Salaita Attorneys Comment on American Association of University Professors Report on His Firing
April 28, 2015, New York – In response to a report issued today by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) on the firing of Professor Steven Salaita, his attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the statement below. After a thorough investigation, the nationally respected 100-year-old professional association concluded that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) violated principles of academic freedom and due process when it fired Professor Steven Salaita – an action it deemed “tantamount to a summary dismissal” – because of his tweets that were critical of Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer.
The AAUP’s detailed investigation of the events surrounding Prof. Salaita’s firing should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that, in dismissing Prof. Salaita, the UIUC violated principles of academic freedom, standards of academic governance, and its own policies. Noting that “the issues raised by the case were of the highest importance for the university and for higher education nationally,” the report rejects UIUC’s claims that its actions were justified by the lack of “civility” in Prof. Salaita’s tweets and not its content Consistent with the AAUP’s findings, the university should admit it was wrong and reinstate Prof. Salaita.
In January, the Center for Constitutional Rights, along with the Chicago law firm Loevy & Loevy, filed a civil rights case
on Professor Salaita’s behalf against UIUC, top officials, and unnamed donors who pressured the university to fire him from the tenured position he had been offered and accepted nine months prior. 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.
The AAUP affirmed its belief that Professor Salaita had already been appointed and the trustees’ approval was “pro forma,” citing that the university’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure was “unable to find a single additional case of board intervention in appointments of new tenured faculty members.” Moreover, the AAUP found that making an offer contingent on board approval “is at odds with generally established procedures for academic appointments.” As a result, the AAUP found Professor Salaita was “entitled to the same due-process protections of academic freedom as faculty members whose appointments had been approved by the board of trustees.”
The report cites a troubling double standard on the part of the university, which tolerated offensive extramural statements by a long-time faculty member who advocated white supremacy, raising a question about whether a lack of outside pressure may account for the difference. The report further rejects the administration’s use of “civility” as a standard for assessing faculty and highlights the widespread concern of UIUC faculty with the administration’s understanding of and respect for academic freedom.
Many prestigious national groups in addition to the AAUP have condemned the university’s violations of free speech, academic freedom and shared governance, including the Modern Language Association, the American Historical Association, and the Society of American Law Teachers.
For more on the Salaita case, visit CCR’s case page here