Calling all English Professors

Elaine Freedgood, a professor of English at NYU, is organizing a statement of English professors on the Steven Salaita affair. The statement reads as follows:

Dear Chancellor Wise:

We are members of English Departments from around the world who write, regretfully, to inform you that we will not engage with the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign as speakers, as participants in conferences or other events, or as reviewers for the tenure and promotion of your faculty until you rescind the decision to block Professor Steven Salaita’s appointment to the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Many prominent academics have written eloquently about the chilling effect your decision will have on the free expression of dissident ideas by academics; legal scholars have argued that it is a violation of academic freedom and more fundamentally, freedom of speech.

Diverse and discordant voices, voices that some find “difficult,” are key to the survival of our schools as living institutions. Critical thinking of the kind that can lead directly to political dissent is exactly what any faculty in any college or university worthy of the name must teach.

Please reconsider your decision. Until then, we will not engage with a university we otherwise admire in so many ways.

PLEASE NOTE: all institutions listed below are for purposes of identification only. We sign as scholars, not on behalf of the institutions that employ us.


The statement already has nearly 50 signatures, including Moustafa Bayoumi, Bruce Robbins, Lisa Lowe, and many more. If you are a professor of English and would like to sign the statement, please contact Professor Freedgood at

And, remember, if you’re a political scientist, and want to sign a similar statement of political scientists, contact University of Oregon professor Joe Lowndes at

And if you’re a philosopher, and want to sign a similar statement of philosophers, contact Louisiana State University professor John Protevi at


  1. David Sessions August 12, 2014 at 12:40 pm | #

    Is there any similar thing graduate students could do that would make any sense?

    • Gloria Monti August 12, 2014 at 10:49 pm | #

      i teach in a radio-TV-film department and i want to sign. how do i do that?

      • Corey Robin August 12, 2014 at 10:52 pm | #

        I think you have to get a statement going for that discipline. Whether you call it media studies or radio-TV-film or whatever. As far as I know no one has organized any statement for that field.

  2. Lawrence Rothfield August 12, 2014 at 1:29 pm | #

    I’m absolutely in favor of the principle of boycotting to put pressure on the administration to reverse this outrageous action. But I disagree with refusing to write tenure letters, for two reasons: it victimizes untenured faculty, and it might provide ammunition for administrators to argue for abolishing tenure (or for a tenuring process that cuts faculty out, or for even more rampant substitution of adjuncting for tenure-track positions).

  3. Thomas Adams August 13, 2014 at 2:04 am | #

    Any history discipline letter going that anyone knows of?

  4. J. Otto Pohl August 13, 2014 at 7:52 am | #

    I would be interested in doing one for historians, but I am based in Ghana, not the US so I am not sure if it would have any effect. If somebody else organizes a statement by historians I would definitely sign it.

    • Black Feminist August 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm | #

      Can anyone please point me to any letter writing campaigns in support of UIUC? I’m in English. Thanks.

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