Monday, August 25, 2014

Fact Sheet on the Case of Steven Salaita

To Faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

You received a mass email from Chancellor Wise on Friday, August 22, 2014, along with another mass email from President Easter, the Board of Trustees, and other members of the University Administration.

We write to provide some background and to urge you to consider carefully the questions of academic freedom and faculty governance that are at stake in the actions of the Chancellor, President, and Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

The basic facts of the case:  Professor Salaita was offered a position as associate professor of American Indian Studies in October 2013 at the University of Illinois.  The job offer went through all the regular procedures of evaluation and channels of approval that are involved in hiring tenured faculty to our campus, including a vote by faculty in American Indian Studies, an external review by scholars in his field at peer institutions, through the LAS Executive Committee, the campus Executive Committee, and the provost’s office.  All that was left was the approval of the Board of Trustees.  (It is routine for the Board’s approval to come after faculty have already begun their employment at the University.) Professor Salaita, believing that the offer was in good faith, resigned his previous position at Virginia Tech, prepared to move his family to Illinois, and was scheduled to begin teaching courses in August.

Without any consultation of faculty or the academic units involved, and without any public process, Chancellor Wise wrote to Professor Salaita on August 1, 2014 to tell him that she would not be forwarding his materials to the Board of Trustees for approval and that she would be rescinding the offer.  Her actions represent a clear violation of the basic principles of shared governance and departmental autonomy. These actions also have disturbing racial implications.  Based on documents obtained through an open records request, there is now evidence that outside political influence played a role in the Chancellor’sactions.  

The impact:  The actions and statements of the Chancellor and Board of Trustees have drawn the attention of thousands of concerned people and have resulted in profound and potentially irreparable damage to the reputation of our university.  At this writing, more than 3000 individual scholars have pledged to refuse to have anything to do with our campus (including writing tenure or promotion letters).  A rapidly growing number of scholars who had already been invited to our campus (including two Miller/Comm speakers for Fall 2014) have cancelled their visits.  At least one major conference has had to be cancelled.  American Indian Studies has issued a number of statements, including a vote of no confidence in the Chancellor.

We are a loose coalition of University of Illinois faculty calling ourselves Illinois Faculty for Academic Freedom and Justice who have come together to share information and brainstorm responses. If you would like to learn more or get involved, email

Please feel free to circulate this information, via print or electronically.
Here is a link to a downloadable version of this fact sheet which can be found on the
Support Salaita Facebook Page


  1. Thank you for starting this blog. I am the co-ordinator of the philosophy boycott pledge, which is now over 450 people from near and far, the famous and the ordinary.

    As I'm only the co-ordinator, I can't speak definitively for all of the pledge signers, but I think it reasonable to say that for many of them the idea behind the boycott is, in addition to supporting Steven Salaita's individual claim to academic freedom, to support you, our colleagues at UIUC, defending them against the violation of faculty governance represented by Chancellor Wise's Aug 1 decision.

    In addition to that, I think that those who have signed after August 22 can be fairly said to also object to the violation of both academic freedom and faculty governance represented by the unilateral imposition by Chancellor Wise of a unprecedented, vague, and extremely dangerous "civility" standard in her statement of Aug 22.

    Again, thank you for starting this, and for allowing me the chance to explain what I see as the motivations behind the philosophy boycott pledge.

  2. I support the actions that faculty around the US and abroad have taken against UIUC concerning the Steven Salaita case. As of this writing, there is no academic freedom at the University of Illinois. Faculty hires by UIUC departments are not safe from the intervention of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, and no reason needs to be given to make appointments null and void. Following this kind of action to its logical conclusion means all teaching, research, and textbooks at the University of Illinois must carry the brand ABCWSC: "Approved By Chancellor Wise and Star Chamber."

  3. This will be regarded as a landmark case. While the immediate focus must be on securing employment for Steven Salaita, we must persist in demonstrating, in multiple forums and venues and manners, that this decision has an absolutely corrosive effect at all levels of education--from undergraduates who now are taught by teachers threatened if they appear "uncivil" (or any other code words for oppositional to the dominant mindset); to graduate students whose professional development is skewed toward tackling safe subjects in safe language; to faculty whose terms of employment now seem open and arbitrary and who cannot teach, write, or speech without having to think twice as to the potential consequences of using the wrong word, the wrong facial expression, the wrong tone of voice. We must battle against this frontal attack on all that we have held dear as educators. This is nothing less than an attack on the whole educational enterprise, and its cost will be morality, ethics, engagement, free thinking itself.

  4. Just a brief word to thank these commentators for their understanding of our situation as UI faculty. We appreciate the energy that has gone into your support.

  5. Please let us know the best ways for us to support you.

  6. If you have not already written letters to the Board of Trustees and the President that is very helpful. Thank you again.

  7. Today I am going to ask the obvious.We all know that there are very few full time faculty positions in American Indian studies. Where are the qualified American Indian scholars who could teach,research and serve as American Indian role models for American Indian students in our country? American Indian recruitment,retention,graduation are all impacted by faculty in public institutions of higher education and that is where most (83%) of all American Indian students attend. How can there be respect for American Indian studies programs that choose not to recommend American Indian faculty members for hire. American Indian students deserve American Indian role models and non-Native students deserve to hear a genuine Native point of view in American Indian studies programs. The message implied to Native scholars is destructive and clear. The playing field has never been level and it is not level now.

  8. Look here:

  9. It seems that 3/4 of the department is Native American.