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Embattled Virginia Tech ex-professor Salaita to leave academia

Embattled Virginia Tech ex-professor Salaita to leave academia

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Steven Salaita, an outspoken former Virginia Tech professor, says he is leaving academia after he had difficulty finding a job.

Salaita, who graduated from Radford University and is a Bluefield native, became embroiled in an academic freedom battle with the University of Illinois in 2014.

The school revoked a new job two weeks before classes began after Salaita made anti-Israel comments on Twitter. He later sued the university for rescinding its offer and was awarded a $600,000 settlement.

Eventually the professor landed at American University of Beirut in Lebanon for the 2015-16 academic year and was given a one-year contract extension for the 2016-17 academic year. It’s unknown if he was offered another extension for the upcoming year.

In a 468-word Facebook post published over the weekend, Salaita wrote that he had difficulty finding a job after applying for positions on “four continents.” He wrote that he will move to the Washington, D.C., area to write and give talks.

“I haven’t always been a good professor — I’m disorganized and forgetful and reclusive and unresponsive and an easy grader — but I’ve never compromised my ethics or sold out colleagues and students in order to ingratiate myself to power,” he wrote.

Salaita also wrote he’d like to stay in the public eye.

“I’m still young and energetic,” Saliata wrote. “I don’t intend to slosh around in self-pity. Whatever I end up doing, I will maintain the spirit of noncompliance that defined my time in academe.”

That spirit also marked Salaita’s time at Tech when he garnered national attention in 2013 by publishing an online commentary critical of the phrase “Support the Troops.” Despite widespread calls for his firing or other actions against him, Tech officials did not censure him, though they did distance themselves from Salaita’s message.

Salaita continues to tweet. The day before he announced he was leaving academia, he posted, “In Israel, freedom of religion means the ability of the state to murder non-Jews without consequence. #Jerusalem”

The day after his announcement he posted on Twitter, “Thank you, friends, for your kind messages. For those asking how to help, the answer is simple: work to eliminate the sources of repression.”

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