After being punished for including a question on an exam that included a redacted slur, one law professor is now suing his university for violations against his Constitutional right, false light, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The saga of Jason Kilborn, a University of Illinois-Chicago Law Professor, kicked off back in the fall of 2020 when on his Civil Procedure II exam he included a question about a hypothetical case that asked about gender and racial employment discrimination.
In one section, the question spoke about allegations from a hypothetical employee in regards to her treatment at a hypothetical company, stating that this employee eventually quit “after she attended a meeting in which other managers expressed their anger at Plaintiff, calling her a ‘n___’ and ‘b___’ [sic].”
The exam question stirred up a backlash from many in the Black Law Students Association, who claimed that Kilborn’s exam question “shocked students and created a huge distraction from taking the exam.” The BLSA created a petition that demanded that KKilborn be removed him his position as chair of the academic affairs committee “and from all other committee appointments he holds.” The petition was tossed up to dean Darby Dickerson and Chancellor Michael Amiridis.
Kilborn held a meeting with a member of the BLSA in order to have a back and forth on Zoom in the wake of the creation of the petition. Throughout the conversation, the BLSA member questioned the professor about when Dickerson had not given the “attack letter” to him. Kilborn allegedly stated, in jest: “I suspect she’s afraid if I saw the horrible things said about me in that letter I would become homicidal.”
The BLSA member then rushed off to report this joke to the school’s Behavioral Threat Assessment team, which spiraled further and landed Kilborn on indefinite leave.
Kilborn, for his part, thought his suspension was caused by the exam question, and even went on to state that he was “actively misled into believing my suspension was related to that language,” as stated by Northwestern University Law Professor Andrew Koppelman, who reported on the incident for The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Kilborn filed his lawsuit at the end of January. At that time, it was reported by The Daily Wire that he had been forced to undergo anti-racism training, which included the same use of the redacted slur that Kilborn utilized in his test questions that sparked off the whole ordeal. This training regime cropped up after UIC went back on an agreement it had entered with Kilborn back in July of 2021 that would force the professor to let the dean know before he answered any questions regarding any racial issues in his class. He also agreed to provide recordings of the audio of his classes. UIC went back on its agreement after the BLSA, alongside Jesse Jackson, issued a complaint.
It was reported by The College Fix that Kilborn’s suit accuses his employers of “publicly accus[ing] him of calling students of color ‘cockroaches.’”