UIUC Ordered to Release Salaita Emails, Censured by National Academic Organization
A Champaign County court has ordered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to release thousands of emails in relation to the firing of Steven Salaita last August. Last week’s decision is considered a major victory by Salaita’s supporters, who brought the lawsuit to the university under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
A day after the court made its decision, the American Association of University Professors voted at their annual meeting in Washington D.C. to censure UIUC regarding the administration’s rejection of Salaita hiring, citing a violation of academic freedom .
Censure by the leading academic organization is considered relatively rare and can damage a university’s reputation in academia. Chancellor Wise acknowledged the censure will have repercussions, the Guardian reported.
In a statement made online, Steven Salaita refers to the FOIA lawsuit ruling as providing, at the very least, “a much better documentary record of the [tenure] process and its participants.”
In a separate federal lawsuit, Salaita is suing the university’s board of trustees, administration and donors for violating his constitutional rights and breaching his employment contract by rescinding his job offer due to statements he made on Twitter during Israel’s military campaign on the Gaza Strip last summer.
The emails to be released will make the electronic correspondence between university administration and trustees relating to Salaita’s firing public, the Electronic Intifada reported.
Supporters believe these emails will further indicate the university’s decision to rescind Salaita’s job offer was profoundly influenced by pro-Israel donors, the Electronic Intifada reported. This evidence would strongly support Salaita’s case in his federal lawsuit against UIUC.
Emails released earlier this year revealed UIUC administration may have mislead investigators and the public regarding the circumstances of Salaita’s rescinded job offer.
In an email between Chancellor Phyllis Wise and an undisclosed recipient, Wise defended Salaita’s expressions as protected free speech rights. Later, after meeting with the university’s trustees, the administration formally rescinded Salaita’s offer on the grounds of lacking basic “civility”.
These are the tweets that triggered Salaita’s ordeal last summer: