The Steven Salaita hangover was there for all to see at Monday's meeting of the academic senate.
University of Illinois Professor Bruce Levine made it a point to berate interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson for settling the controversial professor's lawsuit against the UI. Instead of paying Salaita $600,000 to drop his lawsuit, Levine asserted, the UI should have settled the lawsuit entirely on terms favorable to Salaita.
"(The UI) chose instead to offer a settlement that's in fact far smaller than the likely cost to Professor Salaita, as measured in a lifetime of probable lost academic salary. Most important, the UI refuses to give him his job back, refuses to admit its own wrongdoing. To add insult to injury, it requires Professor Salaita, the injured party, to promise that he will never again seek a position at the University of Illinois," he said.
Wilson then pointed out the obvious.
"I don't agree with everything you said," she replied.
Neither did Levine's audience. Some people applauded him while others did not.
The Salaita controversy created a considerable chasm on campus, not as deep as it appeared to outsiders, but deep enough. Now that it's over, people will continue to see things in a highly polarized light.
Did Salaita have a valid contract that was breached by the UI? It depends whom you ask.
Did Salaita's $600,000 settlement plus another $275,000 for his lawyers represent a victory that put the professor's oppressors in their place? Or was it a hard-to-swallow bargain that saved a small fortune in future lawyers' fees?
The huge unresolved question is whether the polemical professor had a valid contract. If he did, the UI clearly violated his free-speech rights by rescinding its job offer after he created a stir with a series of vulgar tweets attacking Israel.
The tweets' timing is crucial because he sent them after he accepted an offer from the UI but before he was scheduled to start teaching in the fall 2014 semester and before his contract was approved by UI trustees.
After former Chancellor Phyllis Wise and UI trustees, feeling the tweets' tone was unacceptable, pulled the plug on Salaita's UI career, he filed suit.
The most credible finding supporting Salaita's contract claim came from U.S. Judge Harry Leinenweber.
In denying a UI motion to dismiss Salaita's lawsuit, Leinenweber said the UI's offer to Salaita, his acceptance and the extensive plans made to have him join the faculty were proof of a valid contract.
The judge said the UI "cannot argue with a straight face that it engaged in all these actions in the absence of any obligation of agreement."
For good measure, Leinenweber characterized as unclear the UI's notice to Salaita that his contract was "subject to" trustees' approval. On top of that, Leineweber described trustees as rubber stamps with little to no discretion in carrying out the wishes of university administrators.
At the same time, Leinenweber said Salaita's contract claim was "adequate" to proceed and the "issue is best resolved at trial or on a motion for summary judgment."
Leinenweber's bold language is stunning in its length and breadth.
Can it really be that UI trustees, designated by state statute as the UI's overseers and final decision-makers, are mere tokens?
While critical of the UI's decision not to hire Salaita, Northwestern University law Professor Steven Lubet concluded that Chancellor Wise "has great discretion when it comes to hiring professors — as opposed to firing them — and there is no rule that prevents her from considering Salaita's history of vulgar and intemperate outbursts."
"Whatever his appeals to scholarly high ground, Salaita's legal position is shaky. So don't be surprised if he accepts the money and cuts his losses," Lubet wrote shortly after the controversy went public in August 2014.
Both Salaita and the UI stuck to their scripts in announcing the settlement.
Salaita and his lawyers took a victory lap after the settlement was approved. He claimed "vindication" while one of his lawyers said "the size of the settlement is an implicit admission of the strength" of Salaita's contractual and constitutional claims.
The UI said $975,000 is a lot of money to pay but far less than what its legal costs would have been if the case proceeded to trial.
The UI explained the controversy occurred after it "exercised its option not to hire Salaita."
The question of who won the dollar fight is equally murky.
Salaita was scheduled to be paid $85,000 for a nine-month academic year, so $600,000 represents about seven years pay for doing nothing. Plus, he's teaching in Beirut. At least on the surface, Salaita can persuasively claim he won.
But he initially indicated he wouldn't drop the lawsuit without a UI faculty job.
William Jacobson, who is hostile to Salaita, wrote on his Legal Insurrection website that "by any measure, this is a loss for Salaita and his supporters" because a faculty post was "the dividing line between the parties."
Jacobson also said that "based on my experience representing employees, the settlement certainly will be subject to taxation as wages." Plus, he said, Salaita "may have to pay taxes on the attorneys' fees in addition to the $600,000" if "he is pushed into the Alternative Minimum Tax."
Further, while Salaita was claiming a big legal victory, some of his most prominent supporters, like Brooklyn College Professor Corey Robin, who wrote a favorable blurb for Salaita's recent book, expressed disappointment with the settlement.
"I would be less than honest if I didn't say I was disappointed," he said.
So there it stands. People can't agree about the legitimacy of the original controversy. Neither can they agree on the propriety or meaning of its ending.
Given Salaita's contractual promise never to apply again for a UI position, about all that's inarguable is that he won't darken the UI's door again.