Steven Salaita filed a federal lawsuit against the University of Illinois Thursday, claiming his constitutional rights have been violated after his employment offer was denied.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Illinois, is against the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Phyllis Wise, President Robert Easter, Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre and unnamed donors, who Salaita believes pressured trustees to reject him.
The complaint seeks monetary relief "for violations of his constitutional rights, including free speech and due process, and for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, tortious interference with contractual and business relations, intentional infliction of emotional distress and spoliation."
Salaita was offered employment to the American Indian Studies program in October 2013. However, after he posted several tweets regarding conflict in Gaza in July 2014, Wise informed Salaita that his appointment was unlikely to be approved by the Board of Trustees.
On Sept. 11, trustees rejected his appointment with an 8-1 vote; however, the complaint believes the University should complete the employment process they began.
"As a private citizen, Dr. Salaita has the constitutional right to make any public statement he chooses," the University said in a statement. "Dr. Salaita, however, does not have a constitutional right to a faculty position at the University of Illinois."
Salaita is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Loevy & Loevy, a Chicago law firm.
"Professor Salaita, in obvious contrast, remains without a job, without health insurance, in his parents' home, with his academic career in tatters," the complaint states.
The University's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure released a report in late December stating Salaita's employment should be reconsidered by the Board. The report agreed with the University's stance that donors did not influence the decision.
On Jan. 15, trustees reaffirmed their decision to reject Salaita's appointment and said his case would not be reconsidered.
"As Dr. Salaita admits in the complaint he filed today, the offer he received in October 2013 from the American Indian Studies Program was at all times subject to the ultimate approval of the Board of Trustees," the University said in a statement. "This is consistent with the Statutes of the University of Illinois and the past precedent of the University."