Steven Salaita was offered a professorship last year in Native American Studies at the University of Illinois. He had his job offer cancelled because some contended that his Twitter comments promoted hate, violence, and antisemitism.
He has retained counsel and is planning legal action. At the same time, he is traveling on a speaking tour to spread his message and raise funds.
This situation is a not a good one for Prof. Salaita or for the University of Illinois. The controversy has robbed Salaita of his employment and health insurance, and led to a statement of boycott from thousands of academics and votes of no confidence in the Chancellor from a number of departments at the University. (Correspondence between the University and Salaita can be found here.)
I have no connection with the University of Illinois and no access to any confidential information. I propose the following terms for settlement to resolve the situation for the benefit of Prof. Salaita, the University, and its students on the basis of only my own personal understanding and opinions.
1. Complete disavowal of demeaning, and abusive tweets. No excuses. No defenses. If something can be taken out of context and be misleading and offensive, then we should not say it. We all must take personal responsibility even for our statements that are misconstrued. If we were clearer, and used less ambiguous language, these incidents would not occur.
2. Express full commitment to the principles of free speech and discourse with respect for all points of view as elucidated in Chancellor Wise statement “The Principles on Which We Stand.” “Dedication to robust – and even intense and provocative – debate and disagreement”, while staying “committed to creating a welcoming environment for faculty and students alike to explore the most difficult, contentious and complex issues facing our society today.”
3. Reinstatement of the job offer effective immediately with a contract with indefinite tenure after a one-year probationary period.
4. A substantial financial settlement from the University to Salaita for lost salary and reimbursement for legal and other expenses.
5. Discontinuation of all legal action and acceptance of financial settlement as relief for all outstanding claims.
I believe this settlement addresses the needs for freedom of speech with responsibility to avoid dehumanization and abuse in academic discourse.
Now let’s all get back to class.