#STUDENTSFORSALAITA PRESS RELEASE – 14/04/2016 – 6:30 pm
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
#StudentsForSalaita, a collective of American University of Beirut students, have circulated a petition demanding that “the unanimous recommendation by the CASAR search committee to hire Professor Salaita be respected.” This petition was released after the AUB President Fadlo Khuri barred Professor Steven Salaita from a deserved position based on unsubstantiated accusations of ‘procedural irregularities’. Students are concerned this controversy follows Salaita’s persecution at UIUC, as well as the changing perspectives within the administration on the legitimacy of pro-Palestinian scholars.
Anonymous sources confirm that Khuri has been trying to prevent Salaita’s hire since he applied for the CASAR Edward Said Chair in 2015. Khuri once again bypassed procedure and interfered when the committee unanimously recommended Salaita as Director of CASAR. In a letter to the AUB Community on April 14, 2016, President Khuri claimed that the search committee was halted after uncovering “procedural violations.” However, he refused to initiate an internal investigation before cancelling Salaita’s recommendation. The newly formed student collective #StudentsforSalaita wrote and circulated a petition in response to Khuri’s intervention, contesting his claims and demanding that the recommendation of the CASAR search committee be respected. The petition has gathered over 800 signatures within a day.
At a student town hall meeting following the release of the petition, Fadlo Khuri said: “We can’t hire people just because they are [students’] favorite teacher.” While Professor Steven Salaita is an excellent teacher, #StudentsForSalaita assert that Khuri’s unilateral cancellation of the job search illustrates the powerful presence of external pressures in the university which come at the cost of academic freedom. One student, speaking on the condition of anonymity, has said, “I don’t see myself successfully completing my thesis at CASAR if Steve is not given the position.” Students are concerned with the way the AUB administration has handled this controversy; rather than supporting erudite scholars’ freedom of speech, AUB has shown that it is no longer a refuge for pro-Palestinian scholars.