In response to extensive public criticism of her decision not to forward a proposed faculty appointment of Professor Steven Salaita, University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise relented and submitted his appointment to the Board of Trustees. She still did not support Salaita’s appointment, however, and spoke against the appointment, as did University President Robert Easter. According to the Chicago Tribune:
“Professor Salaita’s approach indicates that he would be incapable of fostering a classroom environment where conflicting opinions could be given equal consideration, regardless of the issue being discussed,” Easter said before the vote. “I am also concerned that his irresponsible public statements would make it more difficult for the university … to attract the best and brightest students, faculty and staff.”
Some have also raised concerns about Salaita’s scholarship. Yet as I noted here, there is some reason to suspect the University administration turned against the prospective hire due to pressure from donors.
Whatever the reason, the Board of Trustees rejected Salaita’s appointment by a vote of 8-1. A suit or settlement seems likely. From the Tribune report:
“I assume the attorneys will reach out and work something out or understand their position more clearly. We are not looking to be held up. We want to be fair but we don’t want to be pushovers,” board Chairman Christopher Kennedy said after the meeting. “Either they will sue or we will settle. It is hard to predict what another party will do. … Am I going to give you my playbook on a negotiating matter?”
The University’s initial refusal to hire Salaita has been subject to extensive criticism, not least because it appears that it was not motivated by legitimate concerns about his teaching or scholarship. Again from the Tribune:
Robert Warrior, director of U. of I.’s American Indian studies program, has criticized Wise for making a decision about Salaita’s job without thoroughly reading his scholarship, or even all of his writings on Twitter. When they met in late July, Wise told him she had read some of Salaita’s posts and thought they were “unacceptable,” Warrior said. She asked that he tell Salaita that his social media activity would be monitored at the U. of I., he said.
“You can make up your mind about any issue based on what little information you would like,” Warrior said. “As a scholar and teacher, I ask people to think a little bit deeper than that.” . . .
The decision has had numerous repercussions. Nearly a dozen U. of I. departments, including philosophy, history and English, have voted no confidence in Wise. Professors are boycotting the campus by canceling scheduled lectures or vowing not to attend conferences. National organizations such as the American Association of University Professors and the Modern Language Association have written strong statements against the university’s action.
The Tribune itself editorialized in support of the University’s decision.