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. The episode has led to protests against him and calls for his dismissal, led by an inept Rev. Jesse Jackson leading protests against him. The university refuses to fire Kilborn but continues to penalize him for actions it knows are not his.
Kilborn, in a Civil Procedure exam, asked Kilborn if the hypothetical company sued for discrimination must provide evidence to plaintiff. A former employee claimed that she had quit her job as an Employee after attending a meeting where other Managers reacted with anger to Plaintiff and called her a n____ and a ‘b___’ (profane words for African Americans or women). She vowed to be fired. These words did not appear in the exam. (This was one of fifty questions in the test.
These situations are common for lawyers. It was perfectly appropriate. The question was perfectly appropriate. However, one student claimed that she experienced heart palpitations after seeing the sentence. 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)….
Kilborn was notified by the OAE that an “investigation into claims of racism-based discrimination or harassment” had been initiated on February 17. These allegations were not new, so it is clear that someone was collecting them. They included the exam question, the comment to the student (which the notice mischaracterized as “a comment that you would ‘become homicidal’ if you read the petition”), and—this claim appeared for the first time—”referring to racial minorities as ‘cockroaches.'” The notice didn’t mention the date he was said to have made that comment, so it was difficult to answer.
Kilborn has made the claim that “cockroaches” is their central grievance. It is provably false….
Kilborn’s discussion of the word occurred on January 23, 2019, almost one year after the test that precipitated the troubles. Kilborn saw that date for the first-time in his findings letter. The school recorded the class just recently. He attempted to persuade students to think like defendant-company director making a cost-benefit analysis of the settlement of frivolous litigation in order to avoid costly discovery. He was asked by one student if it might be more beneficial for such directors to win these lawsuits and prevent future lawsuits. Kilborn responded:
It is not a deterrent that another plaintiff loses. It would be a disincentive to frivolous litigation. Many plaintiffs have lost and been shoved to the ground. These stories are not covered in mainstream media. You hear about idiot people winning $1-million verdict against Subway for having 11.5″-long sandwiches. Subway won. This ridiculously frivolous case did not win. It wasn’t on the media. That’s where the problem lies. They win and no one knows about it. If they lose they only hear of it. …
His statement was not meant to be read as directed against minorities. This was not something that university officials ignored, but they seem to have deliberately concealed. It’s not surprising that Kilborn received a vague report about his actions. …
Kilborn has recently settled a legal claim against the university (in which, astoundingly, the school unsuccessfully tried to get him to sign a nondisclosure agreement forbidding him to comment on his case). He told me that, a few days after the settlement was announced, “my interim dean turned around and denied me a first-in-several-years across-the-board 2-percent ‘merit’ raise, despite my (by her own admission) extraordinary scholarship production and service. I forced her to acknowledge in writing that this $3,000 raise was denied to me solely because of my purported violation OAE’s discrimination policies. “I was fed up with her. He said, “I believe I have an obligation” to continue the fight. “I’m much less vulnerable than my campus colleagues, I hope. I must fight for them.”
We are dealing here with administrators who seem to regard truth as an inconvenient obstacle and who appear not to mind convicting the innocent….
It is embarrassing to have to say it, but the antiracism movement needs to regard truth as its friend. This episode tends to discredit the antiracism movement and strengthen the belief that all racism claims are exaggerated.