December 23, 2014, New York – In response to findings and recommendations released today by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) with respect to our client Steve Salaita, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:
The Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure has found that UIUC's actions with regard to Professor Salaita were wrong, and has called for the University to reconsider its improper rejection of Professor Salaita's appointment. The Committee’s report affirms what Professor Salaita has been saying all along. First, that the University had clear contractual obligations to Professor Salaita and that the Board’s final sign-off was nothing more than a formality: “[N]one of those involved in the appointment process seriously considered that Board approval might be withheld.” Second, that the Chancellor’s and Board’s “disregard for the principles of shared governance and the very specific policies and procedures of the university campus is a very serious matter” that “violates the foundational arrangements designed to assure excellence.” Third, that principles of academic freedom and constitutional protection of political speech apply to Professor Salaita’s speech, and that the “prescribed limit” of the University’s “institutional power over political speech,” is to publicly disassociate the University from Professor Salaita’s expressions. Importantly, the Committee has also found that "civility" is not a legitimate criterion for rejecting Salaita's appointment, warning that “[c]ivility has served to ostracize individuals or entire social groups.” The Committee calls for the University’s statement invoking civility to be renounced and withdrawn. Finally, it has made clear that the administration’s claim that Professor Salaita’s qualifications as a teacher are called into question by his speech are “pure speculation” and should be rejected.
The Committee recommends that Professor Salaita’s candidacy be remanded to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for a limited review of his scholarship by a committee of qualified academic experts, and that he be provided the opportunity to respond; an opportunity he has not been afforded to date. We expect that any fair and neutral decision-maker would determine that Professor Salaita's academic credentials are beyond reproach, just as the committees who decided to hire him did, and that he should be immediately reinstated.
The Center for Constitutional Rights' co-counsel Loevy & Loevy filed a freedom of information lawsuit seeking documents related to Prof. Salaita’s firing.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, The Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.