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Noam Chomsky leaves MIT to join University of Arizona faculty

Noam Chomsky in 2010.

Associated Press/File

Noam Chomsky in 2010.

Noam Chomsky, a left-wing icon and professor emeritus at MIT, has joined the University of Arizona.

The university announced earlier this month that Chomsky, 88, will serve as a laureate professor in the Department of Linguistics in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and will begin teaching next year.

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“In Tucson, everyone is really excited,” John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said in an interview Monday.

Chomsky has given several major talks at the University of Arizona in the past five years, including a debate about privacy that included Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald.

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“For someone with his name, there’s absolutely no demands or showmanship,” Jones said. “In a way, the social justice that he’s dedicated at least half of his life to, in addition to the linguistics, speaks to his personality, which is a very kind and generous person.”

Chomsky’s salary will be paid entirely by private sources, Jones said.

In the university’s announcement, Chomsky said he and his wife, Valeria Wasserman Chomsky, “fell in love” with Tucson.

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“Tucson has an atmosphere that is peaceful and manageable,” Chomsky said. He also praised the university’s linguistics department.

“The linguistics department, which is excellent, happens to be full of former students of mine,” Chomsky said. “In general, we felt that the UA would be a good place to work and think and interact with people we like and can work with.”

Reached by email, Chomsky declined to comment.

Chomsky’s position is part-time, but will include teaching and public events.

“He’s still got a lot to give,” Jones said. “Like other faculty, he’s involved in the classroom, meeting with students.”

Chomsky, who began teaching at MIT in 1955, will maintain an office in Cambridge. David Pesetsky, who heads MIT’s linguistics department, said that Chomsky’s departure was “melancholy,” but added that not much will change for the institution.

“He retired from MIT in 2002, and for one or two years he continued to teach, but that hasn’t been the case for a decade-and-a-half,” Pesetsky said. “He has promised to give a couple of classes every now and then ... it’s not all that different from where it’s at now.”

“From the point of view of MIT, he remains our treasured emeritus colleague,” Pesetsky said. “That’s never going to change.”

Aimee Ortiz can be reached at aimee.ortiz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @aimee_ortiz.
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