Home / General / Salaita Appointment to Be Forwarded to Board

Salaita Appointment to Be Forwarded to Board



Corey Robin permits himself a little cautious optimism. Alas, I suspect John Wilson’s take will prove accurate:

There is not a chance in hell that [an appointment of Salaita] will happen. I can see only two explanations for this decision: 1) Wise wants to head off criticism (and, as Robin points out, Wise wants to prevent a possible legal challenge) that she violated a procedural rule by failing to forward the appointment to the Board of Trustees. 2) The trustees are upset that she removed the opportunity for them to vote against Salaita, and they want the chance to publicly double fire Salaita.

Considering that all of the trustees signed a letter embracing Salaita’s firing, it would be shocking if even a single trustee voted for Salaita. The Sept. 11 Board of Trustees meeting will obviously be the center of considerable attention, but it ultimately will not change the decision.

I would guess that Corey’s second, more pessimistic interpretation is relevant to the Wise’s formal reversal. Given that UIUC’s attempt to square the academic freedom circle involved reliance on the literal language of his contract (while ignoring the well-established norms Salaita was very reasonably relying on), the fact that Wise’s pocket veto was not really consistent with the literal language of the contract might have presented a problem. By having the trustees explicitly vote the appointment down, their chances of making a Halbig-style argument in a defense to a civil suit and getting away with minimal or no damages might be increased.

I certainly hope I’m wrong. My most detailed explanation for why UIUC’s firing of Salaita is plainly inconsistent with academic freedom can be found here.

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  • Murc

    I hope the trustees are prepared to meet a lot more often than they’d been accustomed to previously doing, because if they suddenly want to be a relevant part of the hiring process literally every single new hire at UIUC is going to demand they have a completed employment contract in-hand before they relocate or enter a classroom.

    • calling all toasters

      Surely they would only have to be approved by Col. Mustard, or perhaps Powerline.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Once they get the Buttrocket seal of approval, no one will want to touch them.

  • shah8

    Maybe they’ll pay Salaita off, or something.

    • shah8

      Then again, I think of The Merchant of Venice, and well, I always did root for the Lender.

      Get that pound of flesh, Salaita, don’t take the money and run!

    • ChrisTS

      Apparently they intend to do so.

      • ChrisTS

        I should have said they intend to make an offer.

        • NattyB

          And do they intend to take it back?

          I’m surprised given the subject matter we’ve yet to hear a tasteless “Indian Giver” joke. A+ for civility!

  • rea

    “Je ne parle pas anglais” I said, meaning to say it in the other thread. The edit function would allow you to erase a comment?

  • I think (1), but then I’m a lawyer. Arguably too late to convince a jury tho.

  • gmack

    I think Corey’s follow-up comment gets to the heart of things. I’m mildly frustrated with the ways in which commentators get preoccupied with questions like, “Why is the Board doing this? What will they decide?” I don’t know why they’re going to vote on Salaita. More importantly, it shouldn’t matter to those of us active in trying to get Salaita reinstated. The only question for the activist is how to use this meeting, public comment, and vote effectively. So I’m of the opinion that activists should act “naively,” so to speak. We should take the Board/Chancellor Wise’s statements sincerely, and treat the upcoming meeting as an occasion to organize and press our case. If the Board reinstates Salaita, then we essentially win. If they don’t, then at least we openly see where everyone stands and the topics over which ongoing political struggle might continue.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Agreed on all points.

  • I don’t see how this i-dotting strongly improves thier legal position. The lack of forwarding was an interesting bit of hypocrisy given their hyper legal “he’s not hired yet” approach, but it’s really quite a bit of nothing. If Wise had written Salaita saying, “I’m forwarding it, but I spoke with the board and it ain’t gonna happen. Look elsewhere.” I don’t see that most of the legal issues would be sorted.

    Of course, I imagine that it’s easy for these shmoes to talk themselves into such nonsense.

    One move I’ve not seen anyone propose is letting the appointment go forward and then instigating removal procedures. I surmise this is because they do at least know that it would be hopeless.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Hey, they could try firing Salaita for skipping out on his Fall Semester teaching assignment!

      After all, if it’s common practice to start classes before the BoT approval…

    • The Dark Avenger

      It’s damage control for future hires, and you are right, it doesn’t really help them in the here and now.

  • twbb

    I suspect that they’re hoping this will happen:

    1. Board formally refuses to hire Salaita.
    2. Salaita sues.
    3. They throw a lot of money at Salaita as a settlement offer, which he accepts.
    4. As part of the offer, he agrees to publicly state he is satisfied and urge the boycott be ended.

    I suspect that this will not happen, however. Salaita will sue, university will find itself embarassed during the discovery period, Salaita will reject settlement, trial court will use a lot of rhetoric about academic freedom but ultimately dismiss, goes to the 7th circuit which affirms.

    • wengler

      Or the University will fight it, because the administration is full of people that don’t give a shit about academic freedom and are looking to score points with the pro-Israel lobby.

  • royko

    2) The trustees are upset that she removed the opportunity for them to vote against Salaita, and they want the chance to publicly double fire Salaita.

    I’ve actually always wondered if Wise did her pocket veto with the support (or encouragement) of the board to avoid them having to directly get their hands dirty on this one.

    It just seems unlikely to me that she would stick her neck out by taking that step against their wishes, nor does it seem likely that the board would have been super eager to take up that vote. I don’t know what the internal dynamics are, and the board may be of more than one mind about this, so who knows. But their statement in support of Wise didn’t make it seem like they were upset by her procedural gambit.

    • matt w

      I think a good lackey of the corporatized university wouldn’t need to actually talk to the board of trustees to know what to do here. When she gets letters saying “Our rich donors are displeased about X” she doesn’t need to ask the trustees to know what they’d want her to do.

      • Scott Lemieux

        I also think the need for her unilateral intervention was obvious. If Salaita had actually been on campus, teaching, meeting with students, attending meetings, etc. for a month, the argument that he wasn’t really hired would be evidently farcical even to people unfamiliar with academic hiring norms. They couldn’t wait until the next meeting.

        • matt w

          I wonder what would’ve happened if Salaita had shown up and started teaching, on the grounds that the Board had not yet made its decision and until then he was obliged to fulfill the terms of his contract. Obviously this wouldn’t have been workable, but is this enough to show that the Board of Trustees isn’t actually for any practical purposes making the final decision, and does that matter?

          There’s one argument I’ve seen (maybe on the promissory estoppel case, although the majority view seems to be that a textbook case of promissory estoppel and $2.95 will get you a cup of coffee) that Salaita’s case is weaker because the Interim Dean wasn’t really authorized to make promises on his behalf, and then the counterpoint that an agent is authorized to make promises on behalf of the principal if the principal knows what the agent is doing and doesn’t stop it. If that’s true the University’s legal case would seem to rest on the idea that every hire ever was a rogue operation.

  • divadab

    The legal and tactical arguments are interesting but it seems to me that this is primarily a money issue – the decision to fire was based on the simple calculation that it would be cheaper to settle with Salaita than to lose much more in endowments and other donations.

    Sad and unprincipled but this is the America we live in.

  • ChrisTS

    Today, Nelson has a rant in IHE about anti-antisemitism and the BDS movement.

    • NattyB

      What a f—ing joke. I don’t get why he’s so hard-core pro-Israel?

      Phan Nguyen rips him a new one in Mondoweiss. It’s not pretty.

    • Hogan

      I’m not saying you’re anti-Semitic. It’s just that Lawrence Summers and I wish you would think long and hard about why you’re so anti-Semitic.

  • NattyB

    Professor Robin Kar of the Illinois Faculty Law Blog drops a bomb:

    Long story short, strong grounds for a contract. In part because the AAUP statement on principles was annexed to the Offer which strongly suggests that it would be Ultra Vires for the BoT to fail to approve the appointment, as such principles include that the “academic community cannot condone academic appointment procedures that enable universities to:

    [o]ffer a professor a position during normal appointment “season” and then, after he has accepted the position, to cut him adrift without warning or hearings. . . . This committee sees no way in which the academic marketplace could operate in a rational and just way if the practices followed . . . were accepted as normal procedure.

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