As expected, a national academic panel has recommended that the University of Illinois be censured for its handling of the Steven Salaita case.
The American Association of University Professors' Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure took the vote Saturday morning. The vote tally will not be released, said Anita Levy, associate secretary of the AAUP's Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance.
The panel's recommendation will now be forwarded to the full AAUP for consideration at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on June 13.
"There was a considerable amount of discussion," Levy said. "It was collegial."
The panel spent some time crafting the exact language for the censure recommendation, which won't be made public until the annual meeting, she said.
Levy said committee members took into account the information forwarded earlier this week by Chancellor Phyllis Wise, who had outlined steps taken by the campus since the outcry over Salaita's case.
Salaita, a former English professor at Virginia Tech, was hired for a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program in October 2013, subject to UI trustees' approval, and planned to start teaching this past August. Wise revoked the offer Aug. 1 after Salaita posted a series of angry, profanity-laced tweets about Israel during its bombing of Gaza, before trustees approved the hire. Trustees later upheld Wise's decision. Salaita sued the university to get the job back.
The decision, and the UI's defense of "civil" discourse on campus, sparked faculty outrage and a national debate over academic freedom. An investigative report by Committee A concluded earlier this spring that the UI had violated Salaita's due-process rights and academic freedom. The UI argues he was never an employee.
In the documents sent to AAUP, Wise said the UI has made significant settlement offers to Salaita, reiterated the UI's commitment to academic freedom, further clarified her comments on civility, and highlighted policy changes adopted or under consideration to prevent similar problems in the future.
"I didn't expect it to be enough to forestall censure," said Committee A member Cary Nelson, a UI professor emeritus who voted against Saturday's resolution. "On the other hand, the resolution is reasonably narrowly focused," he said, declining to elaborate.
While he has publicly supported Wise's decision to withdraw Salaita's appointment, Nelson had problems with the UI's more sweeping statements on civility last summer. He also said the university has a "moral responsibility" to provide a settlement to Salaita because the job was revoked so late in the process.
Nelson said the chancellor's most recent statement to the AAUP was "a step in the right direction."
Professors familiar with censure cases say it would likely take a settlement with Salaita, and perhaps additional clarification of the UI's position on "civility" by trustees, for the UI to get off the censure list.
The current AAUP censure list includes about four dozen colleges and universities, mostly small, private or religiously affiliated institutions.
Opinions vary about what censure would mean for the UI. Some faculty members fear damage to the UI's reputation and their ability to recruit new talent. Others say the UI has already taken the hit from the controversy, or that censure would affect certain areas on campus, such as the humanities, more than others.