Steven Salaita, the professor who lost out on a tenured position at the University of Illinois because of his controversial tweets, is the subject of another job dispute, this one at the American University of Beirut.
Students at the university — where Salaita was appointed to a one-year faculty post in American studies last summer — say the school's president abruptly called off a search for a new director of the Center for American Studies and Research after Salaita was unanimously recommended for the position.
An online petition created this week by a group called Students for Salaita said the search was canceled on March 30, with Khuri citing "procedural irregularities" within the search committee. The petition demands that the committee's recommendation be respected.
President: 'Wholly untrue'
But in an email message to the campus, President Fadlo Khuri called the reports "wholly untrue" and "a malicious distortion of the facts involved in this case," according to a report in Inside Higher Education.
He said he made the decision after university leaders "received several complaints from faculty members alleging conflicts of interest and misconduct" in the search process.
The search committee chair, Professor Lisa Hajjar, told Inside Higher Education that the panel learned that the president had canceled the search the day after the recommendation to hire Salaita was discussed by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Advisory Committee.
She said she wasn't sure what "procedural irregularities" Khuri was referring to, and said she'd been working to get the decision reversed when the petition was posted.
The petition said students and other Salaita allies are "deeply concerned Professor Salaita is once again being wrongfully targeted for his advocacy on behalf of Palestinian self-determination."
800 signatures of support
As of Thursday evening, the petition had gathered more than 800 signatures, the group said in an email to The News-Gazette.
It said the cancellation of the search "illustrates the powerful presence of external pressures in the university, which come at the cost of academic freedom."
"With the absence of an investigation, and given Professor Salaita's recent termination from a tenure-track position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for his pro-Palestinian political views, we fear that AUB is reproducing the trend of persecuting scholars who condemn the injustices committed in Palestine," the petition said.
Salaita was initially hired by the UI's American Indian Studies Department in October 2013, and was to start teaching the following August. But after his angry tweets about Israel in the summer of 2014, administrators revoked the offer and trustees eventually voted against his appointment.
Salaita sued to get his job back. The UI agreed to an $875,000 settlement last fall, with Salaita promising not to seek employment at the university.