Written by MARK RIFKIN
Published: 29 November -0001
NAISA Council protests the decision of Chancellor Phyllis Wise of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign to rescind the offer of a tenured faculty position in American Indian Studies to NAISA member Dr. Steven Salaita.
Dr. Salaita was offered the position in October 2013 following a national search and evaluation of his scholarship based on its merit and his contributions to comparative Indigenous studies. Chancellor Wise’s actions in rescinding the offer in August 2014, after Dr. Salaita had resigned his tenured position at Virginia Tech and just days before his classes were set to begin at UIUC, set a dangerous precedent. This last minute, top down decision with no faculty consultation violates the tenets of faculty governance and is a clear, profound, and deeply alarming breach of professional ethics. These actions constitute, as well, a de facto attack against American Indian Studies at UIUC, despite its carefully earned status as one of the leading programs nationally in our field. This decision, if not overturned, is sure to erode the confidence of scholars and students of American Indian and Indigenous Studies that UIUC is an open and welcoming institution that values their social, cultural, and intellectual contributions. Additionally, recent statements by both Chancellor Wise and the UIUC Board of Trustees allude to the character of Dr. Salaita’s comments on twitter about the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza as the basis for rescinding his offer, citing his supposed lack of “civility.” This action constitutes an assault on the rights of faculty members to express controversial political sentiments in the public sphere and/or to do so in unpopular ways.
We call upon the chancellor and the university to respect faculty governance, the Program in American Indian Studies, and the faculty peer review process that evaluates candidates for tenured positions. We call on the UIUC administration to fulfill the contractual obligation to hire Dr. Steven Salaita as a tenured associate professor of American Indian Studies at UIUC.