What happens now after Salaita decision?

What happens now after Salaita decision?

URBANA — Standing on the Quad among a crowd of faculty and students, some of them in tears and still chanting "Reinstate Salaita!", Robert Warrior considered this question:

Is it over?

"Of course not. Why would it be over?" he said after the University of Illinois Board of Trustees rejected Steven Salaita's appointment to the American Indian Studies program, where Warrior is director.

With Salaita poised to pursue legal action against the university, and the campus divided between one group of faculty and students expressing dismay at the outcome and another saying it was proud of the board's action Thursday, what happens next is uncertain.

Two weeks into the school year, the campus is reeling from the affair and could be for some time.

"Starting tomorrow we really have to figure out how do we move forward on campus, and especially in the humanities and many of the social sciences, in an environment that's been undermined by the decisions of the chancellor," Warrior said.

"We're not against the university. We're for the ideals of the university," he said.

What will likely happen soon: Salaita's legal team will file constitutional and employment claims against the university, the campus Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee will review his case, additional departments may take votes of no confidence in university leaders, faculty union organizers will continue their rallying cries, and the Academic Senate will likely debate the case and its ramifications.

As for Chancellor Phyllis Wise, she has pledged to continue meeting with faculty who opposed her decision to not hire Salaita.

"These things are always difficult," UI President Bob Easter said after trustees voted 8-1 to reject Salaita. "The sooner we come together and have conversations and re-establish a community that feels like we're all working together to enhance the reputation of the university, the better we will be," said Easter, who has stood behind Wise.

Wise has been meeting and will continue to meet with members of departments across campus to let them share their views, to share her views, and "that will begin the healing process," Easter said.

Salaita remains resolute in pursuing the matter, said one of his attorneys. He wants to join the UI faculty.

"We'll be seeking injunctive relief to request a court to order the University of Illinois to do to what it failed to do (Thursday), that is, complete the employment process," said Anand Swaminathan of Chicago-based Loevy & Loevy.

Board Chairman Chris Kennedy on Thursday said he couldn't comment on the lawsuit since it hasn't been filed yet but, "we'll deal with it when we deal with it."

"Every time you take a lawsuit, there's a desire to fight for what we think is right and there's a competing desire, which is resolve an issue as cheaply as possible. That's the issue in a lawsuit. We haven't gotten there," Kennedy said in response to a question about the board's willingness to begin what could be a protracted legal battle.

Swaminathan contends the board has limited authority — and trustees acted outside that authority — when it comes to academic appointments and, specifically, Salaita.

"The board of trustees does have final approval but ... the board delegates a substantial portion of that authority when it comes to hiring faculty and staff," he said. Through shared governance, the board delegates to departments the weighing of academic qualifications.

Salaita: Weighing options

The UI offered (and Salaita accepted) a tenured faculty position last year. The former professor from Virginia Tech had planned on teaching American Indian Studies courses this fall, but on Aug. 1, Wise and Vice President Christophe Pierre said Salaita's appointment would not be forwarded to the board for formal approval. The move followed an outcry over Salaita's profanity-rich social media posts in which he blasted Israel and its supporters in the wake of Israel's invasion of Gaza in July.

He sent tweets like, "Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just (expletive) own it already," Wealthy alumni, students, parents of students and others wrote to Wise to object to his hiring, with some threatening to withhold financial support of the university if he joined the faculty.

"If (trustees) had taken the time to learn and read the rest of his tweets, they would have gotten a better picture of who he is. Their failure to do so is disappointing," Swaminathan said.

Never once did the president, chancellor or any of the trustees reach out to Salaita to understand his side of the story, Swaminathan added.

Salaita was not at Thursday's meeting, but watched the board's proceedings online, Warrior said. Salaita did not immediately respond to requests for comment but did release a statement.

"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. ... (Trustees) 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," Salaita said.

Much of Thursday's meeting was spent behind closed doors, and Salaita's supporters remained in the Illini Union ballroom.

After the vote, many shouted to trustees, "Shame on you!" as they left the room.

"Obviously the students are hurt. ... This is a very damaging time for the campus. We've got to get it figured out," said Junaid Rana, professor in Asian American Studies. That department cast a vote of no confidence in university officials, saying they had undermined shared governance and unit autonomy and threatened academic freedom and freedom of speech.

Wise: UI will 'be stronger'

Kennedy said it's "healthy" for the university community to have an active group of students "and they should be oppositional from time to time. They've got a strong, a powerful voice, and we listen to it, but we looked at everyone's interests and tried to balance those out. We decided the best thing to do is back the president and the chancellor."

The chancellor 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," Wise 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."

While most of those at the meeting were Salaita supporters, there were about 1,400 who signed a petition written by Josh Cooper expressing support for Wise. They gathered the signatures within 48 hours of it being presented to the board Thursday.

"It's a discomforting feeling when a role model like a professor who you're supposed to learn from on a day-to-day basis is inciting hate. ... We do have freedom of speech, but when you're a professor at a university like the University of Illinois, you've got to watch what you say," said UI senior Alex Rasky.

"I'm happy and proud of Chancellor Wise's decision and I hope it reflects how the university is going to be in the future," said UI junior Sarah Ungerman, who helped circulate the petition.

Kennedy said it was not a difficult decision. Trustees simply backed the president and chancellor, two leaders in whom they have great faith.

"The current board has acted to restrain itself from overreaching into the day-to-day operations of the administration. We've tried not to reverse any of the decisions made by the president and the chancellor," he said.

But that's exactly what the board has done — inserting itself in matters that belong to faculty and deans, according to Harriet Murav, Slavic languages professor and member of the executive committee of the Campus Faculty Association, which has been working to build support for a faculty union.

"There is a consistent pattern of overreach on the part of the board of trustees. ... The climate is chilled. I am, frankly, chilled," she said at the post-meeting rally. The only way to protect academic freedom, respect for faculty employment contracts and an intellectual workplace is through a union, she said.

Professor Nicholas Burbules, a member of the Senate Executive Committee, said the campus should examine "what went wrong" with the hiring process in the Salaita case. The committee created an ad hoc committee last month to explore that issue.

The campus needs "better and clearer procedures" for rare situations where the provost or chancellor wants to re-evaluate a hiring decision, he said. The statutes give them that authority, but there are not guidelines for how that should happen, he said.

Montgomery: 'Bad choices'

The campus senate meets next on Sept. 22 and senate leaders expect some heated discussion about the Salaita case, though no resolutions or other agenda items have been filed yet.

Kinesiology Professor Kim Graber, vice chairwoman of the Senate Executive Committee, said she hopes the case won't derail other pressing university matters, such as an engineering-based medical school.

"If faculty want to have conversations about this, that's fine, but I think we need to move forward. The decision's been made," she said. "I want this to be a time of healing on campus."

The campus also has to find a way to deal with the academic boycott prompted by Salaita's nonhiring, Burbules said, noting that some see boycotts as infringements on academic freedom.

"We need to find a way to get past this," he said.

Graber doesn't think the faculty boycott will affect a large number of hires, "unless our own faculty try to discourage people from coming to our great university," she said. "I'm very concerned that faculty on our campus are trying to hurt their own university."

Burbules doesn't see the case as signaling "a wholesale assault on academic freedom."

"It was an extremely unusual decision in a perfect storm of mistakes and difficult circumstances that all conspired to make this even more inflammatory than it needed to be," he said.

The trustees' action on Thursday backs up Wise's action last month. 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.

On Thursday, trustee James Montgomery expressed regret over signing that letter. He said he respects the chancellor but had concerns 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.

His remarks received loud applause, and several earlier speakers had urged the board to reinstate the professor.

"This is not something from which we can simply move on, especially as our departments cease to function. Unless Professor Salaita is reinstated, the worldwide boycott and on-campus protests will only escalate exponentially," said Ahmad Hamdan, UI senior and president of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Trustee and former federal prosecutor 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.

Philosophy professor and department chairman Kirk Sanders said he "had hoped against hope" UI officials would have done what he and others have been asking for: reinstate Salaita.

"What we got instead (with the exception of James Montgomery's comments) was a doubling down on the commitment to an ill-defined but apparently unqualified 'civility standard.'"

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spangwurfelt wrote on September 12, 2014 at 7:09 am

Fitzgerald gets it right. Salaita's posts weren't about respectful disagreement but straight out dehumanization via hate speech. 

football jingoists wrote on September 12, 2014 at 8:09 am

Where is this hate speech? People keep calling the guy an "anti semite" and accusing him of "hate speech", but I only saw him going off on israeli and other war mongers who bombed his people and family out of their homelands. Is he supposed to be happy about this? Murderers (especially state-sponsored) don't deserve a shred of civility.

dlgreen50 wrote on September 12, 2014 at 10:09 am

You don't get it. When you express support for the "Chief" and contempt for the head of the Indian Studies Dept., that means you love Indians (and America). When you express support for the Palestinians and contempt for those who kill them, it means you hate Jews. When you express support for Israel's crimes and the donors and local 1% who support them, it means you love Jews. Got to know the rules. -- David Green

Manscape wrote on September 12, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Once again it is you who doesn't get it (and Sid, but I think he's deaf in his old age so we'll give him a pass).

Funny how you mention "The Chief". A lot of the same people who you rail against for supporting Chancellor Wise were for ridding the UofI of the Chief. But now you tell those same people they don't know what they're talking about when it comes to Mr. Salaita. Hypocrite, much?

It's funny because now the world has turned to investigate his "scholarship" and it's being torn apart has shoddy and mediocre at best. How many other job offers have poured in? If he's the "scholar" you all say he is, then he should be swatting away all the offers of tenure.

No one, not even Salaita himself, has tried to defend those tweets with any substantial, rational thought. You know why? Because those tweets were indefensible.


"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


Sid Saltfork wrote on September 12, 2014 at 3:09 pm

More character assaination in defense of Israel's war crimes?   According to you, criticism of Israel is a criticism of a faith.  Salaita's "scholarship" was good enough for him to offerred employment until an orchestrated campaign by Israeli supporters howled for his dismissal.   Just admit it; special interests, and the fear of not being politically correct reversed the U of I's administrative decision.

Manscape wrote on September 12, 2014 at 3:09 pm

It's tough to have a conversation with you when his own words are the topic and....SQUIRREL!!!!

Keep making this something that it's not - that's the only way it will fit into your agenda.

Still waiting to hear about that "Mind-Reading 101" course and if they teach you what the word "hypocrite" means.


"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

Sid Saltfork wrote on September 16, 2014 at 9:09 am

Based on your previous comments, you will go to any length to defend Israel's state sponsored war crimes.  This local incident shows the organized censorship including threats from pro-Israel donors toward criticism of a country rather than a faith.  Respond if you choose; but show some rational thought rather than silly remarks.

Sid Saltfork wrote on September 12, 2014 at 10:09 am

Good comment.  According to the view of some, criticism of Israel is anti-semitic. 

wayward wrote on September 12, 2014 at 11:09 am

Thoughtful post from UI faculty member who supported Salaita, though she didn't necessarily agree with some of his Tweets.


Seeing the vitriol directed at Wise has also made me uncomfortable.  I don't agree with the decision to dump Salaita this way, but she was put into a very difficult situation where anything she did would have made at least some people angry.

dlgreen50 wrote on September 12, 2014 at 8:09 pm

So Salaita has been lynched, and criticism of Wise makes you uncomfortable? All she had to do, and it was easy from the start, was THE RIGHT THING. -- David Green

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

Whole lotta different opinions out there about what doing "THE RIGHT THING" meant.

Jam wrote on September 12, 2014 at 2:09 pm

So about academic freedom:

1.  Professors get to teach  what they want, when they want, and where they want and no reprucussions come there way.   True or false


2.  Students who pay the tuition get to listen, make choices as to whether they agree or disagree with the professors and no reprucussions come there way.   True or false

Rocky7 wrote on September 12, 2014 at 5:09 pm

As this matter moves to the legal arena, it is best to remember something an attorney once told me, "The first thing they teach you in law school is that one can NEVER predict what a judge will do."

Mr. Salaita's side claims all sort of legal doctrine .  However, the university has yet to disclose its legal assessment but one can be very sure, eveything was reviewed through a legal prism.

Chinese proverb:  "Them that says don't know; them that knows don't say."

Or, as the say in the southern USA: "Time will tell."

periwinkle04 wrote on September 12, 2014 at 7:09 pm

It would be interesting to see how Mr. Montgomery would have voted if Professor Salaita had used racial slurs against African Americans or suggested they go "missing."  Yikes.  What Jewish student is going to feel comfortable in THAT classroom.  His former students say he's a great guy.  Well circumstances change people and he appears to have been recently changed by current events in the Middle East.  No crazy starts out crazy.


It starts to look like this is anti-Semitic and not really about free speech, although I'm sure Mr. Salaita is glad for the free speech excuse to try and dig himself out of this hole.  If this were against any other race other than Jews the same crazy profs would be shouting racism and jumping up to get this guy off the payroll (or in this case, never on the payroll).  Hypocrisy abounds.

Skeptical111 wrote on September 12, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Ironically, Mr. Warrior's attitude made it clear why "Native American studies" is a joke of a field. Mr. Warrior supported the destruction of the "Chief" (against a majority of decent people), helped by hysterical race mongers who claimed that the presence of an Indian-inspired symbol makes their university experience impossible to tolerate. "Racism" - they yelled.

Now, guess what, the Fascist forces at the university show their hatred for a capable, illuminated, emancipated Chancellor just because she is an accomplished woman of Asian background, which they can't tolerate.

Who composes the lynching team? The same censor-in-chief Mr. Warrior, who suddenly became the unlikely champion of free speech, as long as that speech is not about tolerating a sports mascot, but about murdering Jews with impunity. Together with that particular dumb chair-warrior for the Dark Side stand hapless accomplices such as Kirk Sanders, the arrogant destroyer of the philosophy department, and a certain apologist for Pakistani Islamic extremism who heads the so-called Asian-American studies department.

Of course that in the eyes of extremists obsessed with imaginary "Islamophobia" - rather than confronting with a modicum of honesty the horrid violence of their culture - the presence on this campus of an emancipated, beautiful, powerful woman such as Chancellor Wise is resented as a personal affront. For the likes of Salaita, Sanders, Warrior, Junaid Rana, a woman should hide behind a burka and not be heard at all. 

They wanted really hard to hire the ambassador of Hamastan, in order to promote racism, anti-Semitism and Islamofascism at a university which largely succeeded in keeping clean of such basket-cases so far (the famous Bill Ayers apart). The worthless departments of philosophy, Pakistani studies, and tax-free casino studies should be forced to support themselves financially. They are basically stealing money from the productive departments, you know, SCIENCE-based, which overwhelmingly respect and support Chancellor Wise.

Time for the loud and lazy racists who are basically parasitizing this august university to put up or shut up. If you're so "offended" that the university didn't hire the Hamastan representative, resign and go away. Please.

Give us a chance to miss you. You will hear from us, eventually.

Rocky7 wrote on September 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Well said and timely too. I agree with nearly all of it.

The problem with academic freedom in in this day and age is that it almost makes UIUC (or any western modern university) a United Nations of "allies," "communists,"  "terrorists," and ordinary American citizens. Holding it together is a difficult job.

wayward wrote on September 12, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Excuse me, did you just refer to the American Indian Studies department as "tax-free casino studies?"

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


Yes, LOL, that was brilliant.

It was high time for someone to notice that the king has no clothes, that Mr. Warrior is one of the most intolerant characters to ever "gratify" our campus, and that in terms of substantial scholarship many "identity grievances" fields are complete frauds.

That the formerly esteemed American Indian Studies not only considered qualified but also violently supports a terrorism aficionado to the hilt speaks volumes about the hot air this department's scholarly relevance is made of.

Rocky7 wrote on September 13, 2014 at 5:09 am

And a loud AMEN to that.

Sid Saltfork wrote on September 16, 2014 at 9:09 am

Wow !  Playing the race card in defense of your opinion.  Are the "SCIENCE-based" "productive departments" that worried their donations will dry up because of the "worthless departments"?  Your elitist comment is racist based on your description of "tax-free casino studies".  Either the university needs a voice like Salaita's, or the university needs to go private without any state funding.  The latter is not a bad idea since it would save taxpayer money for less "august" state universities, and primary education.