Three years after a tweet-storm that led to his "unhiring" by the University of Illinois — and a national uproar over free-speech rights for professors — Steven Salaita says he's leaving academia.
In a Facebook post over the weekend, Salaita said he has been unable to find a permanent academic job because of the controversy that ensued over his near-appointment at the UI, which was overturned by upper-level administrators and UI trustees.
"Despite applying to positions on four continents, I was unable to find an academic job, so I no longer count myself among the professoriate," Salaita wrote. "A number of colleagues have attempted to recruit me, but their efforts always get shut down by management. In turn, I often feel like I'm reliving the UIUC fiasco, which isn't conducive to the kind of mood I prefer to inhabit. I'm easygoing, but I refuse to tolerate the indignities of a blacklist."
Salaita did not offer further details and did not respond to messages requesting comment.
A former English professor at Virginia Tech, Salaita was initially hired by the UI's American Indian Studies Program in October 2013 and was to start teaching the following August.
But after his angry tweets about Israel during its invasion of Gaza in the summer of 2014, administrators revoked the offer and trustees eventually voted against his appointment — after Salaita had already resigned from his job at Virginia Tech.
The decision prompted boycotts and a two-year academic censure of the campus, and Salaita sued to get his UI job back. The UI later agreed to an $875,000 settlement, with Salaita promising not to seek employment at the university.
He was hired on a one-year appointment as the Edward Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon in summer 2015.
The following spring he was recommended as director for the school's Center for American Studies and Research, but the search was abruptly canceled after administrators said they had received complaints of misconduct and conflicts of interest in the hiring process. An audit supported those allegations, though it found no evidence that Salaita was involved.
In a petition drive, students and some faculty said they believed that Salaita was targeted for his advocacy for Palestinians, but the school's president strongly denied that. An interim director was later appointed for the center, and Salaita's initial faculty post was extended through August 2017.
Officials at the American University of Beirut declined comment.
In the Facebook post, first reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Salaita said he plans to leave Beirut and return to the Washington area to write and give talks.
"I'm still young and energetic. I don't intend to slosh around in self-pity. Whatever I end up doing, I will maintain the spirit of noncompliance that defined my time in academe. If you take any lesson from my ouster, please don't let it be fear or caution. Docility is a gift to those who profit from injustice. Academe can no longer afford this luxury," he wrote.
"People still ask if I would go back in time and change anything. I would not. If my behavior were dishonorable, then I might have something to regret. I condemned a brutal ethnocratic state. On this count, I will die unapologetic. And insofar as we are forced to contemplate life in binaries, I prefer unemployment to subservience. My heart is with those who struggle for dignity amid terrible oppression. I spare no loyalty to a bourgeois industry that rewards self-importance and conformity."
Salaita, who has a wife and young son, said he is grateful to "the students and friends who made our time in Lebanon so rewarding. We'll remember this period with great fondness."