Salaita Case as a Warning for Prospective Hires

Not so fast University of Illinois!!

While the apparent firing or refusal to honour a contract based on tweets appears to be the crux of the travesty in the University of Illinois dismissal of Professor Steven Salaita, this should be a warning to others in search of employment within post-secondary education. Know your rights!

The American Association of University Professors’ (A.A.U.P.) document The Ethics of Recruitment and Faculty Appointments should be required reading for anyone seeking a job within the professoriate.

First: An oral offer means nothing unless it is in writing. Don’t rely on handshakes or other informal modalities until you receive a written contract “signed by the responsible institutional officer.” That would probably be a provost, president or academic vice president. It appears Professor Salaita did receive a contract and possibly last October.

Second: You are entitled to a written job offer within ten days of the phone call or even e-mail informing one of a successful job search. Ten days! That gives the university time to rescind or cancel the job offer. Sometimes budgets prohibit but dear reader, the university has ten days to withdraw a non-written job offer. It appears that the University of Illinois did not rescind this offer for at least nine months after it was proffered in October!

Third: A faculty member has a moral and ethical duty to resign if employed by another institution. While I suppose a leave of absence could be mutually agreed upon, AAUP does require that a resignation follow the acceptance of a written job appointment.  Most contract offers require a response within a certain period. I don’t know what was in the Salaita contract but I imagine he complied with the request for acceptance by a certain date. It would be bizarre if he did not, given the fact he honourably resigned a tenured position at Virgina Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Fourth: A contract must contain a significant welter of detail and explanations of the specific posiition and duties. Among these are:

Details of institution­al policies and regulations that bear upon the appointment. Specific information on other relevant matters also should be conveyed in writing to the prospective appointee.

If the University of Illinois voided a signed contract without explicit prior stipulation on matters unrelated to teaching, scholarship and service, it would be a violation of academic freedom and a breach of contract. There must be adequate cause, the right of an adversarial hearing and an explicit statement of charges prior to dismissal or voiding a written proffer of an appointment. If it is true that Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s letter to Professor Salaita contained no reason for his termination, that is also a prima facie violation of a multiplicity of A.A.U.P. documents and principles.

This entry was posted in Academia/Academic Freedom. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply