There is an update to some discussion in the comments about why the ASA has not sent a letter of concern regarding the UIUC’s failure to hire Steven Salaita. As I mentioned there, the ASA Council handed the matter over to the ASA presidents, who decided at that time, there was insufficient consent to warrant a letter.
Since then, as additional information has come to light, the three ASA presidents (President Paula England, Past-President Annette Lareau, and President-Elect Ruth Milkman) and ASA Secretary Mary Romero reconvened and decided to send a letter at this time. Please note that this letter is not from the ASA organization per se, but from these four prominent sociologists as they occupy these key elected and appointed positions in our professional organization. The text of the letter is here:
UPDATE: ASA Vice President Elect Barbara Risman and Council Member-At-Large Stephanie Bohon have written a letter of support for the UIUC’s decision. Both letters can be found as pdfs on the ASA website in the “What’s New” section.
We write as elected leaders of the American Sociological Association to express our concern about the possibility that academic freedom has been violated in the decision of the Chancellor not to send Dr. Steven G. Salaita’s faculty appointment to the board for approval, and the decision of the Board not to approve his offer. We ask you to reconsider your decision.
The decision appears to abrogate long-established principles of academic freedom of expression to which your university expressly adheres (see art. 10, sec. 2, at http://www.bot.uillinois.edu/statutes). It appears that the decision not to approve his appointment after the usual faculty evaluation processes was based on disapproval of some political views he expressed on electronic media or the way in which he stated them. As leaders of a scholarly association, we consider it important that decisions about whom to hire, tenure, or terminate be made based on scholarship, teaching, administration, and service, and not on whether individuals express views that administrators or board members disagree with. We believe that the right to express unpopular views on important issues in various media is critical to the health of our democratic society and to its institutions of higher education.
If Dr. Salaita’s appointment process was discontinued because of the views he expressed, then, regardless of whether or not we agree with his views, we find the discontinuation deeply disturbing and inconsistent with academic freedom. We urge you to consider whether important principles have been violated in this case, and if they have, to reconsider your decision.
Paula England also reminds us that any individual may speak out as ASA members on this issue as well.