By Phan Nguyen, Jan 5 2015, Mondoweiss
Following the controversial termination of Steven Salaita’s hiring at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the university’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) initiated an investigation into whether the termination violated the university’s statutes and bylaws and academic freedom.
The CAFT issued its findings and recommendations in a report on December 23, accusing the administration and board of trustees of violating shared governance and academic freedom, and calling on the university to reconsider Salaita’s application and financially compensate him for his unjust termination.
This is the first of two articles exploring elements of the CAFT report. In this first article, I demonstrate how Salaita’s critics—the same ones who misrepresented Salaita’s tweets—are now misrepresenting the CAFT report.
In particular, I focus on the claims made by two prominent critics of Salaita: William Jacobson, who is the editor of the Tea Party Zionist blog Legal Insurrection, and Liel Leibovitz, senior writer for Tablet magazine.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Jacobson was the instigator of the Salaita affair who handpicked the initial set of tweets that, out of context, would portray Salaita negatively. Meanwhile Leibovitz justified Salaita’s firing in Tablet and attempted to challenge Salaita’s scholarship.
Both Jacobson’s and Leibovitz’s articles on the CAFT report are enjoying wide circulation among critics of Salaita, as the articles reinforce false claims made against Salaita and downplay the inconvenient findings and recommendations of the report.
Here I show that Jacobson’s interpretation of the CAFT report is distorted, complete with a false quote, intentional misreadings, out-of-context quotations, and unwarranted inferences.
Leibovitz’s review of the CAFT report is even worse. I demonstrate that Leibovitz has not even read the report, instead paraphrasing Jacobson’s article—complete with Jacobson’s misquote—and inserting even more factual errors based on a misreading of another misreading of the report.