Reading the Salaita Papers (updated, with more and better email addresses for trustees)

by Corey Robin on September 3, 2014

There are many developments today in the Salaita affair.

This morning, the News-Gazette released 280 pages of documents obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act revealing extensive donor pressure on Chancellor Wise.

As news spread in late July about a new University of Illinois faculty hire and media outlets began publishing some of his profanity-laden tweets, a number of wealthy donors threatened to stop giving money to the university, recently released documents show.


The letters about professor Steven Salaita started arriving in Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s inbox July 21, and the writers did not hold back.


“Having been a multiple 6 figure donor to Illinois over the years, I know our support is ending as we vehemently disagree with the approach this individual espouses,” wrote one UI business school graduate.



The letters from donors, some of them identifying themselves as members of the UI’s $25,000-plus “presidents council,” have also raised questions about the motivation behind the administration’s decision to not forward Salaita’s name to the board of trustees for formal approval last month.


The chancellor, however, through a spokeswoman, maintains her decision was not influenced by them, but was based out of concern for the students, campus and community.


Then tonight Phan Nguyen sent me 443 pages of documents he had posted online. These are all the documents released by the UIUC in response to four different FOIA requests from various news organizations. I’ve now spent the entire evening reading through these documents and here are some of the highlights.

When the Salaita story first broke in the local press, Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs Robin Kaler said, “Faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees.” That was on July 21. The UIUC documents reveal that not only was Chancellor Wise apprised of that statement minutes after it was emailed to the media, but that she also wrote back to Kaler: “I have received several emails. Do you want me to use this response or to forward these to you?” (p. 101) In other words, this was not the rogue statement of a low-level spokesperson; it reflected Wise’s own views, including the view that Salaita was already a university employee. Even though Wise already had been informed of Salaita’s tweets.

In the days following this forthright defense of Salaita, the Chancellor and her associates begin to back-pedal. Around July 23, Wise starts reaching out to select alumni, trying to arrange phone calls (and in one instance, struggling to rearrange her travel schedule just so she can meet one alum in person [pp. 78-94]). To another such alum, she writes, “Let me say that I just recently learned about Steven Salaita’s background, beyond his academic history, and am learning more now.” (p. 293) That “beyond his academic history” is going to get Wise in trouble on academic freedom grounds.

In the background of this change of tune are the donors and the university’s fundraising and development people. In a July 24 email to Dan Peterson, Leanne Barnhart, and Travis Michael Smith (all part of the UIUC money machine), Wise reports about a meeting she has had with what appears to be a big donor. In Wise’s words:

He said that he knows [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] well and both have less loyalty for Illinois because of their perception of anti-Semitism. He gave me a two-pager filled with information on Steven Salaita and said how we handle this situation will be very telling. (p. 206)


And as Carol Tilley revealed earlier today on Twitter, the alum whom Wise scrambled to rearrange her schedule over is Steve Miller (the UIUC redactor failed to redact his name). Tilley then tweeted some other information about Miller. He’s a huge venture capitalist. In 2010, he donated a half-million dollars to endow a professorship in the UIUC business school. He’s given money for years to endow the Steven N. Miller Entrepreneurial Scholarships. He believes in “venture philanthropy.” He’s also on the board of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the board of Hillel.

Once Wise and her team start back-tracking, the trustees are brought into the picture. On July 28, Susan Mary Kies, who is the secretary of the Board of Trustees, writes Wise, who had been apologetic about “filling your inbox” with Salaita info, “No problem, we will place the letters in weekly dispatch (as we did last week) so the trustees can see the depth of the matter!” (p. 62) The next day, Kaler starts writing to complaining alums that the final decision regarding Salaita lies with the trustees (this is the first we hear of what will become the ultimate strategy of the administration: putting it all on the trustees):

While I cannot comment on any specific employment decisions of the university, pursuant to the governing documents for the university the final decision for any faculty appointment at the level of assistant professor or above rests with the Board of Trustees. I, therefore, have passed your concerns along to the Secretary of the Board of Trustees. (p. 62)


What’s most stunning about these documents is that they show how removed and isolated Chancellor Wise is from any of the academic voices in the university, even the academic voices on her own team. As she heads toward her August 2 decision to dehire Salaita, she is only speaking to and consulting with donors, alums, PR people, and development types. Ilesanmi Adesida, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, makes exactly one appearance in these 443 pages. That is on Tuesday, July 22. Even though Wise has been inundated with emails about Salaita for days, she only finally emails Adesida about the matter a day after the story has broken in the local press. His response: “Thanks for sending these emails. I was not aware of any controversy on this person until yesterday!” (p. 95) And he’s never heard from again.

Then on August 4, two days after Wise has informed Salaita and Robert Warrior, chair of the American Indian Studies department, that Salaita won’t be hired, Warrior writes Brian Ross, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to find out what happened. Warrior first gets an email back from one of Ross’s associates, who says, “Brian is not in the office today, and I’m not sure he knows anything about this because I presume he would have discussed it with me if he had” (p. 361). And then Ross himself writes back, “i am in NY, traveling back tomorrow. I have not seen the letter but have a request in and will let you know when I hear any more” (p.362). In other words, even two days after the Chancellor has dehired Salaita, she still hasn’t informed the dean of the largest college at the UIUC of her decision.

What’s also clear from reading these documents is just how high up the chain Salaita’s appointment had gone, and how ensconced at the university he was becoming—up until the day that he wasn’t. On September 27, 2013, for example, Reginald Alston, one of two associate chancellors who works directly in Phyllis Wise’s office, writes the following report on Salaita’s candidacy (pp. 238-239):

After closely reviewing Dr. Steven Salaita’s dossier, I support the Department of American Indian Studies’ (AIS) request to grant him the rank of Associate Professor with indefinite tenure at the University of Illinois. The uniqueness of his scholarship on the intersection of American Indian, Palestinian, and American Palestinian experiences presents a rare opportunity to add an esoteric perspective on indigeneity to our cultural studies programs on campus.



Again, I support offering Dr. Salaita a tenured position because of the obvious intellectual value that his scholarship and background would bring to our campus. His presence would elevate AIS internationally and convey Illinois’ commitment to maintaining a leading academic program on the historical and sociopolitical intricacies of American Indian culture.


On January 15, 2014, his appointment is approved by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access, which is one of the key and most powerful offices in any university hiring decision; if they don’t sign off, the appointment goes nowhere (p. 398).

Then, between July 22 and July 25, while the chancellor and her aides are formulating their strategy to deal with the backlash, Salaita and Warrior email back and forth about Salaita’s moving expenses. The UIUC had originally promised to cover up to $5000 of Salaita’s expenses (p. 387), but when the University-approved moving company comes back with an estimate of $7500, the department decides to cover the difference (pp. 341-347).

And then, when the tech support start asking Warrior about Salaita’s computer needs (“Did Steven Salaita say he had any special PC laptop needs? Does he run SPSS or any other resource intensive applications? Does he need something geared toward video work or any other special area?”), Warrior replies, “He’s pretty much a meat and potatoes user. Nothing complicated” (pp. 341-347).

That was on August 1. The next day, Chancellor Wise fired Salaita.

In other news of the day, last night’s report that Chancellor Wise would be forwarding Salaita’s appointment to the Trustees was wrong. Several members of the UIUC faculty met with her today. According to Michael Rothberg, chair of the English department:

Together with two colleagues I just met with Chancellor Wise, at her invitation. The main message from our discussion was that there is no change in the status of the case. It seems that the students were not accurate in their impression. She doesn’t know if the Board of Trustees will be voting on the case at their 9/11 meeting, but she indicated that she thought a reversal was very unlikely.


So status quo. I’ll come back to that 9/11 meeting at the end of this post.

Tonight, the English Department became the fourth department at UIUC to take a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the University of Illinois—the trustees, the president, and Chancellor Wise. From what I’m hearing, the departments of history, comparative and world literatures, and East Asian Languages and Cultures will be voting on similar motions sometime this week.

Meanwhile, the number of canceled events grows. We now have a second cancelled conference. Today, Columbia law professor Katharine Franke canceled series of lectures she was to give at the UIUC in late September. This was an especially nice touch:

I have long held the view that the use of boycotts as a tactic to protest an unjust practice by a state, business or academic institution may be appropriate in the right context, such as the current crisis at the UIUC, but that those who pledge to honor a boycott cannot rest their political commitments exclusively on a promise not to do something. Rather they should also pledge to affirmatively engage the injustice that generated the call for the boycott. For this reason, rather than merely boycotting your institution, I plan to travel to Urbana-Champaign in mid September at my own expense to participate in a forum (located off campus) with members of the UIUC community in which we will explore the manner in which the termination of Professor Salaita’s employment at UIUC threatened a robust principal of academic freedom.


I just found out that University of Nebraska philosophy professor Mark Van Roojen canceled a scheduled lecture as well. In fact, the list of canceled lectures and events seems to have exploded overnight. There’s now a poster listing all of the cancellations. John Protevi’s also keeping track over at his blog. If you’re cancelling something, please let him know.

In other developments, a group of graduate students has now organized its own boycott pledge. It’s one of the more powerful statements, as it dramatizes the real long-term costs of the Salaita dehiring.

As the rising generation of scholars and public intellectuals, we are troubled about what this signals about the work environments, hiring conditions, and the larger academe we are working to enter.



UI-UC’s actions have signaled to the graduate student community that in order to secure employment, we should stay silent on political questions, eliminate our online interactions with others in the public and in the scholarly community, and cease researching and asking tough questions that may displease those in authority. These conditions trouble us all, and will deter many graduate students from applying to faculty positions at UI-UC in the future.


We hold that the value of scholarly efforts must not be determined by how readily they appease the powerful or cater to the status quo; instead, such efforts must be weighed by their degree of due diligence and attention to the ethical pursuit of knowledge, as well as the imperative to voice righteous criticisms when necessary. To constrain our research and public engagement in such a way as to protect ourselves from the treatment Professor Salaita has received promises to strip the academy of all relevance to society as an institution that values intellectual debate.


If you’re a grad student, please sign it.

Over the weekend, the American Historical Association, the official professional body of historians, issued a scorching denunciation today of Chancellor Wise’s decision.

The First Amendment protects speech, both civil and uncivil. It does so for good reason. The United States made a wager that democracy can flourish only with a robustly open public sphere where conflicting opinions can vigorously engage one another. Such a public sphere rests on the recognition that speech on matters of public concern is often emotional and that it employs a variety of idioms and styles. Hence American law protects not only polite discourse but also vulgarity, not only sweet rationality but also impassioned denunciation. “Civility” is a laudable ideal, and many of us wish that American public life had more of it today. Indeed the AHA recommends it as part of our own Statement on the Standards of Professional Conduct. But imposing the requirement of “civility” on speech in a university community or any other sector of our public sphere—and punishing infractions—can only backfire. Such a policy produces a chilling effect, inhibiting the full exchange of ideas that both scholarly investigation and democratic institutions need.


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


The AHA joined the Modern Languages Association, the professional organization of literature and language scholars, and the American Studies Association, in putting the weight of a major disciplinary organization behind Salaita’s case. I hope American Political Science Association, the American Sociological Association, and other disciplinary organizations join in soon.

It has become clear from various UIUC faculty I’ve spoken with that the trustees are now the main focus of our campaign. Between now and 9/11, we have to bombard them with emails and phone calls urging them to do the right thing. Unfortunately, we don’t have all of their contact information, but Thanks to John Protevi’s heroic efforts (and a little angel who came to my aid after this post went live), we have most all of them. Here they are (plus a few others that are relevant).

If you’ve already joined a boycott, signed the petition, and emailed Chancellor Wise, I want to ask you—all of you, in the tens of thousands now—to rattle the trustees with your voices. As John says: “Be polite but firm, open, frank, forthright, unapologetic, and exigent when writing these folks.”

Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees: chris@northbankandwells.com


Robert A. Easter, President: reaster@uillinois.edu


Hannah Cave, Trustee: hcave2@illinois.edu


Ricardo Estrada, Trustee: estradar@metrofamily.org


Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee: patrick.fitzgerald@skadden.com


Lucas N. Frye, Trustee: lnfrye2@illinois.edu


Karen Hasara, Trustee: hasgot28@aol.com


Patricia Brown Holmes, Trustee: pholmes@schiffhardin.com


Timothy N. Koritz, Trustee: timothy.koritz@gmail.com or tkoritz@gmail.com


Danielle M. Leibowitz, Trustee: dleibo2@uic.edu


Edward L. McMillan, Trustee: mcmillaned@sbcglobal.net or mcmillaned@msn.com


James D. Montgomery, Trustee: james@jdmlaw.com


Pamela B. Strobel, Trustee: pbstrobel@comcast.net


Thomas R. Bearrows, University Counsel: bearrows@uillinois.edu


Susan M. Kies, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and the University: kies@uillinois.edu


Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Treasurer, Board of Trustees: lmckeever@wpmck.com


And if you want all the email addresses collected in one place in order to send one email, John Protevi has done that for you too:

 

lmckeever@wpmck.comkies@uillinois.edujames@jdmlaw.compholmes@schiffhardin.com, patrick.fitzgerald@skadden.comestradar@metrofamily.orgreaster@uillinois.edu, lnfrye2@illinois.edu, hasgot28@aol.comtimothy.koritz@gmail.comdleibo2@uic.edu, mcmillaned@sbcglobal.net, pbstrobel@comcast.netbearrows@uillinois.edu


One last word. I know in the last few days, I’ve been posting on this issue more and more frequently. While I think the attention is warranted—if for no other reason than that it has roiled the entire academy, here in the States and sometimes beyond—I’m also mindful that I’m part of a collective, where we don’t all agree on the politics of Israel/Palestine or its role in the academy (even though Henry, Chris, and I have joined the boycott), and that not all of you, our readers, come to this blog in order to get updates on Steven Salaita. So barring some major developments, I’m going to make this my last post on the issue for a while. If you want to get more updated information, come to my blog, follow me on Twitter, or friend me on Facebook.

{ 54 comments }

1

Michael Griffin 09.03.14 at 6:16 am

“Hence American law protects not only polite discourse but also vulgarity, not only sweet rationality but also impassioned denunciation.”

Too bad they couldn’t have just disemvowelled him.

2

Joshua W. Burton 09.03.14 at 11:44 am

Again, I support offering Dr. Salaita a tenured position because of the obvious intellectual value that his scholarship and background would bring to our campus. His presence would elevate AIS internationally and convey Illinois’ commitment to maintaining a leading academic program on the historical and sociopolitical intricacies of American Indian culture.

So this was about Chief Illiniwek all along?

3

Joshua W. Burton 09.03.14 at 12:16 pm

To clarify, this doesn’t weaken Salaita’s case at all, either on the merits or the optics; the irony is all at UIUC’s expense. Wedged between rich alums who love their mascot and enlightened sensibility about the American genocide, they reached out for . . . someone who could soothe the warfeathers by talking to controversy like a grownup.. It was a good plan!

4

bi-state curious 09.03.14 at 12:26 pm

So barring some major developments, I’m going to make this my last post on the issue for a while.

That’s unfortunate. I was hoping there’d be live-blogging of the 9/11 meeting.

5

Ronan(rf) 09.03.14 at 12:34 pm

“I’m also mindful that I’m part of a collective, where we don’t all agree on the politics of Israel/Palestine or its role in the academy “

But your posts have been primarily about your professions norms ,not Israel/Palestine – so why does that matter ? I can choose not to agree with my Orangeman co worker on the Papist* threat to Protestantism, but think it highly unfair if he got booted out on his ass.

*situation isn’t real. Hypothetically.

6

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 09.03.14 at 12:42 pm

What’s most stunning about these documents is that they show how removed and isolated Chancellor Wise is from any of the academic voices in the university, even the academic voices on her own team.

Of course! The college business is too lucrative, err important to be left in the hands of teachers.
~

7

Barry 09.03.14 at 12:53 pm

Corey, please continue on this. This is an important matter.

8

Ligurio 09.03.14 at 12:56 pm

Not surprising how out of touch Wise is. She earns at least $800,000 a year, after all, in academia (and on the board of Nike…)

9

Barry Freed 09.03.14 at 1:09 pm

So barring some major developments, I’m going to make this my last post on the issue for a while.

I appreciate your being solicitous of this blog but this is such an important issue for academic freedom in the US that I hope you won’t hesitate to post about this again when those major developments, er, develop, as it were, which they surely will. You’ve been doing amazing work on this.

May I also add that between now and the board meeting there’s still time to drop an old fashioned letter in the mail, a few of those might make a large impression.

10

Lynne 09.03.14 at 1:16 pm

Corey, I’m sorry to hear you won’t keep updating here. I second Barry’s comment above.

11

Lynne 09.03.14 at 1:18 pm

Though, on second thought, many of your co-bloggers here have been conspicuous by their absence in the comments on the Salaita blogs. So maybe they are feeling crowded.

12

Corey Robin 09.03.14 at 1:20 pm

My co-bloggers have been extremely supportive of me and these posts; we often don’t comment on each other’s blogs, so please don’t infer anything from that.

13

Lynne 09.03.14 at 1:22 pm

I’m glad to hear that! Thanks.

14

Z 09.03.14 at 2:44 pm

I’m also sorry you won’t keep updating.

BTW, the board of the trustees (much to my surprise) sent me a polite personalized answers to acknowledge the reception of my e-mail.

15

Brandon 09.03.14 at 3:15 pm

What’s most troubling to me is seeing how much power wealthy alums have over our educational institutions.

16

J Thomas 09.03.14 at 3:21 pm

What’s most troubling to me is seeing how much power wealthy alums have over our educational institutions.

It’s only when there aren’t many on the other side of a particular issue.

It looks like there are a significant number of zionist donors on one side of this one, and no academic-freedom donors on the other side. If they were more in balance they’d cancel.

17

Dave Maier 09.03.14 at 3:58 pm

how we handle this situation will be very telling

Won’t it just.

18

Joshua W. Burton 09.03.14 at 4:11 pm

What’s most troubling to me is seeing how much power wealthy alums have over our educational institutions.

Maybe “our” educational institutions could come up with a scheme to get close access to future wealthy alums at an impressionable age, and indoctrinate them over several years with “our” values and ideals?

19

Ligurio 09.03.14 at 4:24 pm

I just sent an email to the whole board–using my real name (I am untenured at a private institution)–and received a quick response from Susan Mary Kies, the board’s secretary.

Please do send an email if you have not done so. It only takes five minutes.

20

Sergio Tenenbaum 09.03.14 at 5:26 pm

I also got a quick response form Susan Mary Kies (kies@uillinois.edu) saying that she was going to forward my email to the whole Board. So if you don’t want to take the time to email each of the Trustees separately, you could just email her.

21

geo 09.03.14 at 5:31 pm

And if you want all the email addresses collected in one place in order to send one email, John Protevi has done that for you too:

Unfortunately, if you’re using Outlook you’re going to have to replace all those commas with semicolons.

22

Corey Robin 09.03.14 at 5:43 pm

If you can, I would encourage you to email the whole board directly. I think there’s something slightly more impressive about getting your inbox flooded with emails from names and addresses you’ve never heard of. And to have the flood keep coming without an intermediary. I suspect, based on my reading of the documents, that Kies will be collecting all the emails and forwarding them once a week. That diminishes the impact. So if you can take the time, it’d be good to email trustees individually or collectively.

23

Anand Sarwate 09.03.14 at 6:39 pm

Not surprising how out of touch Wise is. She earns at least $800,000 a year, after all, in academia (and on the board of Nike…)

And $800k goes a long way in a place like Champaign-Urbana…

24

john in california 09.03.14 at 6:48 pm

I thought about a long post about how the split between admin and teaching staff is no different than most management/labor relations where labor long ago gave up the fight for real job authority for various kinds of job security and now that they see that that security is threatened they try the old ‘huff and puff’ . It won’t make a difference. At best, from Salaita’s point of view, there will be some kind of money to go away, but Wise and the board will never step down. Remember, they are the ones who run things, you are just the people who do things. Or more simply, as drifty says, ” There is a club, and you’re not in it!”.

25

Brandon 09.03.14 at 6:56 pm

@17 Josh W. Burton,

What’s with the scare quotes around “our”? U of I is a public institution.

26

Brandon 09.03.14 at 6:57 pm

@22

Enough pressure eventually got UVA to reinstate their President. Wise and the board doing the right thing isn’t an impossibility here.

27

Neil Schipper 09.03.14 at 6:59 pm

I tried posting the following yesterday on the Breaking News! Wise to Forward Salaita Appointment to Trustees! Updated post. It appears to have not passed moderation, so I am trying again.

There have been so many comments on prior Salaita related threads with in-depth explorations of esoteric legal questions, and I’m anticipating a lot of complex strategic analysis just now.

Why bother with all the complicated, nuanced, intricate argumentation? (And are blog comments even the appropriate medium for communicating the main ideas?)

Far better to presume, with total self-righteousness, that everyone that’s good and smart agrees with your POV entirely. Then, you can issue effective commentary, in continuous short bursts, like this:

===

I hate waking up only to realize that the UIUC Board of Trustees still exists.

While Salaita’s future hangs in the balance, the UIUC BoT are engaged in protracted struggle over who can buy the biggest yacht.

The UIUC spokesperson receives money to justify, conceal, and glamorize the firing of professors. Goebbels much?

Supporting UIUC puts you in company of Republicans with sexual fantasies about killing Muslims. Enjoy your new buddies, promissory estoppel theory deniers.

I don’t give two fucks what the “UIUC” policy says. The BoT ALREADY destroyed academic freedom and is destroying Salaita right now.

Chancellor Wise fires tenured hires and blames it on her Board. Psychiatry hasn’t yet accounted for this sort of derangement.

The trustees dislike it when people call UIUC devoid of integrity. It must really anger them when somebody describes water as translucent.

Instead of whining–which, to be fair, is Chancellor Wise’s oxygen–trustees should be glad I called them “trolls,” the kindest word I can muster.

Do you have to visit your physician for prolonged erections when you see pictures of fired professors from UIUC?

What do you say to the children of the professors you have fired?

The logic of “contract law denialism” deployed by UIUC, if applied in principle, would make pretty much everybody not a sociopath a “contract law denialist.”

====

(The above pseudo-tweets are based on approx. half of the tweets by Steven Salaita on the single day July 16.)

So, you just keep firing out message like these every day. (Actually, they’re quite fun to compose.)

Then, you win.

28

Joshua W. Burton 09.03.14 at 7:03 pm

Brandon @23: What’s with the scare quotes around “our”? U of I is a public institution.

And I’m an Illinois voter, as it happens. Since you don’t give a full name, I have no way to tell if you are as well, but certainly many of the commenters here (including the OP) are not.

29

Brandon 09.03.14 at 7:07 pm

@25

As it happens, I’m both an Illinois resident and a U of I alum. However, my comment was more general than just this case. While the donor influence is laid bare in this case, I am sure it is a powerful force at educational institutions around the world that seem to have to rely on donors more and more.

30

Joshua W. Burton 09.03.14 at 7:22 pm

john @22: Remember, they are the ones who run things, you are just the people who do things. Or more simply, as drifty says, ”There is a club, and you’re not in it!”.

Of course, there’s another (and, usually, more influential) club that almost every professor is in; s/he got the acceptance letter in April, way back in senior year of high school. That’s where you run things (including, as in any club, who gets in after you — the admissions office is forever looking for alumni interviewers to volunteer).

As between alumni and voters, I am willing to hear both sides; our country benefits from both private and public institutions of higher learning. As between alumni and faculty,
not so much: when the other employees are as secure as the professors, then we can revisit the class war between hired management and tenured labor.

31

Joshua W. Burton 09.03.14 at 7:28 pm

educational institutions around the world that seem to have to rely on donors more and more.

My point exactly: there’s not much I can do about institutions around the world, but here in Illinois we have a ballot referendum coming up. Remember to vote on November 4th.

32

Ligurio 09.03.14 at 7:42 pm

Josh Barton writes: “when the other employees are as secure as the professors, then we can revisit the class war between hired management and tenured labor.”

The truth is exactly the reverse. The aim is to turn one of the last bastions of self-governed labor–the university–into just another group of employees who can be fired at will. Hence the move toward adjunct labor, etc.

What I don’t understand, though, is how easily “hired management” has been able to transform what *should be* the resistance of laborers to themselves into a kind of envious critique of *other* laborers who are not yet completely dominated by the corporate bureaucracy. Hence lower class white Americans are more likely to attack police pensions, labor unions, and the tenured professors on the grounds that “in the real world” there are no protections for labor, instead of asking why hired management and the capital behind them has been allowed to dictate to poor white Americans what “the real world” actually is.

I admit that tenured academics themselves have been clueless about this process, especially in regard to adjunct labor, and have busied themselves with the cultural issues that have come to dominate what passes for “left” politics in this country: abortion, gay rights, and so forth. I have long felt that a viable left needs to be able to tolerate some amount of difference on these issues–or at least delay what *the position* is on them–if it is ever to mount a serious attack on capital.

But the point remains that employees should not be asking why it is that, compared to them, tenured professors have it so good. (BTW, I am a pre-tenure humanities prof who works 60-80 hours per week and makes about 60K per annum.) Rather, they should be asking why work is so shitty for them in the first place. We all need to be asking this question, much more loudly and insistently than we have done. Sadly, I don’t see it happening until things get much, much worse.

33

Joshua W. Burton 09.03.14 at 7:53 pm

But the point remains that employees should not be asking why it is that, compared to them, tenured professors have it so good.

And tenured professors should stop sneering at employees who literally do shitty work. Can’t we all get along?

34

Lyle 09.03.14 at 8:33 pm

@J W Burton,

“And tenured professors should stop sneering at employees who literally do shitty work.”

So you’re claiming that you’d just as soon clean toilets at Virginia Tech as toil in the very pretentious heart of liberal Zionism?

35

Joshua W. Burton 09.03.14 at 9:18 pm

Heavens no, I’m a liberal Zionist myself. But I learned to clean toilets and to teach quantum field theory at a school that could be fairly placed in that heart, and I take a moderate amount of proletarian pride in both skills. The smell of Lysol would catch in my throat if I ever tried to score the cheap rhetorical point Mr. Salaita was making, and I might thereby be saved from the embarrassment of eating my own words should my changing fortunes whipsaw me as his did. Either all work has dignity, or it’s open season.

36

Barry 09.03.14 at 9:44 pm

“Heavens no, I’m a liberal Zionist myself. “

You accidentally typed the word ‘liberal’.

37

Barry 09.03.14 at 9:46 pm

Joshua W. Burton: “when the other employees are as secure as the professors, then we can revisit the class war between hired management and tenured labor.”

Ah, yes – when the women of Afghanistan are no longer oppressed, American women can open their mouths. When blacks in [country X in] Africa are no longer oppressed, American blacks can open their mouths. When the USA actually becomes a fascist state, only then can liberals and leftists complain.

38

Barry 09.03.14 at 9:52 pm

Ligurio: “What I don’t understand, though, is how easily “hired management” has been able to transform what *should be* the resistance of laborers to themselves into a kind of envious critique of *other* laborers who are not yet completely dominated by the corporate bureaucracy. Hence lower class white Americans are more likely to attack police pensions, labor unions, and the tenured professors on the grounds that “in the real world” there are no protections for labor, instead of asking why hired management and the capital behind them has been allowed to dictate to poor white Americans what “the real world” actually is.”

I had a long response, which got eaten. The short answer is that ‘crabs in a bucket’ and ‘yassuh, mastuh’ defines the working/middle class American right, despite all of their rhetoric to the contrary. They resent people who are their peers or inferiors having it better, and given a choice between opposing those who actually have power and those who don’t, they’ll take the bully’s choice any day.

39

Neil Schipper 09.04.14 at 2:28 am

My comment at #25 has not appeared.

It’s interesting that it would be seen as in violation of Crooked Timber commenting standards.

I’m not so deluded as to imagine my contribution will have an extremely large influence on the opinions of many readers, but since the Salaita controversy hinges in large part on tolerance for dangerous and uncomfortable speech, perhaps you’ll tolerate my linking to it at a location where it was tolerated.

To support of my case, I’ll note that a similar (perhaps less combative) version of that comment was tolerated at insidehighered, commondreams, a chronicle blog, a chronicle main article, volokh-conspiracy at WaPo, and academeblog.

[CB comment as moderator: Actually, all comments from new commenters go into moderation automatically, as do those with certain words likely to indicate spam and those containing lots of onward links. They stay there until one of us gets round to moderating them: nothing sinister. I've released yours, complete with this pathetic and inaccurate whining about what we won't tolerate, but we do have a comments policy in this our private space (which we pay for out of our own pockets). So play nicely, or play elsewhere.]

40

Brett Bellmore 09.04.14 at 9:37 am

Hm, reading the other Salaita papers…

I’m beginning to think this is one of those stories with no good guys. Oh, well, the ACLU quite properly championed the rights of Nazis in Skokie, I suppose this guy deserves his rights, too. Just not to be admired, apparently.

41

rwschnetler 09.04.14 at 9:58 am

@39 …So play nicely, or play elsewhere

Seems that Wise and CB has the same policy in regards to who may play in the tent.

42

Mario 09.04.14 at 11:24 am

Brett @40

That’s a pretty interesting link. Thanks.

43

christian_h 09.04.14 at 12:31 pm

And we have reached peak pathetic, with the scouring of the internet for every last offensive utterance by Salaita. Not to mention the defenders of civility – of course – pulling out the Nazi comparison. And the making up of fake tweets. Topped off by the old “a private blog is exactly like a public university you hypocrites” gambit.

44

Neil Schipper 09.04.14 at 12:31 pm

CB, as I implied up at #27, a full day had passed since the earliest attempt. If the auto-moderation mechanism you describe were noted upon submission (perhaps including typical lag times), there would be less chance for misinterpretation. (Also, if the auto-moderation mechanism were described on your Comments Policy page, folks like me would somewhat more culpable for not having checked it at the appropriate time).

45

Main Street Muse 09.04.14 at 12:37 pm

Christian H – FYI, Twitter and blogs are public media. When you hit post, you are publishing to a broad audience. Perhaps people should stop publicly journaling their thoughts. Would be great to see academics raising the caliber of the public conversation but in researching the Salaita issue, I realize that’s not going to happen.

46

christian_h 09.04.14 at 12:46 pm

I was talking about the whining about the existence of a comments policy which is HYPOCRITICAL, according to the whiners. Bullshit.

47

christian_h 09.04.14 at 12:55 pm

Speaking of civility, here you can find Neil Schipper commenting on the public internets:

http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/645837-do-atheists-understand-and-appreciate-black-bodies/comments?page=2#comment_940057

Choice racist and demeaning quote: Also worth considering: the actual message is “Look at me, black and an intellectual”

A Dawkinista, of course. Why am I not surprised?

48

J Thomas 09.04.14 at 1:40 pm

More on-topic:

http://mondoweiss.net/profile/neil-schipper

Messages like his #27 that got copy-and-pasted here might fit better in context wherever they were posted first.

49

Corey Robin 09.04.14 at 1:46 pm

This is a thread about Steven Salaita, not a thread about the thread, or a thread about the commenters, or a thread about how we choose commenters to become the thread. So knock it all off. Get back to the topic at hand.

50

Neil Schipper 09.04.14 at 1:55 pm

Good morning, Mr. scouring the internet for every last offensive utterance!

It turns out that quote is pretty darn good in context, and it coulda been written by an anti-gasbag of any skin color, including indigo and peach.

And I don’t know how often people actually LOL when they write LOL, but I assure you that I did, in seeing myself called a Dawkinista!

So since we’re dredging, I’m reminded of my “Annie Hall moment” with Dawkins. The episode also presents a fun challenge for people who like to test their critical thinking. Go to: http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/4778-accidents-of-life ; first, read the linked New Statesman article by RD, a short pop biology article, and not difficult. However, it does contain a clear scientific error. Then, back at the RD site, you can skim through the comments and see how things play out (some serious instances of motivated reasoning on display).

51

Neil Schipper 09.04.14 at 1:56 pm

I’m done

52

Corey Robin 09.04.14 at 1:57 pm

Enough. Please bring this back to the topic of the OP or stop commenting.

53

Corey Robin 09.04.14 at 4:13 pm

Chancellor Wise has now admitted that she did not consult as widely as she should have in the days leading up to her dehiring of Salaita. And she also admits that there’s something funky about officially hiring people to work and get paid before their appointments are approved by the Bot. Let’s hope she keeps talking. Every time she does, she provides more ammunition for the arguments I and other have been making.

http://coreyrobin.com/2014/09/04/chancellor-wise-speaks/

54

milx 09.04.14 at 9:11 pm

I’m also mindful that I’m part of a collective, where we don’t all agree on the politics of Israel/Palestine or its role in the academy

Because of this, I wanted to thank you for collecting these emails together. I oppose Salaita’s hiring and intend to encourage the board to ratify the Chancellor’s decision. But I think it speaks well of you, Corey, that recognizing this possibility you still believe in making this information public. Let the best argument win out in the end.

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