celebrate Kristallnacht yearly?

      • calling all toasters

        That was quick– it only took you 30 minutes to utterly dispose of any pretense of rationality.

      • wengler

        Yes that’s more of a quadrennial thing at Illinois.

        • cpinva

          it takes a while to replace all those windows.

      • socraticsilence

        Can’t decide whether to go with a Skokie/ACLU reference or a Blues Brothers joke here.

      • Gwen

        Looks like we’re gonna need a bigger stack of pancakes…

    • wengler

      It’s not the first time they’ve acted like a bunch of dicks.

  • Gregor Sansa

    I’ve already written an email. I’d be happy to do more, if someone has ideas.

    • mikeSchilling

      Did Archy teach you how to type?

      • GeoX

        My gosh, THERE’S an allusive reference.

        • weirdnoise

          Unlikely, since he seems to have mastered the shift key.

          • Gregor Sansa

            It’s just autocorrect.

            Of course, that presents it’s own set of problems. For typing words like “balrog”, I have to leave plenty of spaces at the end of my comments while I’m typing them, so that I can get around the autocorrect by typing right arrow instead of space. Also, the trailing whitespace reminds me of my house’s. Words.

  • Denverite

    Scott, I know you do this for the money and and not the compliments, but bravo. Great stuff.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I know you do this for the money

      Plainly, I’m doing something wrong!

    • Warren Terra

      I always assumed he did it because of Destiny.

  • MAJeff

    How long until Nelson applies to be a dean?

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      AAUP should sanction him. He’s clearly gone rogue.

  • Murc

    Is it wrong that I object to this primarily on the grounds, not of academic freedom, but that I don’t think Salaita did anything wrong and I don’t think people should be fired for not doing anything wrong?

    Like, I would fucking love it if John Yoo or Glenn Reynolds were shitcanned from the posts they use to pollute American legal education because of the things they’ve said, academic freedom be damned, and I’m not ashamed to admit that.

    • T. Paine

      Not to mention that “academic freedom” doesn’t include “creating legal justifications for torture as part of your policy making job.” They weren’t just like, opinions, man; they created a “legal” basis for a torture regime and got paid to do it.

      • ThrottleJockey

        I’m trying to find the ‘common sense’ here…are you saying had Yoo’s opinions been written as an Op-Ed or in some dusty academic journal they’d be entitled to deference under academic freedom, but writing that same legal opinion as a political appointee deserves no deference???

        • DrDick

          You do understand the difference between expressing an unpopular opinion and being an active party to and enabling war crimes and crimes against humanity, don’t you?

          • ThrottleJockey

            I’m saying that unless some court I’m unaware of has tried, convicted and sentenced Yoo then his political opinions are no different than Salaita’s opinions as far as academic freedom goes–unless you think the freedom is contingent on the content that is.

            • cpinva

              the legal opinions he wrote, as an employee in the bush administration, supporting the use of methods of interrogation previously deemed torture under the Geneva conventions, were not “political” opinions. they were the legal basis used to authorize torturing real people, not some esoteric discussion of political ideology.

              if you’re not able to see the huge gulf between the two, I suggest professional medical help, quickly, before you harm yourself or others.

            • I’m saying that unless some court I’m unaware of has tried, convicted and sentenced Yoo then his political opinions are no different than Salaita’s opinions as far as academic freedom goes–unless you think the freedom is contingent on the content that is.

              So, first, I would never support the appointment of Yoo to any institution. He is a moral and intellectual disgrace.

              Second, he’s tricky because of his “activism”. If Salaita were effectively inciting violence with speeches, then that would require more care as well.

              Third, it’s probably the case that we should not overturn Yoo’s tenure, if only for secondary effects.

              I find DeLong’s struggle on Yoo very interesting. I find it instructive that students don’t (and didn’t) protest Yoo.

              I think Yoo tests the limits. If a limit testing case were easy, something is wrong.

              You cannot fully separate out content. Competence is partly determined by content. A biologist who makes intro bio all about intelligent design is in jeopardy of their appointment. (I should think.)

            • muddy

              Does it come down to the difference between opinion and Opinion?

              • Hogan

                The door was the way to… to… The Door was The Way. Good. Capital letters were always the best way of dealing with things you didn’t have a good answer to.

                • muddy

                  I meant twitter opinion vs. legal opinion.

          • Morse Code for J

            How does writing a memorandum of law on what constitutes torture, without any further involvement, make an attorney complicit in acts of torture committed by his client?

            • Lee Rudolph

              Honest question: is there an established difference (or an established lack of difference) between the duties of an attorney (specifically, the duties involved in “writing a memorandum of law”) which are held by the attorney to her/his client in the two cases that (1) the client is (merely) a citizen, who is as such obliged to obey the law, (2) the client is an officer of the executive branch of the government—indeed, one of its two highest officers—who is as such obliged (not only to obey but also) to enforce the law?

              One can (and I, clothed in my lay ignorance, do) imagine that in case (1) a lawyer may (or must) do his best to describe to the client exactly how to skirt the law effectively, coming as close as possible to breaking it while maintaining an arguable defense that it has not technically been broken, whereas in case (2) a lawyer really, really shouldn’t play that game.

              • rea

                The classic distinction is this: I can defend a person accused of a crime, but I can’t help him commit it.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  That somewhat begs the question, though; taking “crime” to mean “breaking the law”, the distinction I’m seeking (and hoping not to find, of course) is one that emphasizes not “what behavior consitutes ‘breaking’ these laws?” but “who determines what these laws ‘really are’?” (and thus what “breaking” them “really is”—and, only then, how close is too close).

                  I could probably be more incoherent if necessary.

                • rea

                  The other thing about Yoo is that his analysis was so poor as to support an inference of bad faith, dealing with well-known controlling precedent by not discussing it, and performed in a context in which it was plain that the whole point of the memo was to support a potential defense in a future criminal trial.

              • Morse Code for J

                The First Amendment exists to protect exactly this kind of speech.

                It may be that the ICC might find something worthy of prosecution in one of Yoo’s memorandums, but the ICC doesn’t recognize the First Amendment’s protection of speech and its standards for crimes against humanity are necessarily fuzzy because usually you aren’t in front of the ICC unless you lost a civil war in Africa.

            • DrDick

              Several high ranking Nazis were imprisoned or executed for just that.

              • Morse Code for J

                Inapposite. Leaving aside that Nuremberg and its successor trials would have been constitutionally impossible here, the charges against the 16 Reich jurists and attorneys went well beyond mere advice.

                What if I had written a letter to the editor of Right-Wing Nut Times that was identical with Yoo’s memorandum, and the Bush administration decided to adopt my letter as its official position on “enhanced interrogation” with my blessing? Would I be guilty of crimes against humanity? Or does the First Amendment still mean something unless it can be shown that I took a more active role in torturing people than merely describing its legal boundaries on paper?

                • Denverite

                  This example is pretty far afield as well, because Yoo knew that his advice would be relied upon.

                  Yoo’s scenario is more akin to a (say) physician group client asking me if they can refer patients to a particular MRI shop, where they have an arrangement with the MRI shop to get paid 10% of all billings resulting from those referrals. (Note: In general, this referral relationship is highly illegal, at least if any of those patients are Medicare or Medicaid.) If I say yes, I can be pretty sure they’re going to do it — that’s why they’re asking me.

                  Whether or not I’m just incompetent or I’m complicit in their scheme [edit: if I told them they could do it] is a harder question and depends on thorny questions of intent.

                • Morse Code for J

                  @Denverite/11:16 a.m.:

                  Here’s one closer than that. Let’s say a tax attorney gives the state of the law regarding a possible loophole which Congress dislikes but has yet to close. Consistent with his advice, the client uses that loophole, and in future litigation is forced to disclose the mechanics of that loophole. IRS then prosecutes the client for tax evasion.

                  If the attorney only participated to the extent that he gave advice about the state of the law, and was only paid his agreed fee for the hours he spent generating that memorandum, should the IRS also prosecute the attorney?

                • Denverite

                  Here’s one closer than that. Let’s say a tax attorney gives the state of the law regarding a possible loophole which Congress dislikes but has yet to close. Consistent with his advice, the client uses that loophole, and in future litigation is forced to disclose the mechanics of that loophole. IRS then prosecutes the client for tax evasion.

                  The main difference is that in your hypo, the loophole is legal (though politically unpopular), whereas in Yoo’s case, his unitary executive theory is just that — a theory, and one that’s currently at odds with the prevailing understanding of the law. If, as I understand it, he definitively advised the Bush administration that they could torture prisoners under his theory, he at least should be disbarred, and possibly prosecuted.* If, as I understand he didn’t do, he advised that under prevailing notions of the law torture was illegal, but here’s an argument against that position, but that argument is unlikely to succeed, then that’s a different story.

                  * To me, the case against prosecution is that there really is no definitively right or wrong answers in the context of international human rights law, and there is a decent argument that although the prevailing understanding of the law is one thing, it *should* be another, and arguing the *should be* side of things isn’t a human rights offense. The case for prosecution is that Yoo knew full well the Bush administration wanted to do something illegal under prevailing notions of the law, and by providing legal cover for their inclinations, he was complicit in them. Sort of like tax cheats who want to engage in a blatantly illegal avoidance scheme and approach a tax attorney to buy a crappy opinion saying they can do it, when the attorney knows full well they can’t. (This last scenario isn’t exactly uncommon in the legal world.)

            • cpinva

              “How does writing a memorandum of law on what constitutes torture, without any further involvement, make an attorney complicit in acts of torture committed by his client?”

              an attorney, engaged to provide a legal opinion, is required to do their own due diligence, based on the facts provided by the client. mr. yoo intentionally ignored ample statutory and readily available case law, when rendering his opinion, on the legality of certain “enhanced” interrogation techniquies.

              at minimum, the Geneva conventions provide a sufficient basis for making this determination. as well, there is at least one US case, that of a sheriff, who used waterboarding, to induce a suspect to confess. the sheriff was subsequently charged with illegally torturing the suspect, found guilty and sentenced to prison. those two items should have, by themselves, neatly disposed of the issue. they didn’t, because mr. yoo chose to act as though they didn’t exist. this wasn’t a “good faith” opinion, it was a pre-ordained conclusion, searching for a rationale. mr. yoo, by violating his profession’s code of ethics, provided one.

              as a result, mr. yoo is complicit, in the actual torture of the prisoners, even though he never so much as saw them, much less laid a finger on them.

              • Denverite

                Exactly. There’s a pretty rigid format when a client is asking if they can do something they probably can’t do.

                Here’s the question you’ve asked me.

                Here’s the facts as I understand them.

                Here’s what the law is.

                Here’s the most likely application of the law.

                All of that said, here’s an argument that could be made leading to an alternative conclusion.

                But here’s what’s wrong with that analysis, which is likely to fail.

                (If applicable) Here’s an avenue we could pursue to show that the alternative analysis is preferable.

                Yoo didn’t do this. If he did, he wouldn’t be where he is.

              • Morse Code for J

                So Yoo has exceeded his protections under the First Amendment and is now complicit in the torture of prisoners because he failed to give a sufficiently well-rounded analysis of the state of the law?

                Also, Jesus Christ, I hate that you people are putting me in a position where I feel compelled to defend John Yoo.

                • Denverite

                  Well, yes. If Yoo deliberately ignored or minimized precedent to reach a legal conclusion that he knew would result in the illegal torture of prisoners, then of course he’s complicit in that torture. Whether or not he should be criminally responsible depends on how much you buy the argument that international human rights law is so malleable that no conduct violates it if there is a good faith argument (no matter how crazy) that the conduct *shouldn’t* be illegal.

                • rea

                  And I’ll add, there’s tons of precedent for sanctioning lawyers for making bad faith arguments. Rule 11 and all that . . .

                • Denverite

                  Yeah, no shit. To use my example above, if I tell a physicians group that I’m happy to give them an opinion saying that they can contract with an MRI shop to refer patients at 10% a pop, and by the way, my flat fee for legal opinions of that sort is $25k, then when OIG comes knocking, the First Amendment isn’t really going to be much of a defense to the inevitable criminal/civil/bar proceedings.

          • A Wade

            How does it feels to be on the same side as Stromfront?

            • DrDick

              You tell us. They hate Palestinians (and other Arabs/Muslims) as much as you do.

              • A Wade
                • ExpatJK

                  Please, they’re “pro Palestinian” the way right wingers (e.g. the GOP’s evangelical cohort, the National Front in France) are “pro Jewish.” They like the idea, but hate the actual people.

                • Hogan

                  The enemy of my enemy is my frenemy.

                • The frenemy of my frenemy is a bayesian nightmare.

    • socraticsilence

      Actually, firing John Yoo would be wrong– not hiring him in the first place after he essentially provided a thin fig leaf of legal sanction to war crimes is another story.

      • matt w

        I believe he was actually on leave from Boalt Hall during his service to the nastier elements of the Bush Administration, so “not hiring” doesn’t apply.

        The bit, noted below, where the law school went out of its way to force students to take his classes is definitely a “fuck you” by the law school to all notions of decency.

  • simonmd341

    There are some much more troubling tweets:

    “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.”

    “….goldberg’s story should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv.”

    And perhaps the worst one, for which some nutjob at the WSJ was just excoriated the other day:

    ““too much of Israeli society is cheering the bloodletting in [Gaza] for me to make a firm distinction between the government and the people.””

    Israelis who say that about Gazan civilian and Hamas are rightly seen as war criminals, why not Salaita? The fact is that progressives would not be sticking their neck out if these comments were about any other ethnic group.

    • Murc

      Israelis who say that about Gazan civilian and Hamas are rightly seen as war criminals,

      They are? By whom? Talking big has never qualified as a war crime in the mind of any sensible person.

    • John Protevi

      I’m not sticking my neck out. Nothing is going to happen to me for defending academic freedom. It’s a deep, deep principle in American academia for about a century now (probably longer, but the 1915 AAUP statement is a convenient marker). The people sticking their necks out are Wise and Nelson. Perhaps because of a lawsuit, but even without that, they have besmirched their reputations grievously here.

      And before you ask, yes, I defend John Yoo’s academic freedom (I think he should have been in court for his role while in government, but he shouldn’t be fired from his job w/o a conviction).

      If you’re interested I have a reading of the Goldberg tweet above in my second comment. Yes, it’s too clever by half. No, it’s not a fireable offense, hate speech, incitement to violence, etc.

      • simonmd341

        Sticking neck out was absolutely the wrong metaphor to use actually. The double standard that allows borderline bigoted statements against Jews vs other ethnic groups are endemic in much of the contemporary left. I know Scott wouldn’t be saying the same thing about similarly controversial statements about African Americans. I don’t think he or Salaita is an anti-semite, but I do think this kind of language is unacceptable.

        • CD

          You’re misunderstanding what this is about.

          A lot of us don’t like Salaita’s language and wouldn’t use it. The question is whether he should be fired for it.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Let’s put the question somewhat differently. A committee recommends that a racist be hired, but before the candidate can formally join you–as president of the university–have to sign the paperwork. Would you sign the paperwork formally hiring someone who sounds racist/anti-semitic?

            • Snarki, child of Loki

              What, you don’t think that high-level UI officials have to approve an “offer letter” going out?

              If UI wants to rescind the offer, it should be in tandem with firing whoever signed the offer letter, because they misrepresented themselves as a “signing authority” for UI, which definitely IS a firing offense.

              • ThrottleJockey

                The question wasn’t, “Did high level UI people approve the hire?” The question was, “Would you sign your name in the official minutes of the Board of Trustees that you approved the hire.”

                Its a simple question. I’m sure some of you would. But I wouldn’t take the heat for approving that hire if I’m the president of UI. Not worth the fucking heat. For some guy I don’t even know who I’ll never even meet? Fuck that shit. He can say some stupid shit if he wants before he’s protected by tenure, but I’ve go bigger fish to fry than sticking up for his dumb ass. (And, hell, I’m anti-Zionist too!!)

                • Snarki, child of Loki

                  “I wouldn’t take the heat for approving that hire if I’m the president of UI. Not worth the fucking heat. For some guy I don’t even know who I’ll never even meet?”

                  Well, that explains why you’re not president of UI, doesn’t it? Because the situation you describe (“some guy I don’t even know who I’ll never even meet”) is the case for 90% of academic hires. But why limit it to academia? You think that CEOs personally know everyone that is hired in SuperMegaCorp, several levels down from the CEO?

                  There’s typically 3-4 admin levels in between ‘faculty’ and ‘president/chancellor’, and while a dean probably signs the offer letter (and is in charge of most of the negotiations), someone higher up, at a VP/Provost level, HAS to approve the offer letter being sent, because hiring in academia has to balance competing demands from different areas.

                  TJ, you’re giving an intensely mendacious (‘thrash around to find an argument, ANY argument, that supports my preferred outcome’) vibe here. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, assuming that you just don’t know how things work. So far.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  LOL, Snarki, I completely understand how things work. I’m genuinely curious how many of you would actually go ahead and formally sign approval for this guy’s hire–especially because you’re 4-5 levels removed from having interviewed him.

                  To paraphrase Harry Truman the buck stops with the president. I don’t think many presidents (nor honestly many commenters here) would, in the real world, formally approve angry-prof-dude’s hire. Because they’re the ones who’re going to be holding the buck. Don’t think for a minute that IL’s august state legislature is going to be content to go after some lowly Dean if angry-prof-dude goes off the reservation on Twitter again. They’re going to be aiming straight at the Prez.

                • rhino

                  One of the characteristics of a president or ceo is, supposedly, the courage to do the right thing.

                  And self sacrifice for the good of the organization.

                  So, yeah…

                • Scott Lemieux

                  To paraphrase Harry Truman the buck stops with the president. I don’t think many presidents (nor honestly many commenters here) would, in the real world, formally approve angry-prof-dude’s hire.

                  I’m sure you can find plenty of other examples of high-level administrators yanking academic job offers at the last minute, then.

            • CD

              Ditto Snarki. Just so everyone’s clear, before paperwork hits the Chancellor/President’s desk, it has typically gone through (1) a committee recommendation, (2) a formal faculty vote in the hiring unit, and (3) approvals by the unit Chair and the Dean above that chair. It’s the Dean, typically, who approves the formal written offer. Once that offer has gone out and been accepted, everyone is morally committed.

              Deans can refuse to make an offer – it pisses faculty off, but that’s within the rules of the game. But for a Chancellor to stop a hire, especially at this late stage, is extremely rare. I can’t even think of a recent example. Can anyone else?

              • CD

                Yep, here are the details at the Chronicle (http://chronicle.com/article/Denial-of-Job-to-Harsh-Critic/148211/):

                “Mr. Salaita was notified of the job offer last October by Brian H. Ross, the interim dean of the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, after a faculty committee and Jodi Byrd, then acting director of the program in American Indian studies, had signed off on the move. Mr. Ross’s letter had noted that Mr. Salaita’s appointment remained subject to approval by the university’s Board of Trustees, but the board generally approves, as a matter of routine, the list of faculty appointments brought before it at meetings.”

                • ThrottleJockey

                  There’s a reason attorneys get paid big bucks to write boiler plate–because what you’ve printed there is called an exit clause. And Salaita just got exited. Good luck getting past it.

                • CD

                  We’ll see what happens legally.

                  But sure, power is power. Some people have the power to shell elementary schools. You can still ask whether it’s ethical.

          • Jose Arcadio Buendia

            He clearly understood that and said your answer would be know if he were talking about any other group.

            • CD

              ?

        • dl

          It is not fair to say that it’s endemic to the left–it’s not. It’s also true that the US far right and the European right is much worse.

          Here’s a question. If you interview for a job and impress your department, which recommends you get hired, and then manage to insult the dean or president when interviewing with them, can they override the department’s recommendation? Arguably it’s a violation of faculty governance, but it’s not cut and dry. Isn’t that basically what happened here? The timing is unusual, but arguably these tweets are new information that came to light. Maybe the equivalent is nailing your interview with everyone, and then calling up the college president and cussing him out before your appointment is official.

          Last, the norm is to take a leave of absence from an old job before/when starting a new job, not to resign like Salaita. Given his online persona, shouldn’t he have expected something like this, and played it safe? Interesting to see if VT will hire him back.

          • Jose Arcadio Buendia

            Not anymore, not after 2014. We always compare the left and right in politics on the basis of whose in power. There is maybe one or two real far leftists in Congress. There are dozens of Tea Partiers and hundreds of their enablers and fellow travlers.

            With respect to the antisemitic right, there are close to zero such public figures at present in the US in office or in academia. Guys like Salaita are not rare, though.

            The left hates Israel, the right hates Jews. But after this year, after Paris, and dozens of other similar events, it doesnt matter anymore.

            If you are going to force us all to support Israel, warts and all, we’ll do it. We’re not safe anywhere but there and North America.

            • DrS

              If Jewish people in Israel feel so safe, perhaps they could stop with the bombing?

            • DrDick

              I do not know of anyone on the left who “hates Israel”, though I suppose there are some. I know lots of people, myself included, who hate Likud and current Israeli policies and actions toward the Palestinians. Those are very different things entirely.

              • Warren Terra

                I do not know of anyone on the left who “hates Israel”

                I don’t know any personally, and I would not accuse anyone here of it (though my participation in the I/P threads has been sparse, as it’s the perfect topic to generate more heat than light, more misunderstanding than consensus). Still, if you haven’t encountered anything indistinguishable from genuine “hated of Israel” from people fancying themselves as being of the Left, you’re either setting the bar awfully high or you’re not looking that hard.

                • DrDick

                  I actually do not think I have encountered anything serious in that regard, but I am also highly selective in the blogs I read and tend to avoid those which favor extremist rhetoric.

              • wengler

                I could care less about Israel honestly, it’s just another country to me. Even that is an off-color statement in the US.

                What I really hate about Israel though, is the hypocrisy. Their state policy is to suppress the Palestinians forever. Meaning blockade and emiserate the prison state of Gaza, while carving up and settling the West Bank. They just won’t admit the obvious, and no person in the US is going to point it out because doing such a thing will get you fired.

                Israel is like the bullied kid who grew up to be big, but underneath feels like he is always the victim and will never shake the idea that his awful childhood will forever justify the beatings he gives out.

                • ExpatJK

                  This bully/victim complex also explains a lot of GOP behaviour. One of the many reasons for their closeness in that regard perhaps?

              • rhino

                I hate their government, and I have contempt for the large fraction of israelis who elected them, and continue to allow them to rule.

                I guess that makes me an anti semite?

              • Snarki, child of Loki

                I think you have to do some decoding to get the meaning of “The left hates Israel” translated out of Palinese into Standard English.

                But, to aid in the decoding, look at the commonplace RW statement: “The left hates America”

                It all makes sense if you translate “hate” into “displeased with their current actions, think that they are wrong and self-destructive, and sincerely hope that they can get on a better path in future”.

                I really HATE the RW trolls on LGM.

            • wengler

              I thought the whole Gaza thing is because Jews were feeling unsafe in Israel…

            • cpinva

              “The left hates Israel, the right hates Jews.”

              please provide more than just your unsubstantiated opinion as support for this assertion. in my opinion, the right (everywhere) hates everyone not them. the left tends to discriminate a bit in their hating, usually reserving it for those who’ve committed egregious acts against the innocent. but, that’s just my opinion.

              • junker

                I think if we got JOtto (“The left and right are both unbelievably deferential to Israel”) and Jose (“The left and right are both unbelievable in their hatred of Israel”) in the same room, they might explode.

                • DrDick

                  If we got really lucky, maybe they would pull a Kilkenney Cats for us.

            • ExpatJK

              If you are going to force us all to support Israel, warts and all, we’ll do it

              Who’s this us? Are you seriously presuming to speak for all Jewish people?

              We’re not safe anywhere but there and North America

              Or New Zealand and Australia. I feel confident in speaking from experience here: those are both places in which I’ve lived, as a Jewish person. In fact, in one of those countries I even gave birth to another Jewish person, and still felt safe. Amazing that.

              I would also add much of South America to that list.

          • Manny Kant

            Who interviews with the dean or president when getting hired for an academic job?

            • matt w

              Just about every candidate meets with the dean in every search I’ve ever been involved with.

              In no search that I’ve been involved in has anyone met with the president. I guess it might happen at some small schools? Not at U of I though.

              • Lee Rudolph

                In my experience at the Distinguished Small Research University™ of my most recent gainful employment, “just about every candidate meets with” some dean, and all or almost all candidates meet with the provost. No one that I’ve heard of (certainly, none of the many cases in which I’ve been personally involved either as department chair or member of the hiring committee) has ever met the president. Considering how much time presidents spend on the road, that would make hiring even more difficult to manage than it already is.

                For my earlier jobs, however (at Brown, Columbia, and Brandeis), everything was handled by phone and (paper) mail; I met with no one at all before showing up at the beginning of my first semesters. But that was in another century, and besides that wench has joined the choir invisible, I’m pretty sure.

                • matt w

                  The searches I’ve been involved in have all been junior searches, which might make a difference.

              • DrDick

                Here they meet with the dean and provost, who have to sign off on them before they are made an offer.

              • Manny Kant

                Right, I guess I was vaguely aware that people have a meeting with the dean during the on-campus interview process. I wasn’t aware that this was so extensive as to constitute a full “interview”. Certainly, out of numerous grad school friends telling me about their on-campus visits, this was not a prominent part of their description of what happened. I’d always imagined it to be a pro forma meeting where you had kind of a brief chat, and whose result didn’t particularly matter because the Dean would almost certainly approve if the department chose to hire you.

                I can see how the Dean’s voice would be more important for senior hires.

                • matt w

                  OK, that’s pretty accurate at least for junior hires in philosophy, and I think especially at biggish state schools. I had one interview at kind of an unusual institution (to name names, Claremont Graduate University, which is sort of a graduate adjunct to the Claremont Colleges consortium) where I was told the dean would have a lot of input, but in general that’s not the case.

            • elm

              Yeah, pretty much every tenure-track hire meets with a Dean or Associate Dean during the interview process. This meeting rarely has an impact on the hiring outcome, but it can. (I’ve seen a dean authorize a department to make 2 offers because he really liked the candidate who came in second in the department’s vote, but usually the impact of a dean is more negative than that.)

              The only interviews I know where the candidates met with the President or Provost or anyone else that high up were senior people interviewing for endowed positions and in those cases, they met with the President so the President could woo them.

              • CD

                Yes. In every tenure track job I’ve applied for I’ve met a dean and all our hires go through a dean-equivalent. I know of cases, though happily not where I am, in which deans have refused to issue offers that the faculty have voted to make.

                And when you hire at the Associate level, which is to say bringing in a more senior scholar with tenure, scrutiny at the dean level should be especially intense.

                (This is a nuance that nonacademics may miss. Bringing someone in at the Associate level is not something a serious University does casually. Not that this should happen to anyone, but it’s shocking to see a senior hire undone like this.)

                Anyway, Deans are what protect the institution if a department goes off the rails, as sometimes happens. If I’m Phyllis Wise, it’s the Dean I’m pissed with, because he was supposed to be the firewall against troublesome professors.

        • matt w

          In another thread I’ve mentioned that there’s a full-fledged white supremacist teaching at my university. I haven’t called for him to be fired.

          • Manny Kant

            I had a college professor who went on tangents about how some races are intellectually superior to others for no apparent reason (it was a class on European diplomatic history). He seems to still be there without any difficulties.

          • human

            I studied history at a university in Mississippi. There was a professor in the department who was a white supremacist, and another who studied the history of the civil rights movement. The CRM professor started getting a lot of heat, because it was Mississippi, and when it came to the point of threats against his job, the white supremacist professor (who was very senior to him & had a lot of influence) defended him on the grounds of academic freedom.

          • Snarki, child of Loki

            Well, white supremacists aren’t going to get the RWNJ knickers in a twist, but boy do they ever act steamed at all of the Relativists the infest CommieAcademia.

            I mean, sheesh, if they’re not General Relativists, they’re Special Relativists. Always going around dissing the GOP framing (‘no preferred frame for YOU, Teabagger!’) and babbling obscure theories filled with greek letters just to make the GOPers feel stupid.

            Then when Hawking went and praised the UK NHS, that was just outrageous.

      • simonmd341

        I’m interested in your reading of the Goldberg tweet by the way lol.

        • John Protevi

          Okay, then, bring it on lol

        • John Protevi

          Let me say that I am shocked, shocked that “simonmd341” hasn’t come back. lol

          • simonmd341

            Why exactly are you being hostile towards me? I said I was interested in your reading of the Goldberg tweet (I didn’t realize that you had posted it earlier in the thread) and put a good spirited lol at the end. Then I receive a taunt from you (bring on what?) and this. I actually have posted on this thread again, and enjoyed reading the responses to my original post. I still think Salaita’s language is unacceptable. For an interesting post that sums up my argument but that I’m too lazy to post see the 8th comment on this thread:

            http://www.electrostani.com/2014/08/in-defense-of-stephen-salaita.html

            • matt w

              For whatever it’s worth, it wasn’t “Salaita’s language” in the tweet about Goldberg; that was someone else who he retweeted.

            • John Protevi

              Okay, my bad. I read the “lol” as a ridiculing me. If you say it was “good natured,” who am I to disagree? The link is to a good post, by the way. Thanks for sharing it.

              • simonmd341

                No problem. Internet is a shi**** medium for conveying some things I guess. Take care.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Agreed!

        John Yoo certainly has the experience to do a bang-up job teaching “Amorality 101: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Crimes Against Humanity”, and I’m sure that budding neo-lawyers at UCB can learn a lot from him. How to avoid getting hauled into a war-crimes tribunal, for one.

        But, Cary Nelson has taken a big stinky dump on the AAUP and academic freedom. The AAUP should rescind whatever “past President” privileges he might have, and completely erase his name from their roster of past Presidents.

      • Warren Terra

        I’m open to the suggestion that Yoo should keep his job, or at least be subjected to a formal process.

        On the other hand, at least at one point after he returned to Berkeley, the only way a law student could take introductory Constitutional Law at the institution was to study it at the feet of and to the satisfaction of John Yoo, a man who manifestly believes the Constitution should come in Extra Quilted.

        Surely you’d agree that his duties and responsibilities should be adjusted in light of his actions, that it’s abusive of the students to have him teaching important classes if his record clearly shows he rejects or doesn’t understand the lessons of those classes?

        • mikeSchilling

          Not just important: required (maybe not that one, but others Yoo taught.) It was a deliberate decision made to derail a student movement aimed at boycotting his classes. That is very, very fucked up, and if I were a Boalt alumnus (rather than a UCB alumnus) it would led to a letter explaining exactly why I would no longer be making any contributions.

          • Oh, that’s very interesting. Fucked up indeed.

        • ThrottleJockey

          You raise an interesting point, but how does such an issue get resolved in an even handed manner? After all a favorite meme of conservatives is that Obama is trampling all over the Constitution, should Chicago not have him back as a Constitutional Law professor because of what conservative lawyers say???

          • matt w

            What should have happened in Yoo’s case is that the Office of Professional Responsibility should’ve been allowed to send a report on him (and Bybee) to the state bar association, and he should’ve been disbarred — which I’d guess would’ve given the school an opening to fire him. However one Justice Department official unilaterally prevented OPR from filing a complaint with the state bars.

            (Margolis seems to be not a Republican hack but a fierce defender of the DOJ.)

    • Jose Arcadio Buendia

      This is basically the problem with Salaita. Its not his academic work…. Its that hes an asshole.

      He trolls in the most picayune forums to make the silliest points. I dont think this was a wise decision by U of I but they probably saved themselves a headache.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        WHAT??!? Being an asshole is impermissible in academia? Why was nobody told about this? Why, just ask anyone who has been on a campus more than five minutes, and I bet they can come up with a list of DOZENS of assholes.

        Next you’ll be telling us that being an asshole is a firing offense for CEOs. INCONCEIVABLE!

        • Warren Terra

          Of course being an asshole is a hiring reference for CEOs.

          … wait, did I slightly misread that?

        • Jose Arcadio Buendia

          Assuming he was already hired, then he should go through the process. But if they are correct he wasnt, then i think they saved themselves some trouble.

      • DrDick

        Then why are you no calling for Glen Reynold’s head or any number of other rightwing nutjobs who happen to be professors?

        • mikeSchilling

          Hey, if Reynolds got fired for being an asshole, I’d celebrate with a bottle of good Scotch.

          (I mean, I do that when he’s not being fired, so …)

          • DrS

            But maybe you’d spring for the Glengooly Blue.

            • mikeSchilling

              Phrasing!

      • wengler

        Illinois has a history of suppressing First Amendment rights. Not only of its faculty but also its students. Supporting that is not admirable.

  • matt w

    Going back to the question of whether Salaita was fired or not–because really once you get there the question of “Was he a big meanie on twitter?” is totally irrelevant–the absolutely decisive point here is that the trustee meeting at which his appointment is to be finalized doesn’t even take place until after the semester starts. I think it’s pretty damn hard to argue that he isn’t an employee until the trustees sign off on his contract when he’s supposed to start work before the trustees sign off on his contract.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      It’s pretty damned hard, but I’d guess that they’ll give it the old college try. No matter what they do, at this point, they’re going to look really stupid. For good reason.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Right, exactly. Again, Nelson is just bullshitting people who don’t understand how academic hiring works.

      • Xenos

        This is a peculiar sort of employment law, but bringing someone in, with clear opportunity cost for that new employee, and then claiming a lack of contract after the semester starts due to a formality of contract execution, is screaming out for equitable remedies.

        If this is what a department or university is doing I would expect them to be forced to settle with the employee. No university wants to risk the chance of losing a case like that and establishing a precedent.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          “No university wants to risk the chance of losing a case like that and establishing a precedent.”

          Equitable settlement, for a tenured position = lifetime income, plus benefits, plus (probable) value of research/scholarly output, plus reputation damages.

          Salaita should also ask for some heads on sticks, as punitive damages.

          • Salaita should also ask for some heads on sticks, as punitive damages.

            Or cocktail weenies on sticks.

            • Snarki, child of Loki

              Still haunted by that “scaffold training video” you mentioned a few days ago?

              Perhaps the UI trustees should watch it. Educational.

              • Just proposing to hit them where they live, so to speak.

        • Gwen

          Agreed.

    • Gwen

      Hmm, what a weird way of doing hiring.

      I guess I retract what I said earlier about contracts. I clearly don’t understand how academia works.

  • Poicephalus

    Scott, thanks for the Profeseur Dangereaux link.
    I must not be aware of all internet traditions, because I have been
    checking all his old haunts (I’m looking at you, MLA) for
    Berube’s take.

  • mikeSchilling

    I have friends that have gotten job offers, quit their current job, showed up at the new one, and been told “Oh yeah, we started a hiring freeze, and that includes anyone who hasn’t started yet. Like you.” It completely sucks, but as an at-will employee they had no recourse. This makes me dubious that (as several people over at Crooked TImber suggested) Salaita has a good legal case against U of I.

    • DrDick

      That is a very different situation, which did not single them out as individuals. In much the same way, the administration cannot arbitrarily fire individual tenured faculty, but the can (and have) eliminate an entire program/department and fire all the faculty.

      • mikeSchilling

        the administration cannot arbitrarily fire individual tenured faculty

        That opens a number of questions:

        1. Is that true because of employment law or custom?
        2. Was Salaita’s firing arbitrary? (Note that that’s different from “unjust” or “unwise”.)

        • junker

          There is a process to firing tenured professors negotiated usually with the union. That’s why it’s important to establish if he was officially hired – to determine if he was denied his employment rights.

          • junker

            To clarify – tenure is not a matter of custom and norms, it is a legal protection from at-will firing.

            • mikeSchilling

              Got it. Thanks..

          • matt w

            junker, a clarification: most university professors aren’t unionized. (It looks like U of I faculty aren’t, though UI-Chicago faculty are.) Nevertheless I’d be stunned if there weren’t a standard procedure for firing tenured faculty laid out in a faculty handbook somewhere and incorporated into the contract somehow.

            For comparison, you might want to check out the University of Colorado philosophy story, where the university has declared its intent to fire a tenured professor (for allegedly retaliating against a student who filed a sexual assault complaint) and the stories about it mention that this is the first step in a long process.

            • junker

              Yes, that is a good point. You’re right that tenure rights aren’t always negotiated with the Professor’s union (At my school they are); but as you say, the broader point stands, that the firing of a tenured professor usually has certain proscribed steps.

    • matt w

      Well, Salaita wasn’t hired as an at-will employee. Seems like it’d make a big difference; in your case the employer presumably could have fired them the day after they started work, in Salaita’s case they can’t.

      • mikeSchilling

        Does Salaita have an employment contract that was violated? If not, he’s at-will.

        • matt w

          Tenured and tenure-track employees almost invariably have contracts. At the U of I there’s a section on the HR page labeled “Compensation & Contracts,” with a section saying “Viewing Notifications of Appointment (NOA)
          The NOA is an electronic document stating the terms of an employee’s current and prior contracts with the University.”

        • Does Salaita have an employment contract that was violated? If not, he’s at-will.

          Wow, this is really confused.

          If Salaita’s contract were 100% in every possible way formalized so there wasn’t even a nominal wedge to pretend this wasn’t a firing, then he definitely wouldn’t be at will either as a TT or tenured (and he would have been tenured) professor absent a very weird contract. To fire him, they’d have to do the appropriate dance.

          Of course, they are claiming that the hiring wasn’t done so it’s not a firing but a retraction of an offer. But then he’s not an employee (yet) thus not an at-will employee.

          This line is also nonsense and, I feel pretty sure, wouldn’t play well in court. It definitely violates all sorts of norms and the unversity’s own profession of commitment to academic freedom. (At the very least, people are going to stop adhering to the norms since they aren’t protecting them anymore.)

    • DonN

      You’re a liar. This simply. does not happen. Having been involved in both academic and corporate hiring – no. You are a big fat not tell the truther.
      DN

      • mikeSchilling

        On reflection, saying that they were told this the day that showed up is a paraphrase and might not be accurate; it’s quite possible that an accepted offer was withdrawn after they’d given notice at their old jobs (or left it, if they were going to take time off in between) and before they started. But that they left their old jobs because of an offer that never turned into a new job is entirely true.

    • I know people who have been told to come in a day after their agreed starting date, because that day dozens of people they would otherwise have been working with had been laid off, and they didn’t want the dozens of new college hires running into them in the parking lot with their boxes. IIRC they didn’t rescind the offers, at least in part, for fear of lawsuits.

      Asking someone to resign and relocate before a job offer is final is almost literally incredible.

      That said (and ignoring the content), (a) I’m not sure of the sustainability of a twitterverse, superficially for the vulgar sort, in which academics have free speech on political matters and no one else does, (b) this case is so ridiculously extreme it doesn’t seem to merit the amount of attention it’s getting, when there are cases like the woman who didn’t get tenure after she’d made a point of helping students press sexual assault cases.

      • matt w

        Hi bianca, some responses:

        (a) well the problem is not with the twitterverse so much as for speech in general — almost everyone who isn’t an academic is an at-will employee whose employer can fire them for anything, including what they say on Twitter. This is a bad situation, but the solution definitely would not be to diminish free speech for academics. IMO at least. Obviously that wouldn’t suit me.
        (b) seems to me like there are probably a few factors in play as to why that case hasn’t got the play that this has:
        (1) sexism
        (2) the difference between tenure reviews and firing a tenured professor, given that firing a tenured professor requires a very different process than denying someone tenure does (this is what you meant by the extremeness of the case, I guess)
        (3) sexism
        (4) the fact that Harvard might have a good chance of prevailing on legal grounds, because they might be able to argue that the whole leading-her-on and then denying her tenure is of a piece with their typical assholish treatment of untenured faculty
        (5) sexism
        (6) the fact that the Gaza issue is dominating the headlines now, though the reason that campus sexual assault isn’t dominating the headlines to the same extent is at least partly due to
        (7) sexism
        (8) wow, holy crap, the fact that they told Theidon that she should’ve postponed her political activity until she was tenured is really fucking egregious

        Sound about right to you? Thanks for bringing this case up.

        • By “extreme” I meant that nobody is going to come out and say departments should be restricted in the reasons they use for granting tenure or making offers (which I suppose is one reason why the Theidon case has gotten less attention), but inducing someone to quit their job and move across the country and then rescinding the contract is another matter, which gets extra-academic legal and contractual (not to mention intuitive moral) questions involved.

          Similar cases are imaginable in other realms of employment, where contractual or moral issues contradict the freedom of employers to fire whomever they want.

          I wasn’t aware that academic freedom covered all political statements made in forums that aren’t specifically academic–I would have thought there was a more generally applicable principle in play–but it’s nice that it does.

  • Gator90

    OK, he was fired. Good. I applaud the university for deciding it didn’t want a bigot teaching its students.

    • simonmd341

      Frankly it seems he’s more likely just really stupid than bigoted.

      • Gator90

        Well, bigotry and stupidity aren’t mutually exclusive.

        • DonN

          And waffles and gator are closely related.
          Don N.

    • matt w

      So it’s your position that people who express opinions that you think are bigoted should be subject to illegal punishment by state actors? Because firing a tenured professor with no due process is illegal.

      • Gator90

        If his alleged firing was illegal, then presumably he has legal recourse, and the courts can sort it out.

        I would affirm the university’s decision pursuant to the “tipsy coachman” doctrine. Perhaps the process was wrong, but the right result was reached.

        Besides, let’s be real here. As someone observed previously, if Salaita had made similarly “controversial” remarks about, say, African-Americans, very few people here would be concerned about his due process or academic freedom.

        • DrDick

          So in your world, no one is allowed to criticize Israel under threat of firing?

          • Gator90

            In my world, “criticizing Israel” does not mean what it evidently means in your world. It is something that can easily be done without resort to blood libel and justifications for anti-semitism.

            • Lee Rudolph

              Blood libel in one of those tweets? Goodness.

              • rea

                I missed the one about Jews using Christian children’s blood in their rituals . . .

                • Gator90

                  Substitute “Muslim” for “Christian” and “teeth” for “blood,” and you’re getting pretty close.

                • Hogan

                  So it’s the tooth libel?

                • Snarki, child of Loki

                  You want the tooth?

                  You can’t handle the tooth.

            • DrDick

              So criticism of Israel for wantonly slaughtering Palestinian children, a demonstrable fact, is “blood libel”? Talk about debasing terms.

              • Gator90

                This discussion is taking quite a turn. The killing of children in Operation Protective Edge is precisely what caused me to renounce all support of Israel and to reexamine the very premise of Zionism. But with that said, I think there is a significant difference between “criticism of Israel” and depictions of Jews taking the body parts of dead gentile children as trophies.

                Many thousands of people (including me) have angrily criticized Israel for its current campaign, including and especially for the killing of children. Yet, only Salaita, as far as I know, has deemed it appropriate to crack wise about the harvesting of body parts. Is he such an original thinker, or are 99% of Israel’s critics easily able to perceive the line being crossed there?

                • brad

                  Ummm, so every depiction of blood crazed warlords making trophies of pieces of their victims’ remains is a participant in blood libel? The way we often depict African dictators is antisemitic?

            • junker

              A hyperbolic leap to the use of the phrase blood libel? Shocking!

        • junker

          The large list of “He deserved this because clearly these tweets indicate that he is an anti-Semite” comments has ended up proving the original intent of the tweets.

          • DrDick

            Yep. Always helps when your opponents prove your point for you.

          • Gator90

            And the “original intent” of the tweets was?

            • DrDick

              That Likudniks like yourself have debased the term “antisemite” until it covers all critics of Israel and no longer has any substantive meaning.

              • Gator90

                Me, a Likudnik? Ha. I don’t even support the existence of a Jewish state in Palestine. Your presumption says nothing about me, but it says something about you.

                • DrDick

                  I have yet to see any evidence that Salaita is actually anti-semitic, rather than an outspoken and intemperate critic of Israeli policies and actions.

                • A Wade

                  If he’s not Anti-Semitic why is stormfront defending him?

                • brad

                  Because opportunistic trolls will use any chance given to seek to provoke a response that will give them the attention they seek?

                  (who said irony is dead, meh)

                • DrDick

                  I apologize for calling you a Likudnik, but it is hard to distinguish your comments on this issue from theirs. Nothing I have seen on this issue indicates that Salaita is antisemitic, unless you extend that to criticisms of Israeli actions and policies.

              • MAJeff

                oops…ignore

              • Gator90

                @Dr. Dick — apology accepted. And I think reasonable minds may disagree on this, but in my view, a couple of those tweets went well beyond criticism of Israel’s actions and policies. As I have said, virtually all other recent critics of Israel, including the angriest ones, have not seen fit to go where he went. There is a reason for that.

                • brad

                  You miss that reasonable minds can also disagree with you that he went to the places you accuse. Jewish person plus remains of a child do not equal blood libel. It is a specific, horrific slander with a long, awful history of referent and meaning. A trophy necklace of victim/opponent remains is a trope leveled against barbarian warriors for being bloody and brutal and, well, barbaric, not a recognizable (to me) form of antisemitism. American soldiers had, or at least were accused of and depicted as having, necklaces of the ears of dead Viet Cong.
                  You have to actually make your case for it being a genuine reference to blood libel, no one here seems to see it.

                • Gator90

                  Again, as far as I know, not a single other of Israel’s many harsh critics has said anything like what Salaita has said. Why do you suppose that is?

                • brad

                  To use that line of argument you’re going to have to show me where you’ve been monitoring the tweets of a large sample of random academics of no public note (not meant as insult). I think it’s very, very easy to find a wide variety of people on twitter saying far worse and far stupider things.
                  Further, you still haven’t provided actual cause to take it as blood libel. Barbaric to Muslim children vs the overall old European antisemitic image of a “parasitic” Jewish people which I think blood libel is a particularly awful expression of is a rather huge gulf which only you see a bridge between. Your evidence is in question, you can’t simply keep referring to it for proof.

                • DrDick

                  American soldiers had, or at least were accused of and depicted as having, necklaces of the ears of dead Viet Cong.

                  My friends who were there in the free fire zones all attested to knowing people who did, as well as fingers, and scalps. This is, sadly, not particularly uncommon in warfare.

                • Gator90

                  @brad: I confess I haven’t conducted a study of the twitterverse and am unlikely to do so. To the best of my knowledge, Salaita stands alone in fantasizing about gruesome necklaces and in describing anti-semitism as “honorable.”

                  Would you say what he said? Why or why not?

                • brad

                  Bibi with gruesome necklaces? Yeah, that one I might say, probably not, but I see zero antisemitism in it, merely calling the asshole a brutal warlord, which he effectively is. His power is built on promoting death and destruction. You can’t keep saying something is beyond the pale then refer to you having called it that as evidence it is so.
                  Would I get so heated as to say something which forces people to actually parse my words in the manner he did with “honorable”? No. But that doesn’t make it antisemitic to say what he said, or make it an endorsement of that form of bigotry. He was not endorsing antisemitism, and any honest reader knows that, just as much as we all know Loomis did not mean to have actual heads put on pikes. It’s not as clear cut a case as Loomis, no, but the only difference is the degree of semantic interpretation required.

        • matt w

          I would affirm the university’s decision pursuant to the “tipsy coachman” doctrine. Perhaps the process was wrong, but the right result was reached.

          In other words, you think that it’s OK to use illegal means to punish someone who says things you dislike. Might want to go look up that quote from A Man For All Seasons about cutting down every law in England.

          • Gator90

            Again, if it was illegal, Salaita has legal recourse. He can be compensated and/or the wrongdoers punished. That’s fine by me, if that’s how it works out. But as of right now, I’m not troubled by his fate.

            • Hogan

              Sure, just because he’s out of a job while the legal process grinds on is no reason to worry about him. He can just sell some of the stocks his grandfather left him, like every other professor.

              • A Wade

                This will send a valuable message to everyone else: Anti-Semitism is not acceptable. Anti-Semites should live in constant fear of losing their jobs.

                • brad

                  Yes, allowing people who believe that to also be able to define the term and police it sounds both rational and without the slightest possibility of abuse. But at least you have a weapon with which to assert your authoritah.

                  Next comes the accusation that disagreement with your claiming of that high hill means minimizing the wrongness of antisemitism.

                • DrDick

                  For all values of “anti-semite”=”critics of Israel” and “people on AIPAC’s hate list”.

                • Manny Kant

                  I love how you assholes are happy to say outrageously racist things all over the internet, but somehow “anti-Semitism” (i.e. intemperate criticism of Israel) is the worst thing imaginable.

                  Should people who “bravely” “explore” the question of “inherent racial differences” also live in constant fear of losing their jobs?

            • John Protevi

              Again, if it was illegal, Salaita has legal recourse. He can be compensated and/or the wrongdoers punished. That’s fine by me, if that’s how it works out. But as of right now, I’m not troubled by his fate.

              That’s because you don’t care about the principle of academic freedom. Which puts you on the other side of the issue than where John Dewey would stand. But whatevs, right, dude? I mean, “I got mine, Jack” is your motto, innit?

              Or to be a little less snarky, what’s legal or illegal isn’t the limit for what is ethical. And we’re discussing the ethics of the academy, one of the principles of which is “academic freedom.”

        • Hogan

          “We already know he’s guilty of something, so let’s not waste time on a trial.”

          • Snarki, child of Loki

            ‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first — verdict afterwards.’

            Good to see that gator knows the classics.

    • I’m glad you’ve decided to stop hiding behind that “well, he just doesn’t have good enough communications skills for the university, gosh” smarm.

      • Gator90

        No, I stand behind that. I’ve been told that when he said Zionists have been making anti-semitism “honorable” since 1948, he meant that the charge of anti-semitism should be worn as a badge of honor when leveled by people who believe that criticism of Israel is inherently anti-semitic. If that is what he intended to communicate with the words that he chose, then his communication skills titanically suck.

        • And? He wasn’t hired to write tweets. Why would his quality of communication there be relevant?

          • Gator90

            In my opinion, if that is how he publicly expresses his thoughts regarding an obviously sensitive topic, he has no business grading the expressions of students.

            • Hogan

              No need to speculate; there’s an actual record here. Were there any complaints about his grading practices at VA Tech?

            • junker

              You know sometimes when I’m out at the bar with friends, I’ve been known to get boisterous and curse during sporting events.

              Somehow, miraculously, I’ve managed to not curse out my students and successfully grade their work with a minimum of fuss.

              This is seriously weak man. This is really the best you can do?

              • DrDick

                I am actually notoriously foul mouthed, but manage never to curse at work. Likewise, I try very hard to keep politics out of my classrooms. I have even been complimented on that by conservative students.

                • Gator90

                  I’m not saying he can’t keep politics out of the classroom. Perhaps he can. I’m saying he’s an idiot who is unable to assemble words in a way that has clear meaning, and is thus intellectually unfit for a teaching position.

                • brad

                  If we’re going to start requiring academics to be good writers then the glut of candidates for jobs problem would instantly reverse itself.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  I’m saying he’s an idiot who is unable to assemble words in a way that has clear meaning

                  So you’ve read all of his six books? You can’t be basing this on some tweets, because that would be so transparently idiotic.

                • Gator90

                  @Scott: I have to read all of his books now? His tweets are public writings. If he is going to write idiotic things in public, he risks being called an idiot.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  I have to read all of his books now?

                  If you’re going to argue that he’s unqualified for an academic position, I do think you need to be familiar with his academic work, yes.

                • Hogan

                  I have to read all of his books now?

                  Ah yes, the “judge people solely by the worst thing they’ve ever done written” theory. Hard to see how that could go wrong.

                • Gator90

                  @Hogan – people do it all the time, and not always unfairly. I’ve no problem judging PM Netanyahu based on his “telegenic dead Palestinians” remark. It makes him an asshole, irrespective of anything else he’s ever said. Do you disagree?

                • DrDick

                  I have to read all of his books now? His tweets are public writings.

                  Twitter does not lend itself to thoughtful or nuanced arguments, but rather to one-liners and quips (a reason I avoid it). I would not judge anyone solely based on their tweets.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  The question isn’t whether he’s an asshole; it’s whether he’s qualified for the job he was hired for. His tweets are neither here nor there on that question.

                • Uh, go ahead and think he’s an asshole based on his tweets. That is a reasonable position.

                  What is not a reasonable position is to take several ambiguously worded tweets and from that declare him “an idiot who is unable to assemble words in a way that has clear meaning… intellectually unfit for a teaching position”.

                • Hogan

                  @Gator90 – the case for Netanyahu being an asshole (and quite a bit worse) is based on much more than a couple of off-the-cuff remarks; it involves, among other things, actual exercises of power. If he were an academic mouthing off on Twitter, I’d cut him the same slack.

  • mch

    How many commenters here teach? Sheesh. Teaching 18-22-year olds (forget grad students — they’re supposed to be old enough to handle things as adults) is a delicate thing. I have known so many teachers of all political stripes (even conservatives!) who are very sensitive to these delicacies — nearly all teachers I have ever known are so sensitive. The classroom, the office, the paper — sacred places, where you listen listen listen — and comment carefully, hopefully, in conversation with this very real person in front of you. The twitter, the academic journal: those are other forums. The most outspoken in the latter are often the most receptive and patient in the former. Some very strange confusion is up here.

    All this should remind us: the academy is still a realm of theology, for good or for ill.

    • mikeSchilling

      Twitter is like something out of Harrison Bergeron: it exists to make even the most thoughtful people look like clueless morons.

      • DrS

        Consider this stolen

      • DonN

        Mike tells stories that are untrue – be careful.

        • mikeSchilling

          See above; I might well have screwed up the details. But that description of Twitter is what’s called an opinion.

      • DrDick

        I may have to put to put this on my office door. It also nicely encapsulates why I ignore Twitter.

    • How many commenters here teach?

      I do, quite a bit. I’m accounted to be rather good at it.

      I have known so many teachers of all political stripes (even conservatives!) who are very sensitive to these delicacies — nearly all teachers I have ever known are so sensitive. The classroom, the office, the paper — sacred places, where you listen listen listen — and comment carefully, hopefully, in conversation with this very real person in front of you.

      This seems rather made up to me. Most teachers you know (and at the collegiate level?!) think the classroom is a sacred place blah blah?

      Would that it were true. (Well, maybe. It doesn’t sound like much to me.)

      • Lee Rudolph

        Most teachers you know (and at the collegiate level?!) think the classroom is a sacred place blah blah?

        You mean you don’t inaugurate the semester with the sacrifice of a bull on the podium, and end it with a calculation of grades by haruspication? Sheesh. Some people have no sense of tradition.

        • MAJeff

          It’s bad enough that we no longer get to have virgin sacrifices at convocation.

          • Lee Rudolph

            Yeah, well, sustainability and all that.

          • Snarki, child of Loki

            “..we no longer get to have virgin sacrifices at convocation.”

            #1: Many (most?) campuses have a statue that is supposed to come to life if a virgin walks by. Yet, there it is.

            #2: Virgin sacrifice hasn’t gone out of style, but mostly happens in the dorms. The usual confusion is that when “sacrificing” a virgin, they’re not killed. But afterwards, they’re not a virgin. See #1.

        • At the height of the PoMo craze, I wrote a letter to the Mets management suggesting that they place a temple to Athena Nike in front of Gate E of Shea Stadium, including an altar where fans could sacrifice pigeons. Never got a response.

        • junker

          I wonder if haruspication would have cut down on the grading work I had to do last semester….

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          “You mean you don’t inaugurate the semester with the sacrifice of a bull on the podium”

          SOME professors think that it’s their job to kill off bull.

          OTHERS just make sure that everyone gets their fair share.

          Overall, it’s a wash.

      • elm

        Most teachers you know (and at the collegiate level?!) think the classroom is a sacred place blah blah?

        My favorite ever comment on a student evaluation said, “You should treat the classroom as a Cathedral of Learning and not a bad stand-up routine.” Apparently the student didn’t like my jokes although it is unclear of the student would have liked any jokes.

        My second-favorite ever comment was, “If Seth Rogen were an academic, he’d be exactly like you!” I go back and forth on whether the was a compliment or an insult, but either way, it’s awesome.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          My favorite ever comment on a student evaluation said, “You should treat the classroom as a Cathedral of Learning and not a bad stand-up routine.” Apparently the student didn’t like my jokes although it is unclear of the student would have liked any jokes.

          Temple of Loki, bitchez!

          Too bad that commenter didn’t say that at the beginning of the semester, because you could have had ’em on their knees, praying fervently, during the final.

        • MAJeff

          My favorite ever comment on a student evaluation said, “You should treat the classroom as a Cathedral of Learning and not a bad stand-up routine.” Apparently the student didn’t like my jokes although it is unclear of the student would have liked any jokes.

          I think my favorite remains, “One cup of coffee, not two.”

          • I thought the meme was “one professor, one cup.”

        • matt w

          If it’s not nosy, were you at Pitt at the time?

          And yeah, bad standup routine definitely sums up my approach. So far I have been able to restrain myself from starting a class “Eyes — me; asses — seats; there’s lots to cover, so let’s just fuck this duck, OK?”

          • DrDick

            I do know the feeling.

          • elm

            No, not at Pitt, though her comment also made me think of Pitt. Would not have. been nerely so great if there actually was a cathedral of learning on campus.

        • DrDick

          Mine, which I got from several students in my introductory NAS course, was that I am a racist who hates white people. It came as rather to my colleagues in the Native American Studies Department, since I am white.

        • junker

          My friend got one once that said “Should not wear sandals to class. Totally unprofessional.”

          • timb

            well….that’s pretty defensible

  • mch

    Might I add, it took me 5 extra minutes to post that minor comment because, unexpectedly, I had to prove to LGM that I exist as a legitimate commenter, had to reset password, all sorts of crap (of which my life is already too much full — I don not enjoy tech stuff for tech stuff’s sake: tools use us, anyone?). Really, what’s this all about? It’s not as if I am placing an order using a credit card. Sheesh. LGM, please, don’t succumb. Yes, resistance is good for communication. Too much resistance is not.

  • Xenos

    Coming in a day late to make a very basic point (others may have made it, this is a long thread).

    Salaita’s subject matter is Native American Studies. At a very fundamental level the subject matter is a variation on the history of settler colonialism. Anything he might say about settler colonialism, and the resistance thereto, in any point of time and any location, is within his academic subject and should clearly be within the zone of academic speech.

    • Gregor Sansa

      I can’t figure out if I agree with you or not. But say you’re right: it’s academic speech. What conclusion do you want us to draw?

      That it should be protected by academic freedom? It seems to me your point is irrelevant then. Academic freedom should clearly protect even non-academic speech; society does not benefit if people are getting fired for their private statement any more than for their academic ones, especially since it would generally be trivial to find a private faux pas to justify firing anybody you wanted.

      Or are you saying that they were justified in reviewing this material as part of the hiring decision? But in that case, what they should be reviewing is not the content or tone of his tweets, but their scholarship. Checking their bibliographies, etc. Is that idea self-refuting enough?

      In either case, whether or not these tweets were in his academic wheelhouse is beside the point.

      • Xenos

        I am not in academics, so I may be missing the main point here (that academic freedom includes not being punished for unpopular political positions), but the fact of the subject matter he was hired for is directly applicable to the subject being discussed should be important. How can you have a professor of American Indian Studies who can not comment freely about modern conflicts that are so directly analogous? It is almost a bad as firing him for an opinion about conflicts involving Australian Aborigines.

        We are not just talking here about protecting political expression, but about the possibility of have a professorship at all.

        • I think there was some talking past.

          Some people have argued that since the speech was not directly and centrally inside Salaita’s academic speciality (construed very narrowly) and not in normal academic fora that academic freedom doesn’t apply. Which is nonsense.

          Your point, as I understand it, is sort of the reverse. Since the content of his tweets were centrally related to his specialty, academic freedom protections are at close to their strongest.

          I think this is right. In general, academic freedom is in tension with other rights, obligations, interests, and goals (if not, it wouldn’t be doing anything!). Thus, it is relevant to bring up the possible effect on teaching since teaching is simultaneously an area of high obligation (core courses need to be taught to standards) and a high need for freedom (if we can teach our controversial research or shift our focus, we don’t have much freedom at all!).

          Thus, for example, if I required students in my semi-structured data class to study settler style conflicts, this would likely be a case where my academic freedom would need quite a lot of defending. (E.g., I would have to show how it content wise or pedegogically related. If I were using databases about settlement rates it might be ok unless it was clear that the example itself was hugely disruptive. If it were disruptive, I’d probably have to back down. ) However, if I discussed the ethics of information synthesis across multiple sources, that probably is more than fine.

  • MacK

    I have mixed feelings about the Salaita situation. Frankly I find a good few of the things he said pretty abhorrent. Nonetheless, it is the case that defenders of Israel have consistently accused anyone who criticises Israeli policy of being an anti-semite (or if that fails a self-hating jew) and have systematically tried to destroy the career of critics of Israeli policy through this strategy.

    At this point in time there is a systematic effort to boycott Israel – the BDS movement. That Israel’s supporters would press an attack on someone who was vocally opposed to Israeli policy – attacking that persons career is ironic – because it makes someone like me – who is in principle opposed to such a boycott rethink that opposition. In that regard it is interesting to here what Alan Dershowitz has to say:

    What I’m opposed to is the political department sponsoring and endorsing the BDS. The BDS includes the blacklisting of Jewish professors from Israel, and that’s illegal, immoral and racist. An academic department should not be taking sides in this debate. This department would never invite me, for example, to speak and state my opposing point of view. So it’s not about academic freedom; it’s about the department taking one side, and the wrong side.

    This of course lies at the heart of the issue – can a university that has effectively fired a professor for advocating the BDS campaign against Israel, for speaking in favour of an academic boycott – now with any legitimacy argue that this boycott is improper. By their own actions have the trustees of the University of Illinois undermined the entire intellectual basis of that opposition. Has the “frighten the critics of Israel strategy by attacking their careers” actually inflicted a massive “own goal” in the BDS campaign. Will Alan Dershowitz come out in support of Salaita (of course not – to big a hypocrite.) Will someone tell Dershowitz to shut up the next time he makes the argument above (which he makes regularly.) Will opponents of the BDS campaign cease their opposition (and the silent opponents particularly) or will they back Salaita? Or will most of us on the sidelines when asked to we oppose BDS now say “meh!”

    I’m leaning towards “meh!” If Israel’s supporters will do this, why oppose BDS?

    • JL

      Dershowitz’s statements about academic BDS are full of shit anyway. Here are the PACBI academic boycott guidelines. They are not about blacklisting Israeli Jewish professors.

      • MAJeff

        Dershowitz’s statements about academic BDS are is full of shit anyway.

        FTFY

  • junker

    Maybe I have not very engaged students but I have the sense that most of them have better things to do than to find me on twitter…

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  • A Wade

    As if anymore proof was needed that Salaita is bigot; Stormfront is defending him. Lemieux and Stromfront have the same friends.

    • MacK

      And the Lehi Group, the founders of the Likud (Shamir, Begin, etc.), Irgun and Netanyahu are connected with….pretty unsavoury friends in 1940-43 – no? Hard to explain wouldn’t you say? So voting Likud means what then? That one agrees with what Lehi and the Irgun’s announced friends were involved in. (Natenyahu by the way lionises Lehi and the Irgun – explain that (and there is worse))

      Your logic takes one there. Try answering that. Otherwise admit the argument shows you to be unsavoury…

      • JL

        Just to clarify, Begin was in the Irgun (he was a commander, in fact). Not the Lehi. Shamir was in the Lehi. Both groups were Revisionist Zionists, the movement that Likud grow out of.

        Not that this detracts from your point. The Lehi kept trying to make alliances with the Nazis and the Italian fascists to fight the British, figuring that those folks would be delighted to push their own Jews to the Middle East and away from their own countries.

        • MacK

          And under Begin the Irgun collaborated with the Stern Gang and Lehi …. I mean guilt by association.

          And of course in 1946 the Irgun kidnapped two british army sergeants – disembowelled them, stuffed their body cavities with explosives and booby trapped them so as to try to kill anyone who tried to cut them down – under Begin’s orders. It would seem that Hamas learned a lesson there. Later under Begin the Irgun bombed the King David Hotel – the worse such terrorist bombing until Oklahoma City. In 2006 Netanyahu unveiled a plaque celebrating the bombing – which caused a major diplomatic controversy – so Netanyahu celebrates terrorism (provided it is his side.) Irgun massacred civilians on many occasions. Another lesson is about negotiating with terrorists – Begin, Shamir and other prominent Israeli politicians were, and it is not a secret or denied, terrorists.

          This is a basic difficulty in the debate – the Israelis rail against terrorism by Hamas – but Netanyahu celebrates terrorism including the very type of conduct he says justifies the attack on Gaza – the Israelis demand that there be no negotiations with terrorists – but elect unrepentant terrorists like Shamir and Begin prime minister, forcing people to negotiate with them. Double standards anyone?

          • JL

            Yep. All of the big Yishuv militias – Haganah, Irgun, Lehi – committed their share of atrocities. And for a long time you got Israeli PMs from their former ranks. Rabin was part of the Haganah, and was the deputy commander of Operation Danny, which destroyed 32 Palestinian villages, more than half of which didn’t have forces, even semi-trained village militias, defending them. The operation created more than 70,000 refugees.

            The Haganah, FWIW, grew out of Labor Zionism, not Revisionism Zionism. Because of that, and because of their increased focus on self-defense, some people want to see them in a good light, the militia that didn’t commit atrocities. But they did.

            • MacK

              But herein is part of the problem – Hamas is not pursuing a strategy that has failed in general – rather it succeeded, in Israel/Palestine and today is lauded (the Israeli govt gives Lehi and Irgun members a campaign ribbon.) It is hard to see how a party – Likud – that is a lineal descendant of the Stern Gang, Lehi and the Irgun – a government that today lauds their actions, can honestly maintain the position that it does.

    • brad

      Wait, so this means the 97.638% of the time that Stormfront’s views are coincidentally in lockstep with the teahadist backwash now actually demonstrates bigotry on the right?
      Unpossible.

      • matt w

        Well that is true. But this shows nothing about Salaita. I mean, I don’t like AIPAC and I guess Stormfront doesn’t either, but I don’t agree with Stormfront on anything else and I doubt Salaita does either.

        • brad

          I know, I was being willfully obtuse.
          It should cause him to question the tone and method of his criticisms, which I think most of us agree are at best borderline, but that’s about as far as it goes.

          • Snarki, child of Loki

            Yeah, but at least he didn’t tweet “BIGFOOT ISREAL” which would have been both anti-semitic and Native American Studies Related Program Activities also, too.

    • Whiskers

      You can’t pick who supports you.

      • dl

        Please nobody take this as defending Rand Paul.

        But is there a parallel here? As we’ve pointed out, Rand Paul just keeps “happening to have” white supremacists supporting him. He’s never said anything racist on the record, right? (I could be wrong.) Is Rand Paul himself racist? There’s some possibility.

        Should a Professor Rand Paul be fired for his views? No. Could a President/BoT legitimately veto the hiring of a Professor Rand Paul? I think you could make the argument.

        • Rand Paul says that the Civil Rights Act “was It’s not all about race relations, it’s about controlling property, ultimately.” Because store owners being free to exclude people for whatever reason, I can’t imagine what is his idea of an ideal society.

          Your point is an interesting one, but you need a better example than Paul.

        • Hogan

          Rand Paul keeps having white supremacists working for him, not just saying nice things about him. If Salaita had a large contingent of white supremacist grad students whose dissertations he was directing and whose careers he was promoting, there would be a clear parallel. Otherwise, not really.

          Also, white supremacists have known about Rand Paul for about as long as there’s been a Rand Paul, he being the son of one of their favorite elected officials. White supremacists have just discovered Salaita, and will forget him just as quickly.

        • dl

          I think there is some chance that Salaita is anti-semitic and Paul is racist. Ultimately, it’s hard to tell. What do you do? See if Salaita has more Jewish friends than Paul has African-American friends?

          I think Salaita goes close to the line. And even undisputed racists are careful not to explicitly cross that line. Hell, on the stormfront forum linked, they have a “No profanity, no [racial] epithets on this forum” sticky. Stormfront, for God’s sake.

        • matt w

          The President/BoT can’t legitimately veto the hiring of Professor Rand Paul after Professor Rand Paul has signed their offer.

          I mean, what Yale did to Juan Cole was completely shitty, but I don’t think anyone argued that they didn’t have the legal right to do it. It was shitty because Cole isn’t colorably an anti-Semite and the senior appointments committee took the unusual step of overruling the hiring departments for what sure looked like political reasons.* It was legal because they never made him an offer.

          What happened to Salaita is shitty and probably illegal because they made him an offer that he accepted (and even more so because of the timing). As I’ve said, we don’t need to worry about whether he really is a bigot to answer that question — though as people have pointed out, Salaita is muuuuuch farther from white supremacists than the Pauls are.

          *Also, to several people on this thread; boy, it seems like there are several examples of academics getting stiffed in somewhat unconventional ways for being insufficiently pro-Israel. Are there cases where similar things happen because someone’s insufficiently pro-Palestinian? If not, can we shut up about how those of us who are defending Salaita are exercising a double standard?

    • Morse Code for J

      You know, I was petting my dog, and realized that Hitler probably loved dogs too. We are all morally culpable.

      Or you are a fucking idiot. Haven’t made up my mind.

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