News Local/State

Salaita Sues U of I Over Emails, Expects More Legal Action

Steven Salaita speaks at the University YMCA.

Professor Steven Salaita addresses a large crowd of supporters at the University YMCA. (Jim Meadows/WILL)

Controversial professor Steven Salaita has filed suit against the University of Illinois, alleging the school won't turn over emails under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Salaita's job offer at the U of I was rescinded in the summer, after a series of anti-Israel posts on Twitter. After public outcry, Salaita's case was considered by the Board of Trustees, but his appointment wasn't approved.

Salaita says he believes the University's administration was pressured by donors to cancel his faculty post and his lawyer says the emails they've asked for could prove it.

The attorney, Anand Swaminathan, says the school has been largely uncooperative, first telling Salaita his request was "unduly burdensome" and then not replying to requests. "Any concerns about burden were limited--substantially limited by the fact that we agreed to severely narrow the request and were more than willing to work with the University on a reasonable timeline." He said in an interview, "But the Univerisity essentially rejected all those proposals and simply refused to produce the documents."

Swaminathan expects the emails will help explain why Salaita was rejected by the Board, after receiving a job offer from the campus. "To what extent was the University influenced by outside interests that trumped the decision-making and thought process of the department that wanted to hire Proessor Salaita, the search committee that recommended his hiring, so that's what this is about."

If the emails are turned over, they could be used down the road in other cases Swaminathan says Salaita is planning on filing.

A University spokesman says the U of I hasn't yet looked at the lawsuit, but promises to "defend the University's Interests."