Academic senate urges administration to reconsider Salaita appointment

By Abigale Svoboda

A resolution asking administrators and the Board of Trustees to reconsider Steven Salaita’s appointment was approved by the academic senate last week; however, the Board of Trustees will not budge on its firm decision to reject Salaita’s appointment. 

The Illinois Faculty for Academic Freedom and Tenure proposed a resolution at the Feb. 9 Academic Senate meeting, asking the senate to urge the Board, Chancellor Phyllis Wise and President Robert Easter to implement the recommendations made in the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure report made in December. 

The resolution was eventually approved in a 51-41 vote, however it did not come easily.

The report recommended Salaita’s appointment be reviewed and reconsidered by a committee within the College of LAS; LAS is home to the department of American Indian Studies, where Salaita was originally offered a tenured position. 

Kim Graber, professor in kinesiology and community health, said she is opposed to asking the administration to reconsider Salaita’s case because a federal lawsuit between both parties is now underway. Additionally, Graber reminded the Senate the Board has made it clear that the case will not be revisited. 

“Why put a dean in the position of putting a committee together when we already know what the answer is going to be?” she asked. 

The Board released a statement in January stating that the Sept. 11 decision not to reconsider Salaita’s appointment was final, a statement University spokesman Tom Hardy reiterated. 

Bruce Levine, history professor and resolution author, argued the vote to support CAFT is “a crucial test” of the senate’s ability to defend the campus’ rights and interests. 

Cary Nelson, professor in English, said he believes censure from the Association of American University Professors is “pretty definite” but there are actions, such as encouraging the reconsideration of the CAFT report, that could help the University’s case before the June decision. 

Nick Burbules, professor in educational policy disagreed, argued the College of LAS is “deeply divided” over the issue and would not be able to conduct a fair and objective review of the case, as intended in the report. 

Abigale can be reached at [email protected]