Salaita speaks at Guilford College

by Daniel Schere

Controversial author and former professor Steven Salaita spoke before a packed crowd Tuesday night in Guilford College’s Hege Library. His appearance had been highly anticipated, having caused a stir to the point that the lecture was moved from Bryan Auditorium, a much larger facility.Salaita began his remarks by attempting to dispel the notion that he is anti-Semitic, despite his criticism over Israel’s attacks on Gaza during the summer of 2014. The conflict resulted in more than 2,000 deaths.”I am not anti-Semitic. I have never been anti-Semitic. I have never endorsed anti-Semitism,” he said.Salaita said many Palestinian scholars similar to him have been discredited in a similar fashion by the academic community. He emphasized to the audience that it is important for people to wrestle with truths that are uncomfortable.”We have a nation-state that is continuing a decades long process of colonization,” he said referring to Israel and calling its treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank “apartheid.”Salaita has taught at Virginia Tech and was slated to teach at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign but was dismissed in August 2014 after he made several anti-Israel tweets. In discussing his firing, he said that he had never had a complaint from Jewish students or any other groups in 15 years of teaching. He thinks administrators need to be more sympathetic toward the perspectives of Palestinians and other minorities.”If you’re going to apply one standard to a set of pedagogical issues, it needs to be a universal standard,” he said.Salaita also thinks academic freedom is being sacrificed at universities due to the heavy influence of which subjects are taught and how much free speech is tolerated.”Nobody gets well-educated when their professors are endowed solely by donors and corporations who control that professor’s pedagogy,” he said. “I recognize in this situation, a precedent being set for how campuses operate. They’re starting to make colleges look more and more like Congress.”