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URBANA — Steven Salaita should be getting his $600,000 settlement check from the University of Illinois by early February.

The legal settlement with Salaita, who sued the UI over his aborted faculty appointment, was finalized Dec. 24 after all the parties signed it, UI officials said.

Salaita is to receive his payments within 30 business days of that date, and motions to dismiss his state and federal lawsuits against the university will follow, officials said.

Meanwhile, the UI's legal bills for the case continue to mount, totaling $1.42 million through the end of October, according to the university. That cost will presumably rise once the court cases are finally resolved and lawyers' fees for November, December and January are paid.

The News-Gazette obtained a copy of the settlement and other information after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

The settlement, approved by UI trustees in November, provided Salaita with a $600,000 lump-sum payment, plus another $275,000 to cover his legal expenses.

But Salaita did not get his tenured faculty job in American Indian Studies back and promised not to seek UI employment in the future.

Salaita's job offer was withdrawn in August 2014, three weeks before he was to begin teaching, after the professor, who is of Palestinian descent, posted angry and sometimes-profane tweets about Israel.

In the settlement, the university admitted no wrongdoing or liability related to that decision, which led to widespread faculty protests, academic boycotts and a censure from the American Association of University Professors.

Salaita had claimed that he already had an employment contract with the university and that the UI violated his tenure and free-speech rights. The UI said he was not yet an employee because trustees had yet to vote on his appointment.

The UI said no state funding or revenue from student tuition or fees will be used to pay costs associated with the agreement. The $875,000 for Salaita and his attorneys will be paid with interest from the university's self-insurance plan, officials said.

University legal fees will be paid with interest from the self-insurance plan and from interest-bearing accounts on the Urbana-Champaign campus, they said.

Along with the terms announced in November, the settlement includes a "non-disparagement clause." The parties agreed that they will not "make any gratuitous negative public statements, comments, or communication in any form, oral, written, or electronic, which would constitute libel, slander, defamation or unfounded disparagement of the other Party."

But they also acknowledged that scholars are "entitled to freedom in research and publications and in the classroom, and that this provision does not, and is not intended to, abridge any Party's First Amendment right to speak or write about the political and social issues and dynamics connected to this case."

UI officials said the non-disparagement clause is common in such settlements.

Names as defendants in Salaita's lawsuits were former UI Chancellor Phyllis Wise, former President Robert Easter, current Vice President Christophe Pierre, former Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy, and UI trustees Ricardo Estrada, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Karen Hasara, Patricia Brown Holmes, Timothy Koritz, Edward McMillan and Pamela Strobel.

The document said the parties sought to "avoid the time-consuming, costly, and burdensome nature of continued litigation and trial" and recognized that it would be "mutually beneficial to move forward with no further disagreements or disputes."

The settlement covers all of Salaita's claims against the university, including alleged First Amendment violations, his FOIA litigation in Champaign County Circuit Court and charges that the university had destroyed evidence related to the case.

In response to a court order, the UI in October released internal communications to Salaita's lawyers about its decision to withdraw the professor's job offer.

But almost all of the information in the documents was blacked out, according to Salaita's attorneys.

Those documents went beyond the emails released by the UI in August following an ethics investigation, which found that some documents were not turned over in response to FOIA requests. It showed that Wise and other officials used personal email accounts rather than university addresses in their communications about the case.

That revelation prompted the judge in Salaita's federal lawsuit to reinstate a claim from his lawyers accusing the university of destroying evidence about the hiring decision.


Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).