The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), an organization of academics, voted to censure the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the university's June 13 decision to not hire Steven Salaita, according to The News-Gazette.
Salaita was offered a tenured position in October of 2013 at the University of Illinois's American Indian studies department, according to The Guardian. However in August 2014 just before classes began, the university decided to rescind the offer in response to tweets sent by Salaita that summer in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure yearly report concluded the University of Illinois "violated Professor Salaita's academic freedom and cast a pall of uncertainty over the degree to which academic freedom is understood and respected."
Salaita's tweets were critical of the Israeli government and some included profanity. According toThe Guardian, the tweets were considered anti-Semitic by university alumni and donors who wrote to the university chancellor Phyllis Wise.
According to The Daily Illini, Salaita tweeted, "Zionists: transforming 'anti-semitism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1948."
Another read, "At this point, if [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anyone be surprised?"
According to The Guardian, Wise sent an email saying, "We take this decision by the AAUP seriously. We understand that it will have repercussions on the scholarly activities of many in our community, and we intend to address both the censure and the underlying concerns through our established processes of shared governance."
Hans-Joerg Tiede, a Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure member and Illinois Wesleyan University professor, says while AAUP does not have any authority over a university, the organization's censure list does create negative publicity for institutions.
"Ultimately, it's a public relations issue," says Tiede. "It signals to the academic community that the actions of the university are in serious violation of standards of conduct that promote academic freedom and ultimately, academic excellence."
Tiede notes the university's decision to rescind Salaita's job offer has caused professors to decline speaking engagements and conference invitations at the University of Illinois.
Katherine Franke, a Columbia Law School professor, canceled a lecture series at the University of Illinois following the unhiring of Salaita and counseled his legal team.
"Part of what this case shows is what I call Palestinian exception to the first amendment," Franke says. "One can hold very controversial views, even unpopular views on a wide range of subjects but still speaking favorably about Palestinian rights or speaking critically about Israeli state policy seems to not get the full-range of first amendment protection."
Cary Nelson, an English professor at the University of Illinois and member of Committee A, haswritten in support of the university's decision arguing that Salaita's contract was conditional. Therefore, according to Nelson, he was still a job candidate whose behavior was subject to scrutiny.
"From my perspective because his contract was still conditional and provisional, he was still a job candidate and issues like civility and presence on social media, they're fair game for a job candidate," says Nelson. "Job candidates are turned down for if they are uncivil all the time."
Tanaz Ahmed is a student at the University of Michigan and a summer 2015 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent.