URBANA, Ill. — The University of Illinois has asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit filed by a professor who lost a job offer from the school over anti-Israel Twitter posts.
University lawyers on Wednesday filed a motion arguing that Steven Salaita had no “binding contract” to work for the university.
“At no time was he ever an employee of the University of Illinois. His entire complaint was an unsuccessful attempt to ignore this critical fact,” university lawyer Scott Rice told The News-Gazette in Champaign.
Salaita lawyer Anand Swaminathan said the motion doesn’t take into account normal academic hiring practices.
It “ignores plain language in the university’s communications to Professor Salaita, the actions of its officials, and every norm related to academic hiring practices,” Swaminathan said in an email.
Salaita was a professor at Virginia Tech University when he accepted an offer in 2013 to teach at the Urbana-Champaign campus’s Native American Studies department. He quit his Virginia Tech job and was to start in late August 2014. But the offer was rescinded on Aug. 1 over the sometimes-profane, anti-Israel Twitter messages he sent earlier in the summer.
Salaita sued university administrators and others in January seeking to force the university to hire him. The suit also targets unnamed university donors whose complaints he believes cost him his job.
Salaita’s lawsuit argues he’d already been hired and, as an academic on staff, his speech was protected.
The university has argued that his hire did not yet have the required approval of university trustees.