Steven Salaita, the ex Virginia Tech professor who was denied a job at the University of Illinois after he put out some pretty objectionable stuff about Israeli settlers going missing (in the wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers who were eventually murdered later last year), is now suing the University of Illinois and even unnamed donors to the university. Jonathan Marks, writing in Commentary Magazine, offers his own thoughts on Salaita's chances of prevailing in this case.
Like Marks, I am no lawyer and my knowledge of civil law is considerably less than my knowledge of criminal law. (Being retired law enforcement, I have a pretty good working knowledge of the law.)
Two points jump out at me. First of all, legally speaking, the hire is not official until approved by the Board of Regents. Though that might be a rubber stamp or mere formality in most cases, Salaita knew he was controversial being an activist and in the business of offending certain people. (That would apply to me as well if I were applying for a university teaching job.)
Secondly, if he were to succeed in suing donors to the university that would, as they say, send a chilling message to donors in general. Either just send your money and keep your mouth shut or stop donating. Imagine if a university decided to give a teaching position to Charles Manson. ( I guess it would have to be an online course.) Suppose a donor decided to tell the president of the university that all donations would cease if this hire went through. Does Manson have a case if the university comes to its senses and rescinds the offer?
I won't be surprised if a settlement is reached to cover Salaita's moving expenses. What I really hope is that UI doesn't cave in and give this character a teaching job. Let him play the victim role in front of sympathetic college audiences.