Salaita vs. the University of Illinois: The Battle of Free Speech

kim kardashian

Over the years there have been many people who have been reprimanded for speaking out against socio-economic issues, such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela. Times have changed since then, but the consequences of utilizing the first amendment is still quite harsh and grueling.

On August 1, 2014 Steven Salaita was fired from his position as an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign over the Tweets that he posted about the war in the Gaza Strip. In the pursuit of informing people about this issue, the 56-year-old academic tours to various schools to discuss the court case that he’s determined to win against the University of Illinois and what academic freedom really means for minorities who work in academia.

When this story hit news waves, professors, representing various academic disciplines, signed petitions “vowing not to attend U. of I conferences or events until the university reverses its decision,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Despite their efforts, academic officials at U. of I did not change their decision.

“I reiterate the demand that the University recognize the importance of respecting the faculty’s hiring decision and reinstate me,” he said in a prepared statement obtained by The Huffington Post. “It is my sincere hope that I can — as a member of this academic institution — engage with the entire University community in a constructive conversation about the substance of my viewpoints on Palestinian human rights and about the values of academic freedom.”

Via flickr/  Michael Coghlan
Via flickr/
Michael Coghlan

The Chancellor of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Phyllis Wise, sent out a mass email to the university community in ill support of Salaita’s viewpoints on Aug. 22, 2014:

“The decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticisms of Israel…What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.”

As a result to the University’s inability to comply with Salaita’s plea, CCR and Loevy filed a complaint in federal court on behalf of Professor Salaita against the University and its officials for violations of his First Amendment right to free speech and other constitutional rights and breach of his employment contract,” according to the Center for Constitutional Rights.

With a first amendments violation floating over the heads of University officials, they “filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on Feb. 25. 2015″ but Salaita is still determined to win this battle.

Featured Image via Via Michael Tercha / Chicago Tribune


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