Friday, August 15, 2014

'In a Hurricane'

Inside Higher Ed
August 15th, 2014

It is probably unsurprising that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s decision to withdraw a job offer to a controversial American studies scholar active in the Israel boycott movement would sparked heated debate.
More surprising, perhaps, was how the debate quickly extended to Cary Nelson, an English professor at Illinois and outspoken advocate of academic freedom who publicly supported the university’s decision. In blog posts, open letters and news story comment threads, Nelson’s critics -- some of whom were longtime friends -- accused him of abandoning his principles and twisting the definition of academic freedom to serve his own political beliefs. A vocal opponent of the Israel boycott, Nelson suffers from a “blind spot” about Israel, some have said.
But new allies have come to Nelson’s defense, saying his position is not a departure from previously held views. Others have said that the university’s silence about the circumstances under which it revoked Steven Salaita’s offer exposed Nelson to undue criticism about a decision that he may have backed, but didn't actually influence.

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