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Legal Expert Says Salaita Could Win Suit Against U Of I

Jim Meadows

Clarification: Katherine Franke also serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the organizations representing Steven Salaita.

A prominent law professor who's boycotting the University of Illinois after Steven Salaita’s job offer was withdrawn says Salaita would easily win a legal case against the University.  Columbia professor Katherine Franke says Salaita's first amendment rights were violated by the U of I's Board of Trustees.

Franke made the trip to Urbana on her own dime after cancelling a campus appearance in a show of support for Salaita, the professor who was denied a position at the University after controversial tweets about Israel.

Franke says she wanted to continue her boycott of the University, while still being able to lead a discussion about first amendment rights on campus.

She calls Salaita's case a "slam dunk" in her book, and says if he wins, it'll be an important moment for academic freedom. 

"There could be a very important precedent set on how a public university like this cannot retaliate against an otherwise qualified and luminous faculty member like Professor Salaita because he has views that they find upsetting," Franke said.

"The academy and the academic mission is really devoted to interrogating any idea, no matter how controversial, no matter how frightening, and no matter how well settled it already might be," she added.

Franke spoke at the Independent Media Center in Urbana on Thursday, to a crowd of about 100 Salaita supporters. Her visit marks a week since the Board of Trustees voted against hiring Salaita.

Hannah covers state government and politics for Capitol News Illinois. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at WILL-AM/FM, Law360, Capitol Fax and The Daily Line before returning to NPR Illinois in 2020 and moving to CNI in 2023.
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