Salaita talks about academic freedom on university campuses

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Since breaking his silence on Sept. 9, Steven Salaita has quickly become an activist for academic freedom on university campuses. This week, Salaita will give a series of talks on his controversial rejected appointment at Chicago universities.

Salaita’s appointment to join the American Indian Studies program at the University as a tenured professor was denied by the Board of Trustees on Sept. 11.

The lectures were organized with student leaders of the organization Students Justice for Palestine. Salaita will begin at Northwestern University on Monday with a talk titled, “Academic freedom and campus censorship.”

According to a post on the American Association of University Professor’s Academe blog by Peter Kirstein, contributing writer and vice-president of the Illinois AAUP, Salaita will lead the talks, “not only to seek a reversal of the sudden cancellation of his appointment, but also to defend other critical-thinking academicians who dare challenge the ideological preferences of chancellors, presidents, and governing boards.”

Salaita’s legal attorney, Anand Swaminathan of Loevy & Loevy, could not be reached for comment.

In the post Kirstein said he will join Salaita and Iymen Chehade, professor of Humanities at Columbia College Chicago, during a talk on Wednesday at Columbia College.

Salaita also spoke to students last week in a separate lecture series organized with professors at Centenary College in Louisiana titled, “Religion Matters.” According to Kate Pedrotty, director of strategic communication at Centenary, Salaita was asked to attend the lecture before he resigned from his position as a professor at Virginia Tech.

Salaita gave a lecture on “Palestine in the American Imagination” based on his academic work, which compares Palestinians in Israel to Native Americans in the United States, Pedrotty said.

“I think it was a great opportunity for us to hear about what some of the complexities are in the question of academic freedom and how it should be protected – and not in some people’s opinion.”