- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

URBANA, Ill. (AP) - The American Association of University Professors later this month will decide whether to censure the University of Illinois over the decision not to hire a professor following his anti-Israel tweets.

A committee within the association that deals with academic freedom and tenure recommended censure on Saturday for the school’s choice not to hire Steven Salaita for a tenured job to teach Native American studies classes. The committee’s recommendation will now be forwarded to the full association for consideration at its annual meeting June 13 in the nation’s capital, The (Champaign) News-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1FXDei1 ) reported.

University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise is disappointed with the censure recommendation, she said in a statement, reiterating that the school has a “longstanding commitment to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech.”

“We have taken several key steps to address the concerns raised by AAUP, including making serious efforts to reach a settlement with Dr. Salaita. We are disappointed to be the subject of an AAUP censure vote, and we will continue to move forward by demonstrating our commitment to the principles of academic freedom,” Wise’s statement said.

The committee took into consideration the information recently forwarded by Wise outlining policy changes adopted or under consideration to prevent similar problems in the future, according to Anita Levy, associate secretary of the association’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance.

“There was a considerable amount of discussion,” Levy said. “It was collegial.”

Details of the committee’s recommendation won’t be made public until the annual meeting, she said.

Salaita, a former English teacher at Virginia Tech, was hired to teach at the University of Illinois in October 2013, subject to trustees’ approval, and planned to begin teaching in August 2014. The job offer was rescinded Aug. 1 by Wise, after Salaita posted a long series of anti-Israel tweets complaining about Israel military action against Palestinians, before the hire was approved by trustees.

The decision sparked outrage among department heads and faculty members, and also prompted a widespread debate over freedom of speech.

Salaita has since sued the university, saying it violated his right to free speech and damaged his career. The school has asked that the case be dismissed, and says Salaita wasn’t an employee because the Board of Trustees hadn’t yet approved his hire.

The current AAUP censure list includes about four dozen colleges and universities. Some faculty members worry the University of Illinois’ inclusion on the list could damage its reputation and ability to recruit new students.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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