Letter to the Editor: Salatia scandal carries on after settlement

By Bruce Levine

For those on our campus concerned only about the academic boycott of the University and the censure by the American Association of University Professors the settlement recently announced with Professor Steven Salaita may appear a great thing.

And Salaita might have felt he had no choice but to accept it and then to put the best face possible on it. But this is no victory for academic freedom and shared governance. It’s another blow against those things and, for the University, yet another scandal.

The departure of the previous University president, chancellor and provost raised hopes that their replacements would fix the mess already made by reversing the firing of Salaita — restoring his job to him and so demonstrating respect for academic freedom, free speech, the registered opinion of the Academic Senate and for the American Indian Studies faculty’s right to choose their colleagues.

The new University administration had the golden opportunity to do all of that that. But it refused to do so. It chose instead to offer a financial settlement far smaller than the cost to Salaita as measured in a lifetime of probably lost academic salary. Meanwhile, it refuses to give him his job back. It refuses to acknowledge its own wrong-doing. Adding insult to injury, it requires Salaita — the injured party — to promise that he will never again seek a position at the University.

By making this shameful choice, the new University administrators — who previously had only inherited the Salaita scandal — now own it.

A University’s main job is to teach. So what lesson do we teach with this settlement? That a university can fire a scholar for expressing views it finds distasteful and get away with it so long as it’s prepared to pony up some cash.

Bruce Levine is a University history professor.