uiuc board to vote on salaita appointment edit: nevermind

A group of activist students at UIUC made an announcement following a meeting with administrators:

We have discovered that the Chancellor HAS FORWARDED Professor Salaita’s appointment to the Board of Trustees, and they will be voting on his appointment during the Board of Trustees Meeting on September 11th, on the UIUC campus

Via Crooked Timber, where you can also find a good analysis of what this might mean and why organizing over the next 10 days is so important. Also included is this lovely quote, in reference to a theory that this forwarding is a mere formality to immunize the administration from legal challenge: “in a country of lawyers, Louis Hartz reminded us, every philosophical question is turned into a legal claim.” A more skeptical take is here. Let’s hope it’s not just the Board wanting a chance to fire Salaita themselves!

EDIT: Corey Robin at Crooked Timber has an extensive update. It seems the students who spoke with the Chancellor were mistaken. UIUC’s current plan seems to be to try to buy Salaita off, not to open up further debate. For extensive details, including how you can join a graduate student or faculty boycott, see here.

Author: Dan Hirschman

I am a sociologist interested in the use of numbers in organizations, markets, and policy. For more info, see here.

9 thoughts on “uiuc board to vote on salaita appointment edit: nevermind”

  1. I’m concerned too that the main point of this is to offer legal protection to Wise. But as the commenters on Crooked Timber point out, even this seemed unthinkable a few days ago. I think that’s because activists have successfully made the point that a civility test is silencing to legitimate speech — a complicated case, but a correct one. Hopefully it will work at the next level too.

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  2. It seems that the chancellor is not planning to forward Salaita’s hire to the board after all (see updates in the first link Dan provided).

    Meanwhile, a play-by-play based on the FOIA documents.

    I was particularly interested in the part that begins, “What’s most stunning about these documents is that they show how removed and isolated Chancellor Wise is from any of the academic voices in the university, even the academic voices on her own team.” But the whole thing is a fascinating and disturbing picture of a chancellor who seems immensely concerned with what donors think and immensely unconcerned with what her faculty and even her own provost and deans think.

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    1. The ASA Council was asked to write a letter expressing its opinion on the matter, and the topic was discussed very briefly at Council a few weeks ago. The Council has recently put a lot of thought into what types of issues it is willing to make a statement about. Most of this discussion occurred prior to my term, but the end result is that there is wide consensus that the ASA should restrict its statements to certain narrow areas–sociology as a profession, the state of sociological research on a particular topic, and so on. On other topics, the ASA President might write a letter as president, but not on behalf of the ASA as an organization.

      This seemed like a topic that would be appropriate for the latter course of action, and the current President, Paula England, consulted with the the Past President, the President Elect, the Secretary, and the three Vice-Presidents (past, present, elect). After a full discussion, President England decided not to send a letter.

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      1. Thank you very much for the information, Tina. It’s informative.

        However, I find this puzzling. This is a case in which a professor was hired through the normal means; shortly before he was to begin work, donors threatened to pull their support from the university if the hire went through; the university’s chancellor spoke extensively with donors and with the fundraising side of the university but not at all with hired professor, the hiring department, the hiring dean, or even her own provost; and, with no consultation with the academic side and no due process for the professor, cancelled the hire after the newly hired professor had already moved his family.

        The Chancellor gave no explanation at that time, but after pressure to do so, elaborated (and was backed up by the Board of Trustees in elaborating) that, for their employment to remain secure, professors may not engage in “personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.”

        If this precedent — that donors can successfully pressure the university to ‘dehire’ professors who are outspoken about controversial politics, with the standard that they have “demeaned and abused viewpoints themselves” — isn’t the sort of ‘narrow issue’ that affects a wide swath of sociologists, then what is?

        If the Council discussion was at ASA, then it occurred well before many of the facts of this case were known. I can see how a rushed discussion at that point might not have produced clarity on the stakes for universities. But at this point, it seems to me to be a remarkable position for the ASA to be silent when so many other disciplinary associations are not. If the only Council discussion was in the time before all of this information came to light, then I would really urge Council to reconsider now that so much more is known.

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      2. The American Political Science Association’s president and president-elect have now weighed in to “ask for a thorough, transparent, and publicly accessible
        review of the procedural irregularities and their implications for future academic
        contracts, and Professor Salaita’s offer of a tenured faculty position.” In other words, they are not making any prejudgment on the case, but they are expressing their concern and urging that the matter be reopened in light of the apparent extreme procedural irregularities.

        The ASA really stands out among our peers (besides economics) as the association that has said nothing. I understand the urge to be cautious in issuing statements; I’ve never understood, myself, why the ASA should take a position on this or that political issue. But matters that will set national precedents about free speech and academic freedom, shared governance, and the role of donors in university hiring/firing are something else. It disappoints me that the ASA decided to sit this one out. I think our colleagues in other fields have shown better judgment about the significance of this situation.

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      3. I agree with gradstudentbyday. It seems wrong that because we’re snakebitten about prior purely political statements (e.g., the one opposing the Iraq war), we’re cautious about taking stands that are much more similar to our own expertise and interests. I like the APSA’s approach and wish ASA would do similarly.

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