A Next Step in the Fight for Steven Salaita?

I don’t have the time to organize this, but it occurs to me that if in every discipline—English, sociology, history, political science, mathematics, and so on—a statement of refusal were organized, stating that its signatories would refuse any invitation to come and speak on any campus of the University of Illinois, that this might be a powerful next step in the campaign to reinstate Steven Salaita.

We’ve had a week of letters, emails, phone calls, and a petition, which at last count has more than 11,000 signatures. But the way a campaign works is if pressure grows, if opposition doesn’t remain static but  expands: not just in its numbers but in its modes of expression.

So what if in the next week, instead of thinking things were dying down, the University of Illinois were to learn that this past week’s slowly rumbling campaign was growing into a quiet roar? What if in the next week, one person in each discipline took it upon herself to organize a statement for her field, a simple, short statement, in which her fellow academics would refuse any invitation to come and speak, until Chancellor Wise rescinded her rescission of the University of Illinois’s invitation to Steven Salaita? Which would then be circulated among all her friends and colleagues, who would then circulate it among their friends and colleagues? And if each of these statements, once they had, say, 100 signatures, would then be sent to the Chancellor, to the campus presidents, and to the chairs of the respective departments on all the campuses of the University of Illinois?

The University would get the message: that far from going away in the lazy days of August, this campaign was gearing up for the brisk weeks of fall.

Though I’ve organized many of these types of campaigns in the past, I don’t have the time, as I say, to take on this one. But the beauty of this type of campaign is that it doesn’t need one person to organize it. It can be completely grass-roots; anyone can take the initiative. It just needs one person in each discipline to get it started, and I suspect it will take off quickly from there.

I’m happy to serve here on this blog as a clearing-house, to publicize any one statement from any one discipline. And of course to sign any such statement that political scientists in my field chose to organize.

In the last few days, I’ve been quietly surprised at just how many academics have spoken out on this issue, have not only taken the time to sign a petition, but to make a phone call, write a letter, to do something. Something about this case has touched many of us. I think we could do this next step.

Feel free to circulate this statement widely.


  1. glenntwo August 8, 2014 at 10:43 pm | #

    An academic boycott? But those are evil! 🙂

    • hophmi August 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm | #

      Yes, they are. Because the current one against Israel would force you to boycott UIUC over its Jewish Studies department visiting scholar from Israel, Palestinian-Israeli Sayed Kashua.

      • glenntwo October 30, 2014 at 2:01 pm | #

        This shows how often I check in to the comments on WordPress, which is slightly embarrassing….

        But if I’d replied on time, I would have just said “huh?” Because no boycott I’m supportive of–or even aware of–calls for boycotting institutions because they have Israeli visiting scholars.

  2. kbergen August 9, 2014 at 12:24 am | #

    thank you for this. i would add that we might also refuse to recommend students to jobs or grad school at UI if this situation is not rectified. as a college senior i asked a well-known historian for a letter of recommendation to PhD programs. when i told her the programs to which i intended to apply, she asked if i was applying in history. i wasn’t (philosophy) and so she explained that the chair of one of these programs had a wretched record of homophobia in hiring practices and elsewhere, and that she on principle refused to write for any applicant to that department so long as he was chair. that has stuck with me.

  3. Heike Schotten August 11, 2014 at 3:12 pm | #

    Hi Corey,

    Have you had any takers on this plan yet? I’m interested in taking it up in Political Science but don’t want to duplicate efforts in case one is already underway.

    Or maybe you could put me in touch with the folks already working on it (if there are any)?

    Many thanks, Heike Schotten UMass Boston

    Under no circumstances should one pay attention to those who tell one: “Don’t criticize, since you’re not capable of carrying out a reform.” That’s ministerial cabinet talk. Critique doesn’t have to be the premise of a deduction that concludes, “this, then, is what needs to be done.” It should be an instrument for those who fight, those who resist and refuse what is. Its use should be in processes of conflict and confrontation, essays in refusal. It doesn’t have to lay down the law for the law. It isn’t a stage in programming. It is a challenge directed to what is.

    Michel Foucault (1978)

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