The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is willing to make a financial settlement with Steven Salaita, the controversial scholar whose hiring was blocked last month by Chancellor Phyllis Wise amid debate over Salaita's anti-Israel comments. To date, Illinois has suggested that because the hiring never received required board approval, there was no firing. But in an interview Saturday with The Chicago Tribune, the board chair, Christopher Kennedy, said that the university was open to a financial settlement, but had been delayed because Salaita -- who has not commented -- changed lawyers. "Our intention isn't to hurt him financially," Kennedy told the Tribune. "We don't like to see that. We are not trying to hurt the guy. We just don't want him at the university."
In other developments:
- The American Association of University Professors sent a letter to Illinois strongly objecting to how Salaita has been treated, and saying that the way the administration blocked his hiring appeared to represent a serious violation of academic freedom.
- While much of the campus (and national) reaction by academics has similarly criticized the university, a group of faculty members published a letter in The News-Gazette of Urbana-Champaign saying that there is not a "monolithic" view of the controversy. "In spite of the narrative that has thus far dominated the attention surrounding this case, the non-hiring of Steven Salaita is not about academic freedom. It is about an administrative decision to not pursue the hiring of someone who has used his constitutional right to free speech to express hatred, bigotry and aggression. The public narrative, thus far, has painted a picture of an administration inappropriately involving itself in faculty affairs and violating academic freedom. There are many of us, faculty and non-faculty, who do not believe that this narrative accurately reflects the situation," the letter said. "We, and others who share this perspective, believe that the administration precisely fulfilled its obligation in blocking this hire. They took seriously their job of overseeing the maintenance of an inclusive environment on this campus and they took steps to ensure its continuation."