Home / General / AHA on Salaita

AHA on Salaita


The American Historical Association writes a strongly worded letter to the University of Illinois in protest of firing Stephen Salaita:

If allowed to stand, your administration’s punitive treatment of Steven Salaita will chill the intellectual atmosphere at the University of Illinois. Even tenured professors will fear for their job security, persuaded that their institution lacks respect for the principles of academic freedom. The unhappy consequences for the untenured will be even more pronounced. A regimen of defensive self-censorship will settle like a cloud over faculty lectures and classroom discussions. Faculty will be inclined to seek positions elsewhere. This, surely, is not the future you wish for your historically great institution.

While we have thus far dwelt at length on the justification that you gave ex post facto for the rescinding of Professor Salaita’s offer, we find the procedural irregularities entailed in that decision equally troubling. On this score, too, the facts of the case have emerged more clearly since August 1. The recruitment of Professor Salaita was carried out with scrupulous care and adherence to prescribed procedure. The American Indian Studies Program chose him as their preferred candidate after a national search; every subsequent level of the University administration below the Chancellor endorsed that choice. His scholarship passed muster with your trusted colleagues. Especially important, in light of your remarks of August 22, he has a record of teaching successfully at Virginia Tech, and by all indications, students of every stripe felt welcome in his classroom. Finally, your University provided him with a standard written job offer of the type that routinely guarantees appointments at Illinois. By depriving him of that appointment, you do him a personal injustice. You also disrupt your own system of internal university governance, sowing distrust by ignoring its counsel. And, at the national and international levels, you risk saddling your institution with a reputation for arbitrary administrative practices. Certainly the American Historical Association would have concerns about our members applying for positions at Illinois.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • MAJeff

    Looking at the first paragraph, are we sure that isn’t exactly what the Trustees/Chancellor/Upper Management want?

    The unhappy consequences listed all seem to be goals in the corporate academy.

    • DrDick

      My thought exactly. Given what we have seen and heard, I would argue that it is exactly what they want to happen.

  • H. Rumbold, Master Barber

    Call me PC, but I would choose a phrase other than “students of every stripe” when discussing an American Indian Studiers program lol.

    • Quasi-Anon

      Huh? This has the form of a comment based on some well-known, offensive stereotype, but can’t figure out what the stereotype is. I mean, Chief Wahoo isn’t a yellowjacket.

      Anyway, I suspect that if I understood it, I’d be in favor of disemvowelling. HRMB may well not be intentionally trolling and might think that “just making jokes” is a good excuse for racism… but it’s not, at least, not when the jokes are at the level of “he said booby lol”.

      • Lee Rudolph

        can’t figure out what the stereotype is

        In my youth, at least, Indian warriors were often depicted wearing “war paint” consisting (in part?) of several (three?) diagonal stripes painted on each cheek. That’s the best I can come up with.

        • MAJeff

          Adidas also has three stripes. Hmmmmm.

    • elm

      “Of every stripe,” like “earn your stripes” refers to the stripes on a uniform signifying army rank, not the stripes of war paint.

  • Gwen

    I was bummed when I realized that this was the AHA and not the band A-ha.


  • Aimai

    I’m thinking what these guys need is a Union.

  • wengler

    I took a middle east politics class in the political science department at Illinois that wasn’t overly favorable to the Israelis. I wonder if now that class would get the professor fired.

  • anon1

    Hey, it may be a generational thing. I happen NOT to want to read a Prof’s posts on TWITTER. I’m still recovering from Angela Davis. (Did you read Salaita’s posts?)

    Academia wants freedom of speech. I want people to know the difference first between freedom and license. If you want to run your “mouth” on Twitter I reserve the right to not hire you. If you want to post pictures of yourself, drunk at Christmas parties, on Facebook, I reserve the right to question whether I want to be around you for the next thirty years.

    I’m really, really, really tired of fucking, dumb, naive academicians. Really.

    And I’m not even pro Israel.

    If you want to run your fucking mouth, talk to your washing machine at night. It wants to hear your ideas. It wants to hang out with you. It loves it when you load it up. [I had to inject that imagery for the English Profs out there.]
    And remember:
    Your washing machine is envious of you walking, hand-in-hand, all day long, with your Samsung S3.

    • Quasi-Anon

      That would be great, if the people who were going to be around Salaita for the next 30 years were the same people who had decided not to hire him.

      Given that you’re the second possible troll in this thread, I’m skeptical of your “not even pro Israel” protestation.

      I’ve heard my in-laws say stuff that was a lot worse than any of Salaita’s tweets about the broadly-construed group that perpetrated a genocide they survived. And while I disapprove of some of those sentiments, I wouldn’t judge the people expressing them; I know they are highly competent and professional in their fields. I think that Salaita, as a Palestinian himself, should not be expected to have an inhuman coolness in a non-professional setting like twitter.

      • anon1


        You’re looking for an Echo chamber.


        You need to know all rules before you get on the playing field. Academia ain’t what it use to be, forty years ago.

        • DrDick

          Your highly selective tender fee-fees are duly noted. The generally understood rules governing academic behavior have not actually changed much in the last 40 years. I would be curious to hear whether you apply the same standards to the folks who make even more inflammatory statements about the Palestinians.

          • anon1

            “…rules governing academic behavior have not actually changed much in the last 40 years.”

            Correct, but, every school has an Administration and those folk have different priorities than forty years ago. The financial “bottom-line” is now the driving force.
            There’s money in them there hills to be mined, partner.

        • I find it amusing that the guy who is arguing against academic freedom is the one claiming that someone else is looking for an echo chamber.

          • anon1

            I find it amusing that you believe I’m opposed to academic freedom.

            • You find people believing true things about you amusing?

              • anon1


                You wrote what constitutes a legal disclaimer for your posts on TWITTER. :)
                I rest my case.

    • NattyB

      If you want to run your mouth talking shit about Hamas, let me ask you, would you like to be a political pundit?

      If you want to run your mouth talking shit about Israel, let me ask you, have you updated your resume lately?


      The Government (including public universities) cannot discriminate against and punish people based on the contents of their speech (absent limited circumstances which are not remotely present here). Had Salaita said all sorts of ill shit about Hamas, IS, or “the Terrorists,” no one would bat an eye. But since the target of his (justifiable, if I may add) ire was Israel –> it’s “this guy is a bigot, uncivil, doesn’t brush his teeth, hater, anti-semite” etc . . .

      We need robust debate in the Academy. We need far left Palestinian views in the Academy.

      And for fucks sake! If John Yoo is somehow suitable for the Academy, then no f—ing way does this guy’s tweets rise anywhere close to being disqualifying.

      • Look, actually torturing people is far less morally objectionable than saying “fuck” on Twitter.

        • Lee Rudolph

          Well, of course. The torturees were asking for it; but nobody expects to find the word “fuck” appearing in their Twitter feed!

          • CD

            And apparently everyone is forced to read teh twitter. How did I get out of it?

            • CD

              … and does Angela Davis have a twitter account? That might actually be worth reading.

              • DrDick

                Have to say that the amount of male white privilege in that post is mind boggling.

            • cpinva

              I understand hiding in the outhouse sometimes works. I could be wrong.

    • Murc

      If you want to run your “mouth” on Twitter I reserve the right to not hire you.

      How is that at all relevant to this situation? Salaita was hired. He was gonna teach classes. They decided after the fact to fire his ass, which carries certain penalties and restrictions if you try and do it to someone with tenure. The man uprooted his life and quit another job to take this one.

      If they no longer want him, they can deal with him under the terms of their contract.

    • cpinva

      “If you want to run your “mouth” on Twitter I reserve the right to not hire you.”

      if you’re going to post an idiotic rant, at least make some, minimal effort, to get your facts straight:

      prof. salaita was already hired, what they did was fire him. there is a difference. as to your preference to not want to read his posts on twitter, don’t. last time I checked, no one stands behind you with a gun, forcing you to read them, so I must assume you do so voluntarily. that you disagree with his stated positions is fine, that’s your right. but please, spare us the “I am a victim, because I stupidly read the twitter posts of someone I disagree with!” idiocy. it only makes you look like more of an idiot.

    • matt w

      Murc and cpinva have the substantive angle covered,* so let me ask: What is the difference between freedom and license?

      *and NattyB points out that the punishment for incivility is going all one way here, though I’m not sure this means Salaita has a case for content discrimination as opposed to the contract issues.

      • anon1

        “What is the difference between freedom and license?”

        That’s the heart of the problem.

        Gregory Bateson smoked those Camel cigarettes and would look to the back of the room and ask in a low voice: Have you considered the larger context?
        Before you take up Salaita you need to debate “freedom and license.”
        And jus’ maybe know the difference between Inductive and Deductive reasoning.

        • wjts

          Your folksy prose and ability to name-drop dead anthropologists have certainly convinced me of whatever point it is that you think you’re making!

          • The Dark Avenger

            anon1 is exhibit #1 on why you shouldn’t drop out of high school.

          • matt w

            Along with your complete inability to explain a distinction you yourself cited!

            (Deductive reasoning is reasoning that guarantees the truth of the conclusion given the truth of the premises. Inductive reasoning is reasoning in which the premises are meant to support the conclusion but there is a logical possibility that the premises are true and the conclusion is false. I teach logic for a living, fothermucker, don’t try to come with the distinction between deductive and inductive reasoning as if you’re scoring a point off me, especially since it has absolutely no bearing on anything I said.)

            • ChrisTS

              The relevance certainly flew over this philosopher’s head. Also: he left out abductive reasoning. FOUL!

            • anon1

              What if the premises are false and the conclusion is true ? That’s the Palestinian paradox.

    • wengler

      This is about academic administrators being one part coward and another part craven opportunist. I don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.

  • shah8

    Is it me, or was that a really harsh letter?

    • It isn’t you.

      • shah8

        Yeah, it was pretty frontal in the WWI sense, when most academic wars consist of Napoleonic flanking maneuvers.

        • Steve LaBonne

          They’re alarmed in a lot more than a theoretical way and rightly so. If this nonsense is allowed to stand it will surely spread, and no tenured professor will ever feel safe taking a job offered by another school.

          • anon1


            I’m glad my post started a dialogue. :)

            So you wrote: “…no tenured professor will ever feel safe taking a job offered by another school.”

            Why should they? Have YOU ever read the grounds for dismissal at your institution or any other in the Administrative Policy Manual? There’s a phrase: “…extenuating circumstance.” It appears on the bottom of the shopping list. Right above “Fat-free yogurt.”

            Read the fine print in your contract. And yes, I did NOT know he had been given a Contract. So be it. What he needs now is a lawyer. And not the family lawyer or the uncle who knows someone.
            Lastly, I do not read TWITTER, but, his posts are on Google. I do understand his concerns and convictions. Tell him to write a blog under another name: Mark Twain or John LeCarre, and, call me when either the Israelis or Palestinians find an exit on the moebius strip.

            Do you remember the picture of Begin sitting across from Sadat, in Miami-Beach-circa-1950-beach-chairs.
            Two terrorists catching some rays. One of my favorites.

            • Tro-tro-tro-trollin’

            • Steve LaBonne

              Well, stupid troll, it’s the universities who should be asking themseves “why should they?” if they want to continue to have the option of luring tenured faculty from other schools, because nobody is going to give up tenure at his or her current institution to go elsewhere if the elsewhere retains the option of playing this kind of game with their appointment. What UIUC did is technically known as “shitting your own bed”.

              • liberalrob

                Especially shameful for a place so closely associated with the creation of the modern Internet and World-Wide Web.

              • anon1

                We haven’t seen the need to lure anyone away.

                • wjts

                  Gregory Bateson used to drive down the street in his El Dorado and no one ever tried to lure him away.

          • liberalrob

            If this nonsense is allowed to stand it will surely spread, and no tenured professor will ever feel safe taking a job offered by another school.

            Or to discuss their personal beliefs in any kind of public forum. Which is the unstated goal of all this. And the antithesis of academic freedom.

        • Ken

          I would note that the second paragraph quoted above is mostly just a list of objective facts. If they sound harsh – well, isn’t that sort of like when a politician complains that someone is quoting him?

  • shah8

    OT, those of you who were interested in the Hamilton, and Founding Fathers relevance to current spiritual and philosophical drivers of mass interaction with governance will probably appreciate this link: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/aug/14/different-idea-our-declaration/?insrc=hpma

  • j_kay

    My feeling is that Salaita’s Tweet was UNDERSTATED, because the Palestinians are being openly genocided as we comment. So I support you posters on this. It’s like Krugman’s anti-GOP econ watch; sometimes strong language and nasty’s needed, especially because they started the lies and nasty.

    There is a J-Street to give to, a liberal AIPAC I’ve given to, though it’ll be decades before it can become as feared as AIPAC. You don’t need to be a Jew.

    • JL

      J Street, unfortunately, has really been running rightward in recent years, even going so far as to support the recent war on Gaza. They’re trying too hard to be allowed in the mainstream “pro-Israel” club. I recommend If Not Now (newish group with a lot of young disillusioned former J Streeters) or Jewish Voice for Peace (older and leftier). Admittedly neither of them are lobby groups, but what is the point of a “liberal” Israel-Palestine lobby group that supports war and spends copious resources allying with right-wing assholes to fight BDS? That it makes more noises about how peace is a desirable end?

      • Lee Rudolph

        That it makes more noises about how peace is a desirable end?

        Please tell me that, at least, J Street doesn’t say that peace, the desirable end, justifies “support[ing] war and spend[ing] copious resources allying with right-wing assholes to fight BDS” as means to that end. Please?

    • mikeSchilling

      The only genocide in history where the population keeps going up.

      • liberalrob

        Clearly, the problem is they’re doing genocide wrong.

        You’re not killing them fast enough, Israel! You suck at genocide!

  • jben

    No, Schilling’s point is that it is rather ridiculous to call what Israel is doing genocide, unless one empties that term of all meaning.

    I mean, look, I do think that the Israeli government has, at best, not done nearly enough to reduce civilian casualties. I could even be convinced that it has shown a kind of reckless disregard for what happens to Gazan civilians (some of the government’s statements on the matter certainly give that impression, as does the use of high-volume artillery on certain areas). The bombing of Gazan infrastructure (the power plant in particular) also seems rather dubious. But the idea that the Israeli government is deliberately trying to wipe out the population of Gaza, or that it actively intends to kill as many Palestinians as possible, is really absurd.

    • Lee Rudolph

      The bombing of Gazan infrastructure (the power plant in particular) also seems rather dubious.

      Ya think?

  • Pingback: [BLOG] Some Wednesday links | A Bit More Detail()

  • anon1

    On behalf of my seminar students, we would like to thank one and all for your time and discourse. The question was posed as to whether people inside of academia were able to distinguish between freedom and license and the responsibilities that both entailed. We needed an individual, an issue and a forum, and all were to be found here. Two students were rather surprised, however, that none of the historians here remembered the timely Op-ed piece written by Arthur Schlesinger,Jr.
    It should be noted that ours was a collective effort in reading resources and responses.
    Thank you, again.

It is main inner container footer text