More Than 275 Scholars Declare They Will Not Engage With University of Illinois

In the last 24 hours, sociologists and scholars of composition and rhetoric have organized two new statements of refusal regarding the Steven Salaita affair.

1. The sociology statement reads as follows:

Dear Chancellor Wise:

We are members of Sociology 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, or as participants in conferences or other events at Illinois, 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, of 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.

If you are a sociologist, and wish you to add your name to this statement, you can sign it here.

2. The composition and rhetoric statement is being organized by University of Arizona professor Matthew Abraham. It reads as follows:

Whereas academic freedom is an essential aspect of academic life and campus climate;

Whereas UIUC’s has violated the academic freedom of Professor Steven Salaita and the UIUC faculty who served on the hiring committee which approved his appointment;

Whereas parties external to the University of Illinois have influenced the administration’s disposition toward Professor Salaita’s appointment by bringing in irrelevant considerations, such as the content and tone of his Twitter messages, at the last minute and at the conclusion of the academic process;

Whereas the right to free expression as enshrined in the First amendment extends to all US citizens;

We the undersigned will not step foot on UIUC’s campus until Professor Salaita’s appointment is reinstated and Salaita is issued a public apology by you, the Chancellor.

If you are a scholar or professor of composition and rhetoric, and you wish to sign the statement, please email Professor Abraham at

3. In the meantime, we now have nearly 150 103 signatures on our political science statement, including William Connolly, Bonnie Honig, Adolph Reed, Vijay Prashad, Jacob Levy, Arang Keshavarzian, and many more. If you wish to add your name, please email Joe Lowndes at

4. We have 122 signatures on our English statement, including Michael Bérubé, Priscilla Wald, Lisa Lowe, Bruce Robbins, and Moustafa Bayoumi. If you are an English professor and wish to add your name to the statement, please email Elaine Freedgood at

5. We have 46 signatures on our philosophy statement, including Judith Butler, Jason Stanley, Hartry Field, Jennifer Saul, Paul Boghossian, Johanna Oksala, and Tamsin Shaw. If you are a philosopher and wish to add your name to the statement, please email John Protevi at

As of now, more than 275 scholars have publicly declared their refusal to engage with the University of Illinois, in a variety of ways, until the university reinstates Steven Salaita.

Update (12:30 pm)

We finally have a statement organized by historians. Here it is:

As members of history departments from around the world we are deeply concerned by the recent decision to prevent Steven Salaita from assuming his appointment to the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. We believe that the university’s revocation of an already accepted offer due to the tone and content of political statements on social media about recent events in Gaza is a violation of academic freedom and sets a very negative precedent for intellectual diversity in academia. Until such time as the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign decides to allow Dr. Salaita to take the position he was offered and accepted we refuse to participate in any events on its campus including academic conferences. Listed institutions are for identification purposes. The individual scholars signing this petition represent only their own personal views and not those of their employers.

If you are a historian and wish to sign it, please email Otto Pohl at or leave a comment on his blog post.


  1. J. Otto Pohl August 13, 2014 at 11:36 am | #

    If nobody else organizes one for history by tomorrow, I will type one up and put it on my blog.

  2. melissaicd August 13, 2014 at 12:21 pm | #

    Reblogged this on MiscEtcetera v2.

  3. Samuel Handelman August 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm | #

    It would be nice to have a general purpose statement which people in, for example, STEM fields could sign.

  4. Jacqueline O'Connor August 13, 2014 at 5:38 pm | #

    Good! As you wrote “Diverse and discordant voices, voices that some find “difficult”, are the key to the survival to our schools as living institutions.” I’d go further and say diverse and discordant voices are essential to society considering a variety of views before making decisions. Good luck and fine idea. Step on ’em!

  5. bensday823 August 13, 2014 at 6:53 pm | #

    Since Corey closed the other thread before I could post, let me take this opportunity to say a few things about Salaita-

    While this should not be the basis for denying Salaita, I find his use of loaded language, and false analogies offensive. Salaita attempts to stack the rhetorical deck by calling Israel a “settler” state, and comparing the Palestinians to native Americans.

    As I tried to say in the thread that closed, Tel Aviv is not Plymouth rock, and the Palestinians are not Indians. The Pilgrims arrived in a land that did not have a written language, private property, or a formal legal system. Palestine is part of the Levant, the cradle of civilization, a place where written language and formal legal codes have existed for more than 6,000 years.

    Pilgrims simply showed up at Plymouth rock, and started building. The early Zionists were legal immigrants to a province of the Ottoman and then British empire. They were buying plots of land within a system of laws, and private property that dated back centuries, if not millenia. The situation is more akin to the U.S resettling Hmong refugees in Minnesota, than it is to Plymouth rock.

    Calling Jews who legally immigrated to Palestine and purchased land from Arab and Turkish landowners, “colonists,” or “settlers,” is offensive and dishonest. Jewish immigrants had every right to be their, just as Arabs did. If we are going to discuss the issue, we have to start from that premise of equality. Jews had a right to be there, Arabs had a right to be there, and if people want to discuss the issue they need to start from this premise



    • John Protevi August 13, 2014 at 8:12 pm | #

      Are you proposing that legitimate land ownership in what is now called Israel be restricted to those tracing legal title to acquisition prior to 1947? Because that’s what it looks like to me, and it’s quite a radical and intriguing proposition.

      • Jasmine mario August 13, 2014 at 10:56 pm | #

        There has been a continuous Jewish presence in israel since the destruction of the Jewish monarchy. In 1800 there were around 25000 Jews in Israel, before any immigration from Europe. There are many Jews in Israel who can trace their family presence in Israel for hundreds of years. The only Arabs present in Israel at that time were nomad Bedouins.

      • Jasmine mario August 13, 2014 at 11:12 pm | #

        Anyway, I think the obsessive preoccupation in academia with who has rights to the land of Israel is useless. The UN recognized the legitimacy of Israel as well as the right of Palestinians for self determination. No academic hair splitting will change this, So what’s the point? In addition, nobody is moving 7 million Jews out of Israel, just as nobody is moving 4 million Palestinians out of the areas they occupy now. And Israel will never agree to a one state solution no matter the pressure. That will be suicide (politically and physically). As usual academia proves itself to be completely irrelevant in the real world.

    • Rahul (@rlpkamath) August 14, 2014 at 9:08 am | #

      Jews pre-1947 did buy private land in mandate Israel. They did not buy the right to an ethnocentric majority Jewish state (this cannot be bought). Your comment is simply nonsense.

      • bensday823 August 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm | #

        Does Pakistan have a right to secede from India and form a religious sectarian state? Does Kosovo have a right to secede from Yugoslavia and form an ethnic/religiously sectarian state?

        There is nothing wrong with wanting to draw borders to allow for a Jewish or Muslim majority, it happens all the time. The anti-Israel fanatics are obsessed with exactly one country, why?

      • bensday823 August 14, 2014 at 3:06 pm | #

        At any rate, your question is off topic, Salaita seems to believe that legal Jewish immigrants had no right to be there, which is bull.

        As for Israel as a majority Jewish state, take it up with the UN. They partitioned Palestine with the intention of creating a Jewish majority state. This plan would have allowed Muslims to live under their preferred system of government, and Jews to live under theirs.

  6. Natalie August 13, 2014 at 10:11 pm | #

    This whole outrage against University of Illinois is downright bizarre. The University can choose to hire or not hire whom they want, and it is by no means surprising that the University chose in this case not to higher a man whose vitriolic agitprop would undoubtedly detract more than contribute to constructive, meaningful and valid discourse on campus. Suppose after proposing to your lover, he reveals that he is a willing heroin addict and pedophile. This would (rightly) make you question whether he’s the right person to marry and raise a family with. You would seek a better man. No one could rightly fault you for rescinding a marriage proposal for this reason. And nor should anyone fault the University for rescinding a job offer for an individual whose primitive, malignant, bigoted views were largely revealed only after the offer was extended.

  7. Wahida Joosub August 13, 2014 at 11:55 pm | #

    As a citizen of the world I see things changing and I do not like where it is heading. The least I can do is speak out against injustice. As such, I have sent the following email to the University of Illinois
    To Whom it May Concern:
    It has come to my attention that the University of Illinois fired professor -Steven Salaita because he is an American Palestinian. I truly hope there is no truth behind this accusation. However, in the event it is true, I refuse to be silent and let such an injustice go on without speaking out against it. I never understood how Hitler was able to terminate the lives of so many Jews. And more importantly why the world allowed it to happen. But recently I am witnessing such cowardly behaviour around the world. People are afraid to speak out against injustice. Is it because we are afraid it will affect our pocket books or is it because we are weak? If this is the case, we have allowed greed to poison our souls and barricade the world with hate and division. We can not give in to such evil as it will extinguish the light of liberty and lead to enslavement. Let us act before it is too late.

  8. Cendra Lynn August 14, 2014 at 4:03 am | #

    And what about us, the psychologists. There is no way we could find this hateful behavior conducive to mental health.

  9. xcelarsolutions August 14, 2014 at 2:45 pm | #

    Authorities need to respect, professionals from every corner of the world. What a shame

  10. abdul goldstein August 14, 2014 at 3:32 pm | #

    I wonder if the academics who are threatening to boycott U of Illinois on the basis of protecting academic freedom would be threatening to boycott if he had made public remarks that were homophobic instead of anti-Semitic.

    • Hisham August 14, 2014 at 10:38 pm | #

      Great point. Just goes to show the utter superficiality and primitivity of the thinking of those who call for the University to extend an offer to a person with such primitive, bigoted views, and who support such an inane boycott of the University when they rightly refuse to do so.

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