Salaita and Academic Freedom

September 6, 2014

By KC Johnson at Minding the Campus

The Steven Salaita case at the University of Illinois continues to engender controversy. The three most perceptive commentaries came from FIRE and Steven Lubet. In comments with which I entirely agree, FIRE condemned the public statement of Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise, who justified the revocation of Salaita’s offer on the grounds “we cannot and will not tolerate . . . personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse . . . viewpoints themselves.” But why, as FIRE noted, should anyone be prohibited from “disrespectfully” “abusing” ideas”—such as racism or sexism or homophobia? Lubet analyzed the differences between Salaita’s academic freedom and legal claims, and correctly took to task a group of mostly left-of-center law professors who penned a letter defending Salaita but in the process minimized or even whitewashed Salaita’s extremist views. He spoke of his own experience with the ACLU defending the Nazis’ right to march at Skokie—but added that “the ACLU never soft-pedaled the Nazis as merely passionate critics of international banking...

Schools: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign