Board of Trustees to vote on Steven Salaita settlement


Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

Steven Salaita discusses his new book “Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom” at Independent Media Center in Urbana on Tuesday.

By Abigale Svoboda

The vote to authorize a settlement was listed as part of the roll call agenda for the board’s Nov. 12 meeting, which was released Monday.

According to the agenda, the settlement has been previously reviewed by the board’s committee on Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities as well as the University Healthcare System.

At the Senate Executive meeting Monday, Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson said the settlement would be discussed Thursday but said she could not say more. Tom Hardy, University spokesman, said there is “not much to say” but the item will be finalized before the meeting Thursday.

The University has been involved in a lawsuit with Salaita since Jan. 29, when Salaita filed suit in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging the University violated his right to academic freedom and caused intentional emotional distress.

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    Salaita’s suit named former chancellor Phyllis Wise, former president Robert Easter, former Board of Trustees chairman Chris Kennedy, Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre and unnamed donors. He is seeking the job for which he was originally hired and monetary compensation.

    Salaita was offered a position as a tenure professor in the American Indian Studies department for the 2014-2015 school year. On Aug. 1, 2014, in an email to Salaita, Wise stated she would not forward his appointment on to the board for approval, citing his recent tweets regarding the conflict in Gaza.

    Emails later released showed Wise was under pressure from donors and other University stakeholders to rescind Salaita’s offer.

    The decision sparked outrage on the University’s Urbana campus, nationally and even globally. However student protests, faculty letters and concern from the American Association of University Professors did not impact the board’s decision. On Sept. 11, 2014, the board stood by Wise’s statement and voted not to approve Salaita’s appointment.

    Trustee James Montgomery was the only board member to vote differently.

    Since the decision, Salaita has filed a federal and civil suit against the University, all of which are currently in litigation.

    He is currently serving as the American Studies chair at the University of Beirut and published a book, Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom, in October.

    The book, published by Haymarket Books, features Salaita’s tumultuous relationship with the University. According to Haymarket’s website, Salaita “combines personal reflection and political critique to shed new light on his controversial termination. He situates his case at the intersection of important issues that affect both higher education and social justice activism.”

    Salaita is being represented by Anand Swaminathan of Loevy & Loevy and Maria LaHood of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Neither Swaminatha or LaHood could be reached for immediate contact.

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