Breaking silence, Salaita calls on Univ. of Illinois to rescind his firing over Gaza tweets

Steven Salaita broke his silence today for the first time since administrators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) fired him from a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program more than a month ago.

He reaffirmed his commitment to teaching and called on the university to reinstate him. The video above shows the full press conference.

“I am here today at the University of Illinois to speak against my termination by the administration from a tenured faculty position because of the university administration’s objections to my speech that was critical of recent Israeli human rights violations,” Salaita said.

Salaita spoke before a packed hall at the University YMCA in Urbana, Illinois following a student walk-out demanding his reinstatement.

“The administration’s actions have caused me and my family great hardship,” Salaita added. “Even worse, the administration’s actions threaten principles of free speech, academic freedom and critical thought that should be the foundation of any university.”

Due to university administrators’ arbitrary decision, “my family has no income, no health insurance and no home of our own. Our young son has been left without a preschool. I have lost the great achievement of a scholarly career – lifetime tenure, with its promised protections of academic freedom,” Salaita said.

His full statement is available from the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Salaita had resigned from a tenured position at Virginia Tech and had been scheduled to begin teaching at UIUC in August, before UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise abruptly informed him that she had decided, with no consultation with faculty, not to forward his appointment to the board of trustees for what is typically rubber-stamp approval.

“I am here to reaffirm my commitment to teaching and to a position with the American Indian Studies program at UIUC,” Salaita said. “I reiterate the demand that the university recognize the importance of respecting the faculty’s hiring decision and reinstate me.”

Constitutional violation

“The university has violated the Constitution by terminating Professor Salaita’s appointment based on the content of his speech,” Maria LaHood, senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, told the gathering, according to a CCR press release. “It has also sent a chilling message to faculty and students everywhere that the First Amendment and basic principles of academic freedom will be ignored when it comes to speech that is controversial or critical of the Israeli government.”

Salaita is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Anand Swaminathan of Loevy & Loevy in Chicago. Swaminathan said that Salaita was asking the university to reinstate him and hoped for that to happen in an amicable way, but was ready to go to court to pursue his rights if necessary.

Swaminathan said that litigation, if it proved necessary, would allow Salaita to question university officials on their roles in the affair and to seek discovery of university documents. He added that if indeed Salaita’s removal had nothing to do with the views of “certain wealthy donors,” then there should be nothing preventing Salaita’s reinstatement from going forward.

“Having watched this disaster unfold over the course of more than a month from up close, I am overjoyed that people now have the opportunity to hear the human and passionate voice of Steven Salaita, the scholar and man I have admired for many years,” said Professor Robert Warrior, director of the university’s American Indian Studies program, according to CCR.
Other speakers included Michael Rothberg, head of the English Department at UIUC, on behalf of the Modern Language Association and UIUC graduate students Eman Ghanayem and Rico Kleinstein Chenyek.

The mobilizations and expressions of support for Salaita’s reinstatement are expected to continue in the run-up to a meeting of the University of Illinois board of trustees in Urbana this Thursday.

For more information, the Center for Constitutional Rights provides background on the case and also refer to The Electronic Intifada’s ongoing coverage and commentary.




I fully support Steven Salaita and, as an aspiring professor, I understand that this case is not only in his name but in the name of academic freedoms for scholars nationwide.


While Professor Salaita's job woes are clearly tied to the current opening up of discussion and awareness of Israel's flouting of international law in both occupation of Palestine and war crimes during open conflict in Gaza, changing times and mores in post-secondary institutions about tenure, and academic freedom must be addressed. Increasing corporate control of universities have made tenured professorships rarer and rarer, with teaching increasingly being done by grad students, and decisions being made by administrators. Colleges' research is guided by the needs of the corporate world, as is their output of "finished graduate product". The need to pay off the huge cost invested in that education means that a program which promises reliable employment prospects, after graduation, is necessary to the student.

Academic freedom conflicts with many of these commercially driven values, because controversial or risky viewpoints, valuable or indispensable in both scientific and liberal arts fields like studies of indigenous peoples, may not be the most profitable in the short term, or may be just opposed to the whole system entirely. Those views are needed, too, and the way the academic system is supposed to work, with faculty having the freedom to choose the colleagues they want, there should be a variety of viewpoints for students to experience, and a variety of publications for colleagues to criticize. I believe that is, in theory, how it is supposed to have worked, and should work if there were still government money enabling students to attend, and research to be done, independently.


I wonder what is the reason behind the unconditional US government aid to Israel, among other Americans like administrators at the University of Illinois. Where are the freedom values in the American Constitution? Why do you hate the Arabs who born there and defend their land against European settlers called Israelis? Remember that Palestine belongs to Arab Palestinians who born there and they are Muslims, Christians and Jews. Palestine is not the land chosen for European settlers under the pretext they are Jews.


I am proud of the students who are standing up against this unfair firing and this blatant offense against academic freedom and Salaita's constitutional rights. It is time Arab Americans and Muslim Americans stand up for their rights in this country. All Americans should be heard, not just the brazen zionists who try to use their prejudices to silence another human being and his right to his opinion.


A win-win situation would allow Salaita to demonstrate his rejection of anti-semitism and disavow the tweets that when taken out of context can be construed as offensive and unacceptable and allow him to take the job he was offered.

1. Complete disavowal of demeaning, and abusive tweets. No excuses. No defenses. If something can be taken out of context and be misleading and offensive, then we should not say it. We all must take personal responsibility even for our statements that are misconstrued. If we were clearer, and used less ambiguous language, these incidents would not occur.

2. Express full commitment to the principles of free speech and discourse with respect for all points of view as elucidated in Chancellor Wise statement “The Principles on Which We Stand.” “Dedication to robust – and even intense and provocative – debate and disagreement”, while staying “committed to creating a welcoming environment for faculty and students alike to explore the most difficult, contentious and complex issues facing our society today.”

3. Reinstatement of the job offer effective immediately with a contract with indefinite tenure after a one-year probationary period.

4. A substantial financial settlement from the University to Salaita for lost salary and reimbursement for legal and other expenses.

5. Discontinuation of all legal action and acceptance of financial settlement as relief for all outstanding claims.

Read more: A Settlement Proposal for Salaita | Marc Allan Feldman | The Blogs | The Times of Israel
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Saladia should apologize for the university's ability to manipulate his words into a false accusation of anti-semitism? Have you fallen down the rabbit hole into Alice's Wonderland?


Salaita comes close when he said:
"“With many of the tweets that were so controversial, I would not disavow that criticism given the reports that were coming in,”

The statement would say that he disavows those individual tweets that have been construed as demeaning and abusive because they do not represent his views as they are being understood by many readers.


It's time Israel learns that they cannot bully their way into everything with their irrational expectations. This is a free country. If an American wishes to express an opinion on a subject, he has a right to do so. He has nothing to apologize for and to think that he does is just another irrational expectation that everyone should bow to Israel's intransigence and immoral behavior.