University ordered to preserve all documents related to Salaita case

By Daily Illini Staff Report

The University has been ordered by a federal court judge to preserve all evidence relating to the lawsuit brought by Steven Salaita.

US District Court judge Harry Leinenweber ruled Tuesday that the University “attempted to destroy or hide communications regarding this case and that [the University] flouted known disclosure obligations in the past.”

Salaita filed a motion charging officials with intentionally destroying evidence on Aug. 25 after former chancellor Phyllis Wise resigned amidst the revelation that she and other administrators used personal email accounts to discuss University matters, including Salaita’s dismissal, in an attempt to avoid FOIA laws.

Citing the revelations, Leinenweber said the court had “concerns” about whether the University would comply with the current litigation hold on the evidence.

He ruled the University and its administrators must “preserve all physical, documentary, or other evidence in their possession, custody, or control… including all email communications sent or received by the defendants and their colleague, whether those communications are stored in University email accounts, in personal accounts, or in some other location.”

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Salaita’s offer to join the faculty as a tenured professor in the American Indian Studies department was revoked in August 2014 after Salaita sent controversial tweets regarding the conflict in Gaza.

He filed suit against the University on Jan. 29, 2015, stating the University violated his rights to free speech and academic freedom and intentionally caused him emotional distress. Salaita is suing for the position for which he was originally hired and monetary compensation.

Salaita and Robin Kaler, campus spokeswoman, could not be immediately reached for comment.

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