Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 19, 2014

Steven Salaita speaks at the New School

Filed under: Steven Salaita — louisproyect @ 9:22 pm

2014-11-19 12.57.20


After following the Steven Salaita affair with intense interest ever since news of his firing broke, I finally heard him speak in person at the New School this afternoon. I was pleased to shake his hand and to be warmly greeted by Nidhi Srinivas, a New School professor and Facebook friend who helped organize the meeting. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to meet Nikhil Singh, an NYU professor and another Facebook friend who was on the panel alongside yet another FB friend Steven Salaita. Interesting how a capitalist vulture like Mark Zuckerberg can create the technology that connects radicals. For all the scare talk from Evgeny Morozov and Jaron Lanier, I’ll take my chances with the Internet just as I do with the telephone.

Claire Potter, a history professor at the New School (my alma mater) who blogs as “The Tenured Radical” at Chronicle of Higher Education chaired the meeting. I confess never having read her blog since it is linked in my mind with Cary Nelson’s “Manifesto of a Tenured Radical”, a book that once graced my bookshelf. As most of you know, Nelson has pretty much functioned as Police Inspector Javert to Salaita’s Jean Valjean so my reaction has been to put a minus where he puts a plus. Maybe Claire should rename her blog “Not Cary Nelson”—that would increase her readership by tenfold at least. In the meantime I will keep up with her blog from now on since she was an excellent chairperson, informing the audience of perhaps 75 people about the background on the case.

Steven Salaita was the first to speak. He took the opportunity to address points that have not received that much attention to the media coverage that was obsessed over his tweets.

Most revolved around the racism that is both implicit and explicit at the University of Illinois. To start with, the assault on the right of an indigenous studies department to hire a professor is tied to the ongoing racism there that is reflected in a number of ways. No matter how many times the department and activists who sympathize with its goals have raised the issue of Chief Illini, a racist mascot that used to be featured prominently at football games and that was as much of an affront to native peoples as the Washington Redskins moniker, his presence is still pervasive at the school.

It is not just native peoples who get the shitty end of the stick at this university with its multicultural pretensions. It is also Black and Latino professors and students. Salaita pointed out that the school has been losing people of color from the faculty for a number of years now, a reaction to the prevailing racism. With a student body of 43,000, there are only 332 Black students in the freshman class. There are also social gatherings on campus that Latino students would find most “uncivil” as the student paper reported in 2006:

A recent exchange between the University chapters of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity has sparked a controversy because it played on ethnic stereotypes of Latinos. The exchange, which happened Oct. 5, had a “fiesta” theme, said Cassie Arner, alumnae adviser of the sorority.

A Tri Delta official said one of the women at the party made herself look pregnant, and that some of the women who attended unofficially dubbed the exchange “Tacos and Tequila.”

Ashanti Barber, member of Iskra, a social justice organization, and junior in LAS, said that the men at the party wore sombreros and ponchos and claimed to be illegal aliens or farmers.

Speaking of civility, Salaita reminded the audience that the term has the same root as civilization, a word that was consciously used to draw a distinction with “savagery” when the New World was being conquered. As Nikhil Singh would remind the audience during his remarks, Gandhi had the right take on this when he was asked for his opinion on Western civilization. His reply: “I think it would be a very good idea”.

Next to speak was Ibrahim Shikaki, a Palestinian economics major at the New School who has been active in the struggle around BDS. He gave a shocking (maybe not so shocking at this point) report on how the U. Cal Berkeley student senate voted 16 to 4 for divestment in 2008 when he was a student there. To their dismay, the president of the student senate vetoed the measure after consulting with powerful Zionist organizations.

There was a lot riding on this vote apparently. Students who voted for the measure were contacted by Zionists who warned them that their names would be displayed prominently in a Google search linking them to anti-Semitism, making it impossible for them to get into a good graduate school.

He also reported on trying to enter Jerusalem. He was stopped a crossing and told that he was invited to meet with an Israeli cop to have coffee. The meeting turned into an interrogation over the many Youtube clips that featured Shakaki conducting himself “uncivilly”, in other words protesting Israeli aggression.

Nikhil Singh spoke next. Much of his talk consisted of glowing remarks on a book that Salaita had written, titled “The Holy Land in Transit: Colonialism And the Quest for Canaan (Middle East Studies Beyond Dominant Paradigms)”. It turned out that they were extracted from a letter that Singh wrote on behalf of Salaita on his application for the U. of Illinois position. Singh stated that he only writes such letters of recommendations when he is convinced that the applicant is a strong candidate. Furthermore, nobody that he has ever recommended has been rejected. The callous and duplicitous rejection of Salaita was not only an affront to him but to Singh as well, in fact an affront to academic standards universally.

The last speaker was Ann Snitow, who is the director of Gender studies at the New School and a long time feminist activist. The axis of her talk was on the need to see past platitudes of “civility” and to understand that such calls emanate from the white and powerful figures in academia who regard people of color, women and gays a rude and unwanted presence in campuses where the status quo is rigged against them.

She talked about the Matsunaga incident at the New School when Sekou Sundiata, an African-American poet and professor at the New School, defaced a placard at an art show that he regarded as racist.

Snitow, a feminist who had fought against tendencies in the movement to “protect” women against porn even when made by women for their own pleasure, was expected to argue for the right of the artist to express himself without an intervention from Sundiata who was seen by some as tantamount to Rudolph Giuliani assailing art he regarded as anti-Catholic.

Snitow told people at the New School that the institution has protected the right of free speech for decades but not so much the right of Blacks to feel like they are part of the community. As such, she stood by Sundiata.

September 10, 2014

Steven Salaita press conference

Filed under: Steven Salaita — louisproyect @ 11:56 am

September 9, 2014

Steven Salaita statement

Filed under: Steven Salaita,Syria — louisproyect @ 6:56 pm

Statement of Steven Salaita September 9, 2014 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

My name is Steven Salaita. I am a professor with an accomplished scholarly record; I have been a fair and devoted teacher to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students; I have been a valued and open-minded colleague to numerous faculty across disciplines and universities. My ideas and my identity are far more substantive and complex than the recent characterizations based on a selected handful of my Twitter posts.

I am here today at the University of Illinois to speak against my termination by the Administration from a tenured faculty position because of the University Administration’s objections to my speech that was critical of recent Israeli human rights violations. The Administration’s actions have caused me and my family great hardship. Even worse, the Administration’s actions threaten principles of free speech, academic freedom, and critical thought that should be the foundation of any university.

Since 2006, I have been a faculty member of the English Department at Virginia Tech, where I earned lifetime tenure. On the basis of my scholarship and teaching record, and after substantial vetting, in 2013 I was enthusiastically recruited to join the faculty in the American Indian Studies program of UIUC. In October 2013, I accepted an offer from the interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to join the University as a professor with lifetime tenure, which I accepted. The offer letter specifically referenced the University’s adherence to the 1940 Principles of Academic Freedom codified by the AAUP.

In preparation for my new position, I resigned my tenured position at Virginia Tech; my wife resigned her professional position at the University as well. We got rid of our Virginia home and took on considerable expense in preparation for our move here. Two weeks before my start date, and without any warning, I received a summary letter from University Chancellor Phyllis Wise informing me that my position was terminated, but with no explanation or opportunity to challenge her unilateral decision. As a result, my family has no income, no health insurance, and no home of our own. Our young son has been left without a preschool. I have lost the great achievement of a scholarly career – lifetime tenure, with its promised protections of academic freedom.

As hard as this situation is on me personally, the danger of the University’s decision has farther reaching implications. Universities are meant to be cauldrons of critical thinking; they are meant to foster creative inquiry and, when at their best, challenge political, economic, or social orthodoxy. “Tenure – a concept that is well over a hundred years old – is supposed to be an ironclad guarantee that University officials respect these ideals and do not succumb to financial pressure or political expediency by silencing controversial or unpopular views. I have devoted my entire life to challenging prevailing orthodoxies, critiquing architectures of power and violence in the US and abroad and surfacing narratives of people – including Palestinians and Native Americans – who are subject to occupation, marginalization, and violence.

The Chancellor and Board of Trustees are apparently displeased by messages I posted on my personal Twitter account that were critical of recent atrocities committed by the Israeli government, which the United Nations referred to as “criminal.” My Twitter messages are no doubt passionate and unfiltered; they reflect my deep dismay at the deaths of more than 2,000 innocent Palestinians, over 500 of them children.

In recent statements, Chancellor Wise and the Board of Trustees said that the University Administration found the tone of my tweets “uncivil” and raised questions about my ability to inhabit the University environment. This is a perilous standard that risks eviscerating the principle of academic freedom. My comments were not made in a classroom or on campus; they were made through my personal Twitter account. The University’s policing and judgment of those messages places any faculty member at risk of termination if University administrators deem the tone or content of his or her speech “uncivil” without regard to the forum or medium in which the speech is made. This is a highly subjective and sprawling standard that can be used to attack faculty who espouse unpopular or unconventional ideas.

Even more troubling are the documented revelations that the decision to terminate me is a result of pressure from wealthy donors – individuals who expressly dislike my political views. As the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups have been tracking, this is part of a nationwide, concerted effort by wealthy and well-organized groups to attack pro-Palestinian students and faculty and silence their speech. This risks creating a Palestinian exception to the First Amendment and to academic freedom. The ability of wealthy donors and the politically powerful to create exceptions to bedrock principles should be worrying to all scholars and teachers.

Finally, my scholarship and strong student evaluations over the course of many years, along with the University’s enthusiastic recruitment of me as a faculty member, thoroughly belie Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s only recently-stated concern about my civility and respectfulness. As my colleagues and students will attest, I am a passionate advocate for equality, a fair and open- minded instructor, and highly collegial. No legitimate evidence exists for any claims or insinuations to the contrary, which have severely damaged my reputation and my prospects for future employment.

During this challenging time, I am deeply grateful to the many hundreds of people and prominent organizations who have raised their voices in defense of the principles of academic freedom, including the nearly 18,000 individuals who have signed a petition demanding corrective action and the numerous faculty around the world who are boycotting the University until I am reinstated. The students and instructors gathered here have shown themselves to be exemplars of everything to which a university should aspire.

I am here to reaffirm my commitment to teaching and to a position with the American Indian Studies program at UIUC. I reiterate the demand that the University recognize the importance of respecting the faculty’s hiring decision and reinstate me. It is my sincere hope that I can – as a member of this academic institution – engage with the entire University community in a constructive conversation about the substance of my viewpoints on Palestinian human rights and about the values of academic freedom. This is, as we say in my profession, a “teaching moment.” We must all strive together to make the most of it.

September 8, 2014

Steven Salaita to speak out tomorrow

Filed under: Steven Salaita — louisproyect @ 6:37 pm

(From Facebook)

I will speak publicly about my termination tomorrow

Press Conference: Professor Salaita to Speak for First Time About Losing Tenured Position Over Gaza Tweets

Urbana-Champaign, IL –Professor Steven Salaita, faculty and students of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC), and legal experts will hold a press conference at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 9 at the University YMCA (located at Wright & Chalmers). Salaita had accepted a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program at UIUC, but the university’s Chancellor terminated his appointment in early August over tweets regarding Israel’s latest attacks in Gaza. Salaita and other speakers will discuss his termination in the larger context of organized attacks on free speech on campuses and concerns about academic freedom and the First Amendment raised by the incident.

Many groups have come out strongly against the university’s actions, including the Modern Language Association, the American Association of University Professors, and the American Studies Association. Several departments at UIUC have cast votes of no confidence in the Chancellor, and many are boycotting the university – several scholars have already cancelled lectures at UIUC, and a national conference to be hosted there was cancelled. The press conference will be held following a student walkout.

This is the first time Prof. Salaita will be speaking about the situation in public. He is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Anand Swaminathan of Loevy & Loevy in Chicago.

For those unable to attend the press conference in person, a copy of Prof. Salaita’s comments will be sent around afterwards and the speakers will be available for interview by phone beginning at 2 p.m. CDT.

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

Professor Steven Salaita
Professor Robert Warrior, director of American Indian Studies at UIUC
Maria LaHood, senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights
Michael Rothberg, head of the English Department at UIUC, on behalf of the Modern Language Association (MLA)
Eman Ghanayem and Rico Kleinstein, students at UIUC

Tuesday, September 9, 2014, 12:30 p.m. CDT

University YMCA
1001 S Wright St., Urbana, IL 61820

September 3, 2014

Columbia Law Professor reads U. of Illinois the riot act

Filed under: Steven Salaita — louisproyect @ 1:58 am

K. Franke letter to Chancellor Wise
September 2, 2014 at 9:36pm
Columbia University in the City of New York ¦ New York, N.Y. 10027


Katherine M. Franke

Voice: (212) 854-0061
Fax: (212) 854-7946

Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law
Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law

September 2, 2014

Dr. Phyllis M. Wise, Chancellor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Swanlund Administration Building
601 John Street Champaign, IL 61820

Dear Dr. Wise:

Last June several University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty invited me to your campus as part of The Cultures of Law in Global Contexts Initiative and the Gender and Women’s Studies Department’s Queer Studies Reading Group. I agreed to come in late September and give several public lectures and hold intensive sessions with graduate students in the humanities, law, and women’s/gender/queer studies. For this I was generously offered a modest honorarium plus the costs of travel and accommodation. I enthusiastically looked forward to working closely with the UIUC’s outstanding interdisciplinary group of faculty and students who are thinking in new and challenging ways about notions of globalization, nationalism, personhood and justice across a range of disciplinary locations. These interdisciplinary initiatives promise to destabilize comfortable notions of belonging, reparation, identity, and dispossession. I was excited to learn more about their work and participate, if only for a few days, in a community of scholars who were committed to thinking hard, if not uncomfortably, about the ways in which law is, or is not, up to the task of addressing the most critical forms of injustice, and how law itself can become an instrument of injustice in critical global contexts.

Regretfully, I write to inform you that on account of the decision to rescind an accepted offer of employment to Professor Steven Salaita, I must now cancel my visit to the UIUC campus in late September.

I have long held the view that the use of boycotts as a tactic to protest an unjust practice by a state, business or academic institution may be appropriate in the right context, such as the current crisis at the UIUC, but that those who pledge to honor a boycott cannot rest their political commitments exclusively on a promise not to do something. Rather they should also pledge to affirmatively engage the injustice that generated the call for the boycott. For this reason, rather than merely boycotting your institution, I plan to travel to Urbana-Champaign in mid September at my own expense to participate in a forum (located off campus) with members of the UIUC community in which we will explore the manner in which the termination of Professor Salaita’s employment at UIUC threatened a robust principal of academic freedom.1

Of equal, if not greater, importance, at this forum I plan to explore with UIUC faculty the complex questions of belonging, dispossession, and possibilities for legitimate uses of state and non-state violence that may underlie Professor Salaita’s tweets on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

We would be well served to relate them to a rich academic literature that has aimed to give meaning to this particular struggle. UIUC’s world-class faculty in history, comparative literature, post-colonial studies, Jewish and Arab studies, ethnography, and human rights, aremore than equipped to unpack Professor Salaita’s brief comments on social media (most would admit that 140 characters do not allow for nuance, rigor or careful analysis), taking them as a starting point instead of an end of a discussion about complex questions of belonging, dispossession and identity. Rather than appealing to norms of civility and safety that risk inoculating the UIUC community from challenging and uncomfortable inquiry, an approach that appreciates the norms and values of an academic institution would substitute rigorous interdisciplinary and scholarly analysis of the possible meanings of a provocative comment such as “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.”2 Should we take from such a statement a cynical, if not offensive, apology for antisemitism or does it suggest a deeper critique of the unintended and tragic consequences of certain extreme forms of political Zionism? Perhaps both? This conversation may include thoughtful consideration of the perils and merits of academics’ use of social media. Instead of being afraid of ideas that may be disturbing or provocative, or prejudging their meaning and declaring them off-limits, scholars aim to unpack them and interrogate their possible implications. I suspect that this conversation could generate disagreement, but I am certain it would galvanize a rich scholarly inquiry that has been lost by banishing Professor Salaita and his ideas from the UIUC campus.

As for my decision to decline the departmental invitation to speak at the UIUC, allow me to explain why I have chosen to take this course. The statement you and your Board of Trustees issued on August 22nd, affirming the decision to terminate Professor Salaita’s employment, as well as emails related to this matter that were released to the public last week, make clear that this catastrophe is not really about Professor Salaita and the UIUC’s interest in preserving a civility norm on campus. Rather, it is better and more accurately understood as the most recent iteration of a well-funded, well-organized and aggressive strategy to censor academic scholarship, research or discussion that is critical of Israel or Israeli state policy. So too it aims to censor scholarship, research or discussion that expresses sympathy for the rights of Palestinians. With the assistance of consultants and other branding experts, the strategy has been to frame comments critical of Israel as an affront to civility in the university context. To those of us who have defended academic freedom on this issue in recent years, your statement on the Salaita case echoed, in profoundly disappointing ways, the framing that has been advanced by political operatives who seek to capture the parameters of discussion of Israel/Palestine in an academic context.3 We at Columbia University are no strangers to this pressure, as we have experienced, and weathered, enormous outside pressure placed on our administration to deny tenure to scholars whose academic work criticizes Israel or political Zionism. I have had my own lectures taped and then critiqued by members of the David Project, have been instructed by my dean’s office that I cannot give a talk in which the word “Palestine” appears in the title because “there is no such place as ‘Palestine,’” and my former dean refused to accept a grant I received to fund scholarly work designed to create space in academic contexts for critical discussions of Israel/Palestine.

The strategy behind the campaign opposing Professor Salaita’s appointment at the UIUC seeks to reframe any discomfort that might arise around the competing claims to belonging, dispossession and identity in Israel/Palestine as a fundamental problem of intolerance, disrespect or abuse. This tactic insinuates as a baseline a particular stance or orthodoxy with respect to the highly contested claims to truth or right on this issue that can then be intolerated, disrespected, or abused. The emails disclosed from your office from university donors, alumni/ae, and others clearly document that the UIUC has been targeted by a particular kind of pro-Israel pressure group hoping to purge the professorate and the campus of parties who they deem to have taken positions (whether in their academic or personal capacities) hostile to an uncritically felicitous conception of Israel. That the UIUC administration would surrender to that pressure, and then defend the decision to do so, in the name of a civility norm on campus, is both disingenuous and disheartening.

Finally, you and your Board offer the defense that the UIUC was justified in terminating Professor Salaita’s employment on the ground that “our campuses must be a safe harbor” where students will not be confronted by ideas that upset them or make them uncomfortable, and that the UIUC “will not tolerate … personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.” Presumably this new standard of “academic integrity” would apply not only to Professor Salaita but to other faculty and visiting lecturers such as myself. If so, then the positions I have advanced in my scholarship andin my work outside the academy would disqualify me from giving a lecture to your students asan invited visitor, not to mention an appointment at the University of Illinois College of Law. My recent article Dating the State: The Moral Hazards of Winning Gay Rights includes a sustained critique of the state of Israel’s effort to rebrand itself as a gay-haven in order to distract attention from its abuse of the human rights of Palestinians,4 and my public withdrawal5 from a gay rights conference in Philadelphia partially funded by the state of Israel would most certainly create discomfort for some members of the UIUC community who are inclined to applaud Israel for its “pro-gay” laws and policies. To be frank, most of my work was written with the aim of upsetting settled notions of identity, justice and rights – something for which I have received both praise and criticism from others in writing and in person at public lectures. I regard this give and take, often impassioned if not ferocious, as a central part of the academic project where we test new, uncomfortable ideas for the novel forms of knowledge they may illuminate.

In addition to myself, Professor Salaita, and many other scholars holding appointments at peer academic institutions whose scholarship and other advocacy contain remarks that would run afoul of the UIUC’s new civility policy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would surely be unwelcome at the University of Illinois as an invited lecturer on the basis of his recent uncivil comments on social media, swearing vengeance against the “human animals” who captured and killed three Yeshiva students in the West Bank last June.6

My most sincere regrets that on account of the unfolding catastrophe surrounding the termination of Professor Salaita’s employment I will be unable to accept your faculty’s invitation to visit the Champaign-Urbana campus to give a lecture on The Cultures of Law in Global Contexts. However, I do hope that we can meet in mid September, either in a public or private context, when I come to central Illinois to participate in an off-campus session with a community of scholars who do not fear, nor are intolerant of, provocative, challenging, and even uncomfortable ideas.


Katherine M. Franke

1 A good summary of my legal analysis of this catastrophe can be found in the letter that I authored on behalf of professors of constitutional law, available here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/gxfbptf2t0d17vw/Faculty%20Letter%20to%20U%20of%20I.pdf.

2 A number of scholars have already taken this tweet as a provocation to explore its possible meanings. See e.g. Corey Robin, What Exactly Did Steven Salaita Mean By That Tweet? (“Israel and many of its defenders claim that Israel is coterminous with Jewishness — indeed, sometimes, that Israel exhausts the definition of Jewishness; Israel has come to be associated, in the eyes of many, with colonization, racism, occupation, population transfer/ethnic cleansing; and movements against colonization, racism, occupation, and the like are considered to be honorable because those things are thought to be, like anti- Semitism itself, among the great sins of the 20th century. Because of these three developments, Israel has perversely made anti-Semitism into something honorable: i.e., a discourse that is not about animus toward Jews but rather about opposition to colonization, population transfer, occupation, and the like.”) http://coreyrobin.com/2014/08/08/what-exactly-did-steven-salaita-mean-by-that-tweet/.

3 See for example, The David Project, A Burning Campus? Rethinking Israel Advocacy at America’s Universities and Colleges (2012), available at: http://www.davidproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012524ABurningCampus- RethinkingIsraelAdvocacyAmericasUniversitiesColleges.pdf; and Gary Tobin, Aryeh Weinberg, and Jenna Ferer, The Uncivil University: Politics and Propaganda in American Education (2005).

4 “Dating the State: The Moral Hazards of Winning Gay Rights,” 44 Columbia Human Rights Law Review 1 (2012), https://web.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/gender- sexuality/Dating%20the%20State.pdf.

5 Katherine Franke Explains Why She is Boycotting the Equality Forum, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jd5YwZJB3U.

6 Alexander Marquardt, “Israeli PM Calls Killers of Three Israeli Teens ‘Human Animals,’” ABC News, available at: http://abcnews.go.com/International/israeli-pm-calls-killers-israeli-teens-humananimals/ story?id=24367041.

August 25, 2014

He passed muster at the U. of Illinois

Filed under: Academia,racism,Steven Salaita — louisproyect @ 7:32 pm

Screen shot 2014-08-25 at 3.24.29 PM

Screen shot 2014-08-25 at 3.27.09 PM

Weissberg speaking at American Renaissance Conference, an organization whose journal promotes racial supremacy. Weissberg himself has written that Blacks are genetically inferior to whites.


Chief Illiniwek

Filed under: Academia,indigenous,repression,Steven Salaita — louisproyect @ 3:42 pm

Chief Illiniwek performing at a football game

“As a university community, we also are committed to creating a welcoming environment for faculty and students alike to explore the most difficult, contentious and complex issues facing our society today. Our Inclusive Illinois initiative is based on the premise that education is a process that starts with our collective willingness to search for answers together – learning from each other in a respectful way that supports a diversity of worldviews, histories and cultural knowledge.”

–Phyllis Wise, U. of Illinois Chancellor

From Wikipedia:

On January 17, 2007, the Executive Committee of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, issued a resolution asking that the University of Illinois return the regalia to the family of Frank Fools Crow and cease the use of the Chief Illiniwek mascot. The resolution was delivered to the university’s Board of Trustees, UI President B. Joseph White, and Chancellor Richard Herman. The campus’ Native American House was authorized by the Oglala Sioux to distribute the resolution to the public.

Some Illiniwek were forcibly removed from the state of Illinois during the time of Indian removal. The forced relocation of Indian nations between 1818 and 1833 made way for non-Indians to claim the territory as the state of Illinois. Due to government-sponsored assimilation programs, many Native people moved in the 1950s to large urban areas such as Chicago. Founded in 1953, Chicago’s American Indian Center is the oldest urban Indian center in the country, and there is a substantial American Indian population in Chicago.

In 2006, the University Board of Trustees opted to study the issue and passed a resolution calling for “a consensus conclusion to the matter of Chief Illiniwek.” Many on both sides of the issue found this resolution problematic, given that former trustee Roger Plummer determined that a compromise on the issue was not possible. At that point, the Board of Trustees has not consulted on the matter with the faculty of the American Indian Studies Program.

On March 13, 2007, the University of Illinois board of trustees voted to retire Illiniwek’s name, image and regalia.

In October 2012, the Chief made an unsanctioned halftime appearance at Memorial stadium, in the Homecoming football game against Indiana.

Students and fans still chant “Chief” during the performance of Three In One during halftime. Since neither the NCAA nor the University have any control over what the fans chant, opposition groups have called to additionally ban the Three In One performance.

In April 2014, an indigenous student, Xochitl Sandoval, sent a letter to the university administration (which she also posted on her Facebook page) describing her thoughts of suicide resulting from the daily insults she felt due to the continued presence of “The Chief” on campus, including other students wearing the old image and name on sweatshirts and the continued “unofficial” performances the current “Chief”, Ivan A. Dozier at some events. She stated that these thoughts came as a result of her feeling that she had no recourse because the university had not enforced its own policies regarding racism and the creation of a hostile environment for indigenous students such as herself; but had instead stated her only recourse would be personal action.[51] Soon afterward there was a gathering on the Quad organized by the president of the Native American Indigenous Student Organization in support of Sandoval, and calling for further action by the University to eliminate the presence of the Chief on campus. The Campus Faculty Association (CFA) also issued a statement in support of Sandoval.



U. of Illinois: caught with its pants down

Filed under: Academia,repression,Steven Salaita,Uncategorized,zionism — louisproyect @ 12:40 pm

August 19, 2014

The scum that rises around the Steven Salaita firing

Filed under: Academia,repression,Steven Salaita,zionism — louisproyect @ 9:06 pm

Having worked at Columbia University for 21 years I developed a real animosity toward the individuals and organizations trying to pressure my employer into silencing or firing pro-Palestinian professors. The first to come under fire was Edward Said. After him came the people in the MEALAC Department that he helped make famous: Joseph Massad, Hamid Dabashi and Rashid Khalidi. Barnard had the same problems. An online petition to deny Nadia Abu El Haj tenure went up after she wrote a book demonstrating how Israeli archaeologists helped to shore up the nation’s racial exclusiveness.

Although there are many reasons to dislike the presidents of Columbia University and Barnard, their commitment to academic freedom is second to none. When Edward Said became target of the Israel lobby for throwing rocks at an IDF watchtower, Lee Bollinger said that this was his protected free speech right. Imagine that! Using actual physical violence rather than offensive tweets was still not enough to get him fired.

Columbia University, I should add, was also very principled when it came to “back office” nobodies like me. On three different occasions assholes contacted the university for things that I said on the Internet that made Steven Salaita’s tweets look like Hallmark Greeting cards by comparison. And each time there was never any question about being disciplined, let alone fired. On one occasion the ombudsman told me that it would be a good idea to get a non-Columbia email account if I wanted to be a flame-thrower (my word, not hers). That’s how I ended up as lnp3 at panix.com

In some ways, the people who are open supporters of Israel like Cary Nelson don’t get me as worked up as those who pretend to be neutral observers. These individuals are the real scum, writing newspaper articles or blog posts taking the administration’s side while trying to conceal their obvious bias. Each day as I check to see if there’s anything new about Salaita on Google, I continue to be struck by the gall of the commentators who are trying to drive the shiv into his back. (As opposed to his tweet about driving a shiv into Jeffrey Goldberg’s article.)

Let me share with you what I have seen, in chronological order. You may want to put on a surgical mask to block the bacteria that floats from the people under inspection, especially from the lawyers (you know what Shakespeare said about them.)

Steven Lubet

This Northwestern law professor wrote an article titled “Professor’s tweets about Israel crossed the line” that appeared in the August 14th Chicago Tribune. Lubet says that his tweets should not be an obstacle to his being hired at the U. of Illinois but uses his article mostly to libel Salaita as calling for Jeffrey Goldberg to be knifed when he was referring to an article he had written, etc. Lubet, like Nelson, affects a “free speech” posture saying “I worked with the American Civil Liberties Union on the Nazis-in-Skokie case in the 1970s, and I would gladly do so again.” Right. Love me, I am a liberal.

As it turns out, Lubet did have a dog in this race. He is a founding member of “The Third Narrative”, a group that represents itself as being for a two-state solution but adds that “We reject all attempts to undermine or diminish academic freedom and open intellectual exchange, including those cases associated with the Israel-Palestine debate.” Other founding members include Eric Alterman, Michael Walzer, Todd Gitlin and –you guessed it—Cary Nelson.

In his brilliant exposé of Cary Nelson, Phan Nguyen delivered the goods on “The Third Narrative”:

Although ostensibly described as taking a middle ground between “two competing narratives on the Middle East—Israeli and Palestinian,” TTN was launched a year ago and designed to “counter anti-Israel bias on the far left.” Thus TTN is geared primarily toward attacking the pro-BDS left and rarely critiques the pro-Israeli right. TTN even distributes a booklet called “Progressive Answers To The Far Left’s Critiques of Israel.”

This is a common anti-BDS tactic that I discuss elsewhere, where the goal is to drive “a wedge between progressive values and the BDS movement,” in the words of a guidebook from the Israel Action Network (another organization that Nelson has worked with).

Jonathan Adler

On August 17th Adler, the Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve, referred readers to the arguments of Hoffman, the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School, on why the administration was in its right in “rescinding” its offer to Salaita, couched entirely in contract law minutiae. He cited the bottom line of Hoffman’s findings:

Why am I so skeptical when Mike Dorf is not? I think it’s largely because I’ve read alot of promissory estoppel cases, and a lot of promissory estoppel articles. And the consensus is that over the last generation, promissory estoppel has waned as a theory of recovery. As Bob Hillman famously concluded, it’s a “remarkably unsuccessful” cause of action, which, in my experience, is brought largely in weak cases as a last-ditch shot to push through to discovery and thus motivate settlement. I think that most contracts professors spend time on the doctrine these days largely because it’s so darn fun — the facts are wonderful! — but not because it’s a regular part of the business lawyer’s arsenal. Promissory estoppel cases are losers. This case would be a loser.

It turns out that Adler is a regular contributor to The Volokh Conspiracy, a website that migrated to the Washington Post in January 2014. Hence Adler’s appearance there. Here’s what MediaMatters  says about the marriage made in hell:

On January 21, The Washington Post announced that it had entered into a partnership with The Volokh Conspiracy, a blog that has operated since 2002 and largely focuses on legal issues but has strayed into other areas, including climate denialism. The Post praised the blog in its announcement of the agreement, calling it a “must-read source [that] will be a great addition to the Post’s coverage of law, politics and policy.” In his first official post, the blog’s founder, Eugene Volokh, revealed that the Post granted him “full editorial control.”

The move was celebrated by right-wing media outlets such as the American Spectator, which praised Washington Post owner and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for highlighting a blog that provides legal commentary “from a [generally] libertarian or conservative perspective,” writing, “Perhaps it should stand to reason that a man who made a fortune offering people choices, should offer the same alternatives to his readership. What a novel concept in today’s news atmosphere.” TownHall editor Conn Carroll cited the acquisition as evidence that Bezos was “clearly moving” the Post “in a libertarian direction.”

So you might say that Steven Salaita’s firing is being defended in a newspaper funded by your Amazon.com purchases. The bastards have us coming and going.

Joyce Tolliver and Nick Burbules

These are a couple of U. of Illinois professors who have defended Salaita’s firing in the News-Gazette, a local paper that has been in the forefront of the witch-hunt. They write:

The other questionable assumption of the current debate is that the university’s action violates Salaita’s academic freedom. But the principle of academic freedom is not an absolute, open-ended license; the AAUP’s own statement on principles of academic freedom emphasizes that faculty are also bound by the standards of professional ethics: “As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, (and) should show respect for the opinions of others ….” Salaita’s comments raise legitimate questions about the limits of academic freedom.

So, who the hell are these people, you might ask. Well, to give you an idea of how committed they are to the rights of professors versus an obviously capricious administration, they are the people behind the “No Faculty Union at Illinois” website. A Wikipedia entry on Burbules states:

Professor Burbules has led the fight to prevent unionization of faculty (including non-tenure track faculty) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Burbules co-authored a 2014 open letter opposing faculty unionization; the letter rejected in principle the notion of fair share, that those workers who receive the benefits of a democratically created and elected trade union ought to pay their fair share of the union’s expenses. Without some semblance of fair share, no union can survive—workers will become free riders and take the benefits without paying for them, as the union gradually loses its leverage for lack of voluntary contributions, and eventually collapses.

Just the kind of people to be relied upon when a witch-hunt is brewing–if you are the administration trying to get rid of trouble-makers.

Spiked Online

This is the electronic magazine of a group of people in Britain that emerged out of the Trotskyist movement in the 1970s. Originally known as the Revolutionary Communist Party, they put out a print magazine titled Living Marxism that took ultra-contrarian positions on a number of questions. For example, they wrote in favor of fox-hunting, smoking cigarettes in restaurants, nuclear power, and GMO crops—all in the name of Karl Marx.

In the 1990s, they morphed into Spiked Online after dropping the Marxism thing. They did hold on to the contrarianism, however, as this assault on Steven Salaita should bear out:

If Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anyone be surprised #Gaza.’

This ugly, anti-Semitic tweet is just one in a long line sent by the American academic and pro-Palestinian activist, Steven Salaita. His response to the kidnapping in June of three Israeli teenagers was typically forthright: ‘You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.’ More recently he informed his Twitter followers: ‘Zionists: transforming “anti-Semitism” from something horrible into something honourable since 1948.’

Salaita is one of the contributors to The Imperial University, a book which makes a consistent case for BDS and the censoring of all connections with Israeli universities, which I reviewed in this month’s spiked review of books. The various authors argue that academic freedom, an overrated concept, is a mere tool employed by the liberal elite to patronise and neuter voices of dissent within the academy. How ironic, then, that Salaita, a man all too happy to ride roughshod over the academic freedom of Israeli lecturers and researchers, should be outraged when his own academic freedom is threatened.

This is even more noxious than anything that rolled off of Cary Nelson’s tongue. The article was written by one Joanna Williams, the author of “Consuming Higher Education: Why Learning Can’t Be Bought.” She has also written articles denying that rape is a problem in British universities and affirming that the pay gap between men and women is ancient history.

You can’t make this shit up.

August 18, 2014

An addendum to “Before there was Steven Salaita”

Filed under: Academia,repression,Steven Salaita,zionism — louisproyect @ 12:58 pm

This is an eye-opening report on how the Israel lobby tried to witch-hunt William I. Robinson out of the academy:

As Repression Escalates on US Campuses, an Account of My Ordeal With the Israel Lobby and UC

Sunday, 17 August 2014 00:00By William I Robinson, Truthout | News Analysis

A building in Rafah destroyed by the Israelis during Israel's assault on Gaza in January, 2009. Shortly after Israel concluded its month-long Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Professor William Robinson was targeted for repression for including material critical of Israel in his course materials.

A building in Rafah destroyed by the Israelis during Israel’s assault on Gaza in January, 2009. Shortly after Israel concluded its month-long Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Professor William Robinson was targeted for repression for including material critical of Israel in his course materials. (Photo:International Solidarity Movement)

Professor William Robinson of UCSB was the target of a campaign of intimidation, silencing, and political repression that included techniques described in the “Hasbara handbook” by the Israel lobby in contravention of academic freedom and university rules. He describes the experience here.

The latest Israeli carnage in Gaza has provoked worldwide condemnation of Israel for its continued war crimes and its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. In response, the Israeli state and its allies and agents are stepping up campaigns of intimidation, silencing, and political repression against opponents of its policies. Israel may continue to win military battles – after all, it has the fifth most powerful military on the planet – but it is losing the war for legitimacy. In the wake of its bloody attacks on schools, hospitals and United Nations refugee centers in Gaza, support has intensified around the world for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The BDS campaign in the United States has taken off, above all, on university campuses, which is why the Israel lobby is so intent on targeting academia.

Five years ago, I was attacked by the Israel lobby in the United States, led by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and nearly run from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), where I work as a professor of sociology, global and Latin American studies. The campaign against me lasted some six months and garnered worldwide attention, but I am hardly alone. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of professors and student groups have been harassed and persecuted for speaking out against Israeli occupation and apartheid and in support of the Palestinian struggle. Some of these cases have been high profile in the media and others have gone relatively unknown. The latest victim, Steven Salaita, a respected scholar and professor of English literature and American Indian Studies, was fired in August from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for denouncing on social media the most recent Israeli atrocities in Gaza.

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