Steven Salaita Breaks His Silence, Wants Job Back

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CHAMPAIGN--A potential University of Illinois employee spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday after his job offer was taken away.

"I'm here today at the University of Illinois to speak against my termination by the administration from a tenured faculty position because of university administration's objections to my speech that was critical of recent Israeli human rights violations," said Steven Salaita at a press conference at the University YMCA.   

Salaita was supposed to begin a tenured position in the U of I's American Indian Studies Program in mid-August. But after posting pro-Palestine tweets that some deemed too anti-Israel, Chancellor Phyllis Wise revoked his job offer two weeks before he was scheduled to start.

Since then, Salaita stayed silent. Until Tuesday.

"I reiterate my demand that the university recognizes the importance of respecting the faculty's hiring decision and reinstate me," said Salaita.
    
Some of the faculty that hired him agrees.

"It's worth continuing to fight for things that are right, standing up to power, and telling people in power that just because they have power doesn't mean they're the only people that matter," said Robert Warrior, director of the American Indian Studies program.


Those people in power are the members of the Board of Trustees, who are likely to discuss Salaita's dismissal when they meet Thursday. Salaita hopes to be reinstated then, but if he is not, he is ready to take legal action.

"He will ask a court to complete the appointment process and reinstate him," said Salaita's attorney, Anand Swaminathan.
    
Because Salaita says this is an issue of academic freedom. So why does he want to return to an institution that censored him?

"The answer is in this room," said Salaita.
 
Whether he will be able to teach those in the room remains to be seen.

A spokesperson from the U of I released the following statement to WAND News in response to Professor Salaita's media conference:

"At the University of Illinois, we are committed to providing our students with a world-class education. While the University stands by the decision not to hire Professor Salaita, we will continue to welcome all speakers to our campus. We remain devoted to fostering a campus-wide dialogue on the most uncomfortable issues that are vital to our very foundation and will continue to work closely with our students, faculty and staff to nurture an environment where all issues, including the most complicated ones, can be discussed."
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