UI Board of Trustees won’t reconsider Salaita

By Abigale Svoboda

While faculty and students have remained divided over the controversy regarding Steven Salaita’s rescinded position and whether he should be reconsidered to hire, one thing is now certain — he won’t be teaching at the University.

Following a meeting held in Chicago on Thursday, the Board of Trustees issued a press release stating the University stands firm in its decision not to hire Salaita.

“On Sept. 11, 2014, consistent with the recommendations of the Urbana chancellor and the president, and after careful consideration and discussion, the Board voted 8-1 not to approve that appointment,” the press release said. “That decision is final,” Board members stated in the release.

Despite reports made by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which on Dec. 23 recommended Salaita’s candidacy be reconsidered by a group of “qualified academic experts,” and that Salaita should be able to respond to any findings of unfitness before a decision is made, Salaita’s appointment will not be reconsidered.

The decision also follows a public letter signed by five Senate Executive Committee members who responded to the report on Jan. 6.

In their letter, members stated that the Board of Trustee’s decision not to hire Salaita should stand. The letter, co-authored by Nicholas Burbules, R.H. Campbell, Kim Graber, Joyce Tolliver and Matthew Wheeler, was sent to the President Easter and the Board of Trustees.

While the report made by CAFT recommends the case be revisited and that Salaita is given the opportunity to respond to any findings of professional unfitness, the authors of the letter did not agree with the proposed remedy, but stated they agree with CAFT that the decision-making process in not hiring Dr. Salaita was flawed.

The letter explained that continually revisiting the case may prevent the University from moving forward.

“My own view is that we need a University-wide discussion about our policies on academic freedom and free speech, to make sure that we have the right rules in place,” Burbules said via email. “I assume the topic of social media and “public utterances” would come up in that context.”

He added that he and some others are currently working on new policy ideas and they hope to be able to present something at the next senate meeting.

Joyce Tolliver shared Burbules’ view and said it is important to focus on rebuilding school unity.

“What is urgent is that the campus community move forward to heal the wounds that have been opened by the responses to this case, and formulating such policies may help us to do that,” Tolliver said.

Abigale can be reached at [email protected]