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U. of Illinois: Failure to Uphold Academic Standards re: Steven Salaita?

Robert Weissberg at The Pope Center has a different take on the controversy surrounding Steven Salaita, the (Palestinian) professor whose job offer at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign was revoked following disclosure of controversial anti-Jewish and Israel tweets.

Weissberg avoids that issue, as well as that involving possible breach of contract. Instead, he ponders Salaita’s qualifications to teach that for which he was hired: American Indian Studies.

The offensive tweets or incivility are irrelevant. Killing the appointment should have been about scholarly qualifications and why the American Indian Studies Program failed to uphold high standards. Deans and trustees should have asked why somebody who wrote six books on Arab and Middle Eastern politics but not a single opus on Native Americans is hired in American Indian Studies.

Or why excellent teaching reviews from courses involving the Middle East are taken as evidence for teaching courses on American Indians. And surely a trustee could have said that a web search for his vita uncovered just a single journalist rant about Native Americans —- a plea that the United States should return all Indian land.

The trustees are not guilty of violating free speech; their sin is cowardice in overseeing the faculty. They did not perform their job.

… I personally would love to see how the Illinois Indian American Studies Program finessed the question of how Salaita compares to comparable scholars in American Indian studies at this stage in his career, a stock question in such reviews.

Read the full article here.

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