Monday, August 25, 2014

University of Illinois Repeals the First Amendment for Its Faculty

Huffington Post - Education
August 23rd, 2014 

Late Friday afternoon (August 22), the University of Illinois broke its three-week long silence on the controversy regarding the Chancellor's revocation of a tenured offer to Steven Salaita, who had accepted a faculty position in the American Indian Studies Program at the flagship campus at Urbana-Champaign. Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy both issued statements explaining the revocation, but in terms far more alarming than the original decision itself. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees have now declared that the First Amendment does not apply to any tenured faculty at the University of Illinois.

A bit of background to Friday's bombshell statements. Last October, Professor Salaita, then teaching at Virginia Tech, accepted a tenured offer from the Urbana-Champaign campus. He went through the regular appointments process at the University of Illinois, and received approval by the relevant departments and deans after a review of his scholarship and teaching. The offer, which he accepted, was conditional on approval by the Board of Trustees. Such approval clauses are typical in all teaching contracts and had, previously, been pro forma at Illinois, as they are at all serious universities: it is not the job of the Board of Trustees of a research institution to second-guess the judgment of academics and scholars. Well before the Board took the matter up, even University officials were describing Salaita as a faculty member, and he moved to Illinois and was scheduled to teach two classes this fall.

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