U of I professor's dismissal sparks campus wide debate

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CHAMPAIGN—School just started at the University of Illinois, and already the chatter around campus is about a professor who was fired before he was even formally hired.

“The conversations that a lot of debate is happening around right is now is whether the university administration made the right decision or wrong decision in firing or hiring professor Steven Salaita,” said U of I junior, Matt Hill.

Steven Salaita was offered a tenured position in the U of I's American Indian Studies program that was supposed to begin in the middle of August. But at the beginning of the month, his offer was revoked.

This came days after Salaita posted critical tweets about Israel's involvement in the Gaza Strip.

Some see his firing as an infringement on his right to voice his opinion.

“Some other teachers here in the university may ask themselves what can I say or what can't I say,” said graduate student Alejandro Esparza. “And that, I don't know, as a student, it makes me a little bit worried.”

Others say it's not what he said, but how he said it.

“You can still express your academic freedom, you can still express your freedom of speech in a civil and in an appropriate way,” said Hill.

Chancellor Phyllis Wise explained the decision in an email saying it “was not influenced in any way by his positions...or criticism” but that “personal and disrespectful words or actions...cannot and will not [be] tolerate[d] at the University of Illinois.”

Despite the campus wide debate, there is no word from the university on whether it will reconsider.

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