June 13, 2015, New York – In response to the vote today by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to censure the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for its termination of tenured professor Steven Salaita for his personal tweets criticizing Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:
"The AAUP’s censure is a serious blemish on the university’s record. According to the nationally respected 100-year-old professional association, censure is reserved for a situation involving “a major departure” from AAUP standards of sound academic practice that “remains unresolved.” The association censured UIUC not only for its summary dismissal of Professor Salaita in violation of academic freedom, due process, and shared governance, but also for its continued refusal to rectify its actions. The university’s stubbornness continues in spite of academic boycotts, department votes of no confidence in the UIUC administration, student walk-outs, tens of thousands of petition signatures, a federal lawsuit, and the AAUP’s reprimand, suggesting that the UIUC administration is more beholden to donors than it is to due process, academic freedom, and the First Amendment."
In April, the AAUP released a scathing report in which it found that Salaita’s firing violated principles of academic freedom, due process, and shared governance.
Yesterday, Professor Salaita won a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that urged a federal court to order the university to release emails related to his firing. Documents obtained through previous FOIA requests revealed pressure from donors, who threatened to withhold financial support from UIUC because they did not like Salaita's tweets that were critical of Israel. The court rejected the university’s claims that providing the emails would be “unduly burdensome” and found for Professor Salaita that the release of the emails was in the public interest.
In January, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Loevy & Loevy filed a civil rights case on Professor Salaita’s behalf against UIUC, top officials, and unnamed donors. The suit seeks Salaita’s reinstatement and monetary relief, including compensation for economic and reputational damage he suffered as a result of the university’s actions.
For more on both cases, visit CCR’s case page here.
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. Visit www.ccrjustice.org; follow @theCCR.