University board formally rejects Salaita appointment

Anthony Weiss

(JTA) — The University of Illinois board of trustees formally voted not to hire controversial professor Steven Salaita, whose anti-Israel tweets spurred university administrators to revoke the offer of a faculty position.

By an 8-1 vote on Thursday, the trustees voted to reject the faculty recommendation that Salaita be appointed to a tenured position with the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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The vote supported the recommendation of the university’s president and chancellor, who had previously announced that they would not submit Salaita’s appointment to the board, but who then changed course and asked for a vote to reject.

According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, the board’s action in rejecting a faculty appointment was rare and possibly unprecedented.

The university had announced over the summer that Salaita would be joining the faculty. Chancellor Phyllis Wise reversed course and revoked the appointment after being made aware of tweets by Salaita attacking Israel and its supporters in the United States in harsh language.

That sparked a backlash in academia, with a number of students and professors saying that the unhiring violated free speech and academic freedoms.

The protests intensified after documents were released showing that Wise was lobbied by university donors to reject the Salaita appointment, although Wise denied that the lobbying was a factor.

The university has reportedly offered to settle with Salaita to compensate for the financial hardship he incurred by resigning his previous tenure position at Virginia Tech. His wife also resigned her own university position.

Salaita rejected the settlement offer, and at a press conference on Wednesday demanded threatened to sue if he is not reinstated.

With the university’s vote, Salaita’s attorney, Anand Swaminathan, told the Tribune that while a settlement is possible, “what we do now is move toward litigation. He is not dropping it.”