January 6th, 2015
Last year, the treatment of three academics ignited a public debate about academic freedom.
American academic Steven Salaita hit the headlines in the summer. He
had accepted a position as professor of American Indian studies at the
University of Illinois and resigned his existing post, only to find his
job offer had been rescinded. Reports claimed Salaita’s appointment was
overruled by institutional managers once they became aware of his
proclivity for sending anti-Semitic tweets. A recently published
internal investigation criticised ‘the use of civility as a standard in
making hiring decisions’. Salaita’s case is still under review and the
university is attempting to reach a financial settlement with him.
In the UK, Thomas Docherty, a professor of English and comparative
literature, and a renowned critic of government higher-education policy,
was suspended from his post at Warwick University for nine months over
allegations of insubordination towards his head of department. He stood
accused of sarcasm and inappropriate sighing in job interviews. Docherty
has since been reinstated and, although he’s faced with a hefty legal
bill, all charges against him have been dropped.