Academic Freedom Case Gains Traction
Since the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Board of Trustees rejected Professor Steven Salaita s candidacy for a tenured faculty appointment to the American Indian studies program, Salaita has been giving presentations about his case and the importance of academic freedom. Initially we reported here on Law and Disorder that Professor Salaita was un-hired from the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of his statements on social media criticizing Israel s conduct of military operations in Gaza. Emails within the University revealed under Freedom of Information Act Requests show that it was outside pressure from donors that influenced the University of Illinois Chancellor s decision to dehire Salaita.
My Dad grew up in Jordan, my Mom in Nicaragua. I grew up in West Virginia.
I got my undergraduate and Master’s degree from a small regional college in south west Virginia called Radford University and I got my PhD in Native American Studies from the University of Oklahoma.
My interest in Native American studies developed from a Native American novel course I took in college. It generated a profound interest in the histories of settlement and dispossession in North America which struck me as similar in important ways to the forms of dispossession that Palestinians have suffered in the Middle East.
I submitted my application in October of 2012. I was offered the job in September of 2013. Signed the contract of October of 2013.
The contract was countersigned by university officials and it was made formal. At that point it was announced that I had accepted the job.
The process was nearly 2 years long from submission of the application to the signing of the contract.
Any search process in the humanities or social sciences starts with a search committee of 4-6 people. They’ll look over a candidate’s cover letter. They’ll examine a candidate’s scholarship and they’ll examine that scholarship in detail.
Once the search committee has made its selection it has to go to other committees throughout the university. A committee composed of representatives from the college. In my case the college of liberal arts and sciences.
Because I was coming in with tenure I also had to be vetted by external referees, anywhere from 4 to 6. They basically read all of my scholarship. I had to send them all of my books, all of my scholarly articles, my teaching dossier.
Given the statements that Israeli leaders have made, “mowing the lawn in Gaza”, “putting the people in Gaza on a diet” and their long standing discourse about demographic threats and a surplus of Palestinians . . . its hard not to think about those statements and debates when Israel carpet bombs an area twice the size of Washington DC land area that’s also home to 1.8 million people – you can’t help but think its a sort of violence informed by something worse than mere military strategy.
A right-wing website run by (nominally) Tucker Carlson, the bow-tied gentleman formerly of Crossfire. He’s like he came out of a Republican lab. He wears a bow-tie his name is Tucker.
His website the Daily Caller, ended up publishing a standard right wing hit piece. We’ve seen them all. Salaita, his tweets are horrible, blah, blah, blah, and by the way he’s going to start a job at the University of Illinois.
Then the local rag in Urbana Champaign, the News Gazette picked up on the Daily Caller story and the controversy gained steam. The next thing I know I’m receiving an unceremonious termination letter from the chancellor.
She said she didn’t expect trustee approval so there was no need to show up.
They called me uncivil then it morphed into anti-semitic.
Uncivil – - It’s a term that’s deeply rooted in colonial violence, that always implies something sinister without ever having to explain its intent or its meaning.
It’s a wonderful term for shutting down debate. The entire southern hemisphere was colonized based on notions that they were uncivilized.
The support has been phenomenal. Sixteen departments at the University of Illinois have voted no confidence in the chancellor and the board of trustees.
I’ve also received support from the Center For Constitutional Rights, the Modern Language Association, a number of trade unions have passed resolutions condemning the university’s decision and demanding my reinstatement.
The impulse seems to shut down the debate or discussion before it even begins.
First of all we feel that its a matter of great import to the public interest that the university administration has arbitrarily taken an action that has had negative consequences for the reputation of the university and its ability to function normally.
As you know the university is undergoing a boycott. It’s normal functions are being disrupted.
Support Steven Salaita
Guest ” Professor Steven Salaita, former associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. He is the author of six books and writes frequently about Arab Americans, Palestine, Indigenous Peoples, and decolonization. His current book project is entitled Images of Arabs and Muslims in the Age of Obama.Steven grew up in Bluefield, Virginia, to a mother from Nicaragua (by way of Palestine) and a father from Madaba, Jordan. Books by Salaita
Independent Investigation of APA Ties with Torturers Under Bush Administration
The nation s largest organization of psychologists is set to conduct an independent review into whether it colluded with or supported the government s use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners during the Bush administration. In 2011 we reported on health professionals being front and center and complicit in the US policy of torture. The torturers relied heavily on medical opinion. Medical professionals provided sanitizing and rationalization for the infamous torture memos. During water boarding procedures, a doctor would be present. Psychologists were directly involved in the supervision, design and execution of torture at US military and intelligence facilities. This is a violation of state laws and professional ethics. These health professionals that were involved with torture still hold their professional licenses to practice.
Dr. Stephen Soldz:
At this point I think we all know there was a program of torture in the Bush Administration. CIA and the DOD at Guantanamo. Less known was that psychologists were central to it.
In the CIA, they designed the torture, they were also essential to the legal protection. The Justice Department torture memos basically said that if a health professional, a psychologist or physician is there and says that the interrogation won’t cause severe and long lasting mental harm, than it isn’t torture even if it causes harm.
In other words, their presence was a get out of jail free card.
As far as we can see it was central to the Bush Administration’s plans to indemnify themselves while engaging in torture.
The American Psychological Association apparently worked with the Bush Administration to provide protection for the psychologists who were involved.
The ethics code had been changed in such a way that it allowed psychologists to disobey the ethics code and follow governmental orders.
This was actually done before 911 and passed after 911.
We have been concerned if they (APA) had been complicit in various ways. James Risen from the New York Times just published his new book Pay Any Price and one chapter in there provided direct documentary evidence that APA officials were working with the CIA and the Whitehouse to manipulate the ethics code to apparently allow psychologists to participate.
Michael Ratner: There was a committee appointed from the APA to look into the APA’s role as I recall . . . Dr Stephen Soldz: . . . to decide on whether psychologists participating in a national security interrogation was ethical – was consistent with the APA’s ethics code.
They (APA) were not directly involved as far as we know in torture, they were more involved in doing what the CIA and the Whitehouse wanted in terms of manipulating ethical understandings.
We, Amnesty and CCR have called for an independent investigation of the APA for a number of years. We’re glad the APA board has recognized the need.
They appointed a Chicago attorney who is a specialist in public corruption. We are cautiously optimistic but we have some concerns.
Its inappropriate for the APA board to appoint its own investigator of whether the APA did something wrong.
The time frame they gave of 5 months is awfully short for an investigation of this magnitude. We’re hopeful that the investigation will be wide ranging and comprehensive which is what is needed.
If the accusations in Risen’s book pan out, you have to look at his office (APA CEO) If he knew that means he approved of it. If he didn’t know that means he was incompetent.
This has been the issue that has divided the APA in the last decade.
What was most needed by the intelligence community was that it was ethical for the psychologist to participate in the interrogation.
One of the key people who was in the Bush Whitehouse at this time who is implicated is Susan Brandon who is now a top official in Obama’s high value detainee interrogation group.
If the Republicans win, torture will probably come back.
Since the Nuremburg trials where Nazi doctors were executed for conducting unethical experiments, informed consent has been the backbone of human subjects research.
Yet the APA put in this clause – - if laws or institutional regulations (that’s a very broad category institutional regulations) don’t require informed consent and psychologists don’t have to do it.
If my drug company says I don’t need informed consent . . .there’s no reason why the APA should get rid of informed consent for anything but the most trivial and harmless research.
They’ve never explained where this comes from and its still in effect.
Guest – Dr. Stephen Soldz, psychologist, psychoanalyst, and public health researcher in Boston, and was a co-author of PHR s report Experiments in Torture. He is the Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Program Development at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He was Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology (Psychiatry) at Harvard Medical School, and has taught at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston College, and Boston University.
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