University executive officers call on Wilson, Killeen to reinstate Salaita

By Abigale Svoboda

In an open letter published Sunday, 41 executive officers at the University called on Acting Chancellor Barbara Wilson and President TImothy Killeen to facilitate the reinstatement of Steven Salaita.

“It is necessary to remedy clear violations of procedure in the decision to revoke Dr. Salaita’s appointment,” a press release about the letter stated. “To remove the stain on Illinois’ reputation that the entire affair has caused.”

In the letter, the executive officers, which includes department heads, chairs and directors, “urge” Killeen and Wilson to use their influence with the Board of Trustees to reinstate Salaita at the next Board meeting on Sept. 10.

“It has increasingly become clear that the decision to rescind Dr. Steven Salaita’s appointment as an associate professor with indefinite tenure in the American Indian Studies Program violated the principles of shared faculty governance and may also be legally liable,” the authors stated.

On June 13, the University was censured by the American Association of University Professors for violating principles of academic freedom when Salaita was dismissed.

“We firmly believe that this step will help put the university on track toward ending AAUP censure and regaining its place among the most respected public institutions of higher education in the country,” the authors stated. “The decision to reinstate Dr. Salaita will also make it easier to resolve pending litigation and save the university community and state taxpayers from the high costs of defending a wrong decision in the court of law.”

Salaita was dismissed from his tenured position in American Indian Studies in August 2014 after he sent controversial tweets regarding the conflict in Gaza. In January, Salaita sued the University for violating his rights to academic freedom and shared governance and intentional infliction of emotional damage. He is seeking monetary compensation as well as the position for which he was hired.

The letter concludes by requesting a meeting with Killeen and Wilson to further discuss the letter. It is signed by members of a variety of departments including the chemistry, english, history, and mathematics.

The University could not be immediately reached for comment. 

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