Constitutional law scholars submitted a letter to University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise today urging the University to reinstate Professor Steven Salaita. The University reneged on its appointment of Salaita after pro-Israel groups complained about his social media posts criticizing Israel’s military operation in Gaza. The letter condemns the University’s decision, stating that it raises serious concerns under academic freedom principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, Illinois law, and in the written principles of the American Association of University Professors. The letter states:
Beyond general professional principle, the First Amendment limits the ability of public employers to make hiring decisions based on hostility to a particular viewpoint. As the Supreme Court explained in the 1990 case of Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois, "conditioning hiring decisions on political belief and association plainly constitutes an unconstitutional condition, unless the government has a vital interest in doing so." A university may not choose to deny a job to a professor based on political disagreements, as the Supreme Court ruled in the 1972 case of Perry v. Sindermann.
The letter also places the attack on Salaita in the context of Illinois’ shameful history of purging from its teaching ranks views deemed “un-American” or otherwise controversial during the McCarthy era.
To read the full letter, click here.