Petition update


Rima Merriman
Bloomington, IN, United States

Aug 25, 2014 — Dear friends:

I don't know about you, but I very much doubt the UI administration would have run roughshod over any other department at UI the way it has run over American Indian Studies. After all, the Board of Trustees has a history of not consulting with the faculty of the American Indian Studies Program on what it sees as controversial matters that touch on indigeneity. (Check out this hilarious Daily Show send up of the culture of the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign campus related to the fight to keep the Native American mascot of the football team (Chief Illiniwek) as a symbol of the university. The clip features Professor LeAnne Howe, who at the time taught in the UIUC American Indian Studies Program: of Tears)

I wonder what's happening right now in the program of American Indian Studies after the Board of Trustees at UI chaired by Christopher Kennedy (Robert Kennedy's son) had refused to reconsider Chancellor Wise's decision to revoke Professor Steven Salaita's contract for a tenured position at UIUC. The director of the program is Robert Warrior, an Osage Nation citizen and professor of American Indian Studies, English, and History. He was quoted (in an article written by Gale Courey Toensing on August 20th in Indian Country Today) as saying: “I’ve written approval letters to moving companies for things to be loaded up and brought here and nobody’s told me to do anything otherwise. I’ve got courses with students in them. I’d have to be taken kicking and screaming to be the one who orders those courses to be taken off the books. And, frankly, if the chancellor wants to micromanage the employment process and thinks we’re incompetent and cannot figure out who to properly hire for a job, I don’t see how I can be trusted to take a course off the books. She’s going to have a lot of decisions to make over the next six months from my office.”

It's been known for some time that one of these decisions has to do with changing the name and orientation of American Indian Studies to "Indigenous Studies" in order to build a comparative and global kind of critical indigenous studies program at UIUC. Professor Salaita's appointment, given his critical scholarship on indigenous Palestinians and the history of settler colonial occupation in both places, was meant to solidify this move.

Sounds to me like a pre-emptive move on the part of the administration.

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