2700 Scholars Boycott UI; Trustees to Meet Tomorrow; Salaita’s Teaching Evaluations Superb; Philosopher Cancels Prestigious Lecture (Updated) (Updated Again)

by Corey Robin on August 22, 2014

I’m still on vacation and mostly staying offline but I wanted to do a quick update on the Salaita affair.

1. Tomorrow, August 22, the Executive Committee of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet again. The Executive Committee met on Monday, August 18. In an email, Phan Nguyen wrote to me, “According to the listing of BOT Executive Committee meetings on the website, there haven’t been two such meetings held within four days of each other” in quite some time, if ever. But where the Monday meeting agenda explicitly stated that employment and litigation matters would be discussed, the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting specifies no topics for discussion. And where Monday’s meeting was listed a closed meeting, this meeting doesn’t say if it’s closed or not.

2. Going into Monday’s meeting, many of us thought something —a decision, a deal, something—was afoot. But according to this report in the local media, no decisions were made at the meeting.

“There are a number of issues being discussed,” President Bob Easter told The News-Gazette after the meeting, but trustees are “not at a place where I can say” if resolution is close. He declined to talk further because it was a closed session about personnel.


Ali Abunimah has some further news:

 

However two sources familiar with the case separately confirmed that there has been no discussion of a settlement and no proposal of a settlement from either the university or from Salaita.


Both sources asked not to be identified as neither is authorized to speak publicly about the matter.


3. One of the issues that comes up frequently among the University of Illinois’s defenders is that Salaita’s tweets suggest he might create a hostile environment for students, that he’s not fit for the classroom. It’s a strange claim to make under any circumstance—how I am on Twitter bears little relationship to how I am in the classroom or in my interactions with students; all of us have different relationships with different people, and we act differently in different circumstances—but in Salaita’s case it’s especially strange because he actually has a demonstrated track record as a teacher that the University of Illinois could consult.

Salaita taught for eight years at Virginia Tech, and like most professors, he was evaluated by his students every semester. According to this report, these were the results:

The student evaluations for Steven Salaita are stunning.


In Fall 2009, 29 of 30 students responding rated Salaita’s “knowledge of subject” as “Excellent”.  In the same course, 93 percent of students rated Professor Salaita’s “overall rating” as “excellent,” and 2 as “good.”


In the same term, another group of students gave Salaita nearly identical—though even better —marks: 29 of 30 rated him “excellent” for knowledge of subject, 30 of 30 graded him excellent for grading fairness, and 93 percent rated him “excellent” for overall rating, 1 good.


These numbers repeat consistently over all six of the courses Professor Salaita submitted for review.  The lowest rating he received in the “excellent” category for “overall rating” was 86 percent.  Salaita never received, in any of the six courses evaluated, a single rating of “poor” for any of ten categories of teaching reviewed.  In his lone graduate seminar, he scored a perfect 100 percent rating of “excellence” in the category of “overall rating.”


But for purposes of our argument, it is especially important to note student evaluations of Professor Salaita in the category of “concern and respect” for students.  Here is where students evaluate their professor for professional empathy, respect for diverse points of view, and sensitivity to student opinion and student lives.


In the six courses reviewed Professor Salaita scored as follows in this category:


# of Students


30 Total: 28 Excellent  2 Good


30 Total:  30 out of 30 Excellent


10 Total: 10 out of 10 Excellent


29 Total: 28 Excellent 1 Good


28 Total: 28 out of 28 excellent


28 Total: 25 out of 28 excellent, 2 good, one No Response


In addition to these metrics, Professor Salaita submitted a peer review letter of his teaching by a Virginia Tech colleague in English.   This colleague visited Salaita’s classes to provide the department an assessment of Salaita’s teaching.


The letter cites Salaita’s numerical excellence in student evaluations, but goes on to praise his teaching in terms that would be the envy of Professors everywhere:


While the numbers are impressive, the student comments bear out in detail how deserving Steven is of the high ratings.  The students are acutely aware that they are privileged to be studying with a well-regarded scholar, who draws his knowledge from years of study and experience.  Steven is perceived as being knowledgeable and accessible—he takes time to talk with students and to encourage them in preparing their writing assignments… When asked questions in class, Steve gives factual and thoughtful replies.  It is clear to all that the teacher has mastery of his field.



Salaita’s colleague goes on to say:


The classes I visited focused on several very contemporary bodies of literature, most specifically Arab-American literature.  These works are difficult to understand and appreciate fully without the help of a good guide who knows the turf.  Professor Salaita is extremely well-informed on the history and current status of the many nations, political parties and religious sects of the Middle East.  This subject matter is urgently important not only for specialists in international affairs, but for anyone seeking to better understand the violent and volatile contemporary world.



This record shows only one thing: that Steven Salaita is an outstanding classroom teacher.


4. The campaign on behalf of Salaita has gathered steam. Yesterday, philosopher David Blacker canceled his scheduled appearance at the prestigious CAS/MillerComm lecture series at the University of Illinois. In a letter to the university, he wrote:

I regret to inform you that I must cancel my CAS/MillerComm lecture at the University of Illinois scheduled for September 29….


I have decided I must honor the growing worldwide pledge of academics not to appear at U. of I. unless the Salaita matter is acceptably resolved….


…Instead of choosing education and more speech as the remedy for disagreeable speech,the U. of I. has apparently chosen “enforced silence.” It thus violates what a university must stand for—whatever else it stands for—and therefore I join those who will not participate in the violation. In my judgment, this is a core and non-negotiable issue of academic freedom.


My hope is that the U. of I. will relent and restore its good name.  I would be delighted to reschedule my talk if and when this happens.


5. I haven’t got complete updates on the boycott campaign, but here are some new numbers (if I don’t have new numbers, I don’t list the petitions here; for a fuller list, go here):

 

Anthropology: 121


Latino/a and Chicano/a Studies: 70


Communications: 73


Sociology: 242


Philosophy: 241 (including our very own Chris Bertram)


English: 256


Political Science: 169 (including our very own Henry Farrell and myself)


Rhetoric/Composition: 32


Contingent academics: 210


Along with our other signatories on other petitions (for which I do not have updated numbers), we’ve got 2716 scholars committed to not engaging with the University of Illinois until Steven Salaita is reinstated.

A more general petition calling on the University of Illinois to reinstate Salaita has over 15,000 signatures.

Updated (9 pm)

An entire conference scheduled at the UI has now been officially canceled.

The Education Justice Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been carefully observing the growing international academic boycott of our campus and weighing the potential impacts upon our Strategies for Action National Conference on Higher Education in Prison. After thoughtful deliberation, we have canceled the national conference.


This decision has not been easy.


We reached this decision after consulting with conference presenters and attendees, directors of other prison education programs, members of the higher ed in prison listserv, and with members of the Education Justice Project. We concluded that for EJP to host the conference at this time would compromise our ability to come together as a national community of educators and activists.


Updated (10 pm)

Yet another scholar has pulled out from a distinguished lecture series at the University of Illinois. This time it’s Allen Isaacman, Regents Professor of History at the University of Minnesota.

{ 149 comments }

1

JazzBumpa 08.22.14 at 2:30 am

It’s nice that you give the student evaluations of prof. Salaita.

But – when has the opinions of students meant anything at all to administrators?

In fact, when has a faculty member’s teaching skills mean anything to administrators?

JzB

2

Meredith 08.22.14 at 4:15 am

It never ceases to amaze me, the tendency to assume that, because a professor has strongly held positions on controversial questions in her field (or elsewhere), she will not be fair and a good listener and, well, a good teacher and scholar. In my experience, the opposite tends to be true, and not just because fair-minded people bend over backwards to be fair to those with whom they fundamentally disagree (especially students). I think sometimes we forget the root of the word “professor.” Every true professor knows what Socrates knew, that these are young souls that have been entrusted to our guidance.

3

Realist 08.22.14 at 4:21 am

dn’ t thnk Wstrn Cvlztn shld b rqrd t kll tslf; Slt s grss htr f th Wst nd wht ppl–tht’s th fndmntl trth–hd t f y lk bt wht ppl r wkng p.

4

Realist 08.22.14 at 4:27 am

His use of the term “rednecks” to describe decent white christian americans is itself evidence of his hatred.

5

Robert Halford 08.22.14 at 4:32 am

white people are waking up

Good to know that Klansman Daniel Carver from The Howard Stern Show “wack pack” is a Crooke Timber commenter.

6

Luke 08.22.14 at 4:40 am

I didn’t think that Western Civilization should be required to kill itself — until I met you.

7

Realist 08.22.14 at 4:48 am

Th “shv” s cmng, bt Slt wll b srprsd by wht h hs wkn; th vst sprrty f srl vr rb rms s nt ccdntl, bt cvlztnl

8

Ronan(rf) 08.22.14 at 8:08 am

Everybody just needs to chill out and stop getting so worked up about stuff; PC, civilisational threats, etc

9

bill benzon 08.22.14 at 9:10 am

Are we living in the end times? If so, when’s the new beginning get started?

10

Corey Robin 08.22.14 at 12:03 pm

I’ve disemvowelled the racist comments from Realist. Let’s not pay him/her any more attention, please.

11

Lynne 08.22.14 at 12:20 pm

I notice a couple of references to the international reaction to Salaita’s situation but you don’t mention it specifically—have professors from other countries signed the petitions you mention?

12

Corey Robin 08.22.14 at 2:08 pm

Lynne: Yes.

13

Chris M 08.22.14 at 2:25 pm

Some of you may be familiar with this, but political view also affect graduate recruitment:

http://www.joseduarte.com/blog/i-was-denied-admission-to-a-social-psychology-program-because-of-my-political-views

14

J Thomas 08.22.14 at 2:26 pm

It’s probably too early to win. UIUC will probably not reinstate Salaita.

Say that 10,000 professors boycott them, if they went the other way it might not be hard to get 20,000 Zionist professors to boycott them.

They might lose a lawsuit and have to pay Salaita some money. But if they reinstate him, various donors will tell them about money that *would have been* given to them that won’t be. That would seem to be even worse.

The problem might eventually get some media attention and look bad to a fraction of liberals. But if they change their minds then the right-wing media will play it up as a giant defeat for America and a giant win for Arabs, Muslims, antisemites, etc. Something that should never be allowed to happen to plucky little Israel, the only outpost of democracy in the middle east. (I have to be careful not to describe this stupid point of view too extensively or it will ironically be censored here.)

My prediction is that Salaita will not win much this year. But things are slowly changing, and eventually the US media etc will stop being so totally one-sided.

15

Lynne 08.22.14 at 3:59 pm

I’m finding this story compelling. As September approaches, I’m wondering where Salaita and his family are living. They sold their house, he gave up his job, he expected to be preparing to teach in a very few weeks. Really hope today’s meeting brings results.

16

Soullite 08.22.14 at 4:34 pm

It is hilarious that people scream about free speech and then disemvowel people. After all, the general claim of the University of Illinois is that Salaita is racist, and who are you to disagree with that? Realist’s statement may be racist in an abstract way (it’s not like he was actually ranting about the darkies), but you could easily make the same claim about Salaita.

This is why I don’t take liberal bloggers seriously. They think everyone else should be forced to listen to opinions they don’t agree with — forced, even, to give them the official seal of their organizations. But they don’t even want to let people respond to them on blog posts. You’re the kind of people who rant and rave on reddit about ‘Freeze Peach’.

17

rea 08.22.14 at 4:57 pm

It is hilarious that people scream about free speech and then disemvowel people.

University of Illinois–government agency

Crooked Timber blog–not government agency.

18

Ben Alpers 08.22.14 at 5:02 pm

It is hilarious that people scream about free speech and then disemvowel people.

Also:

Steven Salaita – hired by public university; fired over extramural speech

Realist – visits private blog; has comments disemvowelled

(Incidentally, there is no “general claim of the University of Illinois” in the firing of Salaita, as the University as still AFAIK refused to issue any official comments on the matter.)

19

jonnybutter 08.22.14 at 7:19 pm

the general claim of the University of Illinois is that Salaita is racist, and who are you to disagree with that?

And what’s with the second phrase?

As Ben A. says, there is no ‘general claim of racism’ from the U of I, but there is now this ridiculous, flan-like temporizing, via Abu N.

20

anon 08.22.14 at 8:59 pm

Having visited both UIUC and VTU I really can’t imagine why anyone would want to leave VTU to work at UIUC. One is literally in the middle of a cow field. The other is surrounded by beautiful forests and lakes.

It takes all kinds I suppose.

21

NattyB 08.22.14 at 9:06 pm

@Jthomas 14.
They might lose a lawsuit and have to pay Salaita some money. But if they reinstate him, various donors will tell them about money that *would have been* given to them that won’t be.

That is the trade-off, right? When you’ve gone on the record defending your “employee’s” tweets, as they’ve done in the past w/r/t Salaita and then rescind the accepted tenured offer after that “employee” has resigned from their prior position as a tenured professor, then you’d think you’d be incurring significant legal liability on contractual and First Amendment ground. And in light of that significant liability (as well as reputational costs), to continue to maintain your position . . . man, they must be getting ridiculous fundraising pressures.

Nearly 3,000 professors (including some self-described Zionists) have said they’ll boycott UIUC. And the Chancellor issues an incredibly tone-deaf statement in which she invokes the importance of civility on no less than 3 occasions. I’m so embarrassed for the students and faculty.

22

Bloix 08.22.14 at 9:09 pm

#19 – in Abu N’s world, one meaning of the word “admits” is “denies.”

As anyone who has been following this seriously (and not merely as an occasion to say things that make them feel good) is aware, the UIUC has now staked out the legal position that it must take in order to defeat Salaita’s First Amendment claim. The only alternative to taking this position would have been to back down and welcome Salaita to his new tenured professorship. Whether the evidence will support the UIUC remains to be seen (and no, “it must be because he’s anti-Israel because the voices in my head tell me so” is not admissible evidence).

23

Ben Alpers 08.22.14 at 10:43 pm

Anyone know what Illinois’s sunshine laws look like? I’d love to see the e-mails on Salaita leading up to the August 1 decision as well as those covering the period between August 1 and today, when UIUC finally issued an official statement on the matter.

24

christian_h 08.22.14 at 10:44 pm

The fact that you describe those who do not agree with you – in this case by pointing out the bleeding obvious, that Salaita was fired for his politics – as mentally ill says a lot about you, Bloix. Not so much about the issue at hand, though.

25

Main Street Muse 08.23.14 at 2:06 am

As I have stated before, I do not think Salaita should have been fired. But there are three things I’d like to point out…

First of all, teaching is not valued in higher ed. Some may say it is, but that adjuncts get paid $2500 a course to teach showcases how little value teaching has for those in higher ed. That his teaching scores are high means nothing to higher ed administrators.

Second, this is a weird statement by Corey Robin: “One of the issues that comes up frequently among the University of Illinois’s defenders is that Salaita’s tweets suggest he might create a hostile environment for students, that he’s not fit for the classroom. It’s a strange claim to make under any circumstance—how I am on Twitter bears little relationship to how I am in the classroom or in my interactions with students.”

How you are on Twitter is a very loud broadcast of who you are. When academics use a very visible, very public channel to communicate rage, poor command of language, a propensity to use swear words, this reflects poorly on the academic. In the private sector, Salaita’s tweets would have gotten him fired – NOT because of his political beliefs, but because he acted very immaturely in many of those very public tweets – he failed to present a thoughtful, intelligent argument, but gave into hysteria and rage. I for one wonder if he got fired for his position on Hamas/Israel or if he got fired for presenting overly-emotional, un-academic rants.

To use academic freedom to protect the right to say “Fuck Israel” or “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing” or whatever it is a professor wants “fucked” or “gone missing” is wrong. Academic freedom is the right to make thoughtful, intelligent arguments for or against a hot topic. It should NEVER be used to defend the right to swear with impunity in a public forum and to act worse than a Fox News ideologue.

From a Northwestern University law professor who worked with the ACLU on the Nazi march in Skokie: “Some of Salaita’s tweets have been inexcusably violent and racist. That may not disqualify him from teaching college students, but let’s not be naive about his hateful message.” http://trib.in/1nkHfjW

Third, I cannot believe he had only 3o students a semester. Tenured professors have quite the gig…

26

Main Street Muse 08.23.14 at 2:14 am

U of I Chancellor issued a statement on this issue:

“The decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel. Our university is home to a wide diversity of opinions on issues of politics and foreign policy. Some of our faculty are critical of Israel, while others are strong supporters. These debates make us stronger as an institution and force advocates of all viewpoints to confront the arguments and perspectives offered by others. We are a university built on precisely this type of dialogue, discourse and debate.

“What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them. We have a particular duty to our students to ensure that they live in a community of scholarship that challenges their assumptions about the world but that also respects their rights as individuals.

“As chancellor, it is my responsibility to ensure that all perspectives are welcome and that our discourse, regardless of subject matter or viewpoint, allows new concepts and differing points of view to be discussed in and outside the classroom in a scholarly, civil and productive manner.”

http://bit.ly/VLL8H5

27

J Thomas 08.23.14 at 2:50 am

#23

The fact that you describe those who do not agree with you – in this case by pointing out the bleeding obvious, that Salaita was fired for his politics – as mentally ill says a lot about you, Bloix.

Bloix didn’t say that, though it’s understandable it would look that way.

He says that no matter how completely obvious it is that they fired him for his politics, still for a lawsuit it would have to be proven by evidence that goes beyond the completely obvious. Evidence that a super-competent lawyer could not dissemble about.

It isn’t enough for it to be completely obvious, it requires basicly a confession.

Like, if the president of AIPAC sent Wise an email saying that unless she fired Salaita he’d get her fired and her house repossessed and her children put in foster care, and she wrote back to say she’d obey, that would probably do it. But if she just wrote back and said she personally agreed with him but if she didn’t agreed she wouldn’t give in to pressure, then it isn’t proof.

28

christian_h 08.23.14 at 4:30 am

No J Thomas, that is exactly what Bloix said. Because he is of course quite aware that we are not discussing here a legal matter.

29

J Thomas 08.23.14 at 4:50 am

[...] the UIUC has now staked out the legal position that it must take in order to defeat Salaita’s First Amendment claim. [....] Whether the evidence will support the UIUC remains to be seen (and no, “it must be because he’s anti-Israel because the voices in my head tell me so” is not admissible evidence).

I think Bloix is discussing the legal matter. He’s talking about a lawsuit, and saying what they have to do to win. He’s saying that our plain obvious recognition that it was political does not matter, it will require evidence that will stand up in court.

I’m not sure he’s right. It’s possible that a judge or a jury will see that it’s political the same way we see it. On the other hand, it’s also possible that a judge or jury will decide that Salaiti is wrong because he’s against Israel and Israel is right. They might privately decide that it’s OK for it to be political this time, because they think it is the right result. And then look for a way to say it so it doesn’t look like they’re biased.

It’s possible that Bloix thinks Salaita should not teach at UIUC or anywhere, and he is talking about the lawsuit from that mindset. But what I see him doing, is talking about how the lawsuit would go.

30

Palindrome 08.23.14 at 4:53 am

How you are on Twitter is a very loud broadcast of who you are. When academics use a very visible, very public channel to communicate rage, poor command of language, a propensity to use swear words, this reflects poorly on the academic. In the private sector, Salaita’s tweets would have gotten him fired – NOT because of his political beliefs, but because he acted very immaturely in many of those very public tweets – he failed to present a thoughtful, intelligent argument, but gave into hysteria and rage.

I have taught classes and led discussion sections for classes on international relations, and let me tell you, the way I would discuss sensitive issues like Israel/Palestine in a class is COMPLETELY different from the way I would discuss it among friends in the bar after work. Twitter is not a classroom, and it’s ridiculous to apply the same standards to both fora.

31

JW Mason 08.23.14 at 5:08 am

As it so happens, I’m in a somewhat similar position to Salaita. I just left an academic job for a new one, and my offer letter — like all such letters — includes language about the appointment being contingent on approval by the Board of Trustees. But at no point has that even been mentioned to me as part of the process, not even in a pro forma way. Nor has it ever been suggested that anything I might do between now and the board meeting would invalidate my hire. Earlier today I was at the orientation for new faculty members. There was the usual explanation of pension and health benefits, and warnings about avoiding anything that could be construed as sexual harassment. But the possibility that our appointments might be revoked by an administrator was not raised. Strange as it may seem, our personal use of social media was never even mentioned. So when Chancellor Wise tries to pass off what was done to Salaita as the routine application of some kind of inclusiveness policy, instead of the extraordinary intervention it was — well, I wonder who she thinks she is fooling. This is addressed to UIUC faculty and staff after all, all of whom have presumably been through this same process.

Anyway, if you were a new hire at UIUC, here are some things you might be wondering:

- Was Salaita fired purely on the basis of his tweets, or are there other “words and actions” involved?

- Is it now the policy of UIUC that untenured faculty members may be fired at any time, without warning or due process, if the administration finds their words “disrespectful”?

- Are the twitter feeds of other faculty members being reviewed for “personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them”? Should we expect a large number of junior faculty at UIUC to be fired in coming months under this new policy?

- Is there a written policy describing what kinds of tweets are firing offenses? Was this policy distributed to faculty and other employees?

- Who in the administration made the determination that Salaita was disrespectful, etc.?

- Was there any formal disciplinary process leading up to Salaita’s dismissal? Did he have any opportunity to dispute the charges against him? If not, should we assume that any untenured faculty member at UIUC can also be summarily fired by (someone in) the administration?

- When was the policy that faculty members can be summarily dismissed if an administrator finds their public statements “disrespectful” adopted? Has this policy been applied in the past?

- Given that Chancellor Wise believes that “civility” is a condition for tenure, will she be reviewing social media in all future tenure cases and denying tenure to any faculty member deemed insufficiently respectful, regardless of support from their department? Are there any guidelines for faculty members indicating what standards for social media Chancellor Wise is now requiring for tenure at UIUC?

32

JW Mason 08.23.14 at 5:12 am

In the private sector, Salaita’s tweets would have gotten him fired

This is a strange opinion to have. Have you ever had a job?

33

christian_h 08.23.14 at 5:23 am

Spot on, JW Mason. I have worked in the math departments both at UIUC and UIC, and I can tell you that (quoting the trustees’ statement) “civility as much as scholarship” has not been the policy in the past. Rude and abrasive behavior, sexism, homophobia and racism (anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia being the most prevalent) from the subconscious to blatant hate speech – all that is incredibly common in academia in my experience, and this includes colleagues who have thankfully not been fired from the University of Illinois . (This btw is one thing that stuns me about this – what Salaita posted was, in its context, very mild and barely rises to the level of intemperate, compared to either online discourse [cf. comments on this very blog] or private utterances of academics.)

Obviously anyone thinking about applying at the place should think very carefully about this.

34

Meredith 08.23.14 at 6:45 am

When Obama was first running for president, I was teaching a large class (some 40 students — such passes for large here), a low-level course on the Iliad and Odyssey in translation. “Lecture with some discussion.” In September, I reminded everyone to register to vote if they weren’t already registered, and urged all voting by absentee ballot to be sure to get their ballots in on time. As election day approached, I reminded them: VOTE! I never stated my preferences, though they must have been fairly obvious, which is why I made a point of saying, however you want to vote, voting is VITAL; if you’re disgusted with the choices, VOTE by writing in “none of the above” or Cinderella or whatever — let them know you’re disgusted with the choices! (All of this took up no more than a few seconds of class time on a few occasions.)

After all: the buzz was and is, liberal arts and citizenship!

Students in the class didn’t like it (even though like 99% were probably sharing my pro-Obama vibe; I could feel their not-liking-my-referring-to-civics vibe).

What I’m saying: damned if you do, that is, damned if you actually profess even for the idea of professing, even in progressive/liberal environments. (The same students would have had no problem if I had been teaching a Polisci course or Arabic or Jewish Studies course or some such. go figure)

Anyway, soldier on.

35

Collin Street 08.23.14 at 7:05 am

“What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.

… it seems to me difficult to make progress in knowledge if you can’t determine that some “knowledge” is false, and it seems to me difficult to determine whether a particular piece of “knowledge” is false if you’re not allowed to “demean” “viewpoints” [by for example suggesting that they might be false].

36

Val 08.23.14 at 10:37 am

As someone who has used immoderate and disrespectful speech on the internet at times (a few only) can I very cautiously advance the view that if someone believes that certain actions are profoundly and horrifyingly wrong, then swearing at people on the internet, may not, comparatively speaking, seem so bad.

I don’t want to do a Godwin on this, but in a general sense if you thought the actions of a nation were tending towards the genocidal, then using immoderate and disrespectful language might seem like just a way to make people wake up. It is possible to be quite moderate and rational in your language and to be murderous in your actions – and vice versa. One needs to look at context, which people don’t really seem to be doing here.

37

Val 08.23.14 at 10:47 am

Got myself needlessly tangled with that Godwin reference – but anyway, trying to disentangle, hopefully without making it worse –

It seems that both the Israelis and the Palestinians believe the other side wants to destroy them as a people. Based on the evidence of deaths, however, it seems the Palestinians are more justified in this belief at present. In those circumstances, someone who identifies strongly with the Palestinians may well feel that strong language is justified.

Many people have died. Many children died. There is something worrying about people arguing about swear words, can you see that?

38

Main Street Muse 08.23.14 at 11:02 am

From JW Mason”
“In the private sector, Salaita’s tweets would have gotten him fired

This is a strange opinion to have. Have you ever had a job?”

You don’t get out much past the boundaries of your university do you… Here’s some: http://read.bi/1q5U32g

Another where a politician’s tweets got him unwelcome attention: http://wapo.st/YMqBUW

And clearly you’ve never heard of Justine Sacco (trending on twitter for a while) http://dailym.ai/YMqOaD

Twitter is not the water cooler or a department meeting or a classroom. When you hit POST on twitter, you are publishing your thoughts. They are broadcast to a far larger public than that which reads academic journals.

If UofI is filled with , as Christian H says it is,”rude and abrasive behavior, sexism, homophobia and racism (anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia being the most prevalent) from the subconscious to blatant hate speech” – please, really think about what it is you are protecting when you shout about academic freedom. Academia seems filled with very small-minded individuals who perhaps should refocus on scholarly work.

And let’s remember, academic freedom, used to (apparently) to protect hate speech, racist rants of a dwindling number of tenured professors, is not available as a protection for large numbers of those teaching at the university. Contingent labor does not have this privilege.

39

Main Street Muse 08.23.14 at 11:06 am

“I don’t want to do a Godwin on this, but in a general sense if you thought the actions of a nation were tending towards the genocidal, then using immoderate and disrespectful language might seem like just a way to make people wake up.”

Words have an unquestionable power to change the political landscape. If only MLK had peppered his speeches with the language favored by Salaita, I’m sure our racial problems would be solved….

40

Main Street Muse 08.23.14 at 11:22 am

Val @ 36 And the solutions Salaita offered were what? Please tell me what he said that is getting us closer to solving this issue.

I am not diminishing the terrible crisis in the Middle-East. I am not supporting Israel. I don’t even think Salaita should have been fired. But academics really need to start looking at Twitter as a publication, not as a place to vent – with a much broader audience than a classroom or department meeting. It is an incredibly powerful forum when used wisely.

With Salaita, show me how his tweets did more than simply add to the flames. We need more wisdom from academia, less ranting. His language woke people up and got people talking, yes. But because of the language he chose to use, he has shifted attention from the real issue and has now become the focus.

41

Louis Proyect 08.23.14 at 12:09 pm

From a Northwestern University law professor who worked with the ACLU on the Nazi march in Skokie: “Some of Salaita’s tweets have been inexcusably violent and racist. That may not disqualify him from teaching college students, but let’s not be naive about his hateful message.”

—-

That law professor was Steven Lubet. As it turns out, Lubet did have a dog in this race. He is a founding member of “The Third Narrative”, a group that represents itself as being for a two-state solution but adds that “We reject all attempts to undermine or diminish academic freedom and open intellectual exchange, including those cases associated with the Israel-Palestine debate.” Other founding members include Eric Alterman, Michael Walzer, Todd Gitlin and –you guessed it—Cary Nelson.

In his brilliant exposé of Cary Nelson, Phan Nguyen delivered the goods on “The Third Narrative”:

Although ostensibly described as taking a middle ground between “two competing narratives on the Middle East—Israeli and Palestinian,” TTN was launched a year ago and designed to “counter anti-Israel bias on the far left.” Thus TTN is geared primarily toward attacking the pro-BDS left and rarely critiques the pro-Israeli right. TTN even distributes a booklet called “Progressive Answers To The Far Left’s Critiques of Israel.”

This is a common anti-BDS tactic that I discuss elsewhere, where the goal is to drive “a wedge between progressive values and the BDS movement,” in the words of a guidebook from the Israel Action Network (another organization that Nelson has worked with).

42

Collin Street 08.23.14 at 12:16 pm

> With Salaita, show me how his tweets did more than simply add to the flames.

Or… what? Not, “and I’ll support you”, because you already do.

> I don’t even think Salaita should have been fired.

So what happens when you get what you ask for?

43

Lynne 08.23.14 at 12:29 pm

” One needs to look at context, which people don’t really seem to be doing here.”

Val, thank you. Given the civilian casualties the week in question a lot of people were probably frantic, and he sounded it. Context matters.

MSM, what a high bar you set for posting on the internet. The only thing you say that I agree with is that people will have to think twice about what they tweet, because of this case. Is this a good thing?

44

novakant 08.23.14 at 12:31 pm

Comparing Twitter to the water cooler etc. shows a striking lack of social media competency – there’s nothing private about it. I for one am glad I studied in pre-internet times and didn’t have to hear about my professors ranting on Twitter et al.

45

Lynne 08.23.14 at 1:31 pm

Novakant, it’s worth noting that “private” is being used in two senses. As you point out, social media are public, not private. But people also distinguish their working, professional lives from their private lives and in that sense their participation in social media can be spoken of as private.

Because of the public nature of social media and of the internet in general, the relationship between professional and private lives is in flux. It seems to me that however tricky to sort out, it is worth preserving the distinction—employers would have way too much power, otherwise. If Salaita had expressed misogynist opinions about date rape, that would clearly have reflected on his professional life. I don’t think comments about the Israeli-Gaza situation, however heated, do that. And the fact that they were heated seems a ludicrous, even incredible reason for him to be fired.

46

Not a Good Idea 08.23.14 at 1:45 pm

Chancellor Wise’s missive did not distinguish between tenured and non-tenured academics. She suggests that even tenured people can be dismissed from the university if they offend anybody.

“As a member of the faculty, I firmly believe that a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois is a tremendous honor and a unique privilege. Tenure also brings with it a heavy responsibility to continue the traditions of scholarship and civility upon which our university is built.”

Two problems here. First, tenure is not some gifted privilege; it is earned through very hard work over a period of years. The Chancellor’s description treats tenure like the extra candy one might bestow upon well-behaved children. What an insult to the many faculty at her institution who have worked their butts off to earn tenure. Second, as suggested above, the Chancellor’s position essentially eliminates tenure anyway. “What, Rush Limbaugh is offended by Professor X? Fire her immediately. NO offensive can be given at this university!”

This is a scary development, folks.

47

J Thomas 08.23.14 at 2:23 pm

#39 Main Street Muse

I am not diminishing the terrible crisis in the Middle-East. I am not supporting Israel. I don’t even think Salaita should have been fired.

In that case, what are you arguing about?

Salaita did nothing wrong, certainly nothing to be fired over. But he did get fired, because he spoke against Israel.

Don’t we need to create some sort of balance? Perhaps a strong BDS movement would help.

48

Nobody In Particular 08.23.14 at 2:36 pm

#37 MSM

In the private sector, Salaita’s tweets would have gotten him fired

“This is a strange opinion to have. Have you ever had a job?”

You don’t get out much past the boundaries of your university do you… Here’s some: http://read.bi/1q5U32g

Another where a politician’s tweets got him unwelcome attention: http://wapo.st/YMqBUW

And clearly you’ve never heard of Justine Sacco (trending on twitter for a while) http://dailym.ai/YMqOaD

I see. Maybe I have been too trusting. There are a lot of J Thomases on the net, but still I might get in a lot of trouble if somebody looks at what they’ve written and tries to get me in trouble. It isn’t safe to write on the internet.

I guess I should take at least minimal precautions.

49

Gator90 08.23.14 at 2:44 pm

#45 J. Thomas

“But he did get fired, because he spoke against Israel.”

Salaita’s defenders like to portray his conduct as mere criticism of Israel (as if Israel is not criticized, by academics and others, all the time). But when he characterized anti-semitism as “honorable,” he did a little more than just criticize Israel, did he not? Indeed, according to Salaita, anti-semitism became honorable just three years after the Holocaust. Nice, right?

50

christian_h 08.23.14 at 2:50 pm

He did not characterize anti-semitism as honorable. That is a straight-up lie.

51

Wondering999 08.23.14 at 2:55 pm

Shouldn’t the boycott be extended to all of UI, given that the chancellors of the Chicago and Springfield campuses also signed the Board of Trustees letter? http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/salaitas-illinois-declarations.html

52

Bloix 08.23.14 at 2:57 pm

#23 – The Chancellor of the UIUC is a very impressive person – five years as Chancellor, six years in high admin posts at UW, before that a Dean at UC-Davis, Chair of the Dept of Physiology at UK-Lexington, prof of physiology at U Md, a pioneering Asian-American woman in academia.

You say, well, obviously she’s a liar.

Imagine the that you are a federal judge in central Illinois.

Is one of these judges going to be more like you, or more like Chancellor Wise? Is he or she going to conclude, well this 30-year career academic who has successfully handled the highest responsibilities in her profession and is also an accomplished scientist a liar?

What will the jurors in central Illinois be like? Will they conclude, as you have done, that Chancellor Wise is a liar?

Maybe they will. But unlike you, they will need to see some evidence.

That is what I mean by saying, stop listening to the voices in your head and look at the situation that is in front of you.

53

Nobody In Particular 08.23.14 at 3:07 pm

He did not characterize anti-semitism as honorable. That is a straight-up lie.

Yes, but it’s important to note that Gator90 is probably not lying. He only believed the lies. It’s easy to do that when they are repeated so much.

It’s good to notice when you’ve been lied to. “Fool me twice….”

And I want to point out that there is a kind of truth to the claim that Salaita did not make. When people criticize Israel which is perfectly proper OK to do, and Zionists call them anti-semites for it, the result is to dilute the effect of the word. It doesn’t mean as much to use it against real anti-semitism. This is bad. They shouldn’t do that.

54

christian_h 08.23.14 at 3:11 pm

Bloix , I will find out your real name and report to your employer that you go around the internet telling those who disagree with you they are hearing voices. Not very civil. Rude and demeaning, even. Who knows, maybe I can get you fired?

55

J Thomas 08.23.14 at 3:39 pm

Bloix , I will find out your real name and report to your employer that you go around the internet telling those who disagree with you they are hearing voices.

Christian_h, that sounded like a direct threat. I found it shocking.

After seeing this sort of thing, like MSM’s claim that people are often fired for their entirely off-the-job comments, I thought I should change my name to something less recognizable. But when I did every comment got moderated. [sigh]

I try to imagine being in a high enough management position to decide to fire some low-level person over their tweets or blog comments, and I imagine what would get me to do it.

It seems like if I would fire somebody for that at all, I would probably do it if they got either the attention of somebody important, or of too many other people who complain. One complaint from a nobody I would shrug off. Three I would probably ignore. When it got to ten or twenty they would be a nuisance in my inbox. If my time was limited I would not try to decide which side had justice, I would try to get the issue settled so I didn’t keep getting bothered.

On the other hand I could get somebody to screen my email and discard complaints like that, unless they were from somebody important.

So your threat sounds serious. If you can find out his name and where he works, you might get him fired with only a dozen or so aliases to send complaints from. You could practice and find the best timing. Maybe two the first day, three the day after, then one, then skip a day and five the day after. Make it look like this minor employee will be a continuing irritant. He could get squashed like a bug, and he doesn’t even have to say anything out of line online, it probably won’t even get checked at all.

On the other hand if it doesn’t work, the complaints may get forwarded to your enemy. He can try to track down your name and employer and return the favor.

So maybe this is a game that’s best played by unemployed internet trolls who have nothing better to do.

56

christian_h 08.23.14 at 3:47 pm

I was being sarcastic. Which makes me nicer than I should be because I do not appreciate Bloix’s insinuations about mental illness – it is a kind of online argument much worse than using “fuck”, and we could really do without it. Of course Bloix could not complain – he supports firing people for being “uncivil” online, after all.

57

J Thomas 08.23.14 at 4:21 pm

I was being sarcastic.

Good! Sometimes sarcasm isn’t completely clear online.

Of course Bloix could not complain – he supports firing people for being “uncivil” online, after all.

I had that impression too, but I’d have to look carefully to find evidence. What I definitely see him doing is arguing about who would win in court. You can argue about which football team will win without necessarily supporting the team you think will be the winners. People tend to do it that way, but not always.

If he’s trying to have a technical discussion about what evidence would stand up in court and you keep interrupting talking about what’s true, he might get a bit snippy about it. He shouldn’t since his job may be at stake, but it’s understandable that he might. It happened to Salaita, after all.

58

CJColucci 08.23.14 at 4:27 pm

Having been involved in a few First Amendment cases brought by extremely unlikeable academicians very unlike the judges and jurors who found in their favor, I can assure one and all that although Bloix’s questions are legitimate, they are not very difficult. They have answers, and generally not the ones Bloix implies.

59

Gator90 08.23.14 at 4:35 pm

@christian_h #47

Salaita’s exact words were “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.”

I’m pretty sure the adjective “honorable” is modifying the noun “anti-Semitism” in that statement. No? Indeed, it has been honorable since 1948. Call me a liar if you like, but he said what he said.

60

christian_h 08.23.14 at 5:02 pm

Or, Gator90, you could actually make an effort to find out what that tweet was about. One possible tip-off my be the scare quotes around anti-semitism. Then you might go and look at the twitter conversation this tweet was a part of, and also more generally on the stance Salaita has taken on anti-semitism. Lucky for you, Phan Nguyen has already done this for you.

61

novakant 08.23.14 at 5:08 pm

If Salaita had expressed misogynist opinions about date rape, that would clearly have reflected on his professional life. I don’t think comments about the Israeli-Gaza situation, however heated, do that.

He has written books about ME issues and they are the subject of discussion in his class – how can his Twitter comments not affect his ability to teach if prospective students who might hold opposing views are characterized in this manner, e.g.:

It’s simple: either condemn #Israel’s actions or embrace your identity as someone who’s okay with the wholesale slaughter of children.

#Israel’s supporters: -Zionist fanatics -CEOs -Christian Zios -Governments -Chickenshits #Palestine’s supporters: -Everyone else

“If you’re defending Israel right now you’re an awful human being”

62

T 08.23.14 at 5:35 pm

Future rules for laterals

Rule 1 — Make sure you are hired and have tenure
Rules 2-10 — Make sure you are hired and have tenure

Generally folks without tenure act like folks without tenure. There is a reason for that.

63

Gator90 08.23.14 at 5:49 pm

@christian h:

I’m aware that some of Salaita’s supporters have explained that he meant something very different from what he actually said. If such an explanation came from Salaita himself, accompanied by a heartfelt expression of regret for his incredibly stupid choice of words, I might be persuaded to add my tiny voice to those calling for his reinstatement. But absent that, I’ll probably continue to be distracted by the fairly plain meaning of the words actually used.

64

Colin Danby 08.23.14 at 6:03 pm

I wanted to support JW Mason’s reflections @30: I’ve been involved in many hires and promotions and tenures, quite a few while while Phyllis Wise was a senior adminiustrator of my University. Never once have I heard someone’s social media output even mentioned.

Classroom teaching and student mentoring are taken very seriously, and if there’s a record of someone bullying or demeaning students in that capacity, that’s a serious problem.

But to go after someone’s political output in the wider world is appalling, and the recent letters from Phyllis Wise and U of I trustees arguing that by suppressing free speech they are supporting free speech are idiotic – and by saying “idiotic” in a public forum I’m surely crossing U of I off my list of potential future employers, because someone could construe that as demeaning.

Here is the relevant sentence of Wise’s letter.

“What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them. “

Viewpoints, apparently, cannot be abused. Yes, viewpoints.

65

john c. halasz 08.23.14 at 6:06 pm

@ 58:

It was already cited, but here it is again:

http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/reading-salaita-illinois-1.html#tweet1

Read the section titled “Tweet 1″.

It’s your idea of “fairly plain meaning of words actually used” that is at fault here. There is no reading without interpretation.

66

Colin Danby 08.23.14 at 6:07 pm

re 58, if you follow up in Nguyen’s description, you will see that someone tweeted back after the tweet re antisemitism saying hang on, what do you mean, and Salaita responded and there was some back and forth that cleared it up. Twitter is a conversational medium. And the fact that you and others don’t even mention that subsequent tweeting is telling.

67

christian_h 08.23.14 at 6:19 pm

Gator90, your refusal to actually read is surprising to me (since I know you to be a careful person from other online comments of yours). If you did, it would be plain to you that Salaita did NOT describe anti-Semitism as honorable. Rather, he was bemoaning that anti-semitism – a very serious and real issue – was cheapened by applying the term to beliefs and advocacy that are plainly honorable. That’s just clear from the context of the conversation. Do you think if I were allowed to take one sentence out of all your online interaction, I could not find one that sounded bad in isolation? If so, congratulations.

68

Ze Kraggash 08.23.14 at 6:26 pm

Even taken out of context the tweet clearly says that zionists have been redefining the meaning of the word ‘anti-Semitism’, and that their new meaning describes a honorable sentiment. But that’s hardly a particularly radical or controversial statement.

69

Limericky Dicky 08.23.14 at 6:31 pm

Yes, it seems Gator90’s confused, for ‘A-S’ was mentioned, not used. With commas (inverted), it’s: ‘Zionists perverted the term’ (and they’re aptly accused).

70

Main Street Muse 08.23.14 at 6:35 pm

Lynn @ 42 “MSM, what a high bar you set for posting on the internet.”

Actually, I don’t set a bar for posting on the Internet. I am pointing out that tweets are publications – with a vocal peer-review process. Social media is a broadcast channel, like TV, print, etc. Social media is not at all like hanging out at the bar complaining vocally among peers. That academics do not recognize this difference – between private conversation amongst friends in a bar and tweets broadcast to a public audience – is alarming.

What academic uses inflammatory language in scholarly work? Why is inflammatory language acceptable in twitter feeds of professors? Why do academics wish to emulate the worst aspects of public discourse on social media? Please answer me that.

Mark Thoma has been tweeting and blogging about the global economic collapse for many years now. He uses professional, persuasive language and showcases the many different perspectives on the troubling issues facing the economy. He has opened up the conversation about economic issues in ways that don’t focus attention on his own personal failures and flaws. THAT’s the bar academics should strive to reach.

But please, all of you, feel free to continue to claim “academic freedom” protects the rights of tenured academics to rant and swear at will on public forums. You are diminishing the impact and influence scholars can have on issues of importance.

To JW Mason @ 30, the non-tenured do not have job protections. They may not necessary be fired, but their contract will not be renewed. This is not specific to UofI post-Salaita. Surely you know this…

71

harry b 08.23.14 at 6:42 pm

Good! Sometimes sarcasm isn’t completely clear online.

Similarly understatement.

72

Lynne 08.23.14 at 6:59 pm

MSM, I don’t enjoy swearing and venom either. I don’t have a twitter account. I would prefer to read measured, persuasive language much of the time. However, given that people—civilians, including many children—were being killed by the hundred it is not surprising to me that Salaita used saltier language. In any case, whether I like his language or not (usually not, but the line quoted above, “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.” was so insightful and smartly put I was glad to read it.)—as I was saying, whether I like his language or not, he is free to use twitter in his private life. And of course it is public. It isn’t private in that sense, but it is private in the sense that it’s his personal life, not his professional life.

“What academic uses inflammatory language in scholarly work? Why is inflammatory language acceptable in twitter feeds of professors? Why do academics wish to emulate the worst aspects of public discourse on social media? Please answer me that. “

Surely professors are allowed to use unscholarly language in their personal lives. People often use inflammatory language when they are upset and angry—how acceptable it is depends on who you ask. After Salaita’s firing, maybe a lot of academics will be wondering who decides that question.

73

Lynne 08.23.14 at 7:11 pm

Colin Danby:

“Viewpoints, apparently, cannot be abused. Yes, viewpoints.” Yes, I noticed that too. Unbelievable.

Novakant, I don’t see how Salaita could have got those stellar student reviews if he had demeaned students who disagreed with him.

I do think, though, that many students are shy about speaking out in class, and if their professor comes across so strongly on social media that might make them even less likely to speak. I don’t know how common it is for professors to tweet or blog or otherwise post so strongly but surely if they do they risk making shy students more shy.

74

christian_h 08.23.14 at 7:40 pm

In the spirit of being civil, I want to apologize to Gator90 for saying he or she lied. Looking up the broader context of his/her remarks by reading her/his comments on this and other blogs, I think he/she sincerely reads the tweet in question that way, maybe based on a first visceral reaction to the sentence in the tweet. I really think though it is a misreading, and taking even minimal context into account, a fairly obvious misreading.

75

christian_h 08.23.14 at 7:47 pm

MSM, or shorter defender of status quo ever: the real problem is not massacring people. The REAL problem is reacting to it in an intemperate way. Whether it’s using four-letter words on twitter (oh no!) or throwing a bottle at the police in Ferguson (violence never solves anything!) – it’s not flattening the open-air prison of Gaza ,or gunning down black teens in the street that is the problem – it is the uncivil reaction to it. Sigh.

76

Layman 08.23.14 at 7:52 pm

@Gator90

“If such an explanation came from Salaita himself, accompanied by a heartfelt expression of regret for his incredibly stupid choice of words, I might be persuaded to add my tiny voice to those calling for his reinstatement. “

If you will read the links provided, you will see Salaita’s own explanation. As to an apology, why should you demand an apology from him because you misunderstood his words?

77

Gator90 08.23.14 at 8:18 pm

@the various people above who think I can’t or won’t read:

Corey Robin himself has said that Salaita’s tweet about Zionists making anti-semitism honorable has people “understandably” upset. (This was part of a blog post in which it took Robin 5 or 6 paragraphs to try to explain what Salaita allegedly actually meant.) So I don’t think I’m way out in left field in being a bit upset about it.

Having further considered the offending tweet in the context of some of his other tweets, I grant it is possible that Salaita intended to say, more or less, that accusations of anti-semitism should be worn as a badge of honor when leveled by Zionists who equate any criticism of Israel to anti-semitism. But if that was his intent, lordy what a crap job of expressing it. His actual words could as easily be taken to mean “anti-semitism is cool because Israel.” Maybe he’s too stupid to be a university professor.

I note, for example, that he said Zionists have been making anti-semitism honorable “since 1948.” Hmmmm, what happened that year? Was that the year Zionists began accusing Israel’s critics of anti-semitism? Can Salaita cite instances of that phenomenon occurring in 1948? If I could talk to Salaita, I’d ask him about that.

I’d also ask him about his assertion that “If you’re defending Israel right now you’re an awful human being.” I began my participation here today by questioning the contention that Salaita got in trouble merely for “criticizing Israel.” The quoted statement is not a criticism of Israel; it is a condemnation of people who disagree with him as “awful human beings.”

I know people who have defended Israel during the recent Gaza campaign, and love a few of them dearly. They are, in my opinion, profoundly wrong about Israel’s inexcusable savagery in Gaza. But that does not make them awful human beings (on the contrary, they are some of the finest human beings I have ever known); it just makes them wrong. Perhaps if Salaita troubled himself with that sort of distinction rather than spewing incoherent 140-character invective, he wouldn’t be in his present predicament.

78

Andrew F. 08.23.14 at 8:20 pm

The additional statements from the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees indicate to me that it is highly unlikely that litigation will unearth any damning emails that demonstrate viewpoint discrimination.

So long as the reasons expressed by the Chancellor and the Board are actually the reasons why Salaita was not hired, I do not see anything wrong, legally or ethically, with the action taken.

Nor can I see any reasonable argument to the contrary that does not involve (1) claiming Salaita to have been awarded tenure or (2) denying that the reasons expressed by the Chancellor and the Board are the actual reasons for not hiring him.

(1) is not persuasive for reasons that have been discussed exhaustively on another thread.

(2) is unfortunately an issue on which one’s stance likely depends on one’s prior cognitive commitments and general views of University administrators. There are few facts available that reveal the actual reasons for the Chancellor’s action, other than her own descriptions and the context surrounding her action (i.e. Salaita’s tweets and the condemnations of those tweets by others). Those few facts are compatible with various views on (2), and so, without doubt, (2) will be the impasse in any discussion.

That said, given how few facts there are on the issue of (2), I find the efforts to boycott the University to be ethically dubious. It resembles the rush to judgment of a mob.

79

christian_h 08.23.14 at 8:22 pm

So people who have defended the massacre of thousands, including hundreds of children, are awesome. But a person who maybe was intemperate about this on twitter should lose his livelihood. Got it. I take my apology back then. You actually are worse than a liar, Gator90. You are in fact, an awful human being.

80

christian_h 08.23.14 at 8:28 pm

And we are joined by that other reliable defender of the powerful, Andrew F. , fresh from defending killer cops. Unfortunately for you, and Bloix, and all the others defending the creepy and Orwellian statement coming from the Trustees it is trivial to prove that they do not mean what they say. If they did, they would have had to fire hundreds of colleagues. I hope there is a court case. I will be happy to provide Salaita’s lawyers with material taken from online interactions of numerous U of I faculty members that would clearly fall under the alleged – and unprecedented – standards the university asserts.

81

Gator90 08.23.14 at 8:53 pm

@christian h #69: Apology accepted.

82

LFC 08.23.14 at 8:55 pm

One aspect of this discussion concerns whether Salaita’s tweets would affect his teaching, specifically his ability to treat diverse views fairly/respectfully. Novakant @56 asks, in effect, how can they not? Corey’s answer in the OP is: (1) profs don’t necessarily behave in class the way they do on twitter or online generally (see also Palindrome @29) and (2) Salaita has gotten excellent evaluations in his years of teaching at VT.

What outsiders don’t know, and what the evaluations in themselves don’t indicate, is how often diverse views on the I/P conflict in fact arise in Salaita’s classes. Given that he teaches Arab-American literature among other subjects, it would be reasonable speculation to guess that most students choosing to take his classes agree with his general perspective on the I/P conflict. Students with a different (pro-Israel or pro-Zionist, for shorthand) view probably don’t tend to take classes in Arab-American lit. — a few might, and maybe more should, but I would guess not many actually do. So I wonder whether the debate about his ability to be fair to diverse views is not somewhat moot if in fact students in his classes don’t have very diverse views on this issue (and wouldn’t at UIUC either). However, if he had been disrespectful to students one probably would expect it to show up at least a little in the evaluations (which are typically, I think, done anonymously to encourage candor), and it doesn’t seem to. (On the ‘respect’ question, there was one “no response” in one of the classes, but that could mean anything, and is not strong evidence when put up vs. all the ‘excellents’.)

83

Gator90 08.23.14 at 9:02 pm

@christian h: I had not read #74 when I accepted what I took to be a classy apology. I suppose I must revoke my acceptance, if that is possible. Oh well. You take care now.

84

christian_h 08.23.14 at 9:14 pm

I have no interest whatsoever in being classy towards people who can say “friend, your support of bombing Gaza to shreds is wrong but you are a great human being nonetheless” ( btw I think it is possible for nice people to support awful things – people do get stuff wrong, even important stuff, all the time) but then turn around and say “dude you were uncivil on twitter good thing your livelihood is being destroyed over it”. None.

85

js. 08.23.14 at 9:17 pm

What academic uses inflammatory language in scholarly work?

Well, some do, sometimes. But leave that aside. The more pertinent question is: What form of scholarly publication has a hard limit of 140 or however many characters? You are in effect arguing that academics should treat their tweets as if they were scholarly publications. (Not just publications, note. After all, everything posted on the internet is technically published. You want a higher standard for tweets.)

The point is, this is totally unworkable. You might as well argue that academics shouldn’t use Twitter. Which is what your argument effectively comes to anyway, since Twitter isn’t a medium that’s always going to be suited to the kind of discourse you seem to want from it. (Again, 140 characters. Or something, I don’t actual use it.) Which, fine. But then, make _that_ argument.

86

Gator90 08.23.14 at 9:31 pm

“@ christian h: “I think it is possible for nice people to support awful things – people do get stuff wrong, even important stuff, all the time”

At the risk of engaging further with someone who has deemed me an awful human being, I would just point out that Mr. Salaita disagrees with you. It is not possible, in his opinion, for a good person to support Israel’s actions in Gaza. On the contrary, anyone who does so is a horrible person. I think that you are right, and that he is wrong.

87

christian_h 08.23.14 at 9:40 pm

The “awful human being” bit was cheeky. I just think you are – wrong. Yet you refuse to at the least extend the same courtesy to Salaita. Or, alternatively, you think that being wrong on twitter should be grounds for dismissal from your job. Unless what you are wrong about is the killing of large numbers of civilians – that to you is a minor infraction. Being upset by it and expressing that upset and frustration on twitter seems a much worse issue for you. So yeah, I think you are wrong in that you have a – to me – utterly twisted sense of what is important, or “civil” or “disrespectful”. To me a notion – say of civility – that makes it possible to civilly endorse mass murder but also allows taking people livelihood away for opposing that mass murder is – an awful notion. (Now I’ve done it – I have demeaned a concept, I guess U of I won’t hire me!)

88

Ronan(rf) 08.23.14 at 9:43 pm

I don’t think these Salaita hypotheticals* (a Jewish pro Israeli student in his class takes an oppositional perspective on I/P, what does he do !?) are a reasonable line of inquiry. Every moderately well run organisation should have processes in place for judging performance that remove the need to parse tweets or blog spots or engage in overwrought counterfactualising.
Did the person meet targets X Y and Z ? Is their work up to the approriate standard ? Is their behaviour at work in line with legal and organisational rules and norms? etc etc

I don’t know anything about academia (or the specific technical, legal details of his case) but from experience I would *always* choose working in places that abided by those rules and norms over those that didn’t. You should be judged on how you do your job, not this nonsense (that seems to be the new trend) about what you do at the weekends or how you voted in the last council election or by examing every word you’ve ever spoken or written in some public forum for that forever malleable and terrifying concept of ‘hate speech’ or ‘offensiveness.’
He was offered the job, he passed on the subtantative issues, he passed on the professionalism, I really dont see what the justification (outside of the technicalities, which I dont know) for him not getting it is.

*not LFC’s, the hypotheticals before.

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J Thomas 08.23.14 at 9:47 pm

#72 Gator90

I’d also ask him about his assertion that “If you’re defending Israel right now you’re an awful human being.” I began my participation here today by questioning the contention that Salaita got in trouble merely for “criticizing Israel.” The quoted statement is not a criticism of Israel; it is a condemnation of people who disagree with him as “awful human beings.”

It appears you believe his saying that means he is such an awful human being that he doesn’t deserve to keep his job.

So what does that make you?

Would you please reveal your real name and employer’s address so that anybody who objects to your statement can try to get you fired?

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Layman 08.23.14 at 9:50 pm

‘Having further considered the offending tweet in the context of some of his other tweets, I grant it is possible that Salaita intended to say, more or less, that accusations of anti-semitism should be worn as a badge of honor when leveled by Zionists who equate any criticism of Israel to anti-semitism. But if that was his intent, lordy what a crap job of expressing it. His actual words could as easily be taken to mean “anti-semitism is cool because Israel.” Maybe he’s too stupid to be a university professor.’

Your actual words here could be taken to mean ‘I now get that I misunderstood Salaita’s intent, and know that he did not intend what I thought he did, but I’m too churlish to admit I was wrong, and instead I’ll just heap insult on injury.’ Does that mean you’re too stupid to be posting your ideas in public? I don’t say that; I just infer what you might say if you were I, and I you.

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Tyrone Slothrop 08.23.14 at 10:03 pm

I’ve long held that if ever I were to witness a (classy) apology being tendered and then rescinded with prejudice anon, only to be subsequently accepted by the party for whom it had been intended and then nigh immediately (under the apprehension that said expression of regret had, in fact, been yanked bank with far sterner authority than that with which it were cast) thrown back into the water of exchange (somewhat [and understandably] in sheepish manner), it would transpire within a thread directly or tangentially involving the interminable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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drkrick 08.23.14 at 10:13 pm

” But if that was his intent, lordy what a crap job of expressing it. His actual words could as easily be taken to mean “anti-semitism is cool because Israel.” Maybe he’s too stupid to be a university professor. “

Given the number of people who have had no trouble understanding what he meant without additional explanation, this may not be quite the impenetrable mystery you make it out to be.

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Gator90 08.23.14 at 10:30 pm

@christian h:

So I am neither a liar nor an awful human being. Whew, what a relief.

It never occurred to me to compare Salaita’s tweets to, say, my father’s support of Operation Protective Edge, and then decide which is “worse.” Seems like a pointless exercise as they are totally different things. But if dear old dad, using his own name, publicly stated that dead Palestinian children delight him, I wouldn’t blame his employer for deciding that he was an embarrassment and no longer welcome.

I’m not saying Salaita is a bad person. Maybe he’s a beautiful guy. In my opinion, he made a bit of an ass of himself in public, and sometimes that can have consequences. (There’s a reason why the blog commenter who regularly makes an ass of himself as “Gator90″ does so under that name.) Did Salaita “deserve” to be fired/unhired? I dunno. At this point, if I were king of the University of Illinois, I’d consider hiring him back if he (a) publicly acknowledged that some of his statements were out of line, and (b) promised to stay the hell off Twitter for the duration of his employment.

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Collin Street 08.23.14 at 10:34 pm

Given the number of people who have had no trouble understanding what he meant without additional explanation, this may not be quite the impenetrable mystery you make it out to be.

But some people have actual medically-diagnosed inability to properly examine the context statements are made in, and so have no option but to take things “literally”.

Again, autism. There is absolutely nothing the hard Right gets up to that cannot be explained by autism-spectrum conditions, down to their taste in literature.

Where the resistance to even consider this?

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Gator90 08.23.14 at 10:41 pm

@Layman: I am definitely too stupid to be posting my ideas in public, but I’m at least smart enough to do it anonymously.

@Tyrone Slothrop: Hilarious. Bless you. I needed a good laugh after being called a liar, an awful human being, and — worst of all — “churlish.”

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J Thomas 08.23.14 at 10:46 pm

At this point, if I were king of the University of Illinois, I’d consider hiring him back if he (a) publicly acknowledged that some of his statements were out of line, and (b) promised to stay the hell off Twitter for the duration of his employment.

That sounds like a pretty good offer to me. Regardless who’s more wrong, the university is in the stronger position. They know where they’ll sleep next month. If they stand to lose money, they have plenty. They have lawyers on salary who don’t cost extra to handle the case. And likely for every US citizen who will be upset at them for breaking academic freedom, there are several Zionists who are appalled at the idea of academic freedom for anti-Zionists.

He really ought to accept an offer like that, if it’s specified that afterward all is forgiven on both sides and there will be no grudges held.

But could it work? The university would get accused of antisemitism, and would lose donations. It might cost them more than they can afford. The Chancellor and the Board might all suffer personal tribulations because of it. I’m not sure even a king of the university would be immune.

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T 08.23.14 at 10:46 pm

Gator90 –

Well the thread has you figured out. You are a liar, an awful person, and now that “Collin Street” has finally arrived, autistic, too. He likes to type “autistic” in italics.

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Louis Proyect 08.24.14 at 1:01 am

Something is wholly off-base in this discussion about social media. *Long before* there was Facebook or Twitter, there were listserv’s that maintained public archives. The flame wars on mailing lists like PEN-L , LBO-Talk or my own Marxism list had extremely violent abuse between professors, between students, and between students and professors. What if someone went back into the archives of these or other listserv’s and used that to screw someone the way that Salaita has been screwed? Let’s not beat around the bush. This is both an attack on the anti-Zionist left as well as an attack on the power of the faculty. Read Brian Leiter’s very powerful article to get a handle on the threat to academic freedom. “An injury to one is an injury to all”.

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Louis Proyect 08.24.14 at 1:02 am

100

CJColucci 08.24.14 at 2:51 am

I do not pretend to know why the Chancellor did what she did or whether what she or the Trustees said was true. That said, in this sort of controversy things are disturbingly often exactly as they seem to be, and on the present state of the evidence, a jury would be well within its rights to conclude that in this case they are as they seem. A jury might also conclude the opposite. In either case it could be wrong, but there is already ample evidence to support whatever it might decide, and it is highly unlikely that there is much more evidence on either side. A jury probably won’t “know” much more than we do now. It will end up making a seat-of-the-pants credibility determination, which the rest of us are just as entitled to make — perhaps even more entitled because the consequences of our being wrong, as opposed to a jury’s being wrong — are nowhere near as serious.

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matt w 08.24.14 at 3:13 am

Main Street Muse@24:

“Third, I cannot believe he had only 3o students a semester. Tenured professors have quite the gig…”

It’s good that you can’t believe it, because the text of the post makes eminently clear that it isn’t true; he was teaching at least two groups of 30 students in one term. It’s a very rare tenured professor who teaches one class a term (without some sort of partial leave), as anyone who is familiar with what tenured professors do would know.

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Colin Danby 08.24.14 at 4:46 am

http://blogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/blog/2014/08/22/on-the-salaita-decision/

Timothy Burke brings the kind of calm perspective he’s so good at.

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Meredith 08.24.14 at 5:38 am

Ah, I was just about to link to Burke’s post!

I must say, I have found many of the comments here disheartening. Let me put it this way. A culture of freedom of expression, of the free exchange of ideas, must be cultivated. It is the product not simply of legalistic distinctions but of habitus. Tocqueville was right about Americans, I think (sadly). Even before the industrial revolution, we were primed to be cogs.

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T 08.24.14 at 6:45 pm

@97/98

Burke argues that the hiring/tenure decision should be made by the faculty with minimal oversight by the trustees and with trustee interference limited to cases, for example, where a crime was committed between the contingent offer and the final vote. But I ask you to think of this from other perspectives. Tenure confers, at least, lifetime employment, periodic fully paid sabbaticals without obligation to teach or remain on campus, and exemption from mandatory retirement provisions common outside the academy. Salary, benefits, and support make this a multimillion dollar, decades-long commitment. That commitment is paid for by the state, university students and their families, alumni, and others. When we’re discussing a public institution with the board appointed by the governor, confirmed by the senate, and statutes promulgated by the general assembly, this commitment generates even more scrutiny. I’m sure many in the professoriate consider the current matter the first step down the slippery slope. (Leiter’s letter @94) I don’t think the trustees and the other stakeholders necessarily see it the same way. It’s a very unusual organization where the employees get to give each other lifetime employment at others’ expense.

The thread can now proceed to call me a liar and an awful person. Because, you know, what’s going on is obvious and there really is only one side to each and every issue surrounding the contingent offer letter and the chancellor’s and board’s decision.

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J Thomas 08.24.14 at 7:28 pm

#99 T

The thread can now proceed to call me a liar and an awful person. Because, you know, what’s going on is obvious and there really is only one side to each and every issue surrounding the contingent offer letter and the chancellor’s and board’s decision.

The problem I see is that there isn’t one single over-riding principle involved.

People care about their own kind.

So, it looks to me like Salaita did nothing wrong and he is getting persecuted for his politics. Basicly for being a Palestinian. They shouldn’t do that.

But I can imagine how it must look to a Zionist. Like, one of his tweets could be read like he was advocating murder of Israeli settlers. A Zionist might believe the settlers are fundamentally misguided, that they are standing in the way of peace, etc. But still they have the right to live peacefully in their own homes without being murdered.

The same people might believe that Israel has the perfect right to bomb palestinians who have committed acts of terrorism, and if other palestinians object to that then it’s proper to bomb them too, that they basicly have no rights because they hate Israel. There is no contraction between those two views unless you believe that Palestinians and Israeli settlers have some sort of equal right to life, and they don’t believe that.

Imagine that Salaita had said that it was OK to kill homosexuals for being homosexuals? What if he said it was OK to rape and kill women? I don’t think I’d be arguing so hard for his right to academic freedom. He’s being persecuted by a political group that has more power than it ought to. But if he was saying things that got reasonable normal people like me upset, that would be different.

In this particular case, they’re wrong to fire him. He got public opposition because he hates Israel. He’s a Palestinian, forgodssake, he has a perfect right to hate Israel! If you were in his place you’d hate Israel too. So fire him for that? “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

But if he’d actually done something seriously wrong, then they should fire him whether there was a pressure group trying to make them do it or not.

What if Salaita had been a conservative who said it would be a good thing if a lot of liberals “disappeared” like they did in Chile? Should he have tenure then?

I predict that Sailata will not be reinstated and he will lose his lawsuit, because the Zionists are still too strong. Reasonable people ought to make the best showing they can opposing it, because it’s wrong, but he is going to be yet another victim.

But the Zionists were slipping before 9/11. And while that got them a great big boost, they’ve been slipping again ever since. Unless something like another 9/11 gives them another reprieve they’ll keep on slipping and someday they’ll be weak enough to start losing in cases where it’s completely clear that they are being crazy and vindictive and they really have no case.

But not yet.

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AcademicLurker 08.24.14 at 8:04 pm

T@99: If trustees want to be involved in managing day to day decisions involved in running the university then they will have to adjust their schedules to the university’s timetable. You can’t really have it both ways – micromanage department level decisions and only meet a few times a year.

Salary, benefits, and support make this a multimillion dollar, decades-long commitment. That commitment is paid for by the state, university students and their families, alumni, and others.

So promotion and tenure should be decided by state wide elections? My tax dollars are paying the salaries of Army generals. Why wasn’t I consulted about their appointments!? I’m reminded of an episode of Law and Order where Lenny Brisco tells a suspect they’re arresting: “You know, just because we’re public employees that doesn’t actually mean that we work for you personally.”

Prior to going up for tenure, academics are subject to a lengthy multi-stage evaluation process that goes on for years. If you look at the ratio of the number of graduating PhD’s whose goal is to eventually have a tenured position to the number of people who actually do eventually get tenured positions, I think you will find that this evaluation process is extremely stringent. Sailata had passed through this evaluation process already, which is why he had tenure at Virginia Tech.

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T 08.24.14 at 10:38 pm

@101 “So promotion and tenure should be decided by state wide elections?”

There are lots of types of governance. The citizens of Illinois understandably want oversight of state funds. Boards are typical forms of governance for public universities where board members require appointment and conformation from elected officials. While I don’t think the military analogy is very apt, the military is under civilian control of elected officials, elected directly — Commander in Chief — or indirectly by appointment and conformation — Sec. of Defense. In your world, state employees get to give each other state jobs for life without oversight. I think the electorate would have problems with your take. I understand why you think it’s great.

“If trustees want to be involved in managing day to day decisions involved in running the university then they will have to adjust their schedules to the university’s timetable. You can’t really have it both ways – micromanage department level decisions and only meet a few times a year.”

The State of Illinois (and many other states) through its elected officials, by statute, gave the board its responsibilities. The State doesn’t think the final say on hiring is micromanaging. As a practical matter, denial of tenure at the board level, whether internal promotion or lateral hire, is rare so that it calling it micromanaging is really a misnomer.

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Andrew F. 08.25.14 at 4:03 am

This is the heart of Burke’s argument:

The problem in your case is that neither the University of Illinois nor any of the proponents of your decision have presented any evidence that Professor Salaita would be or has been unable to adhere to those ethics. The only evidence is a handful of tweets that really say nothing about how he approaches the classroom, how he mentors students, how he participates in evaluation. The only evidence available about his teaching and professional demeanor is that he earned tenure at another institution and survived the scrutiny of your own faculty in a hiring process, which is far more powerful than four or five sentences on Twitter dubiously interpreted through a hostile and unfair gaze.

This minimizes the problem rather than confronts it.

Any reasonable person would, as a student subject to Salaita’s grading, after reading Salaita’s tweets, be wary of disagreeing with him on the subject of Israel and Gaza.

Burke himself notes that he would be uncomfortable seeking out Salaita for a tenured position given Salaita’s tweets, but might do so after reminding himself of the obligation to seek out different views and expressive styles. Presumably Burke’s discomfort derives from a sense that Salaita makes no allowance for reasonable disagreement on the subject of Israel and Gaza – a sense anyone would derive from Salaita’s tweets. That Burke, as a tenured professor over whom Salaita has no authority or power, would be uncomfortable engaging him in a discussion, is telling.

Surely a student, over whom Salaita does have power and authority, would, having read Salaita’s tweets, be even more uncomfortable engaging Salaita in his own classroom than Burke would be discussing with Salaita as an equal.

So let’s face the problem: Salaita’s tweets affect how any student would feel in his classroom, and they do so in a very negative fashion. They affect how any faculty member would feel approaching him for a discussion, and they do so in a very negative fashion.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 6:00 am

#193 Andrew F

So let’s face the problem: Salaita’s tweets affect how any student would feel in his classroom, and they do so in a very negative fashion.

Zionist students. Others should have no problem.

They affect how any faculty member would feel approaching him for a discussion, and they do so in a very negative fashion.

Zionist faculty members.

If I look up an economics faculty member before approaching him about something, and I see that he is a raging Austrian, then I know not to discuss anything connected to that with him. But he’ll probably be fine on things that don’t involve economics.

If I look up a a political science faculty member and see that he is a raving libertarian, then I will know not to discuss anything connected with government. I’ll probably be fine on anything else.

Zionist students who want to take a class about native americans from him, should be cautious about bringing up zionism. Probably better not to discuss with him the best way to suppress palestinians while avoiding any form of negotiated peace.

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novakant 08.25.14 at 7:45 am

“Zionist Students/Faculty Members”

Make that “Israeli Jews” and those who sympathize with their views – around 90% of Israeli jews supported the Gaza war.

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novakant 08.25.14 at 8:45 am

Also, Salaita wasn’t hired as just another Native American studies teacher, but because he compared the situation of Native Americans with that of the Palestinians:

” “What became compelling about his work is the comparative analysis of the experiences of American Indian people and Palestinian people, which is at the heart of his work,”

So his views about Gaza are not peripheral to his teaching, as you want to make it seem.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 11:36 am

Make that “Israeli Jews” and those who sympathize with their views – around 90% of Israeli jews supported the Gaza war.

You want zionists who support the Israeli attacks on Gaza to be able to take a course on treatment of palestinians and come out feeling comfortable?

Even if the teacher was the most wonderfully unbiased, detached individual in the world, they would and should feel uncomfortable and some of them would surely accuse him of antisemitism.

If in the days of apartheid Boer students who supported the government’s policies came to UIUC and took courses in treatment of blacks in South Africa, would you expect them to be comfortable?

You ask too much. It is impossible.

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novakant 08.25.14 at 12:53 pm

It’s not about feeling uncomfortable, it’s about pre-emptively shutting down discourse.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 1:08 pm

Surely a student, over whom Salaita does have power and authority, would, having read Salaita’s tweets, be even more uncomfortable engaging Salaita in his own classroom than Burke would be discussing with Salaita as an equal.

It’s not about feeling uncomfortable, it’s about pre-emptively shutting down discourse.

You are concerned that zionists who took a course from him would be unwilling to talk to him.

So your solution is to shut down the discourse by preventing him from teaching.

I guess maybe it’s a tribal thing.

115

Bloix 08.25.14 at 1:47 pm

#109 – no, some people (including the chancellor of the university) have expressed a concern that a professor who says that such students are awful human beings might possibly be unable to grade them on the quality of their work without reference to their views. There is a pervasive failure on this thread to acknowledge that professors have power over students.

That’s actually the most charitable reading – it’s just as likely that there are commenters here who believe that professors should indeed grade their students on the basis of their political views.

What I mean by that is that there are commenters who think that universities should be inhospitable to supporters of Israel. Salaita’s hostility to students who hold such views is a feature not a bug.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 1:59 pm

What I mean by that is that there are commenters who think that universities should be inhospitable to supporters of Israel. Salaita’s hostility to students who hold such views is a feature not a bug.

I dunno. There could be commenters like that. Let’s look at the other side of it, how many Zionist professors are there, who would punish students who are outspoken against Israel?

Lots of professors would think a student who came out in favor of date rape was an awful human being. Or a student who said that most blacks can’t function well without a master to give them direction. Or a student who said that homosexuals should be euthanized to put them out of their misery.

A whole lot of people agree that it’s OK to punish awful human beings for being awful human beings. Lots of anti-zionist students have faced the risk of getting punished for it. Now you see a possibility that the shoe might be on the other foot once — a possibility that has not been fulfilled in over 10 years of Salaita’s teaching — and you want to prevent it.

Double standard much?

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Corey Robin 08.25.14 at 2:05 pm

Bloix: You don’t know what you’re talking about. Not about the commenters on this thread or about the university’s actual motivations. Your almost charming but credulity about a high-powered chancellor and trustees from corporate America actually caring about what happens in a classroom or caring about students suggests your view of the university has been formed in that Bermuda Triangle of fantasy that arises from too many viewings of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Dead Poets Society, and The Paper Chase, except that in your memory of these films, it is the corporate trustees who really care about the kids). Nor do you know what you’re talking about when it comes to Salaita’s performance as a teacher (or frankly about what makes a teacher a good teacher in the first place). On this last, you seem to be continually happy to ignore Salaita’s actual record in the classroom (which everyone who has evaluated it, including students and faculty and administrators, claims is stellar) in favor of some hypothetical extrapolation based on what he said on Twitter. Which makes about as much as sense as my judging you, based on your performance in this and other threads, to be not only a middle-aged hothead, to coin a phrase, who has a real problem controlling his temper and his all too easily wounded sense of amour-propre, but also a not terribly effective advocate for you or your client’s views. But trusting that you are indeed as effective a lawyer as you continually assure us you are, I have to conclude that perhaps how someone performs on the internet is not the best indicator of how they perform in other walks of life.

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AcademicLurker 08.25.14 at 2:06 pm

some people (including the chancellor of the university) have expressed a concern that a professor who says that such students are awful human beings might possibly be unable to grade them on the quality of their work without reference to their views.

And yet the available evidence – Salaita’s teaching record and student evaluations from Virginia Tech. – clearly demonstrate that this is not the case. I suppose the mere fact that a professor holds views they don’t share will make students so uncomfortable that they need to be protected from such oppression?

No doubt creationist students are uncomfortable with the fact that their biology, chemistry and physics professors think their beliefs about the origins of species and the age of the Earth are nonsense. Better replace those professors! The customer is always right, after all.

it’s just as likely that there are commenters here who believe that professors should indeed grade their students on the basis of their political views.

So in the absence of any evidence that Salaita penalized students for their political views, we get feverish conspiracy theories? OK then.

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Corey Robin 08.25.14 at 2:10 pm

AcademicLurker: Exactly. I mean on this very blog I’ve claimed (albeit a bit tongue and cheek) that libertarians, especially younger ones, are the Leopold and Loeb of contemporary politics. Based on Bloix’s understanding, I shouldn’t be hired somewhere because some hypothetical libertarian would be uncomfortable in my classroom. And yet the actual record shows that libertarian students continually enroll in my classes, driven, on one reading, by some deep rooted masochism, or another, by the very reasonable sense that what happens in the classroom is very very different from what happens on the internet. Again, the people making these kinds of claims are people who either are under tremendous political pressure (like Wise; see the Inside Higher Ed story) or have absolutely no experience of what a university really is and how it works.

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Collin Street 08.25.14 at 2:59 pm

> Double standard much?

There’s only one standard in play here: I deserve what I want.

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Bloix 08.25.14 at 4:43 pm

#111, #113 – You’re making my point for me. J Thomas argues that support for Israel is like date rape, slavery, and homophobia — it is an abhorrent viewpoint that should not be accorded any respect. Academic Lurker argues that support for Israel is like young earth creationism – it is a belief in conflict with scientific facts. Just as a student who persists in denying evolution in a bio class will be failed, so a student who persists in supporting Israel should be failed.

So for at least these two, this dispute is not about academic freedom and open debate. It’s about who has the correct viewpoint. The prospect that Salaita might suppress a viewpoint that they disagree with is not a bug – it’s a feature.

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AcademicLurker 08.25.14 at 4:55 pm

116: I said nothing at all about support for Israel in 113. My point was “Your beliefs conflict with mine. This makes me uncomfortable.” is not a legitimate student complaint unless there is some actual inappropriate behavior in the classroom or in the grading process that they can point to. There is none in Salaita’s case.

Or perhaps your position is that students are entitled to have classes taught only by professors who agree with all of their personal beliefs wrt politics, religion & etc.? If that’s you position, please lobby for it! The resulting demand for instructors would solve the PhD employment crisis.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 5:19 pm

J Thomas argues that support for Israel is like date rape, slavery, and homophobia — it is an abhorrent viewpoint that should not be accorded any respect.

I don’t see how you could possibly get that from my post. But then, I don’t see how you got what you did from Salaita’s tweets either, so it shouldn’t be surprising that you misread me just as easily.

I say that first, most people agree that there are some viewpoints that should be suppressed. We only allow so much academic freedom and so much free speech. I think that’s a bad thing, but it’s the way it is.

Zionists try to suppress anti-zionist speech and try to suppress anti-zionists, as if anti-zionists were as bad as date-rapists or racists or anti-semites.. It’s been going on for a long time. As opposed to Salaita who you think would make it hard for Zionist students, how many thousands of Zionist professors do we have who would make it hard for Palestinian or anti-zionist students? But Zionists think that’s perfectly OK, they just want to make sure it never ever happens the other way round.

If “intemporate statements” is the new standard, shouldn’t we go back and fire every professor who has ever made public intemperate statements about palestinians or arabs? Like, say, in 1973 when Israel was losing the war, or on 9/11….

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eddie 08.25.14 at 5:40 pm

125

novakant 08.25.14 at 6:07 pm

Or perhaps your position is that students are entitled to have classes taught only by professors who agree with all of their personal beliefs wrt politics, religion & etc.?

Who is talking about disagreement? Students are entitled not to be called lesser human beings by professors inside or outside of class because of their views regarding the politics of Israel. Never mind Salaita’s evaluations, he has dragged the discourse to an unacceptable personal level that makes a respectful exchange of views impossible.

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Jasmine mar 08.25.14 at 6:11 pm

Corey, let’s remember where this discussion started. As far as I know, you did not use invectives and inflammatory language to assault people who do not think like you. Professors are entitled to their opinions and students should take courses that challenge their assumptions. Otherwise, what’s the point of liberal education? You cannot separate Salaita’s tweets from who he is as a professor. If he can’t control his emotions on tweeter, where he has at least some time to reflect, how would he control himself in class if challenged? I think that if I had interest in Arab American literature, I would think three times about taking his class, given my Zionist leanings.

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Jasmine mar 08.25.14 at 6:22 pm

I also think that tweets are more like publications than water- cooler discussions. The audience for tweets is much larger and one has the opportunity to read what they tweet before pressing the button. One also has the option of deleting the tweet once out.
People have been fired based on their social media posts. You can argue that this is an invasion of privacy, but so far this has not been challenged successfully in the courts, as far as I know. So everyone understands that social media is public space.

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J Thomas 08.25.14 at 6:39 pm

LNever mind Salaita’s evaluations, he has dragged the discourse to an unacceptable personal level that makes a respectful exchange of views impossible.

Are you ready to advocate applying this standard to all zionist professors?

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AcademicLurker 08.25.14 at 6:43 pm

Never mind Salaita’s evaluations

Evidence is irrelevant, got it.

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Lynne 08.25.14 at 7:02 pm

Does context really mean nothing? Salaita’s tweet about awful human beings had the words “right now” in it. Something was happening right then that he felt strongly about and my reading is that he thought even people who might defend Israel other times should condemn its action that day. I don’t know what happened on that day but we can guess at the nature of it. To take that tweet and assume he would say the same thing to any student who disagreed with him is just…naive, I guess, to be kind about it.

I read a bunch of his tweets that came up when I Googled (I don’t have a Twitter account). They were mostly from August first, but taken together I got the impression of someone concerned, in pain as Bonnie Honig said, and very much talking about unfolding developments. There was an urgency to the tweets.

There is no justification for extrapolating from them to how he would be in the classroom, especially against the evidence of the students themselves.

131

novakant 08.25.14 at 7:45 pm

Evidence is irrelevant, got it.

Here’s your evidence:

https://twitter.com/stevesalaita

132

Lynne 08.25.14 at 9:02 pm

Did you even read the first tweet at your link?

“I try my best to remember that we don’t just stumble into political consciousness; it’s better to teach than to berate or shame.”

Sounds like a good attitude for a teacher.

133

novakant 08.25.14 at 9:48 pm

Yes, very commendable, pity he seems unable to live up to his own standards; it’s almost comical actually, as berating and shaming is what he seems to do on Twitter almost exclusively.

134

Colin Danby 08.25.14 at 10:06 pm

Dude.

Politics is antagonistic.

Political speech is routinely antagonistic.

Do you really want to set up a permananent inquisition on the political speech of faculty people? Or anyone else?

This is precisely why hiring promotion and tenure have to be formalized, with rules and files and documentation and standards: so you can’t go after people for their politics or religion or extracurricular activities.

135

Corey Robin 08.25.14 at 10:39 pm

“berating and shaming is what he seems to do on Twitter almost exclusively.”

Screaming at bad drivers on the highway is what he seems to do on the highway almost exclusively. Must be a terrible teacher.

Screaming at the football team he hates is what he seems to do while watching football almost exclusively. Must be a terrible teacher.

Yelling at his kid to brush his teeth is what he seems to do while getting ready in the morning almost exclusively. Must be a terrible teacher.

Heaping curses on George W. Bush is what he seemed to do almost exclusively while George W. Bush was president. Must be a terrible teacher.

136

novakant 08.26.14 at 8:51 am

137

Andrew F. 08.26.14 at 11:12 am

AcademicLurker @117: My point was “Your beliefs conflict with mine. This makes me uncomfortable.” is not a legitimate student complaint unless there is some actual inappropriate behavior in the classroom or in the grading process that they can point to. There is none in Salaita’s case.

This is a characterization that avoids the problem.

Salaita’s public treatment of issues, particularly those relevant to his courses, affects the atmosphere of his classroom and the atmosphere of the community as a whole. Nor is it simply that he “disagrees” but rather that he literally views those with whom he disagrees as somehow immoral or otherwise lacking.

Perhaps Salaita behaves just as a perfect professor would within the classroom. That’s great. But his tweets undermine that. They make clear his judgment of what you are should you disagree with him on Israel and Gaza. Were that judgment to remain forever hidden, and somehow never affect his grading or treatment of students (rather remarkable given the heat of his feelings on the subject), then I agree that the judgment would be without consequence in evaluating him as a potential hire.

But it’s not hidden. So it has consequences.

138

J Thomas 08.26.14 at 12:10 pm

Salaita’s public treatment of issues, particularly those relevant to his courses, affects the atmosphere of his classroom and the atmosphere of the community as a whole.

Are you ready to apply this reasoning across the board to zionist professors?

If there is one day’s example of public treatment of issues by a zionist professor that is as bad as Salaita’s, then he should be fired?

139

Peter T 08.26.14 at 12:20 pm

When they come for Andrew F, there will not be any unseemly protest or struggle. He’ll cheerfully admit that he did indeed say a few things that the ruling corporation could object too, and will accept his sentence as a well-merited penance. His strong sense of civic duty will compel him to inform the authorities of erring family and friends.

Look: the Stanford Prison Experiment done without bars, guards or overseers. All in the mind!

140

Barry 08.26.14 at 12:32 pm

Andrew F: “Any reasonable person would, as a student subject to Salaita’s grading, after reading Salaita’s tweets, be wary of disagreeing with him on the subject of Israel and Gaza.”

His teaching evaluations have been posted; they are outstanding.

Now, would you like to show me where you’ve applied this same standard to such charming people as John Yoo and Alan Dershowitz?

141

Rich Puchalsky 08.26.14 at 12:51 pm

Andrew F. is the perfect example of someone who’d be found unfit to do his job based on his Internet comments if he was ever brave enough to use his real name. If only Saliata could have been pseudonymous like courageous Andrew F.

142

Layman 08.26.14 at 1:27 pm

Novakant @ 120

“Students are entitled not to be called lesser human beings by professors “

Really? Students have an entitlement which protects them from…speech? Are other people protected from speech, too, or is it just students?

What odd ideas people come up with when their own prejudices are triggered!

143

Barry 08.26.14 at 1:45 pm

Novakant: “Who is talking about disagreement? Students are entitled not to be called lesser human beings by professors inside or outside of class because of their views regarding the politics of Israel. Never mind Salaita’s evaluations, he has dragged the discourse to an unacceptable personal level that makes a respectful exchange of views impossible.”

Your second sentence has zero to do with the situation. Your third sentence singles out an anti-Zionist, but doesn’t have anything to say about Zionist professors.

Should Alan Dershowitz be fired?
Condoleeza Rice?
John Yoo?

144

Barry 08.26.14 at 1:46 pm

Andrew F: “Salaita’s public treatment of issues, particularly those relevant to his courses, affects the atmosphere of his classroom and the atmosphere of the community as a whole. Nor is it simply that he “disagrees” but rather that he literally views those with whom he disagrees as somehow immoral or otherwise lacking.”

Post where you’ve held pro-Israel professors to this standard. Post where you’ve held right-wing professors to this standard.

145

Andrew F. 08.26.14 at 1:48 pm

@J Thomas: Were Salaita already hired with tenure, I’d be angry about his dismissal. It’s abundantly clear to me that he was not, so the question is rather whether the University was justified in not hiring him based on the tweets.

@Barry: The student evaluations were taken prior to his tweets, were they not? Even were they not, self-selection furnishes an alternative explanation for the opinions of the students in his classes. Is it really in question that his tweets would make someone, over whom he has power, uncomfortable in raising a disagreement with him on the I-P subject?

Re Yoo and Dershowitz – if they wrote along the lines of what Salaita did, I would certainly think twice about hiring them (leaving aside other reasons), and even if given those circumstances I were to ultimately hire them, I would also view a decision not to hire them as reasonable.

And to be perfectly clear, I also think it would have been reasonable for the University to have hired Salaita despite those tweets. How one weights them relative to other factors is a judgment call.

Rick @134: Mere ad hominem. I’ll let the Supreme Court answer you: Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

146

Barry Freed 08.27.14 at 7:43 pm

Please add this list of librarians, archivists and other LIS professionals to the other lists above:

http://illusionofvolition.com/lis-practitioners-and-scholars-support-steven-salaita/

147

Barry 08.28.14 at 8:01 pm

Andrew F: “@Barry: The student evaluations were taken prior to his tweets, were they not? Even were they not, self-selection furnishes an alternative explanation for the opinions of the students in his classes. Is it really in question that his tweets would make someone, over whom he has power, uncomfortable in raising a disagreement with him on the I-P subject?”

Gawd. So at this point positive evidence is excluded, and the question is phrased so as to require it.

“Re Yoo and Dershowitz – if they wrote along the lines of what Salaita did, I would certainly think twice about hiring them (leaving aside other reasons), and even if given those circumstances I were to ultimately hire them, I would also view a decision not to hire them as reasonable.”

In Yoo’s case it’s not expressing opinions, but of crimes. In Dershowitz’ case, I’m pulling the ‘makes people uncomfortable’ card.

148

The Temporary Name 08.28.14 at 8:23 pm

Perhaps Salaita behaves just as a perfect professor would within the classroom. That’s great. But his tweets undermine that. They make clear his judgment of what you are should you disagree with him on Israel and Gaza.

It isn’t an argument over a sports team, it’s about how many people should be killed. People – a group that might include students – tend to hold strong opinions on such matters and also know that strong opinions are allowed where war is concerned.

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J Thomas 08.29.14 at 1:46 pm

#145 Andrew F

“Andrew F. is the perfect example of someone who’d be found unfit to do his job based on his Internet comments if he was ever brave enough to use his real name.”

Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . .

Come on, when you argue that Salaita ought to be fired you at least ought to reveal who you are so everybody who despises you can try to get you fired. It’s hypocritical not to.

Unless you are a bot run by a committee or something. In that case I guess it doesn’t matter.

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