Jason Hill sues DePaul, upper administration for ‘campaign of intimidation and demonization’

Philosophy professor Jason Hill has sued DePaul, claiming that it launched a “campaign of intimidation and demonization” after Hill published an op-ed in The Federalist which sparked outrage on campus by both students and faculty. 

The lawsuit also names Scott Paeth, Faculty Council president, and Interim Provost Salma Ghanem.

In the suit, Hill claims he was subject to faculty and student harassment. He alleges that he began to receive anonymous death threats via his DePaul email, and when he reached out to Ghanem to report a “hostile work environment,” his pleas were ignored. 

Hill said these actions were on account of his race and sexual orientation, “in that he departed from the opinion defendants have deemed permissible and acceptable for someone of his race and sexual orientation,” referencing their “prevailing liberal opinion in favor the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] and against Israel.”

Hill’s article called for the Israeli annexation of the Palestinian West Bank, which students and professors referred to as equivalent to ethnic cleansing. 

“As an African-American they expect him to adhere to the opinion that African-Americans whose ancestors were slaves must view the Palestinians as an enslaved race and the Israeli government as a slave regime,” the suit reads.  

Since the original protests, several DePaul faculty members have petitioned their own faculty chairs to prohibit Hill from teaching upper level classes and to encourage students to boycott his classes, he alleges. 

He claims that the diminishing number of classes he has been offered and the smaller number of students willing to take his courses is an “intended result” of the way he was treated. Further, he said he is shunned by the DePaul community. 

These actions, the suit said, were performed with “specific intent to damage Dr. Hill’s standing in the university.” 

After Hill published the article, Paeth and the faculty council issued a formal resolution of censure, condemning Hill of committing an “abuse of academic freedom” and having not exercised “adequate concern for accuracy, restraint or respect for the opinions of others, as per AAUP [American Association of University Professors] guidelines,” according to the censure. 

Hill alleges that these claims are inflammatory and false.

Hill also said that the accusation by that he “expresses positions that are factually inaccurate, advocates war crimes and ethnic cleansing, and gives voice to racism” in his article inherently raises “grave concerns” regarding Hill’s fitness as a professor.

After the original censure, the Faculty Council voted to remove the claim in the censure that stated Hill had “abus[ed] his academic freedom,” and passed a second version.

The suit said neither Ghanem nor Paeth ever took steps to create the second version, and that neither President Esteban nor the Board of Trustees reversed or expressed disagreement from the original resolution to see that a “correct as-passed version of the resolution be created and published.”

The lawsuit alleges that roughly two weeks after the Faculty Council passed the resolution, Ghanem publicly endorsed Paeth and the Faculty Council’s original “defamatory claim” against Hill in an email that said “I am deeply saddened that Professor Hill used his right to academic freedom and free speech to disparage one group over the other,” according to the suit.

Hill is seeking an award of damages to “vindicate his contractual and due process rights, clear his name and compensate him for the defendants’ inflicted pain, humiliation and agony.” The damages he lists are censorship, financial loss and public humiliation and scorn. 

DePaul declined to comment on specific matters of the lawsuit, but university spokeswoman Carol Hughes said the university’s Guiding Principles for Speech and Expression speaks for itself.

Both Hill and Ghanem have declined to comment at this time, citing pending litigation. Paeth has not responded to a request for comment at this time.

The suit was filed April 20 in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Hill requested a trial by jury. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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