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University’s Attempt to Dismiss Salaita Suit Over “Uncivil” Tweets Rejected by Court

Today, a federal judge rejected efforts to throw out a lawsuit against the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for firing Professor Steven Salaita from a tenured position based on his personal tweets criticizing Israel’s military assault on Gaza last summer.  The university has admitted that it based its decision on Salaita’s tweets, calling them “uncivil.”   The court firmly rejected the university’s claim that it did not have a contract with Professor Salaita, stating, “If the Court accepted the University’s argument, the entire American academic hiring process as it now operates would cease to exist.” The court further rejected the university’s attempt to dismiss Professor Salaita’s First Amendment claims, finding that his tweets “implicate every ‘central concern’ of the First Amendment.”

Henry Reichman, AAUP First Vice President and Chair of the AAU{'s Committee on Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance, said, "I hope that the resignation of Chancellor Wise following immediately upon the U.S. District Court's stinging rejection of UIUC's major arguments in its motion to dismiss Professor Salaita's lawsuit signifies that the university will reconsider its obstinate refusal to recognize its violations of academic freedom in this case, which led the AAUP in June to place the university on its censure list. UIUC should now work to provide justice to Professor Salaita and improve its policies and procedures to ensure that such a violation cannot reoccur.  Should a new administration do so, the AAUP stands ready to work with that administration to facilitate UIUC's removal from the censure list and strengthen its commitment to the principles of academic freedom."

For more, read the press release on the  Center for Constitutional Rights' website and the court's opinion. (.pdf0

In June, delegates to the AAUP's One Hundred and First Annual Meeting voted to place the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignon the AAUP’s list of censured administrations. Read the AAUP's investigation report.

Publication Date: 
Thursday, August 6, 2015