Category Archives: academic freedom

September 8, 2014, 10:01 am

Kennedy to Native American Studies Critic: Drop Dead

Ford_to_CityOK, University of Illinois Board of Trustees chair Chris Kennedy did not exactly say that to University of Minnesota Native American Studies scholar Jean O’Brien, who had written to express her distress over the Steven Salaita #HireFire.

But Gerald Ford didn’t say “drop dead” to New YOrk City either, and it made an awesome headline as one of the cultural and financial capitals of the world was skidding into bankruptcy in the spring of 1975. Didn’t it? In fact, all Ford was trying to do was sacrifice the health and welfare of a major American city in order to send a not-so-subtle message to the conservative wing of his part that he wasn’t a panty-waist Rockefeller Republican.

Christopher Kennedy might want to think about what this colossal error in judgment is costing him. For example, Gerald Ford didn’t get to be president, much longer, did he? If being misquoted can cost you your…

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September 2, 2014, 1:51 pm

Academic Freedom Update

Those of us who read our Twitter feed before bed (bad habit, don’t start) were cheered to see late last night that the pressure on the University of Illinois to reverse itself in the Steven Salaita case is altering the state of play. In a reversal of her August decision, Chancellor Phyllis Wise has decided to send the Salaita appointment to the Board if Trustees for a September 11 vote. Whether the pushback from thousands of scholars vowing not to engage and canceling, from the AAUP, and from numerous public letters of protest written by distinguished scholars ultimately persuades them that this was a colossal error is yet to be seen.  Go to Corey Robin for the full story, and for Robin’s views about what this latest development might mean.

Representatives of a major professional association have also weighed in on the case. Go to the American Historical Association blog to see a…

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August 30, 2014, 8:35 am

National AAUP Adds Heft to Salaita Case vs. UIUC

keep-calm-and-use-the-force-164In a letter I received as an email attachment last night, Anita Levy of the AAUP agrees with many of us that Steven Salaita was shafted (not the word she used.) Levy also points out that, although Salaita’s #HireFire is widely believed to be an outcome of his Tweets on Gaza, University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise gave him no reasons for her unwillingness to bring the appointment before the board of trustees, other than her belief that there would not be a positive vote. Most importantly, the idea that Salaita could not function ethically and effectively in the classroom, or as a colleague, is an argument that has been made entirely by public insinuation (see comments on my Salaita posts, for example.) It has no basis in fact, has never been formally articulated as a charge, and has not been investigated through the university’s own procedures.

Most importantly, the fact that…

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August 29, 2014, 10:09 am

Natalie Zemon Davis “Gets” Twitter, Supports Steven Salaita

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Natalie Zemon Davis being listened to.

Historian Natalie Zemon Davis has given us permission to distribute her letter to University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise. Davis asks Wise to reverse the decision not to appoint Steven Salaita to the job he was promised at UIUC, and explains why. Furthermore, in a not unexpected star turn, Davis demonstrates her complete understanding of social justice and the use of Twitter as a rhetorical tool.

It is no secret to long-term followers of Tenured Radical that I am a huge admirer of Davis. She is one of the founding mothers of women’s history, a long term member of the Princeton history department and now retired to an appointment at The University of Toronto. When I was a relatively new blogger, I wrote this post, in which I discussed how, and why, Davis had become …

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August 25, 2014, 1:08 pm

Could I Have Been Steven Salaita? Could You?

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Why is nobody inquiring about UI Board chair Christopher Kennedy’s role in the Salaita affair? Photo credit

Probably not. Of course. Maybe? Sure! Look at the number of distinguished people who have signed the general letter of support vowing not to engage with the University of Illinois until Steven Salaita is reinstated as an associate professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. We are talking about 1500 potential tenure referees who will not be available, for starters. Look at the impressively large number of faculty making a similar pledge under the rubric of “Un-tenured and Un-tenurable Faculty.” Go here to find and sign a letter.

What is responsible for this kumbaya moment in academia, one in which conservatives, liberals, libertarians and radicals, the contingent …

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August 6, 2014, 1:59 pm

Breaking News: BDS Intellectual is #HireFired for Social Media Crimes

housewife FBThis just in from Inside Higher Ed: a new chapter in the ongoing saga of BDS in American higher education begins with the #HireFire of a scholar who, like thousands of other people, used Twitter as his platform during the recent, bloody and undeclared war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

A major intellectual in the BDS movement, Steven G. Salaita (who is still listed as an associate professor in the English Department at Virginia Tech) appears to have had a job in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Chanpagne rescinded because of his tweets about Gaza. Although I hope this is not the case, it appears that Salaita may be completely unemployed. Because of tweets.

Scott Jaschik writes that confirmation of a newly hired scholar’s appointment by the board of trustees is usually a formality:

The appointment was made public, and Salaita resigned…

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April 26, 2014, 10:30 am

I Didn’t Defame You — I Just Used You: On Hashtag Activism

twitter-bird-1Earlier this week, I retweeted a link to a media report about a personnel issue at another campus. A friend of mine subsequently wrote to say that I ought to have investigated the report further, as what had occurred was far more complex.

Let me say: personnel matters usually are complex, which is why I rarely write about contested tenure cases at Tenured Radical. I receive many requests to do so, usually from angry students distraught at the loss of a beloved professor. I refuse all of them. I know from personal experience that whatever the truth of the matter, most of the relevant documents are not public. When actual discrimination occurs, it is very rare that you have the documentation to write a plausible and fair story unless the case goes to court. In other words, even if I were inclined to write about people in trouble, I would not do so since I do not have access to the fact…

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April 14, 2014, 9:57 am

No Speech, No Preach: VCC System Rethinks First Amendment Rights

funnyprotestsignsstreet_people_protesting-s1024x683-41186-580In response to a lawsuit filed by a student at Thomas Nelson Community College, the Virginia Community College system has suspended its restrictive campus speech policies until May 2. The Associated Press reports that Christian Parks was barred from preaching in any location but a “free speech zone:” attorneys on both sides have asked for the suspension until new policies and procedures can be worked out.

Demonstrating that Democrats can be just as repellant as Republicans when it comes to misinterpreting the Constitution, Virginia Governor Terry McAwful McAuliffe signed legislation on April 4 that essentially criminalizes student demonstrations by allowing the public university system to establish restrictive “free speech zones.” These obscure areas, far from administrative buildings, mimic municipal restrictions that confine protesting citizens to small areas far from the event or…

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March 26, 2014, 11:55 am

Should Academic Online Behavior Go to Court?

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Imagine if Daffy Duck had email, Twitter and Facebook.

Here’s an interesting case that has been percolating along for some time and should be of interest to all of us in the academic blogosphere. Raphael Haim Gold, 54, who is the son of Norman Golb, as New York Times reporter John Leland puts it, “a controversial Dead Sea Scrolls scholar,” has been successfully prosecuted for impersonating and harassing other scholars who have found fault with his father’s scholarship. The conviction is now being heard on appeal.

For reasons that remain somewhat mysterious, Golb Junior defamed his father’s intellectual detractors for three years via various forms of Sock Puppetry and Internet impersonation.  As Leland writes:

Mr. Golb’s online campaign was chiefly directed at his father’s most bitter rival, Lawrence H….

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December 26, 2013, 2:23 pm

Click (Dis)Like: Why Social Media Use Is Now A Professional Issue

computerIn my continuing study of Internet rage, I stumbled across this commentary on the Justine Sacco affair. Sacco, you may recall, was the communications director for InterActiveCorp, who tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” before getting on a flight to South Africa.

Upon arrival (the trip takes around 12 hours, an eternity on the web), Sacco found, among other things, that she had lost her job. An initially puzzled discussion about whether she had been hacked resolved itself into a collective belief that the offensive tweet had precedents, and must be genuine. While Sacco had been in the air, as Nick Bilton wrote on December 24 2013, “the Internet turned into a voracious and vengeful mob….people threatened to rape, shoot, kill and torture her. The mob found her Facebook and Instagram accounts and began threatening the same perils on…

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