Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

Steven Salaita Rebuffed By University of Illinois Trutsees

University of Illinois trustees voted overwhelmingly on Thursday not to reinstate Steven Salaita, whose Twitter postings about Israel caused him to lose a promised faculty job, sparking debate about academic freedom and the use of social media.

Salaita, a former tenured professor of English at Virginia Tech, accepted a tenured professorship in October 2013 to teach at University of Illinois’ American Indian Studies program but it was revoked in early August after Salaita posted tweets denouncing Israel’s military strikes in Gaza.

Many of the Twitter messages were inflammatory and in justifying its decision not to give him a job, the university said they were demeaning and uncivil.

In a statement released before the vote, university President Robert Easter said Salaita’s social media activity “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.”

Trustees voted 8-1 against reinstating Salaita.

The dissenting vote was by trustee James Montgomery who said he regretted his previous support for withdrawing Salaita’s faculty offer. He said the university needed to accept all views, however intolerable.

After revoking Salaita’s appointment, the university found itself in the middle of a nationwide academic boycott. Professors within and far outside the university canceled lectures and refused to review tenure applications. Eleven university departments issued votes of no confidence for Chancellor Phyllis Wise and 17,000 signatures in support of Salaita were collected online.

Salaita on Tuesday demanded to be reinstated – citing free speech and academic freedom – and in a news conference said the university’s actions were part of “a nationwide concerted effort by wealthy and well-organized groups to attack pro-Palestinian students and faculty and silence their speech.”

About 50 people filled the boardroom and hallway on Thursday holding signs supporting Salaita. Many turned their back as trustees spoke.

Trustee Patrick Fitzgerald said the board has “a duty to taxpayers and students to make decisions. At the end of the day we have to look out for students.”

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.