Over the past few days, my fellow graduate students and I have been engaged in a discussion about Steven Salaita, the professor whose job offer at the University of Illinois was rescinded due to some tweets he composed in response to Israel’s recent war on Gaza. In one post, I made the comment that academic freedom doesn’t end anywhere. A friend of mine pushed back and asked me to explain this seemingly radical claim. Below is the email I sent in response.
I’m happy to see this conversation continue. For one, I think this particular case is an important one and if this discussion moves people to get involved with it and push for the resolution they would like to see then it has been worthwhile. For another, the questions that have been resurfaced bear on the practice of teaching and the well-being of students, which we should be attentive to regardless of the specific case sparking debate. And finally, the questions of where our professional lives and personal lives intersect and where the boundaries exist between them are important for anyone contemplating not just an academic career but any kind of working life. If we are unclear about where these lines are stark and where they are blurred, we risk losing any access to speech that is not subject to the whims of elites. Continue reading