Despite a faculty report that called for a “body of qualified academic experts” to re-evaluate the candidacy of anti-Israel academic Steven Salaita, the University of Illinois board of trustees has refused to reconsider hiring him.
Salaita’s job offer to the Urbana-Champaign campus was revoked following his virulent tweets against Israel, some of them seeming to cheer for the murder of Jews. When his nomination was later sent to the board in September, it rejected him 8-1.
The board released a statement that not only ignores why Salaita’s appointment was controversial – it seems to have been written hastily or simply not proofread, because it misspells Salaita’s first name as “Stephen”:
Recent media accounts about a report issued by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure may have given the mistaken impression that the decision regarding Dr. Salaita might be reconsidered. It will not. …
Here, the decision concerning Dr. Salaita was not reached hastily. Nor was it the result of external pressures. The decision did not present a “new approach” to the consideration of proposed faculty appointments. It represented the careful exercise of each Board member’s fiduciary duty and a balancing of all of the interests of the University of Illinois. In the end, this is a responsibility that cannot be delegated nor abdicated.
By “external pressures,” the board seems to be acknowledging claims that Chancellor Phyllis Wise pulled Salaita’s offer after she was inundated with threats by donors to pull their funding.
The “new approach” could refer to concerns by academic freedom groups that “civility” would become a new test on which academics were judged.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education blasted the school for sending the message that “professors must be careful what viewpoints they espouse, even when speaking as private citizens”:
All universities, but particularly public institutions like UIUC, should affirm that there is no right not to be offended, and that professors must remain free to explore controversial ideas even when others may find them hurtful.
IMAGE: Steven Salaita’s Facebook page