Dr. Cornel West Joins Boycott of Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign over Salaita Firing
March 4, 2015, New York – Esteemed professor and intellectual Dr. Cornel West has cancelled a high-profile lecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in support of a boycott of the university over the firing of Professor Steven Salaita. The university fired Salaita, a Palestinian-American professor of Native American Studies, from a tenured faculty position because of his tweets criticizing the Israeli government’s bombing of Gaza last year. West was scheduled to deliver the 2015 Thulin Lecture next month at the university on “The Profound Desire for Justice” in the historic Lincoln Hall.
“My change of mind in regard to my cancellation of my lecture constitutes a line in the sand I could not cross,” said West. “The case of my dear brother Professor Steven Salaita is a moral scandal of great proportion and the suffering of precious Palestinians under a vicious Israeli occupation is a crime against humanity, even in a world in which ugly anti-Jewish hatred escalates.”
Since Salaita’s firing, more than 5,000 academics from around the country have pledged to boycott the university, resulting in the cancellation of more than three dozen scheduled talks and conferences at the school. Sixteen academic departments of the university have voted no confidence in the university administration, and prominent academic organizations, including the American Association of University Professors, the Modern Language Association, and the Society of American Law Teachers have publicly condemned the University’s actions.
Earlier this year, Salaita filed a lawsuit against the university and its officials, including the Chancellor and university trustees, alleging that their decision to fire him over his tweets violated his constitutional rights to free speech and due process of law, and breached his employment contract. The suit also targets university donors who, based on emails made public, threatened to withhold their contributions to the university if it did not fire Salaita on account of his political speech. Salaita is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firm of Loevy & Loevy.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.