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U. Illinois: Steven Salaita “lacked the professional fitness to serve on the faculty”

U. Illinois: Steven Salaita “lacked the professional fitness to serve on the faculty”

Calls Salaita’s federal lawsuit meritless and promises vigorous defense

Earlier today we reported that controversial former professor Steven Salaita had filed a federal lawsuit over his non-hiring. I identified what I saw as a glaring defect in the Complaint.

The University of Illinois has responded with a Statement which previews how the case will be defended.

The defense hones in on what I saw as a glaring defect in the Complaint, namely that Salaita never claimed that anyone — much less anyone with authority — promised him that Board of Trustees approval was not needed or waived. As such, Salaita will have a more difficult time converting a contingent offer into an enforceable agreement.

Similarly, much like the official faculty committee, the University views the tweets in the context of Salaita’s fitness, citing a tweet from June, before the Gaza fighting:

Specifically, Dr. Salaita began making a series of statements via social media on precisely the subject matter that he proposed to teach at our University. For example, on June 19, 2014, after three Israeli teenagers were reported kidnapped and presumed dead, Dr. Salaita posted a statement on Twitter which read: “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the f**king West Bank settlers would go missing.” Dr. Salaita continued to post this comment even after the three teens were found murdered later that month….

These statements and many more like them demonstrate that Dr. Salaita lacks the judgment, temperament and thoughtfulness to serve as a member of our faculty in any capacity, but particularly to teach courses related to the Middle East.

The University denies that donor pressure influenced the decision. Presumably, as Chancellor Wise said in an interview recently, the university constantly gets donor complaints on a variety of issues, including sports.

Those among Salaita’s BDS supporters — who have driven the protests — who thought that Salaita had a strong case may be in for a rude awakening. They want to put the university, the Chancellor and the donors on trial, but Salaita may find himself on trial.

As someone who handled employment cases as a large part of my private practice prior to joining academia, almost always for the employee, the Salaita case will be no easy win, no matter how much supportive websites with an anti-Israel agenda and pro-BDS faculty tweet out support and urge Salaita on.

When this story first broke on August 6, I asked the following question to readers:

Here are some of his tweets, what do you think? Did he cross a line from political to so bizarre that there are doubts about fitness to teach? Should a university be compelled to hire someone who engages in bizarre behavior in public?

This case may never get to a jury, but if it does, those are questions a jury may have to answer.

Here is the full university statement:

A statement by the University re Steven Salaita complaint
University to vigorously defend against meritless claims

January 29, 2015

The University of Illinois must balance all of the interests of its campuses and the institution in reaching any decision, particularly one as important as granting a positon as a member of our faculty.

Last summer, while Steven Salaita was still under consideration for a tenured position to teach courses comparing issues related to the experiences of Native Americans to issues related to Palestinians and the Middle East, Dr. Salaita began demonstrating that he lacked the professional fitness to serve on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Specifically, Dr. Salaita began making a series of statements via social media on precisely the subject matter that he proposed to teach at our University. For example, on June 19, 2014, after three Israeli teenagers were reported kidnapped and presumed dead, Dr. Salaita posted a statement on Twitter which read: “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the f**king West Bank settlers would go missing.” Dr. Salaita continued to post this comment even after the three teens were found murdered later that month.

Dr. Salaita also posted statements such as:

“Zionist uplift in America: every little Jewish boy and girl can grow up to be the leader of a monstrous colonial regime.”

“If #Israel affirms life, then why do so many Zionists celebrate the slaughter of children? What’s that? Oh, I see JEWISH life.”

“Zionists: transforming antisemitism [sic] from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.”

“Let’s cut to the chase: If you’re defending #Israel right now you’re an awful human being.”

These statements and many more like them demonstrate that Dr. Salaita lacks the judgment, temperament and thoughtfulness to serve as a member of our faculty in any capacity, but particularly to teach courses related to the Middle East.

As Dr. Salaita admits in the complaint he filed today, the offer he received in October 2013 from the American Indian Studies Program was at all times subject to the ultimate approval of the Board of Trustees. This is consistent with the Statutes of the University of Illinois and the past precedent of the University. Dr. Salaita was well aware of the importance of this final approval. At no time was Dr. Salaita hired as a faculty member. His appointment was always subject to approval by the Board of Trustees.

On September 11, 2014, after carefully considering all of the issues related to Dr. Salaita’s proposed appointment, the Board of Trustees voted 8-1 not to approve Dr. Salaita for a position on the faculty. Two weeks ago, the Board emphatically reiterated that its decision is final and will not be reconsidered.

The Board’s decision concerning Dr. Salaita was not reached hastily. Nor was it the result of external pressures. Indeed, the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure concurred that “donor influence” was not a basis for the decision. The decision did not present a “new approach” to the consideration of proposed faculty appointments. It represented the careful exercise of each Board member’s fiduciary duty and a balancing of all of the interests of the University of Illinois. In the end, this is a responsibility that cannot be delegated nor abdicated.

Today, Dr. Salaita has filed a complaint in federal court. Among other accusations, he contends that the individual trustees and administrators of the University of Illinois are liable for intentionally inflicting emotional distress by refusing to provide him with a faculty position. The University of Illinois intends to vigorously defend against these and each of Dr. Salaita’s other meritless claims. The University has attempted to negotiate a settlement for his reasonable losses and expenses, but he has refused those offers.

As a private citizen, Dr. Salaita has the constitutional right to make any public statement he chooses. Dr. Salaita, however, does not have a constitutional right to a faculty position at the University of Illinois.

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Comments

He gets nothing and becomes virtually untouchable by any respectable college.

His tweets make his picture look like a portrait of sober maturity by comparison.

I heard he tried to tweet about Netanyahu’s upcoming visit but was unable, as just the exclamation marks alone numbered in the thousands.

Call me insightful if you must, but I feel his tweets mask a deep hatred of Jews and Israel.

Good on ya, Fighting Illini!!

    Ragspierre in reply to LukeHandCool. | January 29, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Yo, Insightful…!!!

    https://twitter.com/stevesalaita

    Note this phuc hates on Chris Kyle, Bibi, Israel, the US, etc.

      LukeHandCool in reply to Ragspierre. | January 29, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      Rags,

      I’m proud to say Salaita has blocked me on Twitter. Chickensh*t.

      I don’t use profanity, and I certainly don’t threaten anyone on Twitter. Never lose my cool, either. Just try to kid and mock them gently.

      But that’s too much for them.

      I was going back and forth for about a couple of hours with Talking Points’ Josh Marshall one day last year.

      Just kept outwitting him and he kept getting more and more frustrated. I’m just a nobody, but he became obsessed and wouldn’t stop tweeting me. And I’d just land an effective counterpunch each time. I was both amused and amazed he’d take a big chunk out of his day to argue with me, again, a nobody, on Twitter.

      Last week I thought of him and went to check out what he’d been tweeting recently and, sure enough, he had me blocked.

      Again, chickensh*t.

      These leftists and BDSers are the most dull-witted, insecure people on the planet.

      Anyway, what does that tweet of Salaita’s you linked to say?

      Love,

      #BlockedBySalaitaTheAcademicGuy

        Ragspierre in reply to LukeHandCool. | January 29, 2015 at 5:36 pm

        Steven Salaita @stevesalaita · Jan 25

        Civility, huh? Some professors are war criminals: -Madeleine Albright -John Yoo -Henry Kissinger [ret] -David Petraeus -Condoleezza Rice

        Steven Salaita @stevesalaita · Jan 24

        The only political body #Netanyahu should be addressing is the International Criminal Court.

        Steven Salaita @stevesalaita · Jan 22

        For those who think American colonization has ended, remember that Chris Kyle’s word of choice for Iraqis was “savages.”

        Here’s a complete list of professors in the US fired for supporting Israel: . . . . . […]

Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems like the attorney who signed the complaint is exposed to CR 11 sanctions for improper research yet signing that he/she did sufficient research.

As far as bad faith goes, any paralegal worth his/her salt would take a template for the type of suit from any decent lawbook and tweak it to align with the unique facts of the case. Doing it that way would eliminate the possibility of omitting an essential pleading component. Failure to do something so elementary could be seen as willful blindness, or in other words, bad faith.

This falls under what I would call weapons grade stupidity, which should be a sanctionable offense in any event.

“the Board of Trustees voted 8-1 not to approve Dr. Salaita for a position on the faculty.”
__________________________________

If I were an Illinois taxpayer, I’d find out the name of the one Trustee who voted to hire this idiot, and lobby to get him or her removed from the Board of Trustees. That Trustee has demonstrated a troubling lack of good judgment and common sense.

As for the lawsuit, I hope Illinois has a “loser pays” provision for civil suits, because this guy deserves to both lose and have to pay the university’s attorney fees.

    PeterPeter123 in reply to Observer. | January 29, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    The one board member who voted for Salaita was James Montgomery. He makes his position very clear in the video I link below.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8v1iSgRa8A

      Observer in reply to PeterPeter123. | January 29, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      After watching that, I stand by my assessment of his fitness to serve on the Board of Trustees. He says he isn’t sure if Salaita’s hateful Twitter comments were even relevant to his qualifications to teach at the university, since the comments were not made in an academic context.

      Clearly, the Twitter comments are relevant to Salaita’s character and fitness as a teacher. Salaita made the hateful comments in public social media; he knew full well that his statements could, and likely would, be read by university students and prospective students. If you were a Jewish student at this university (or considering enrolling at this university) and you read these comments, would you feel comfortable taking Salaita’s classes? Would you feel that he could objectively evaluate your work if you expressed a pro-Israel position?

      Montgomery says that, back in the day when he was a student at the university, the school discriminated against blacks in housing and sometimes made him feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. So now he wants to return the favor by hiring some blatantly anti-semitic loon? If Salaita had written these kinds of hateful things about blacks, instead of Jews, would Montgomery have even hesitated before voting against him?

      Given his experiences, Montgomery, even more than the other trustees, should understand why Salaita’s bigotry is unacceptable in someone who wants to teach in an American university. Salaita has the right to express his hatred and blood-lust for Jews all he wants; but he does not have the right to be rewarded with a teaching position as he does so.

After he first tries to build a career as a cause célèbre. BDS is starting to look like a zombie movement. People know too much about them.

Congratulations.

Chancellor Wise, eponymous with her leadership.

Henry Hawkins | January 29, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Well, nothing left for Salaita but to go into politics now.

    By golly, Henry, I think you have hit on it. Now…. whose staff? Hillary? Elizabeth EagleFeather-Warren? Joe WhereAmI Biden? UpChuck Schumer?

    Ragspierre in reply to Henry Hawkins. | January 29, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    He should apply for governorship of the American Colony In Iraq, which he somehow is loopy enough to think exists.

    Is he the right kind of Muslim, or would ISIS kill him on sight?

This is a developing area of the law brought about by the growth of social media. At what point are people required to associated with an “a-hole”.

Witness this poor fool that was denied a medical degree because he was too big a jerk. $105K to find out that actions have consequences:

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/01/case_western_reserve_universit_41.html

    Gremlin1974 in reply to rancidpoodle. | January 29, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Well that guy was just an idiot. If he had disclosed the DUI at the beginning of med school like he was supposed to, he would have either been denied right then or it would have already been forgiven and not an issue.

Interesting, around the time this first exploded, Salaita’s tweets were very reasonable sounding and I got the impression he was really reaching out to demonstrate to the world he is a nice guy. But the recent tweets are so horrible and full of utter hatred, even selecting out for attack, the group that organizes visits of Muslim Americans to Israel. The recent tweets really underscore that the university made the correct decision about his academic integrity and ability to teach a diverse community.

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2015/01/bdsers-are-panicked-by-tiny-interfaith.html#.VMq9I2TF8gA

It sounds like the U.I. American Indian Studies Program could use a bit of a purge. That’s where the original offer to this zipperhead came from.

He might not be fit to teach at a university, but a job probably awaits him here:

http://www.ringling.com/contentpage.aspx%3Fid%3D45924%26section%3D45688

Who is paying Salaita’s legal fees? Is he getting pro bono service?

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