Dr. Cornel West: “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

Dr. Cornel West Joins Univ. Illinois Boycott Over Salaita Firing

Gale Courey Toensing

Dr. Cornel West, the well-known public intellectual, scholar and activist, has cancelled a prestigious lecture at the University of Illinois Urban-Champaign (UIUC) in protest of the firing of Dr. Steven Salaita, a tenured professor in the Native American Studies program.

Salaita, a Palestinian American, was fired last summer after tweeting criticism of Israel’s bombing of Gaza, which killed more than 2,200 people, including 500 children.

West, a professor at Princeton University, was scheduled to deliver the 2015 Marjorie Hall Thulin Lecture on “The Profound Desire for Justice” next month in the university’s historic Lincoln Hall.

“My change of mind in regard to my cancellation of my lecture constitutes a line in the sand I could not cross,” West said in a statement released by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). “The case of my dear brother Professor Steven Salaita is a moral scandal of great proportion and the suffering of precious Palestinians under a vicious Israeli occupation is a crime against humanity, even in a world in which ugly anti-Jewish hatred escalates.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firm of Loevy & Loevy represent Salaita in a lawsuit filed in February against the university and its officials, including the chancellor and university trustees, alleging that their decision to fire him over his tweets violated his constitutional rights to free speech and due process of law, and breached his employment contract. The suit also targets university donors who, based on emails made public, threatened to withhold their contributions to the university if it did not fire Salaita on account of his political speech.

RELATED: Salaita Sues University and Donors Over Firing for ‘Uncivil’ Criticism of Israel

By cancelling his appearance at UIUC, West joins thousands of academics around the country and abroad who promised to boycott the university for violating Salaita’s First Amendment right to free speech. Since Salaita’s firing, more than 5,000 academics from around the country have pledged to boycott the university, resulting in the cancellation of more than three dozen scheduled talks and conferences at the school. Sixteen academic departments of the university have voted no confidence in the university administration, and prominent academic organizations, including the large and weighty American Association of University Professors AAUP, the Modern Language Association, and the Society of American Law Teachers have publicly condemned the University’s actions.

In the latest anti-administration move, the AAUP is preparing to censure the university in May for its handling of the Salaita case, according to the News-Gazette.

“In general, for an institution as reputable as UIUC, I think it would be a black mark against them, frankly,” said Anita Levy, associate secretary of the AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance.

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stevef's picture
Submitted by stevef on
I am pretty sure I am not ready to jump on the 'Support Dr. Salaita bandwagon' as when I started to search for the answer to: What was the Tweet? Then I found this: “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not,” Salaita wrote shortly after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists, “I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.” Another tweet applied just as much nuance in declaring, “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.”

aliberaldoseofskepticism's picture
Submitted by aliberaldoseofs... on
Salaita has NO experience with ndn studies, isn't Indian himself, so that itself should disqualify him. (You might think that's harsh, and normally I wouldn't refuse to hire someone based on ethnicity. But your BDS allies would. At my alma mater at that! It's...embarrassing.) And NAISA is headed by Chadwick Allen, who isn't enrolled but is 'Chickasaw through the matrilineal line'. Sounds to me like a variant of 'my great-great-great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess', no? So, tell me, why should I support a bunch of wannabes in their goal to get someone who is in no way qualified for a position, hired? Is it because, as stevef reminded us, Salaita publicly advocates criminal activity? That's usually why I don't hire someone.

Ryanbellerose's picture
Submitted by Ryanbellerose on
Gayle why do you keep posting crap about Salaita here? he is not an indian, has no credentials to teach indian studies or history and frankly he is no friend to native people. this constant push to involve indians in his struggle suggests an agenda.