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U of I - Salaita Agreement Finalized; Payment To Salaita Is Next

Visiting Prof. Steven Salaita of the American University of Beirut.

Steven Salaita, photographed in October 2014 at the U of I's Campbell Hall, home of Illinois Public Media. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

The settlement between the University of Illinois and Steven Salaita was finalized last week. That sets the stage for the university to pay Salaita a settlement of more than three-quarters of a million dollars.

U of I trustees approved the settlement agreement in November, but it took until Christmas Eve to get the agreement signed by all parties --- Salaita, and the individual trustees and top administrators he sued in 2014.

With the execution of the agreement, the university says Salaita will receive his settlement payments within thirty days: $600,000, plus another $275,000 to pay legal fees. Salaita will then file motions to dismiss his lawsuits against the university.

Salaita sued the U of I for rescinding his faculty appointment, after he posted harshly worded statements criticizing Israel on Twitter. The university said they acted to ensure civility in the classroom while Salaita argued for freedom of speech.  

Salaita left a tenured position at Virginia Tech to come to the U of I. Since his appointment was withdrawn, Salaita has taken a position as a visiting professor at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He also authored a book about the case, "Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom".

The actual settlement contains no details of the legal arguments made by either side, only that were was a dispute over a tenure-track faculty position, and that both parties “seek to avoid the time-consuming, costly and burdensome nature of litigation and trial, and the Parties recognize that it would be mutually beneficial to move forward with no further disagreements or disputes”.

Under the settlement, Salaita is dropping his lawsuits with the understanding that he will never work for the University of Illinois, now or in the future.

The settlement also includes a disparagement clause, under which the parties agree not to speak ill of each other. However, the clause states that such an agreement is not meant to “abridge any Party’s First Amendment right to speak or write about the political and social  issues and dynamics connected to this case.”

The U of I says Salaita’s settlement payments will be paid for by interest from the university’s self-insurance plan, which is also paying for its own legal costs in the case, which stood at $1.42 million through October.

The settlement between the university and Salaita does not end the censure of the U of I by the American Association of University Professors. But AAUP officials said in November that the settlement of Salaita's lawsuit was an important step towards an eventual lifting of the censure.