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.Â 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 institutionÂal 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 beÂ adequate cause,Â 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.