AAUP threatens UIUC with censure over firing of Prof Salaita for “incivility”

Colleen Flaherty has the story in InsideHigherEd, here. A snippet:

There’s been no shortage of criticism, both formal and informal, of how the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign handled the withdrawn faculty appointment of Steven Salaita last summer. (The university has a substantial number of supporters who say it was right to reject Salaita for the tone of his anti-Israel remarks on Twitter, but detractors have been numerous and vocal.) The latest disapproving report, out today from the American Association of University Professors, offers familiar complaints and also paves the way for the organization to hold a censure vote against the university later this spring.

The AAUP isn’t a regulatory body, but institutions generally hope to avoid landing on its censure list for alleged violations of academic freedom and sometimes work hard to remove themselves once on it.

The UO faculty union and the Senate fought hard with President Gottfredson over academic freedom. Gottfredson and his negotiators Tim Gleason, Doug Blandy, Randy Geller and Sharon Rudnick wanted the union contract to include rules requiring civility and proper respect, and they didn’t want the university to give explicit protection for criticizing administrative policies.

After a year of hard work by United Academics and the UO Senate’s Ad Hoc Committee on Freedom, Gottfredson and Geller are gone, Gleason has been put out to pasture as FAR, and UO now has a very strong Academic Freedom Policy – perhaps the strongest in the country – which says:

… Members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance. … Public service requires that members of the university community have freedom to participate in public debate, both within and beyond their areas of expertise, and to address both the university community and the larger society with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, cultural, or other interest. … The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal.

As well as Lariviere’s strong Free Speech Policy, which says:

Free speech is central to the academic mission and is the central tenet of a free and democratic society. The University encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues … The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or “just plain wrong” cannot be grounds for its suppression. …

These policies are of course founded on basic human rights and the social purposes of universities, but they are also entirely practical. No sensible university leader or trustee wants to get distracted from their jobs by a political fight over some statement by some professor that offends some politician, donor, or alumnus.

They want to be able to respond like this: “Yes, that statement by professor X about Y in Z was deplorable. Despicable, even. But I can’t interfere. I’m sorry, and I appreciate your years of support for the athletic program, but the only response our university can make to free speech that someone doesn’t like is — more free speech.”

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4 Responses to AAUP threatens UIUC with censure over firing of Prof Salaita for “incivility”

  1. anonymous says:

    He is quoted in the wikipedia article on him as saying that Israel “is the least likely of nations to have a soul.” In my book this is definitely an instance of anti-Israel bigotry, if not outright anti-Semitic bigotry. While perhaps this should not disqualify a person for a teaching position, it’s a little hard to imagine a corresponding statement about just about any other contemporary group or nation NOT disqualifying a person. Substitute any group or nation and see what I mean.

  2. Nobody says:

    There is no such thing as a soul so who cares if israel has none?

  3. anonymous says:

    Well, uomatters, I guess that settles it.