Today’s print edition New York Times and yesterday’s digital has (finally!) covered Steve’s case. While the current article is entitled, “University’s Rescinding of Job Offer Prompts an Outcry,” the original digital edition headline read in part, “Illinois Revoked Job Offer After Professor Criticized Israel.” The latter demonstrated a clear statement on the part of the NYT that Steve’s firing had much more to do with politics than with “civility,” as claimed by Chancellor Wise and the Illinois Trustees.
Reporting on the wave of boycotters, petition signers and those scholars and others who have rescinded their participation or declined offers to visit the campus in the wake of Steve’s firing:
The decision, which raised questions about contractual loopholes and academic freedom, almost immediately drew pushback from the academic community. Thousands of scholars in a variety of disciplines signed petitions pledging to avoid the campus unless it reversed its decision to rescind the job offer. A number of prominent academic associations also urged the university to reconsider.
In the past few days, several people have followed through on promises to boycott the institution. Two scholars declined invitations to speak at the prestigious Center for Advanced Study/MillerComm Lecture Series this fall, and a campus-based project called off a four-day national conference that it was scheduled to host there in October.
While, as Corey Robin has since pointed out, the Times erred on its reporting of how many scholars have cancelled events, the piece did get the tenor of the academic community largely right, in its shock and outrage at how little respect the University of Illinois has demonstrated for academic freedom, speech and for Steve himself and for his family. The article also reported on how Steve’s colleagues in American Indian Studies have been scrambling to provide for their students, left utterly in the lurch by the Chancellor’s unilateral decision to disregard faculty governance procedures and to fire Steve.
With this lengthy story in the New York Times, there can be little doubt that the injustices done to Steve have captured the attention and sympathies of many, reaching far beyond the limited scope of the ivory tower and into the mainstream. It would seem that the University of Illinois has a PR catastrophe on its hands, entirely of its own creation.