U of I settles with professor who says tweets cost him a job offer

School says settling was less expensive than continuing litigation

The University of Illinois settled a lawsuit on Thursday with Steven Salaita, who claimed the school rescinded his faculty appointment because of his controversial posts about Israel on social media. 

The university rescinded the job offer to Salaita in September 2014—just weeks before he would have started work. Initially, university officials said his comments showed he lacked the "judgment, temperament, and thoughtfulness" necessary for a faculty member.

Salaita filed a lawsuit in January to restore his faculty appointment and compensate him for lost income and damage to his reputation.

Some saw the hiring reversal as an attack on academic freedom, with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) voting to censure the school in June.

The lawsuit also led to tension on campus between faculty and the administration. Chancellor Phyllis Wise vacated her position in August after it was revealed she and other senior administrators used personal email accounts to avoid public records requests for emails related to Salaita's faculty appointment. Provost Ilesanmi Adesida's stepped down the same month.

U of I sidesteps battle, accepts second resignation of Chancellor Wise

Details of the settlement

Under the settlement announced Thursday, Salaita was awarded $875,000 and an unspecified amount for legal fees. In return he will drop his legal claims against the university. On Facebook, Salaita wrote, "I am ready to move beyond this particular matter and continue doing what I love—teaching, writing, organizing, and contributing in whatever way I can to struggles for justice."

The settlement also stipulates that Salaita will not pursue a job at the university.

Barbara Wilson, interim chancellor, said the settlement was an opportunity for both parties to move on. "Reaching a settlement with [Salaita] is the most reasonable option to fully and finally conclude all of the pending issues," she wrote in a statement.

"Although the amount is significant, it is less than what we would spend if the case were to continue and proceed to trial over the next year."

Henry Reichman, a professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay and chair of the AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said his organization was in contact with Wilson about removing the school's censure. "[AAUP is] willing and able to continue working with the university to see it get off the censure list," he told Inside Higher Ed (Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, 10/13).

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