With permission from David Blacker, University of Delaware. Blacker had been invited to speak September 29, kicking off the 2014-15 CAS / MillerComm annual series. Canceling a scheduled event is not an easy step for anyone to take, and in this case, it is especially difficult in that the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Education Policy are co-sponsors and Professor Blacker got his doctoral degree from Illinois. So we owe our thanks to him for this action and for this letter.
August 20, 2014
Professor Leon DeCosta Dash, Director
Ms. Masumi lriye, Deputy Director
Center for Advanced Study
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dear Professor Dash and Ms. lriye,
I regret to inform you that I must cancel my CAS/MillerComm lecture at the University of Illinois scheduled for September 29. I was very much looking forward to returning to Champaign -Urbana and engaging with colleagues, students and members of the community. And I am deeply sorry to the individuals throughout U. of I. who were helping to make the event possible, including the co-sponsoring units and departments . I am honored by and appreciative of those efforts.
I have decided I must honor the growing worldwide pledge of academics not to appear at U. of I. unless the Salaita matter is acceptably resolved. I refer of course to the University's recent punishment of Professor Salaita for engaging in political speech in a public forum. I neither endorse nor reject any of Sa Iaita's remarks and their substance is not relevant to my decision to cancel. Neither do I base my decision on a n assessment of the affair 's constitutional-legal aspects, which are uncertain. My decision is not about Israel/Palestine and it is not about legal nuance.
My concern has to do with the academic freedom needed by scholars in order to do our job properly. Academic freedom does not exist when it is withheld from scholars with unpopular or even "offensive" views. As an educator and citizen, I agree strongly with Justice Brandeis that "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education,the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence (1927)." Instead of choosing education and more speech as the remedy for disagreeable speech,the U. of I. has apparently chosen "enforced silence." It thus violates what a university must stand for -- whatever else it stands for -- and therefore I join those who will not participate in the violation. In my judgment, this is a core and non-negotiable issue of academic freedom.
My hope is that the U. of I. will relent and restore its good name. I would be delighted to reschedule my talk if and when this happens.
David J. Blacker
Director, Legal Studies Program
Professor, School of Education
P.S. In no way do I speak for the University of Delaware or any of its subunits. These are my views alone.