The University of Illinois has reached a tentative settlement with Steven Salaita, the controversial professor whose job offer was withdrawn last year after he made anti-Israel comments on social media.
U. of I. trustees are expected to vote on the proposed agreement at their meeting Thursday. The settlement is on the meeting agenda, though there are no details because "things are being finalized," said university spokesman Thomas Hardy.
"It is no secret that there have been negotiations and efforts to reach mutual agreement," Hardy said.
The agreement is expected to end the lawsuit Salaita filed against the university earlier this year. Hardy would not comment on whether the agreement includes compensation or a university faculty job, both of which Salaita sought in his lawsuit.
In addition, a settlement could be a means for the campus to get taken off the American Association of University Professors' list of censured universities. The group put the school on the list after finding it had wrongly rescinded Salaita's job offer.
One of Salaita's attorneys, Maria LaHood with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said there would be no comment until Thursday.
Salaita filed a federal lawsuit in January alleging breach of contract and violation of his free speech rights.
Salaita had accepted a tenured faculty job in the department of American Indian Studies in October 2013 and resigned from his position on the faculty at Virginia Techlater that academic year.
But in July 2014, then-Chancellor Phyllis Wise began raising concerns about his anti-Israel Twitter posts, many of which contained profane and inflammatory language, after getting feedback from donors, students and parents. Salaita posted prolifically about the Israeli government and its military actions in Gaza that summer.
Urbana-Champaign campus officials pulled his job offer in August of that year, and the U. of I. board of trustees affirmed that decision in an 8-1 vote the next month.
Salaita claimed that U. of I. violated his rights to academic freedom and free speech when it rescinded the offer. The university claimed that the job offer was at all times subject to the ultimate approval of the board of trustees and that "at no time was Dr. Salaita hired as a faculty member."
The settlement deal would mark a significant departure from the statements the university has made about Salaita during the past year. The university said Salaita's tweets demonstrated that he "lacks the judgment, temperament and thoughtfulness to serve as a member of our faculty in any capacity, but particularly to teach courses related to the Middle East."
An agreement also would be an attempt to move on under a new administration, with President Timothy Killeen now leading the university and interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson overseeing the campus.
The board's decision to reject Salaita's hiring led to fallout on campus and nationwide. The American Association of University Professors' report found that U. of I. violated Salaita's due process rights as a faculty member, acted outside the widely accepted standards of academic governance and created an uncertain climate for academic freedom on campus.
The report concluded that the episode had "cast a pall of uncertainty over the degree to which academic freedom is understood and respected."