Updated: UI trustees reject Salaita

Updated: UI trustees reject Salaita


There’s no job for you here.

That’s the message the University of Illinois Board of Trustees sent to controversial professor Steven Salaita after an 8-1 vote this morning to reject a faculty position for him.
Trustee James Montgomery was the lone vote in support of Salaita; student trustees are required to abstain from votes on faculty appointments.
Montgomery, who had earlier supported a board statement of “unequivocal support” for Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s decision not to recommend Salaita's appointment, said he was concerned about free speech and the lack of consultation with faculty, and worried that academic boycotts over the issue could damage the university.
“We’ve had some very bad issues at this university over the last few years. We’ve had some bad choices, we’ve made some bad decisions, and we’ve gotten a bad name because of it. I don’t think we need to add to that at this point in time,” Montgomery said.
The vote caused many of Salaita’s supporters, who waited in the Illini Union ballroom while trustees met behind closed doors for two hours, to react with shouts of “Shame on you!”



Salaita issued a statement today, saying he was disappointed by the board’s vote.

“Being at the school on Tuesday surrounded by so many supportive students and faculty was a professional high point for me and reinforced how rewarding it would be to work in that community. I have offered to meet with both the Board and the Administration, but not one of them has spoken with me or ever heard my side of the story,” he said.

“They have no reason to doubt the high standard I have always maintained in the classroom. As I said in a less-notorious tweet, ‘I refuse to conceptualize #Israel/#Palestine as Jewish-Arab acrimony. I am in solidarity with many Jews and in disagreement with many Arabs.’ If they had cared to learn, they would have seen this and other tweets reflecting a similar sentiment. Given the Board’s vote, I am speaking with my attorneys about my options.”


Chancellor Phyllis Wise, who said had initially approved Salaita's hire, reiterated her decision not to recommend appointment. President Bob Easter spoke in support of her decision.
Universities must be rooted in “open and frank discussion,” Easter said, but in a pluralistic society progress is inhibited by “polarization, bigotry and hurtful dialogue that inhibits reasoned discourse."
“Professor Salaita’s approach indicates he would be incapable of fostering a classroom environment where conflicting viewpoints would be given equal consideration,” he said.
Wise said she accepted the “responsibility of making difficult and even unpopular decisions.”
“My goal has always been to make decisions in the best interest of the campus,” she said.
To her “frustrated colleagues,” Wise pledged to “continue to listen and learn and work hard to bring the campus together. She also pledged a commitment to shared governance and said the university would “be stronger because of this.”
Trustee Patrick Fitzgerald said it wasn't an easy decision for him, but the board's duty is to ensure that students have a campus "where they feel that their views will be respected and not hated." He said he would vote similarly if a professor had posted something homophobic or racist, noting the university has to be an inclusive campus.

"That is not something that I as a trustee can vote for," he said.
Salaita's supporters, who had filled the board's meeting room, remained in the hall shouting slogans for awhile before moving outside for a rally on the Quad with labor supporters. They vowed not to let the issue die.
Robert Warrior, director of the American Indian Studies Program that had tried to hire Salaita, said he was "disgusted" by the board's vote.
"I think they've set back higher education at Illinois in really awful ways for a long time to come. As somebody who cares about academic freedom and somebody who cares about the issues involved, this is an enormously important moment. The board could have acted in a responsible way. Instead they chose to cave in to whatever other agenda they have."
Earlier, Warrior and other speakers urged the board to reinstate Salaita.
“This is not something from which we can simply move on, especially as our departments cease to function. Unless professor Salaita is reinstated, the world-wide boycott and on-campus protests will only escalate exponentially,” said Ahmad Hamdan, UI senior and president of Students for Justice in Palestine.
“The external influences of a few have superseded the ethics and formal processes of the larger university,” he said.
“What happens today will dictate the university’s integrity and trajectory for the days, weeks, and years to come.”


Warrior told the board that “this is much more than a disagreement over whom we get to hire. Rather, it cuts to the heart of who we are, what we are becoming as an institution.”

“I know that your authroity here is not merely a rubber stamp, but I also know that the way these board approvals have been done until now have made it seem like one. Suddenly shifting the ground over this case, where there are so many swirling issues and so much at stake for the campus and its leadership seems to me an abrogation of responsibility,” he said,
Professor Anna Stenport, director of the UI’s European Union Center, said she had planned to reach out to new donors and foundations this month to support the many disciplines she represents.
“I am now quite reluctant to do so. I am unwilling to be the face of an institution whose Board of Trustees is seen by global media as failing to respect the legally protected First Amendment rights of free speech, established principles of academic freedom, and the faculty governance structures in place at Illinois.”
She said some departments are considering canceling their own approved faculty searches because they fear no one will want to come to “a campus where they perceive the Board of Trustees does not respect faculty governance and intellectual freedom.
“Interference in the Salaita appointment has inflamed tensions between departments in ways that impede our work and collegiality. It has pitted faculty against faculty, and student against student,” she said.
Former UI Trustee David Downey and student Josh Cooper, who presented a petition with 1,300 student signatures, backed Wise and the decision not to appove Salaita.
“The vast majority of our students on this campus are not walking out of class" and don't support statements by faculty "who would embarrass our institution,” Cooper said."
"I personally know many students who would feel intimidated by a professor who endorses violence," he said.
Downey said Salaita seems to be an engaging, smart man, "and he probably will do very well. But I don't want him to do it here."

"Words are important. Otherwise why are we even talking?"

The board’s decision now paves the way for a possible lawsuit. On Tuesday, Salaita’s lawyers said they could seek injunctive relief and ask the courts to require the university to bring him on board and let him teach.
Salaita traveled to the campus Tuesday to publicly urge the board and university officials to reinstate him.
It hadn’t been clear there would be a vote at all. On Aug. 1, Wise said she would not forward his appointment to the board for formal approval because an affirmative vote was not likely.
Trustees were silent on the case until Aug. 22, when they released a statement expressing “unwavering support” for the chancellor.
And last week board chairman Christopher Kennedy last week said he didn’t think the board’s position would change.
Salaita’s salary was to be $85,000 a year.

The roll call:

Ricardo Estrada: no 
Karen Hasara: no
Patrick Fitzgerald: no
Patricia Brown Holmes: no
Christopher Kennedy: no
Timothy Koritz: no
Ed McMillan: no
James Montgomery: yes
Pam Strobel: no


Meeting audio:

Click here to listen to the public comment session at Thursday's trustees meeting.

Click here to listen to the vote on Salaita's appointment.

Click here to listen to interviews with Chris Kennedy and Bob Easter after Thursday's meeting.

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sweet caroline wrote on September 11, 2014 at 9:09 am

Unbelievable!  The Board ot Trustees is being intimidated by a small group of loud-mouthed, mega-liberal, propogandizing students and faculty to the point that they'll actually reconsider hiring this arrogant expletive-spewing Israel hater?  They made the right choice in not going forward with hiring him.  Reinstatement?  How can he be reinstated when he was never officially offered the job?  The offer was CONTINGENT upon the BOT's approval.  Why is that so hard for these academic bullies to understand?


By the way, on the long list of supporters of the Board of Trustee decision, posted in the News-Gazette, there are many liberals, independents, and conservatives.  This issue is not politically one-sided as some would like us to believe.  

lcoil79 wrote on September 11, 2014 at 9:09 am

It's real easy.  It's impossible to reinstate someone who was never fully employed at the University.  It's not the Universities fault that he didn't follow standard practices in academia and take a Sabatical from his previous employer.  It's not the Universities fault that he essentially quit his old job before actually having a new job. 

Jasmani wrote on September 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Standard practice in academia is NOT to take a "sabbatical" from the previous job.  Some faculty are allowed to take a leave of absence from the previous job but this is not really good for either university.  If you look at the 43 page list of appointments that the BOT was to approve today (all of which began August 16th or earlier) you would see that many of the new hires did not even come from a job from which they could take a leave to test the waters at U of I.  What about all of the people on this list? Do you mean they didn't really have jobs at the U of I until today? If you received a job offer from a University 6-10 months ago, don't you think you would expect to find out if you really had the job before you started working??


oasomera wrote on September 11, 2014 at 10:09 am
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Obviously they're going to reaffirm their decision to deny. That's a poor decision, imo. Far better to bend over backward in favor of the right to hold contrary opinions. Away from academic settings, it shouldn't matter HOW they're expressed.  

jlc wrote on September 11, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Given that the BoT has never denied an appointment like this before; given that Salatia would have been working and getting paid for at least a month before BoT approval (it is very common for BoT approval of new hires not to come until November); and given that the U of I makes it all but impossible to take a leave of absence here while taking a job elsewhere and presumably expects the same of other universities; there's no doubt that Salaita was fired. Of course, now I suppose it'll be up to the courts to decide that.

I'm extremely disappointed in the Chancellor, President, and Board of Trustees for their decision.

oasomera wrote on September 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm
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I feel the same way. I had nephews I was urging to attend, but I'm going to have to reverse myself now.

What particularly irks me is that this man's emotional comments were obviously brought to the fore, by organized groups seeking to stamp out all opposition to their equally emotional beliefs. They would have remained unknown and fleeting without their being ferreted out by these thought police.

The News-Gazette itself reported that Salaita's students were adamant that he never imposed his beliefs on them, he only wanted everyone's opinion to be based on evidence. Obviously that's too high a standard for the craven BoT.


oasomera wrote on September 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm
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Just heard one of the trustees opine that he thought it wrong to employ someone who could potentially make some of his students uncomfortable. (Do the trustees realize there's been a huge spike in narcissitic personality disorder among young people and that this kind of soft-headed thinking contributes to it?)

Avoiding discomfort should be left to Sun Kings and other tyrants. We're a public institution trying to TEACH young people, and that means definitely NOT coddling them.

Unless they're after mediocrity, as  a trustee I'd be far more concerned if they DIDN'T make at least some of them uncomfortable!

lakeview lass wrote on September 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm

We finally have a university which understands the difference between free speech and hate speech under the dubious guise of academic freedom.


oasomera wrote on September 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm
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I think in your case I'd be more worried about innuendo and rumor mongering. Let's have an example from Salaita, and while you're at it, thanks for dredging it up. What's next, bathroom cams?

Lostinspace wrote on September 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Urbana Business and Technology Institute 1, University of Illinois 0.

Tedesky wrote on September 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Bravo BoT! It's great to hear and see UofI will not pander to this kind of crap and put hate mongers back where they belong...on the street! 

reader2010 wrote on September 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm

 Every Trustees meeting agenda includes a list of faculty appointments. This time that document was strangely missing and they substituted it with a page or two of cryptic gobbledegook. To the Honorable Members of the BoT I ask, why did you hide this information? What are you scared of?

Jasmani wrote on September 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

You can find the list of "proposed" appointments on the UI website. There were 43 pages of appointments to be confirmed by the Board of Trustees.  All of these people had been working for the U of I since at least August 16th.  That is when the contracts start (although there were some for whom there were also summer contracts -- were they hired and paid or not?) So, is approval by the BOT pro forma or not?  If people are really not hired until their appts are approved by the BOT, then bringing the appts to the BOT should occur much earlier in the process.  This is, frankly, ridiculous.


Toranut97 wrote on September 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

From the article, Professor Anna Stenport boldly proclaimed, "I am unwilling to be the face of an institution whose Board of Trustees is seen by global media as failing to respect the legally protected First Amendment rights of free speech, established principles of academic freedom, and the faculty governance structures in place at Illinois.”

I assume that we can look forward to this self-proclaimed defender of free speech to resign her position? Heavens, she should not be expected to represent this horrid oppressor!

Seriously, does anyone think that after this blows over, there will not be plenty of job-hungry academics applying for every open position - including Professor Stenport's spot?

What, you think she doesn't really mean it, and will not resign? I can't imagine it! Ha! 

Manscape wrote on September 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm

I would love the News-Gazette to submit another FOIA request to delve deeper into this faculty search, led by Rob Warrior. Let's see how many other candidates there were for the job, how many actually had scholarship in Native American studies and so on.

The faculty who support the Chancellor and the BoT are far superior in numbers (among other attributes) than those who support this "scholar".

"You may be too refined to say it, but I'm not: I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing." - Mr. Salaita

Tedesky wrote on September 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Oh wow! all the sudden, all the hipster students seem to care about what the BoT is doing when something hits the media. Here's an idea, read something more than a headline. Sailatia is a straight-up hate mongerer. He hates America (see his tweets). He hates democracy (see his tweets). He wishes death upon thousands of people he's never met (see his tweets) and he's unapologetic about any of it (see his tweets).  Good riddence! 

kiel wrote on September 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm

"Monger" is not a verb -- it's a noun--so the agentive -er cannot be suffixed to it. The word is "monger," and it means "peddler," as in "ignorance-monger." 

Rocky7 wrote on September 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

The decision made by the UofI  Board of Trustees to stop the Salaita appointment may be the University of Illinois' FINEST HOUR .

Why? BECAUSE ACADEMIC AND SOCIAL STANDARDS WERE UPHELD, something that is getting rare in the American university environment.

Good job, Chancellor Wise and Board President Chris Kennedy!!!

kiel wrote on September 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Speaking as an academic, Twitter has NOTHING to do with academia. 

oramahi wrote on September 11, 2014 at 6:09 pm

but will pander to big money!!

oramahi wrote on September 11, 2014 at 6:09 pm

but will pander to big money!!

FungibleChairs wrote on September 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm

The Chancellor and the  BOT received 100's of letters and emails from scholars, and scholarly and legal organizations the world-over condeming their actions. Not to mention the 1000's of academics who are boycotting the university by refusing to help with tenure reviews or attend conference on this campus. Clearly, the scholarly work, thoughtful analysis, and sincere concern these professors, lawyers, and scholars shared regarding the hire/fire of Salaita, meant absoltuely nothing to them (with the exception of James Montgomery). 

For administrators who purport to care about academic freedeom and faculty governance, they sure are swift to disregard the counsel of a lot of really smart folks. Makes you wonder why Chancellor Wise, President Easter and the BOT are involved in higher educaiton in the first place—they clearly are taking their marching orders from another constituency. 

UIUC just can't seem to shake its shady ways of doing business and now it's doubled down on its hubris and cynicism. It's absolutely shameful.


sweet caroline wrote on September 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Looks like a similar scenario played out at Virginia Tech.  Seems he didn't learn from that experience to tone down his hate-filled tweets.


FungibleChairs wrote on September 11, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Sweet Caroline,

That's old news. But indicitive of the rampant corporatization of higher ed. Keep reading and searching out information. There is so much rational scholarship in defense of Steven Salaita out there. At a certain point, it really becomes a form of willful ignorance to believe that he is some kind of hateful person. 


Molly1 wrote on September 15, 2014 at 3:09 pm

I love how you tell Sweet Caroline that a month old article is "Old News", and to confirm that, and back it up, you cite an article from 9/9/2013 which is over a year old.

Let's just all face the facts, nobody wants this guy that can not communicate in an appropriate manner for an instructor of advanced education.


Tom Napier wrote on September 11, 2014 at 10:09 pm

To borrow a phrase from Misters Warrior, Kaufman, et. al ...

"Salaita's gone! We won! You Lost! Get over it!  Or "Hey-hey, ho-ho! Racist tweeters gotta go!"

Also, you noticed James Montgomery, who defied the Governor's order to step down from the Board of Trustees because of the Clout Scandal, cast the only "yes" vote.  This speaks volumes about those who think hiring Salaita is a good idea. 


ck wrote on September 12, 2014 at 12:09 pm

In general:

We've all been taught as children to respect one another. Why is it now as adults, words have become so abrasive, so opinionated or 'right' that lesson learned as children have been pushed to the side?

As a professor,Salaitae needs to respect that there are all sorts of religions, races and nationalities. Not just in the classroom, but in life as a whole. I understand that he has family there, and the same can be said for others. Again, there is no right, there is no wrong. Instead, preach tolerance, not anger. Preach respect, not hatred. Preach coming together as people, not division.

Let's remember, there's good and bad in all religions, races, and nationalities. Celebrate the good, not the bad.

If our professors can teach and reinforce these basic lessons that we all have learned as children, then maybe we can have a better and more positive affect on the kids learning from these teachers and professors.

wayward wrote on September 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Also, you noticed James Montgomery, who defied the Governor's order to step down from the Board of Trustees because of the Clout Scandal, cast the only "yes" vote.

Perhaps you have a higher opinion of Quinn than most N-G commenters do?

Tom Napier wrote on September 13, 2014 at 8:09 pm

It appears you're missing the point.  The Governor appoints the Trustees.  James Montgomery, having been appointed by the Governor, owes the Governor a duty.  Whether the Governor's name is Quinn, Edgar, Ogilive, or Altgeld is immaterial.  A trustee doesn't choose which individual to respect and which to ignor.  It's the office that's the authority.  Montgomery defied the Governor, his superior.  He refused to follow orders.  Rather, he threatened a lawsuit if his superior pressed the issue.  His strategy was belligerence and intimidation, as opposed for respect for authority and the law.  Unfortunately, it worked for him.

Unfortunately this model of billigerance, disregard for authority, and intimidation has become quite popular with fringe groups who refuse to respect established standards and the values of the community. Sit-ins, disruption, insults, placards, chants, and mugging for the press become their strategy of choice.  Civil debate and legitimate work to change the system they despise so much are too much work.  Theatrics is an easier gig.

The point is that Salaita and his handlers are following that same model. Robert Warrior declared this isn't over. If they don't get their way, they'll sue.  And stomp their feet.  Just as James Montgomery did.

wayward wrote on September 14, 2014 at 4:09 pm

That sounds like being on the UI BoT is just another patronage position. Do you really want the trustees to be nothing more than political hacks carrying out the will of the governor?

kiel wrote on September 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm

I'm not sure what your definition of "hate monger" is, but I would venture that the people who drop barrel bombs on neighbrohoods, hospitals, and schools are not exactly full of "love" for the innocents who are ripped apart by those bombs. There is an old saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Replace "sticks and stones" with "barrel bombs," and you get a bit of a comparison of the relative harm caused by indescriminate killing in Gaza vs. some intemperate, ill-advised tweets.

BruckJr wrote on September 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Montgomery was also the loudest mouth in opposition to the Chief, not to mention his vote against hiring a white coach simply because he wasn't black.