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June 16, 2017 4:26 pm

Academic Association to Vote on Removing Censure of University of Illinois Over Expulsion of Professor for Vehement Anti-Israel Tweets

avatar by Rachel Frommer

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Former University of Illinois Professor Steven Salaita. Photo: Twitter.

A committee of a leading US academic freedom organization has recommended its members vote to lift a two-year censure of the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC) issued over the school’s revoking of a job offer to a professor in 2014 due to a series of controversial tweets he made about Jews and Israel.

With delegates of the the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) scheduled to gather for an annual meeting this weekend in Washington, DC, the group’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure has advised they not renew the rebuke of the UIUC administration for its handling of the Steven Salaita case, the News-Gazette reported on Thursday.

An AAUP report in April found that UIUC had a “robust” academic freedom environment and for that reason should be removed from the blacklist.

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Salaita, formerly of Virginia Tech, was hired by UIUC in October 2013 for a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program, with plans to start teaching the following August.

His appointment still required official approval by the board of trustees, and in September 2014, the board chose to instead uphold the then-chancellor’s decision to withdraw the job offer.

That move was made in response to tweets Salaita published during Operation Protective Edge, the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, including one that read: “Will you condemn Hamas? No. Why not? Because Hamas isn’t the one incinerating children, you disingenuous prick.”

Another tweet posted soon after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists, an act that immediately precipitated the start of the war, reading, “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not. I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.”

Salaita also tweeted, “There’s something profoundly sexual to the Zionist pleasure w/ #Israel’s aggression. Sublimation through bloodletting, a common perversion.”

The posts were met with condemnation from Jewish groups at UIUC, as well as national organizations, and many called for Salaita’s relationship with the school to be terminated.

Liel Leibovitz at Tablet took a deep dive into Salaita’s actual academic work, after suggestions by defenders of the professor that his views could not be accurately measured on the basis of 140 characters. Leibovitz found in Salaita’s writings “[d]evoid of any real understanding, context, or nuance, stupidly dogmatic, and frequently given to hyperbolic fits of hatred.” He concluded that the work “should not qualify as scholarship.”

The AAUP first censured UIUC in 2015, claiming it failed to demonstrate cause and violated Salaita’s due process rights in letting him go.

Salaita sued the university later that year, and ultimately agreed to an $875,000 settlement.

Since then, UIUC has reworked its hiring procedures, in addition to working to satisfy specific recommendations made by AAUP. Representatives with the AAUP have now identified what they consider improvements in the UIUC culture, according to the News-Gazette.

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