We, the undersigned, strongly object to the revocation of Steven Salaita's tenured appointment at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, based on reported extra-institutional pressure to punish a scholar for voicing impassioned if divisive opinions about foreign military operations and their ethics. This pressure, as far as is apparent in the media, seems to rest in part on a flimsy and fallacious assertion that extramural outrage regarding Israel, in the midst of a war widely perceived as a horrific humanitarian crisis, somehow threatens student learning or student well-being on campus.
We, as un-tenured members of the academic community, are highly vulnerable to administrative pressure, born in budgetary or political crises. We rely on faculty autonomy and governance at the department level, as on our deans, in the face of administrative or board-level decisions that threaten our livelihood and our place in the academy. Increasingly, "student learning" or similar arguments are touted, often cynically, by individuals who are themselves far from any classroom, in order to justify decisions that cost departments tenure lines and full-time positions. Here, Steven Salaita's dismissal seems to have been carried out in blatant disregard of faculty opinion, expertise, and governance, and to undermine one of the few sites of support upon which contingent faculty might rely sets a frightening precedent. As argued by several petitions you have already received, it imperils academic freedom, itself hardly a reality for contingent faculty in the first place. For us, in practice, this lack of academic security already compromises our teaching and scholarly endeavors, and we find it deplorable that Steven Salaita's case might usher in an era of even stricter limitations on expression, for colleagues at any rank.
Our professional insecurity clouds even this moment; many of us do not feel we have the luxury of signing our own names or institutional affiliations to this petition, and/or the professional leverage to meaningfully participate in otherwise circulating calls to refuse our intellectual services to UIUC. Despite this, we simply demand, even if anonymously, that the decision to break a commitment to hire Steven Salaita be reversed.
The signatories of this petition sign as private individuals, and in no way seek to represent the views of their respective Institutions.