The communications show that Wise was lobbied on the decision not only by pro-Israel students, parents and alumni, but also by the fund-raising arm of the university. The communications also show that the university system president was involved, and that the university was considering the legal ramifications of the case before the action to block the appointment.
Most of the emails have the names of the senders redacted and some are nearly identical, suggesting the use of talking points or shared drafts. Many of the letter writers identify themselves as Jewish and/or sympathetic to Israel, as students, parents or alumni, and as people who say that the tone of Salaita's comments (especially on Twitter) makes them believe he would be hostile to them and to their views....
Seventy people wrote to Wise to urge her to block Salaita's appointment (it is possible that some of the email messages are duplicates from the same person -- the redactions make it impossible to tell)....
While many of the emails are fairly similar, some stand out. For instance, there is an email from Travis Smith, senior director of development for the University of Illinois Foundation, to Wise, with copies to Molly Tracy, who is in charge of fund-raising for engineering programs, and Dan C. Peterson, vice chancellor for institutional advancement. The email forwards a letter complaining about the Salaita hire. The email from Smith says: "Dan, Molly, and I have just discussed this and believe you need to [redacted]." (The blacked out portion suggests a phrase is missing, not just a word or two.)
Later emails show Wise and her development team trying to set up a time to discuss the matter, although there is no indication of what was decided.
At least one email the chancellor received was from someone who identified himself as a major donor who said that he would stop giving if Salaita were hired. "Having been a multiple 6 figure donor to Illinois over the years I know our support is ending as we vehemently disagree with the approach this individual espouses. This is doubly unfortunate for the school as we have been blessed in our careers and have accumulated quite a balance sheet over my 35 year career," the email says.
I have not looked at the Illinois FOIA, but I'm surprised the names are redacted. These people deserve to be exposed in public.
The University's conduct is so clearly illegal that I really did not see these egregious statements from the Chancellor and the Board coming. That the Chancellor of a major research university in what is a politically moderate (even liberal at times) state would affirm in public that faculty at state universities have no right to make comments that are uncivil or demeaning, even though they manifestly do under the First Amendment and, arguably, as a matter of academic freedom is truly unbelievable. My supposition, naively, had been that some adult in the university's counsel office would have explained to the miscreants or incompetents the probable legal consequences; but either there are no adults in the counsel office or they were ignored.
The question now is what to do that might make a constructive difference: I welcome suggestions from Illinois faculty and others.
...and I'm delighted that my disrespectful and demeaning speech makes me unappointable at the University of Illinois, where the First Amendment no longer applies. This commentary on her disgraceful letter is apt and I endorse everything Mr. Wilson says.
ADDENDUM: This is a tamer, but also, solid response, making clear how the Chancellor's "explanation" of her decision is even worse than the decision itself. (Thanks to Mike Dorf for the pointer.)
A lawsuit is now inevitable, and it will presumably have a defamation claim added to the constitutional and contractual claims. The Chancellor should resign: she's a disgrace. I again urge other philosophers to join the boycott. It gives me no pleasure to say that, since now the boycott has no end in sight. But the conduct by the Chancellor and the Board is such an egregious violation of the basic norms and integrity of academic institutions, that firm and public action is now imperative.
ADDENDUM: The Board of Trustees is also a disgrace--even in Texas, the Board has not done anything this egregious in a long time:
August 22, 2014
Earlier today, you received a thoughtful statement from Chancellor Phyllis Wise regarding the university’s decision not to recommend Prof. Steven Salaita for a tenured faculty position on the Urbana-Champaign campus.
In her statement, Chancellor Wise reaffirmed her commitment to academic freedom and to fostering an environment that encourages diverging opinions, robust debate and challenging conventional norms. Those principles have been at the heart of the university’s mission for nearly 150 years, and have fueled its rise as a world leader in education and innovation.
But, as she noted, our excellence is also rooted in another guiding principle that is just as fundamental. Our campuses must be safe harbors where students and faculty from all backgrounds and cultures feel valued, respected and comfortable expressing their views.
We agree, and write today to add our collective and unwavering support of Chancellor Wise and her philosophy of academic freedom and free speech tempered in respect for human rights – these are the same core values which have guided this institution since its founding.
In the end, the University of Illinois will never be measured simply by the number of world-changing engineers, thoughtful philosophers or great artists we produce. We also have a responsibility to develop productive citizens of our democracy. As a nation, we are only as strong as the next generation of participants in the public sphere. The University of Illinois must shape men and women who will contribute as citizens in a diverse and multi-cultural democracy. To succeed in this mission, we must constantly reinforce our expectation of a university community that values civility as much as scholarship.
Disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice is not an acceptable form of civil argument if we wish to ensure that students, faculty and staff are comfortable in a place of scholarship and education. If we educate a generation of students to believe otherwise, we will have jeopardized the very system that so many have made such great sacrifices to defend. There can be no place for that in our democracy, and therefore, there will be no place for it in our university.
Chancellor Wise is an outstanding administrator, leader and teacher. Her academic career has been built on her commitment to promoting academic freedom and creating a welcoming environment for students and faculty alike. We stand with her today and will be with her tomorrow as she devotes her considerable talent and energy to serving our students, our faculty and staff, and our society.
We look forward to working closely with Chancellor Wise and all of you to ensure that our university is recognized both for its commitment to academic freedom and as a national model of leading-edge scholarship framed in respect and courtesy.
Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
Robert A. Easter, President
Hannah Cave, Trustee Ricardo Estrada, Trustee Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee Lucas N. Frye, Trustee Karen Hasara, Trustee Patricia Brown Holmes, Trustee Timothy N. Koritz, Trustee Danielle M. Leibowitz, Trustee Edward L. McMillan, Trustee James D. Montgomery, Trustee Pamela B. Strobel, Trustee
Paula Allen-Meares, Chancellor, Chicago campus, and Vice President, University of Illinois Susan J. Koch, Chancellor, Springfield campus, and Vice President, University of Illinois
Donald A. Chambers, Professor of Physiology and Biochemistry; Chair, University Senates Conference
Jerry Bauman, Interim Vice President for Health Affairs Thomas R. Bearrows, University Counsel Thomas P. Hardy, Executive Director for University Relations Susan M. Kies, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and the University Walter K. Knorr, VP/Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller Christophe Pierre, Vice President for Academic Affairs Lawrence B. Schook, Vice President for Research Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Treasurer, Board of Trustees
Now we have a new term in the professional jargon to convey a similar perspective: “mowing the grass.” This is the name for an approach that entails a new round of fighting every time the Palestinian violence reaches levels Israel finds unacceptable....
No, periodically mowing the lawn is not a policy that can endure for long – it simply will not cut it. The grass needs to be uprooted – once and for all.... The problem can only be solved by entirely abandoning the concept that Gaza should be governed by Palestinian Arabs. Any effective solution must follow this new line of reasoning....
This is truly horrific. Sane and human voices (both in Israel and the U.S.) better make themselves heard, or Israel will really have no future. As on a number of topics, I find that my colleague John Mearsheimer looks prescient (from a lecture in 2010):
Then there is ethnic cleansing, which would certainly mean that Greater Israel would have a Jewish majority. But that murderous strategy seems unlikely, because it would do enormous damage to Israel’s moral fabric, its relationship with Jews in the Diaspora, and to its international standing. Israel and its supporters would be treated harshly by history, and it would poison relations with Israel’s neighbors for years to come. No genuine friend of Israel could support this policy, which would clearly be a crime against humanity. It also seems unlikely, because most of the 5.5 million Palestinians living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean would put up fierce resistance if Israel tried to expel them from their homes.
Nevertheless, there is reason to worry that Israelis might adopt this solution as the demographic balance shifts against them and they fear for the survival of the Jewish state. Given the right circumstances – say a war involving Israel that is accompanied by serious Palestinian unrest – Israeli leaders might conclude that they can expel massive numbers of Palestinians from Greater Israel and depend on the lobby to protect them from international criticism and especially from sanctions.
We should not underestimate Israel’s willingness to employ such a horrific strategy if the opportunity presents itself. It is apparent from public opinion surveys and everyday discourse that many Israelis hold racist views of Palestinians and the Gaza massacre makes clear that they have few qualms about killing Palestinian civilians. It is difficult to disagree with Jimmy Carter’s comment earlier this year that “the citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than like human beings.” A century of conflict and four decades of occupation will do that to a people.
Furthermore, a substantial number of Israeli Jews – some 40 percent or more – believe that the Arab citizens of Israel should be “encouraged” to leave by the government. Indeed, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni has said that if there is a two-state solution, she expected Israel’s Palestinian citizens to leave and settle in the new Palestinian state. And then there is the recent military order issued by the IDF that is aimed at “preventing infiltration” into the West Bank. In fact, it enables Israel to deport tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank should it choose to do so. And, of course, the Israelis engaged in a massive cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948 and again in 1967. Still, I do not believe Israel will resort to this horrible course of action.
He had some pretty good political reasons for being skeptical, though in different places and at different times they might not hold. Compared, however, to the stupefying tedium of baseball and American football--both of which have many of the vices Borges associated with soccer in Argentina--one can only be grateful that soccer rules the rest of the world!
MOVING TO FRONT FROM MAY 14--SCROLL DOWN TO COMMENTS FOR LATEST DEVELOPMENTS--sASKATCHEWAN REALIZES THEY MADE A MISTAKE
Many readers have sent this story, which is appalling: see here and here for two accounts.
UPDATE: A philosophy student at Saskatchewan writes:
Regarding your most recent post about the University of Saskatchewan, academic freedom is unfortunately not the only problem. A few other problems would be:
1) The university is merging four programs (Philosophy, Women and Gender Studies, Modern Languages, Religion and Culture) into one, and having the gall to suggest that this program will a) be superior and b) produce more research, while providing significant incentives to faculty to retire without replacement.
2) Removing four libraries, including the law library.
3) Guarding the project briefs for the above changes behind passwords, so that only current students and faculty can access the files that tell us what the university shall do.
4) Doing all of this without properly consulting departments or students.
As you can see, the university is quite simply devastating what had been a modest, but creditable, humanities division, as well as damaging its dentistry program, its law program, its political science program and its libraries. I think it would be unfortunate if the focus was only on the academic freedom issue, rather than on the broader problem that Robert Buckingham sought to address before he was fired.
Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.
Che-Ing Su, a Taiwanese PhD student in philosophy at the University of Melbourne, writes:
The democracy of my country, Taiwan is in a serious crisis. Since your website 'Leiter Report' is constantly visited by many many philosophers, may I beg you a big favor?
The ruling party of my country is pushing for a trade pact with China. In my opinion, this trade pact will seriously damage our democracy. It is because the trade pact allows China to substantially control the banking system, communication industry and publishing industry of Taiwan.
To protest against the ruling party, hundreds of university students has been occupying our parliament for around two weeks. And, there was a 500-thousand people protest on last Sunday to support the students.
I think, it might be useful to the situation, if we can get more international attention. (Though, what I can do is little.) Therefore, may I beg you a big favor: do you mind posting the following CNN news on your Facebook or Twitter or website 'Leiter Report'?
...for arguing that funding misinformation about climate change should give rise to charges of criminal negligence. That isn't the law at present, and there are a number of reasons why it probably shouldn't be the law, but Professor Torcello's essay raises some interesting points about the harms of misinformation campaigns and whether they are legally cognizable. (If the real target is those who knowingly fund misinformation for private gain, then "negligence" would be the wrong legal standard. The issues here, it seems to me, are closer to those regarding the regulation of "hate speech" and other speech that causes harm.)
Alas, climate change is one of those hot button issues for the far right, which quickly swung into action, starting with misrepresenting Professor Torcello as calling for climate scientists who dispute the consensus to be put in jail. That soon turned into a campaign to get the Rochester Institute of Technology to punish Professor Torcello for his constitutionally protected speech, and speech that falls well within his contractual right to academic freedom. The hysteria and misrepresentations made its way into all the usual far right venues, including Fox News. Professor Torcello made a brief statement in response to the craziness here. RIT made what is, to my mind, a tepid statement about the matter, but one that at least affirms his right to have views of which others disapprove.
I sent the following e-mail to President Destler, cc'ing Provost Haefner and Dean Winebrake; I encourage readers to send the same or similar messages (the e-mail addresses appear below). This kind of organized harassment of faculty by the far right happens too often, and universities should be encouraged to take a stronger stand against this malevolent behavior.
Two state legislatures, New York and Maryland, and now perhaps Congress are looking to punish those who hold verboten views about Israel. There is a kind of petition here, which also includes links and other information.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)