AASA Letter to Chancellor Wise on Reinstatement of Dr. Steve Salaita
August 17, 2014
Office of the Chancellor
Swanlund Administration Building
601 E. John Street
Champaign, IL 61820
Dear Chancellor Wise,
As members of the Arab American Studies Association (AASA), we write to express our deep concern about the termination of Professor Steven Salaita’s appointment at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
We write to ask UIUC to reconsider the decision to end Professor Salaita’s appointment days before he was to assume his new post at UIUC. In its actions, the University of Illinois has overstepped some of the most central protocols of academia and is undermining the very processes that maintain academic fairness in hiring and the tenure system at large. After hiring Professor Salaita as an Associate Professor of American Indian Studies following the customary tenure review and publicly announcing his hire, UIUC fired him. UIUC fired Professor Salaita after he had signed his contract and after he resigned from his previous position. UIUC also provided no explanation for his termination.
We also register grave concern over the infringement of UIUC’s decision on faculty’s First Amendment rights to free speech as outlined in the public statements by groups such as the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCRJustice). We join the growing campaign to support Professor Salaita, including the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) which has issued astatement in support of Professor Salaita; over 11,000 individuals who have signed the change.org petition in defense of Professor Salaita; and faculty and organizations with diverse interests and political leanings who share the same concerns that we do about the kind of university Chancellor Wise’s action is promoting. We also stand in solidarity with the UIUC Campus Faculty Association (CFA), which has called for Professor Salaita to be reinstated. We do not want to see fear and repression predominate in academic life and we do not want to teach undergraduate and graduate students that university protocols do not matter and that the unjust treatment of employees is justified.
When UIUC hired Professor Salaita, UIUC was standing at the forefront of cutting-edge efforts to increase interdisciplinary research and teaching across the United States. Professor Salaita’s scholarship uniquely interconnects the fields of Native American Studies and Palestine Studies and bridges gaps between the fields of Literature, History, Political Science, and Ethnic and Indigenous Studies. At this historical juncture when U.S. histories are increasingly tied up in international affairs and a majority of academia continues to study the U.S. and the Middle East as entirely separate entities, Professor Salaita’s scholarship is more crucial than ever before.
For too long, Arab and Arab American scholars and students have faced censorship and administrative scrutiny on their own, especially when it comes to critically discussing U.S. foreign policy and Israeli human rights violations. Today, we join with the outpouring of voices concerned about the impact of administrative overreach on academic freedom and due process. We request that UIUC apply the same academic standards to Professor Salaita as it would to all faculty and reinstate Professor Salaita.
The Arab American Studies Association (AASA)
Board members of AASA represent the membership of the Arab American Studies Association and not necessarily those of their institutional affiliations.
President, Akram Khater, PhD, North Carolina State University
Past President, Suad Joseph, PhD, University of California, Davis
Member at Large, Nadine Suleiman Naber, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
Treasurer, Randa Kayyali, PhD
Secretary, Pauline Homsi Vinson, PhD, Diablo Valley College
Web Coordinator, Lutfi Hussein, PhD, Mesa Community College
[Here is a link to other statements on the reinstatement of Dr. Steve Salaita.]