Thursday, November 18, 2021

UIC's John Marshall Law School should lose its accreditation if it continues with this "witch hunt" against a faculty member

Professor Andy Koppelman (Northwestern) comments at CHE (do read the full account):

In January the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Law disgraced itself with its foolish persecution of Jason Kilborn, a professor who was accused of racism for asking students to address an ordinary hypothetical, of a kind they are likely to encounter in normal legal practice. That episode has now ballooned into calls for his firing, with an ill-informed Rev. Jesse Jackson leading protests against him. And the university, while it refuses to fire Kilborn, is continuing to punish him for things it knows he didn’t do.


The trouble started when, in a “Civil Procedure” exam, Kilborn asked whether a hypothetical company, sued for discrimination, must disclose evidence to the plaintiff. In the test’s scenario, a former employee told the company’s lawyer “that she quit her job at Employer after she attended a meeting in which other managers expressed their anger at Plaintiff, calling her a ‘n____’ and ‘b____’ (profane expressions for African Americans and women) and vowed to get rid of her.” The exam did not spell out those words, which appeared exactly as you just read them. (This was just one of the test’s 50 questions.)

Lawyers face such situations all the time. The question was entirely appropriate. One student, however, declared that, on seeing the sentence, she became “incredibly upset” and experienced “heart palpitations.” The Black Law Students Association demanded that Kilborn be stripped of his committee assignments, denounced him on social media, and filed a complaint with the university’s OAE (Office for Access and Equity)....


On February 17 the OAE sent Kilborn a notice of “investigation into allegations of race-based discrimination and harassment.” Evidently someone had been collecting such allegations, because there were many new ones...[including] “referring to racial minorities as ‘cockroaches.’” Because the notice said nothing about when he was alleged to have said that, it was impossible to respond.


The “cockroaches” claim has since become the central grievance against Kilborn. It is provably false. The OAE’s previously confidential “Investigation Report,” newly released in response to an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request by The Chronicle’s Emma Pettit, shows that the OAE understood that the “cockroaches” allegation never had any substance — and that the report released to Kilborn and the complainant (which became public months ago) was misleading on that crucial point.


The OAE botched its investigation of Kilborn. It repeatedly cited as “harassment” conduct that no reasonable person could regard as harassment. It enumerated charges without offering evidence. And it essentially found that he had violated the school’s discrimination policy by protesting his own earlier mistreatment.

Something is very wrong at UIC and its John Marshall Law School.

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