Reinstate prof who lost job offer over anti-Israel tweets, U. of Illinois officers demand

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Executive officers at the University of Illinois called for the reinstatement of a professor whose job offer was rescinded over his anti-Israel tweets.

The 41 department heads, chairs and directors in an open letter published Sunday said Acting Chancellor Barbara Wilson and President Timothy Killeen should call for the reinstatement of Steven Salaita at the next board meeting, on Sept. 10, the Daily Illini student newspaper reported.

Phyllis Wise resigned as chancellor about two weeks ago after being implicated in a scandal over hidden emails involving the rescinding of the job offer.

Last summer, the university announced that Salaita would be joining the faculty. Wise revoked the appointment, however, after being made aware of Twitter posts by Salaita attacking Israel and its U.S. supporters in harsh language during Israel’s operation in Gaza last summer. The tweets appeared on Salaita’s personal account.

Donors to the university reportedly had complained about the tweets and called on the university to rescind the appointment.

Salaita has filed a lawsuit against the university, the board of trustees and several administrators claiming that they violated his constitutional rights, including to free speech and due process. He also is suing for breach of contract and intentional emotional distress. Salaita is seeking compensation and the job as a tenured professor in the American Indian studies department.

He announced last month that he will serve as the Edward W. Said chair of American studies at the American University of Beirut.

The American Association of University Professors voted in June to censure the University of Illinois, two months after releasing a report that found the university violated the principles of academic freedom and tenure in the Salaita case.

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