Prof. Salaita and His Attorneys Respond to University of Illinois Trustee Vote to Terminate His Tenured Position Over Gaza Tweets

Urbana-Champaign, IL –(ENEWSPF)—September 11, 2014. Prof. Steven Salaita and his attorneys responded today to the announcement that the Board of Trustees voted to terminate him from a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC) over his tweets about Gaza.

“I am disappointed in the majority of the Trustees and the action they took today,” said Prof. Salaita. “Being at the school on Tuesday surrounded by so many supportive students and faculty was a professional high point for me and reinforced how rewarding it would be to work in that community. I have offered to meet with both the Board and the Administration, but not one of them has spoken with me or ever heard my side of the story. They have no reason to doubt the high standard I have always maintained in the classroom. As I said in a less-notorious tweet, ‘I refuse to conceptualize #Israel/#Palestine as Jewish-Arab acrimony. I am in solidarity with many Jews and in disagreement with many Arabs.’ If they had cared to learn, they would have seen this and other tweets reflecting a similar sentiment. Given the Board’s vote, I am speaking with my attorneys about my options.”

Chancellor Phyllis Wise terminated Prof. Steven Salaita from a tenured faculty position in August under pressure from major donors over personal tweets regarding the situation in Gaza this summer. Prof. Salaita, who is Palestinian-American, used his Twitter account in July to denounce Israel’s latest military attacks on civilians in Gaza, where 2,000 Palestinians were killed, over 500 of them children.

“The Board’s vote to terminate Prof. Salaita violates both the Constitution and his rights under contract law,” said Maria LaHood, senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing Prof. Salaita. “Their failure to rectify the University’s actions today and reinstate Prof. Salaita is more than a personal hardship for him; it is a blow to principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech that will have far-reaching consequences for the future of scholarship and the First Amendment. Worst of all, it means that these principles – invaluable to faculty and students everywhere, not to mention to the functioning of our democracy – can be trumped by the whims of wealthy donors.”

Prof. Salaita’s case has garnered broad support in the academic community, including from the Society of American Law Teachers, the Modern Language Association, the American Association of University Professors, and the American Studies Association, who have come out strongly against the University’s actions. At least 11 departments at UIUC have cast votes of “no confidence” in the Administration, and many faculty are boycotting the University – several scholars have already cancelled lectures at UIUC, and a national conference set to be hosted there was cancelled. 

Prof. Salaita is represented by Maria LaHood and Baher Azmy of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Anand Swaminathan, Gretchen Helfrich and Jon Loevy of Loevy & Loevy in Chicago.

For the full text of Prof. Salaita’s remarks Tuesday, click here.

For more information and documents on the case, visit CCR’s website here.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.


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Professor Salaita Speaks for First Time About Losing University of Illinois Tenured Position Over Gaza Tweets