Rhetoric, Composition, and Communication Scholars Statement on Salaita Case

In a letter dated August 1, 2014, UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise rescinded Professor Steven Salaita's appointment in the American Indian Studies Program as a tenured associate professor. Although no explicit reason was provided for this action, Wise wrote that Salaita's appointment was subject to approval by UIUC's Board of Trustees and that such approval was unlikely. Wise refused to forward Salaita's appointment to the Board, creating the impression that she (as the chief academic officer of the campus) was simply playing a role at the end of the academic process. In fact, Wise acted unilaterally and in defiance of the university's shared governance because outside organizations are opposed to Salaita's views on the Israel-Palestine conflict. These organizations, such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, expressed concern about the tone and content of Salaita's tweets about the ongoing conflict in Gaza. UIUC's actions must be resisted as they represent a direct assault on academic freedom and free speech.

To: Chancellor Phyllis Wise, University of Illinois

From: Concerned Rhetoric, Composition, and Communication Scholars

Whereas academic freedom is an essential aspect of academic life and campus climate;

Whereas UIUC has violated the academic freedom of Professor Steven Salaita and the UIUC faculty who served on the hiring committee which approved his appointment;

Whereas parties external to the University of Illinois have influenced the administration's disposition toward Professor Salaita's appointment by bringing in irrelevant considerations, such as the content and tone of his Twitter messages, at the last minute and at the conclusion of the academic process;

Whereas the right to free expression as enshrined in the First amendment extends to all US citizens; We the undersigned—teachers and scholars of writing, rhetoric, and communication studies, at colleges and universities across the country, dedicated to the arts of language and public discourse in all their myriad, often-controversial forms—will not step foot on UIUC's campus until Professor Salaita's appointment is reinstated.


The Undersigned

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