Back in late March, it looked like polemical Professor Steven Salaita had the inside track on a job as the director of the Center for American Studies and Research at American University in Beirut.
Then higher-ups started to smell a rat in the way the search process was being conducted and suspended it while they inquired further. Earlier this week, the university's board chairman said the search process has been aborted because improprieties were discovered.
The "university has concluded, after thorough investigation, that there were numerous significant violations of university policies and procedures in connection with the search, and that resulted in a process that was not up to university standards of fairness and transparency. An important safeguard of academic freedom is the fair and consistent application of procedures designed to ensure fairness and transparency in the appointment of faculty members," reads an AUB statement posted on school's website.
The university did not offer any further explanation.
But it looks as if Salaita, who went through a similar controversy at the University of Illinois in fall 2014, is out of luck again.
An online petition in support of Salaita posted after the search was suspended in April noted that Salaita "had been unanimously recommended for the full-time position" as the center's director, was "once again being wrongfully targeted for his advocacy on behalf of Palestinian self-determination" and urged people to rally to his cause.
AU President Fadli Khuri rejected suggestions that the administration targeted Salaita, saying there was "no truth" to that allegation.
Salaita was, for a time, a cause celebre on the UI campus. Hired from Virginia Tech to begin teaching in the UI's American Indian Studies Program, he drew considerable public attention with a series of expletive-filled tweets that attacked Israel. As a consequence of that public display, then-Chancellor Phyllis Wise, at the urging of some UI board members, decided Salaita was not fit to join the UI faculty and withdrew his job offer.
He subsequently sued the UI, agreeing to an $875,000 payment to drop his lawsuit. Although he claimed the UI had ruined his career, Salaita later was hired to teach at AU in Beirut.