University News

This Week in Higher Ed: Sept. 17, 2014

By
University News Editor
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

U. of Illinois dismisses professor over tweets

The trustees of the University of Illinois voted last week to withdraw an offer of a tenured position to a Palestinian-American professor after reviewing his tweets about Gaza this summer, the New York Times reported Friday.

Prior to the vote, a petition protesting the appointment of Professor of American Indian Studies Steven Salaita was circulated by pro-Israel students, faculty members and donors who found his tweets anti-Semitic, the Times reported.

“Let’s cut to the chase: If you’re defending #Israel right now you’re an awful human being,” read one of Salaita’s tweets from July 8.

“Professor Salaita’s approach indicates he would be incapable of fostering a classroom environment where conflicting opinions would be given equal consideration,” President of the University of Illinois Robert Easter said after the vote, the Times reported.

Salaita told The Jewish Daily Forward his tweets were taken out of context and “misunderstood,” adding that he opposes anti-Semitism and would never seek to punish students for expressing pro-Israel views.

 

Report finds hope for humanities

A report released last week by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences found that the number of humanities departments and humanities faculty members at U.S. colleges and universities has remained relatively stable since the most recent recession, the New York Times reported Sunday. But the number of humanities majors saw a slight decline, and foreign language departments saw some of the greatest cuts, according to the report.

The AAAS considered eight humanities disciplines, including art history, English, foreign languages, history, history of science, linguistics, religion and combined English and foreign-language programs.

“We expected there would be more change. That was one of the surprises coming out of this report,” Robert Townsend, director of the Washington office of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, told the Times.

 

Harvard to face former professor’s lawsuit

A former associate professor of social sciences at Harvard plans to file a lawsuit against the university for allegedly violating Title IX and Title VII when denying her tenure last spring, the Harvard Crimson reported Thursday.

Kimberly Theidon, former associate professor of the social sciences, alleges the university denied her tenure to punish her for commenting on a March 2013 Crimson article about sexual assault, the Crimson reported.

The right to free speech, including online commentary, is protected under Title IX.

In her comments on the story, Theidon defended the anonymous sexual assault victims who were quoted and engaged other commenters claiming to be “men’s rights” activists, the Crimson reported.

Additionally, Theidon alleges the university also denied her tenure to punish her for counseling a student who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a male faculty member, the Crimson reported.

Jeff Neal, director of university communications at Harvard, told the Crimson that the university based Theidon’s tenure decision solely on academic merit and had no knowledge of her “advocacy” related to sexual assault.