By the Social Justice Alliance
(A Standing Committee of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County)
The Social Justice Alliance of Contra Costa County supports the full right of every person to freedom of speech and academic freedom without fear of retaliation.
On September 12, 2014, the Trustees of the University of Illinois decided to block the appointment of Professor Steven Salaita as a tenured Professor of American Indian Studies at the University. The Trustees based their decision on tweets the professor had made regarding the Israeli-Gaza conflict and what he considered undue violence on Israel’s part. The Trustees’ decision greatly disturbs the Social Justice Alliance because of its chilling effect on free speech and academic freedom.
Shortly after the announcement of the Trustees’ decision, Professor Michael Rothberg, Chairman of the Department of English and the Director of the University’s Initiative on the Holocaust, genocide and Memory, defended Professor Salaita against the accusation of anti-Semitism. He remarked, “The tweets that have been reproduced again and again in reports on this case are not expressions of anti-Semitism but criticisms of how charges of anti-Semitism are used to excuse otherwise inexcusable actions.”
Members of the Social Justice Alliance realize that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains contro-versial and involves a variety of viewpoints, but the promotion of peace and security remains the focus. It is the sincere hope of the members that all faith communities, the U.S. Government, academic communities and the American people will unite to achieve peace in the Holy Land.
Members also hope that decisions like the denial of tenure to Professor Salaita will not be used to further reduce academic freedom or deter the promotion of political freedom and justice. Unless reversed, the Trustees’ decision regarding the professor will cause him considerable financial and social hardship. He had already resigned his previous position, believing he had a secure job at the Universityof Illinois.
Members of the Social Justice Alliance of Contra Costa County encourage the University of Illinoisto reinstate Professor Salaita at the earliest convenience and award him full academic freedom.