Nearly three weeks after the University of Illinois Board of Trustees rejected his appointment to the faculty, Salaita and his lawyers appear closer to taking legal action against the UI. "We're getting our ducks in a row," Salaita's lawyer, Anand Swaminathan of Loevy & Loevy in Chicago, said Tuesday.
Swaminathan has said they'll be seeking injunctive relief to request a court to order the university to "do what it failed to do" earlier this month — that is, complete the employment process and hire Salaita. It's likely the lawsuit will be filed in federal court.
A once-prolific tweeter, Salaita turned quiet in late July and remained silent through August after his tweets critical of Israel's invasion of Gaza received scrutiny and Chancellor Phyllis Wise notified him that she would not forward his appointment to the board for approval.
But since his public appearance in Champaign on Sept. 9, he's been slowly returning to social media, thanking supporters and organizing a speaking tour. In advance of next week's tour in Chicago, Salaita wrote an essay for the Chicago Tribune in which he says his academic career was "destroyed over gross mischaracterizations of a few 140-character posts." He went on to explain some of his more controversial tweets.
The tour "is more than about Steven Salaita and his job. This is about what kind of democracy we want in this country," Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network in Chicago, said Tuesday. What happened to Salaita is indicative of the shutting down of debates across the country about Middle East politics and the U.S. government's military involvement there, he said.
Thayer has been working with Students for Justice in Palestine chapters at several Chicagoland universities to bring Salaita in for talks. Salaita will be at Northwestern on Monday, then visit UIC, the University of Chicago, Loyola, Columbia College and DePaul. His talks will vary by campus.
Organizers are asking groups and departments to pay him an honorarium and will be asking for donations at events.