Salaita supporters host walkout

By Josh Winters

Demonstrators huddled together under umbrellas as heavy rain poured down. Roughly 150 students and faculty gathered on the Quad on Tuesday, Sept. 9 to protest Steven Salaita’s rescinded job offer for the American Indian Studies, AIS, program. Many had taped paper reading “UIUCStudents4Salaita,” over their mouths and held signs.

Student protestors encouraged others to walk out of their classes at 11:30 a.m. and join together on the Quad. 

After the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, Sept. 11, they plan to occupy Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s office until Salaita is reinstated. 

Robert Warrior, director of the AIS program, spoke to Salaita supporters, expressing his frustration with the Chancellor’s decision. 

“She never asked me what kind of teacher I had found him to be,” Warrior said. “She had decided based on some email messages…what kind of person that he would be, and I’m afraid that this is the kind of thinking that is getting us into trouble.”

Efadul Huq, graduate student in Urban Planning, expressed concern that the decision on Salaita threatens academic freedom. 

“If you’re not able to discuss issues that are contentious and … express viewpoints … that the dominant class may feel is disrespectful towards them, then the university loses its place as a space where we can constructively have a dialogue about different viewpoints,” said Huk.

When the speakers had finished addressing the protestors, the crowd marched to the University’s YMCA, where Salaita made his first public statement since receiving an email on Aug. 1 from Wise, informing him that his position would not be forwarded to the Board.

Josh can be reached at [email protected]